Mar 2, 2012

Pinball Arcade

Pinball Arcade arrived in both the Apple AppStore and Android Market within days of one another to great fanfare. Pinball aficionados appreciate a pinball simulation that attempts to bring every nuance of the great classic tables into the modern age... not to mention into one's pocket. How do these games stand up in their purely digital transformation? Let's check it out...

First off, Pinball Arcade is a free* download. Pay extra special attention to that asterisk because it means this is hardly free. This is actually a trial version of four pinball tables which is clearly stated in the description although the description lacks on the definition of trial. Trial here means 'score limited'... play until you score a predetermined number of points. Personally I find that to be very fair as it gives you plenty of taste for how well these games play, but I also think the name of this app needs to be changed to 'Pinball Arcade Trial'.

Next, note that this app doesn't actually contain ANY pinball tables... it's another market (and based on its huge file size is also the engine under which these simulations run) in which you still have to download the pinball machines. Each machines costs, by app standards, a rather steep $3 or for $10 you can have all four tables that are currently available.

qrcodeHow does it play? It plays well. These pinball machines offer substantial depth and the game itself even provides some basic history on each game. I won't delve into the details of pinball as the game itself is pretty basic... keep the ball in play with flippers positioned at the bottom and elsewhere within the playing field. Advanced pinball games such as these also offer a variety of targets and goals based on the table. Graphically these games are beautiful although I'm sure the real deal is far superior to a digital recreation, and each table's audio is faithfully recreated although that was probably digital in the first place. There is one graphical issue I have with these games and that's that the ball appears to 'ghost' when travelling as it travels at faster speeds. There are points where it just appears downright flickery and where I'd swear it just went through my flipper only to clearly register as a hit based on the ball's new trajectory. My other issue is that sometimes the ball disappears from view when inside some simulated pinball contraption and while that does happen on a real pinball table depending on its design I can a) move my head around when I'm playing on a real table to change my view and b) I personally find it annoying when I can't see my principal focus for the game.

How does Pinball Arcade compare to other pinball games? Actually I went back and viewed some older reviews I had written... most notably this one where I review five different pinball games and I'm stunned that I haven't yet covered my favorite pinball title for Android: Pinball HD for Tegra. Pinball HD features 3 tables which are reasonably intricate and play very smoothly... quite a bit smoother than Pinball Arcade. Unfortunately, it's only for Tegra devices whereas Pinball Arcade supports a wider range of hardware.

In summary, I don't think this is the best pinball available, but it's still quite good. $3 per table is high, but not out of the question and is probably a deal if you're really into any of these tables. I'd be far more attracted to this as a casual purchase if $3 included the four tables and then they had me buy others as desired, but I'm also not knocking the price. For the casual player, however, I think there are better and cheaper casual options. I give this a 3.5/5, but with the caveat that if any or all of these tables appeal to you then it's probably worth another star to you. At any rate... it doesn't hurt to check out this Pinball Arcade Demo.

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