Like any pinball game, the main objective is to get points, using the different modes of advances to score them at a higher rate. Pokémon Pinball has a secondary objective hinted at by the tagline “Gotta Catch ’em All,” which is to collect all 151 Pokémon to fill your Pokédex. The Pokédex is saved between individual games, so it can be built up over time.
There are two tables in the game: red and blue. Each table has its own details and gameplay elements.
Each table has different “locations” that you play, which determine which Pokémon are available for capture. A subset of available locations are displayed slot-machine style in the beginning of a game, and pressing A will select your starting location and launch the first ball into play. After that, each table has its own mechanism for advancing to the next location, including the locations not available at the start of the game.
“Catch Mode,” when activated, starts a 2 minute window of opportunity where you can attempt to capture a Pokémon. Once you activate “catch mode,” you must hit the pop bumpers 6 times. Each hit unlocks 1/6 of an image of the Pokémon currently up for capture. Once the image is complete, the Pokémon appears on the table, where it must be hit 4 times with the ball to capture it.
“Evolution Mode,” when activated, starts a 2 minute window of opportunity where you select a captured Pokémon (from the current game in progress only) and attempt to evolve it into another form. This is the only way to add the evolved form to your Pokédex. Once you select a Pokémon, you must hit targets on the playfield. There are up to 6 targets, but only 3 of them have items in them you need to evolve a Pokémon. The others create a time-wasting sequence before you can hit targets again. If you hit a target with an item, the item appears on the playfield and must be collected with the ball. Once you’ve collected 3 items, the hole in the center of the board opens up. Sinking the ball in the hole successfully evolves the Pokémon.