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Pinobee: Wings of Adventure (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Pinobee: Wings of Adventure (Game Boy Advance) review

"But it fails to entertain you in the long term, it's poorly thought out and sloppily realised. It's only average. "

There's nothing worse than seeing fun that's not being had. Pinobee is a prime example of this. It has some clever level design, novel ideas and welcomes exploration with it's non-linear layout. It's like an epic 3-D adventure scaled down into a 2-D platformer and crammed into a tiny GBA cart. But there's one thing, above everything else, that this game is.

It's boring.

There's a huge amount of excellent ideas in here. The story is that Pinobee is a robot bee created by some mad scientist or other. But - and here's the problem - Pinobee's creator, some old man, has been kidnapped, and just as he was about to fit Pinobee's heart in place. So off Pinobee goes to rescue his creator, learning morals and making decisions on the way.

This is potentially sickening (Imagine love stories, poems, perhaps even musical numbers), but the heartless plot element is actually handled very well. Pinobee has no emotions, he can only get annoyed and die, YOU must make his moral decisions for him. If you see a magical fairy, and attack it, that shows bad morals and you will not be helped. Little ideas like this are dotted around the levels and are interesting to see and nicely presented.

But this is by no means the meat of the game. Moral decisions are rare and quick and so should be considered as more of a quirk than an actual gameplay feature. The actual game consists of a lot of jumping and flying. It's a little like sonic in that you can often just zoom through the levels and pinball around the walls without much thought. But there are two major things missing from the formula, two VERY important gameplay elements.

Consistency and balance.

Hudson just couldn't decide what they wanted from Pinobee. Did they want a fast rollercoaster ride of a platformer like sonic, or a more relaxed exploration-based adventure.

Decisions, decisions........

Well it's got to be out for GBA launch, better pick soon.

Oh what the hell! We'll have them both!

Bad idea Hudson. This killed your game.

Try and crossbreed two completely different species and you'll end up with an ugly, malformed child that doesn't fit in anywhere, no-one will want it. The same can be said for the gameplay style on Pinbobee. There are just too many places to go, things to find and characters to discover for it to play like it does. You'll rocket around big open spaces not knowing where to go, but rarely will it be exciting. Not just because of the exploration factor (Although that plays a part) but because there's no focus, like I said before, no consistency. The fast parts of the level aren't as exhilarating as they should be. Awkward enemy placement, sparse platform layouts and a general lack of direction sink any appeal the break-neck speed areas have. It seems hopeless.

But it isn't, not quite anyway. It's overall design and style is poor, but it's playable, and it's intelligent ideas and features are compelling. At the end of every level Pinobee will write a diary reflecting on your progress. Do well, and Pinobee's growing sense of morals and ethics will be present in his diary. Perform poorly and he'll write bitter and angry fragments. If you do badly enough, developing no heart at all, Pinobee will question the point of his adventure, give up and go home, and you can't do anything about it.

And with this outlandishly bizarre feature, the game partly redeems itself. You begin to play more carefully, and you make an effort to discover all the nooks and crannies and behave courteously to all the magical fairies, there is satisfaction to be had from Pinobee. The game takes everything into account before your diary entry is written, how many enemies you've attacked, skills you've gained, items you've collected, character interaction. Everything! The game is watching you closely and it's marking hard.

And there are other nice features present. Your main move is the jump, this is basically all you can do at first. But navigate the levels carefully and explore thoroughly and you may happen upon power-ups that will let you do a double jump. And after that a triple........ and so it goes on until you can perform a ridiculous amount of jumps (I lost count). And collecting items can boost your skills, health and many other things RPG-style. You can even trade them with a friend who might have a GBA and a copy of this game.

But it isn't enough. When stripped of the flashy extras, Pinobee is quite a dull experience. It simply consists of wandering around levels looking for things to do, enemies to kill, items to collect, ANYTHING. Often there is no scenery to explore, you must fly up into big screens of vast background and fly around randomly, hoping to find somewhere you haven't been before. And so it's a tediously random and thankless chore in the end, it's best to just dash through the game as quick as you can without bothering to complete it properly.

Graphically, Pinobee is a winner. The characters are well animated mock 3-D sprites and have good definition and style. Level set pieces are done with the same pseudo-3D style and come off very well, the game is bright and colourful, with many inventive pieces of vegetation and general oddities spread around the give the game a little more oomph. The backgrounds are lovely, they are stylishly drawn, scroll well and can create a surprising sense of speed or moody atmosphere if they wish.

The sound is the same intensely irritating Japanese cute techno you've heard in a million games before. And the jumping sound effects can be very annoying. With nothing here worth listening to, I can't think of any reason not to turn the sound off.

How long does it last? that's up to you really, if you want to zip through the game with no effort then it will be over in little more than two hours. Collect EVERYTHING and who knows, you could be in there for days.

Pinobee is frustratingly impressive and irritatingly bland in equal parts. If you can be bothered to persevere then there are plenty of rewarding moments and a lot of good ideas. It is at least unique after all. But it fails to entertain you in the long term, it's poorly thought out and sloppily realised. It's only average.

Wing Ding
+ Some great ideas
+ Exploration is rewarded
+ It has it's moments of satisfaction
+ Lots to do
+ Long lasting, if you want it to be
+ Unique
+ Great visuals

- Awkward mix of styles
- Sparse levels
- Repetitive
- Frustrating
- Putrid sound
- Short if you can't be bothered
- No variety
- Unbalanced
- Inconsistent

If you like this....
Sonic Advance - GBA: If you like the speedy half of the game, try this.
Klonoa: Empire of dreams - GBA: If you liked the exploration half of the game, try this.

maxh's avatar
Community review by maxh (Date unavailable)

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