TSS REVIEW: Sonic Spinball (8-Bit)

Released some time after its Mega Drive counterpart, Sonic Spinball arrived on Master Systems and Game Gears during ’94 and ’95. Everything is in pretty much the same style as the 16-Bit console versions… but… hmmm… well. There are a few differences that make this game different from other versions of the game, and these are explained below, along with a verdict.

The story is essentially the same as the MD/Genesis game – Dr. Robotnik hatches a new plan to take over Mobius, and erects (ha ha) a massive fortress on Mt. Mobius. Being cheeky gits, Sonic & Tails attempt to stop him. All goes wrong though, when the Tornado biffs up, and Sonic is all on his own to defeat Egg-head™…


Platform: Master System, Game Gear | Developer: SEGA Interactive Development Division
EU Release: Aug 1994 | US Release: Sep 1994 | JP Release: N/A

Here we go… this is an attempt to essentially ‘copy over’ some Mega Drive… erm, ‘hits’ to the Game Gear and Master System in order to kick some life into the 8-Bit donkeys. And visually, Sonic Spinball seems to be doing the trick. It’s when you delve deeper into the game when you find out its true horrors…

Sonic Spinball throws you (as Sonic, not your actual self) into four levels of Pinball Action (or, to quote Sonic Jam, “Funkeeeee Action!“) – part of Dr. Robotnik’s Fortress defences. In order to proceed throughout each of the four levels, you must reach the boss of that stage and defeat it via their quite blatant weak spots.

Aha, but first, you must be allowed access to the Boss Areas. How you do this? You collect all of the Chaos Emeralds littered about the stage – you are told how many Emeralds you need to collect at the start of the level (…or when you try to sneak your way into the Boss Areas). As for the bosses themselves – they are exceedingly easy. They are different to the Mega Drive/Genesis versions, but SEGA seems to have cut down the difficulty level massively here.


At the end of each stage, you’ll enter a Bonus Stage. In these stages, you’ll be placed in a big oval arena, with rings and pods to bust open with your jump move. If you Spin Dash up the curved walls, you’ll reach the top in no time with the help of the bumpers available. Once you bust the pods in one area, a door opens in one of the walls or floors which leads into a similar arena. The aim is to bust all the pods to progress through all the areas, and reach the goal within the time limit. It can be quite jammy during the last set of levels.

There are a few differences to be found in this game compared to the Mega Drive and Genesis versions of Sonic Spinball. But, this isn’t really a good thing – here’s where the Game Gear/Master System versions sputter out of gas. For one thing, the levels are of considerable length, but are also way too easy if you’ve already beaten the Mega Drive version into oblivion (which is definitely no easy task, looking at the Showdown level. Only a hardcore Sonic gamer could complete the Mega Drive game – and we’ve only managed to complete it about 6 times between us).


Basically, if you’ve played the 16-Bit outing of this game, you’ll breeze past this game in no time. Most of the levels are based on the MD/Genesis versions, sure, but when the game breaks away in terms of level design it’s incredibly simple compared to anything you’d encounter in the 16-Bit game. The controls are also very iffy, and playing this game can sometimes be a bit of a janky experience.

Well, you want the final verdict on this game? To be honest, I hate to be comparing this to the Mega Drive version, but I can’t help it – at least the Mega Drive Sonic Spinball was challenging in some way. When I got the Master System game through the post, I completed it in 2 hours. Not what you’d call longevity at all. Essentially, where the MD game went wrong, the Game Gear/MS game was worse. Harsh, but true in our eyes.

Sonic Spinball was never suited to the 8-Bit consoles, and this pretty much proves it. Only buy this game for collector’s purposes – you’d be hard pushed to find the Game Gear game anywhere, and the Master System version is the pure example of rarity, coming only after Knuckles Chaotix and Sonic Blast (MS). To play, it’s bad. To collect, you can’t go far wrong.


Screenshots: Master System Version

Screenshots: Game Gear Version

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Founder of The Sonic Stadium and creator/co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic convention. Loves talking about Sonic the Hedgehog in his spare time. Likes Sonic Colours a little too much for his own good, apparently.