Apr 28, 2011

Five Android Pinball Games

"Ever since I was a young boy
I've played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain't seen nothing like him
in any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb, blind kid
sure plays a mean pinball!"
- Pinball Wizard, The Who

I always thought Pinball was pretty stupid. On the Atari 2600 it was a basic video game with a few bumpers and a pair of flippers and the real, mechanical pinball machines didn't offer much more attraction. It's only been recently that I've become attracted to the game seeing past it as an elementary game of luck in which any idiot can snap the flippers when the ball comes down and hope the ball doesn't hit that magic spot between the flippers that costs a precious ball.

This interest and some impressive pinball games in Apple-land have left me wanting a good, solid pinball game on my Android. I tried Magma Mobile's appropriately named Pinball and it just wasn't anywhere near as good as those iGames were. Recently, however, we've seen several new pinball games hit the Android Market so today I'll take a look at three of the best that I've played and compare them. I chose these five as I've tried some of the others like Vector Pinball and they just didn't cut it for me. Let's take a look:

Carnival Pinball

Carnival Pinball
Carnival Pinball opens with some nice music, but the table is pretty basic. It does have one interesting aspect in that there are actually two tables that are connected so if you can hit the ball just right you can switch over to the other side (supposedly there's a third table, but I it's not obvious how to get there and there's little desire to do so). Each table is small and sparsely populated with parts. Obviously it's got a bit of a carnival theme to it with a little ferris wheel at the top of first board. Oddly enough, the second board's most obvious graphic is a fish? The physics in Carnival Pinball just seem off and I don't feel anything like I do when playing a real pinball machine leaving me wanting more. The game is free, though, which may be its more redeeming quality.

Pinball Deluxe

Pinball Deluxe sports four different tables: Wild West, Carnival, Space Frontier, and Diving for Treasure. The game doesn't show you the entire table at the same time, but follows the ball around as it bounces from flipper to bumper. The ball physics seems pretty accurate. Pinball Deluxe is also the pinball game that seems to provide the most options. For example, I like the fact that it reserves a little screen space at the bottom for button to tap for flipper movement as I don't like covering the screen with my hands as I play. Don't like it... no problem, you can turn that and about 8 other things on/off. The tables in PB Deluxe are also among the more elaborate with the latest Diving for Treasure table being quite sizable making a good job that the scroll around with the ball. And being free, ad supported software it's no wonder this game has surpassed a quarter of a million downloads.

Enzo's Pinball: Clockworks

Enzo's Pinball features three tables: Clockworks, Steam Power, and Turntable DJ. Each of the tables has its own musical score and plays well. I tended to like the Clockworks table the best, but wouldn't say I was overly attracted to any of the tables as being one that really stood out. The ball physics feels good here and the game features Open Feint support for leader boards. The game costs $1.49 and perhaps that's the biggest issue for me... with some of the other quality freebies I don't think this is $1.49 better than the competition.

The Jerky Boys Pinball
Feel like being insulted while you play pinball? If so then this is your front runner. The Jerky Boys pinball offers just one table, but it's among the most graphically elaborate. It also offers several different camera angles according to the market where the word 'several' apparently means two and one of them (zoomed in) makes the game much more difficult and annoying to play as it's just too zoomed in. I think I'll stick with the full view, thank you! I'm not a fan of the Jerky Boys... in fact I didn't even know who they were until getting this game. Now that I have the game I realize that I am not a fan. The balls physics is good, but not great, and really... the centerpiece of the game is all of the character commentary as you play. At $.99 I think only pinball fans that 'heart' the Jerky Boys need apply.
Kick Off Pinball

Kick Off Pinball is a beautiful, soccer-themed pinball game featuring the music of The Parlotones and is the only pinball game that is in 3D. It's actually graphically pretty cool, but those graphics comes at a price as whenever I exit the game it takes my phone about a minute to catch up for whatever reason (meaning that my icons/shortcuts are gone, clicking on programs reveals that they are gone, and then after about a minute [really, a minute] everything returns to normal so I'm reasonably sure it's the game cleaning up after itself which it does properly and just takes awhile). The table is pretty fancy and ball physics seems solid. I tend to feel that my flippers are abnormally large after playing some of the other pinball games, but that doesn't adversely affect anything and may just be the illusion of them being the closest object to me with the 3D graphics. Kick Off Pinball is also a marketplace freebie and is ad supported.

In summary, the Android Market has come a long way in the past year with respect to the pinball games I was looking for. If you like pinball... I should rephrase that... if you like digital pinball (as I really feel like playing the real thing is quite different) then I have two winners for you (drum roll, please): Kick Off Pinball and Pinball Deluxe. My reasoning is as follows: both games offer good ball physics and both games are free, ad supported titles (although I do wish they would offer a paid version that remove the ads). Pinball Deluxe is the best 2D pinball game in the market even when compared to the paid apps... its tables are the most interesting, ball physics is good, and its fun. Kick Off Pinball's 3D effect and the quality of the table make it another outstanding game I think pinball enthusiasts will want as well and it too is free. I can't see paying for a pinball game with titles of this quality being available for nada. That said, the iPhone/iPad still has Android beat when it comes to pinball and there's plenty of room for improvement. I was just playing a pinball game on the iPad where zombies work their way down the screen and you have to hit them with the ball to destroy them. And that's what I think really makes a good pinball game... the feeling that if I can get just the right hit on the ball then I can hit a specific target. Many of these pinball games leave me feeling like I'm aimlessly flailing around just hoping that I can keep the ball in play versus having a purpose.


  1. What, no Pinball Ride? Granted, it's only one table, and costs money (something the reviewer seems to be averse to), but it plays well and has smooth 3d graphics. So few pinball games on Android and you can't even cover all the good ones? Weak...

  2. No, actually I did try Pinball Ride and just wasn't impressed enough to keep it being a pay app and rather than try and write a cheap review given my lack of play time with it I elected to not cover it. Anyone wanting reviews of their games is welcome to submit them for consideration. Likewise I had a press release from the Pinball Yeah! folks!, but they never responded to my follow up email. I'll reiterate.... Why pay for anything with the good freebies available?