The Pinball Dynamic

In Brief

  • The original Sonic games contained a pinball dynamic.
  • This provide the player with the unique experience of being a living pinball
  • The experience provided three benefits:
    • Adrenaline rush: Experienced when attacking with jump.
    • Invulnerability: Experienced when attacking by rolling.
    • Spectacle: Experienced when rolling while running.

Sonic is a somewhat puzzling character, as it isn’t clear why a hedgehog of all animals should possess mastery over speed, especially as faster creatures exist in the animal kingdom.

Sega’s use of a hedgehog derives from game play constraints, as the developers wanted a character that could roll into a ball. This ball rolling added a pinball dynamic that was heavily exploited in the classic games. It provided the unique experience of being a ‘living’ pinball.

What is pinball?


The goal of pinball is to defy gravity:

  • The goal is at the top.
  • The exit is at the end.
  • As the table is on a slope, gravity pushes the ball to the exit.
  • The player must use the flippers and other devices to launch the ball.
  • This will propel the ball upwards with enough speed to overcome gravity.
  • The ball must be charged with enough speed to knock down obstacles on the table.

The ‘living’ pinball

Stages such as Casino Night, Collision Chaos and Spring Yard are the most memorable examples of the living pinball experience. These stages contain bumpers, flippers, launchers and other such devices that propel Sonic around like a pinball.

However, the pinball mechanic is not limited to these stages. As will be demonstrated, it is experienced through out the classic games due to Sonic’s ball rolling abilities.

Benefits of being a living pinball

By making the player the pinball, the classic games created three pleasures:

Adrenaline rush: Experienced when Sonic attacks by jumping.
Invulnerability: Experienced when Sonic attacks by rolling.
Spectacle: Experienced when Sonic rolls while running.

The mechanics behind each of these pleasures are examined in their own sections.

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Skateboarding dynamics Rush and Spectacle Mechanics Pinball: Adrenaline rush


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