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Review: The Pinball Arcade

Posted by on April 13th, 2012 | 4 Comments | Tags:

Pinball machines are classic games that almost everyone can enjoy and have a long history in North America. While you might find a pinball machine here and there they are getting a lot harder to find now that arcades are frequently closing down. Luckily for us we have a company like FarSight Studios. With The Pinball Arcade their mission is to preserve those classic hard to find tables in video game form, and with a great physics engine and license agreements with some of the biggest names in pinball they are accomplishing just that.

The Pinball Arcade comes with four tables to start: Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Black hole, Tales of the Arabian Night, and Theatre of Magic from Stern Pinball, Gottlieb, Williams, and Bally respectively.  Each of these tables have some really cool designs and seem to have been recreated perfectly with every slingshot, bumper, and loop in the right spot and acting how you would expect them to on the original tables. Even table features such as triggering free games (along with that popping sound you would love to hear) and using the flippers to enter your initials when you achieve a high score are still there. All the lights, sounds and art of the tables are also intact and look and sound great and really make you feel like you are getting the perfect arcade experience.

When it comes to controlling the pinball action you can use either button controls (L and R buttons for flippers and left stick for nudging the table) or touch controls (tapping the left or right section of the screen to control the flippers and sliding your finger on the back touch for nudge) or a combination of both. Overall the controls work well either way with the exception of the back touch,  it just seems finicky and most times I couldn’t get it to work when I wanted it to or to nudge in the right direction. You also have three different views to choose from and while you can usually find one that is best for the table I would have preferred one that was a tad bit closer to the table so I could pick out the flashing lights on the table a little easier. Also you can turn the Vita on its side and play the game using the virtual buttons to get a better view of the table. While I didn’t particularly like playing that way (my hands would get tired holding the Vita like that) I am sure a lot of people out there will really appreciate it. Unfortunately with how great the tables are implemented and controlled some of the other features in the game are not as well done.

One thing that is important in video game pinball is score chasing with your friends and while the game supports local, global, and friend leaderboards for each table they don’t seem to display correctly most of the time and sometimes do not upload scores either. When you first start the game up you can usually access the boards with no problem, but sometimes after I would play a table the game seemed to not be able to load the boards or would load them with all zero scores listed. Also a few times instead of my name being displayed next to my scores, one of my friends was displayed instead. Another problem I have is that the game does not allow people to upload scores that have been obtained while logged out of PSN, which is my biggest pet peeve that I have experienced when it comes to some Vita games. This means that a lot of my highest scores are sitting there in my local scores not able to compete with my friends. I can’t really think of a reason for this and for a portable system that is sold in a Wi-Fi only model there really is no excuse for it.

Along with playing the tables normally you also have Challenge Mode. With the Challenge Mode you beat the target score for each table to increase you Challenge Mode score and level, or at least that’s what the game tells me you do. Unfortunately the Challenge Mode just gives you the description when you select it and tells you that it will be activated in the future when more tables (ie DLC) have been added. Having a mode that is locked behind DLC that isn’t even available yet is kind of ridiculous and if the challenge mode plays as the description says it does, doesn’t really make sense that it would be unplayable with the tables already available. They will also offer Tournaments for all skill levels that will be based on authentic pinball tournament rules that will offer prizes, which sound really cool but once again won’t take place until more tables have been added.

You can really tell that FarSight really knows their pinball and care about giving people the genuine experience. Starting up each table you are given a brief history about the table, telling you some of the features, who designed it, what year it was released, and how many units were made. Along with this they have also included the original flyer of each table that you can view. With each table is also an extremely detailed instruction manual that explains all of the rules and modes of the table while also pointing it out on the table so you know exactly what on the table they are describing. They also slip in a few secrets of the table here and there and some strategy talk to help you achieve those high scores easier. This manual is also broken down into sections so if you are looking for information on how to do a specific thing you can go right to it which is very useful for when trying to achieve the table goals.

Besides going for those high scores to show up your friends, each table has standard and wizard goals that you can complete. These goals have you doing things like initiating multi-ball, getting a skill shot, and completing the table objectives. These goals really add that extra challenge and goals to strive for when playing. Since these goals are usually the way to score the most points they also help you understand the mechanics of the table better, so that the next time you play you will know why you suddenly got that extra ball or 2 million point bonus. You must complete the five standard goals of the table before you can unlock the harder wizard goals. Once you complete those you unlock the option to turn off the tilt sensor in the table so you can nudge that sucker all you want without worrying about loosing your ball to the dreaded tilt.

With exact recreations of classic tables that play as their real counterparts do (as far as I can tell) it is sad to see that there are problems with the other aspects of the game, like the leaderboards and unavailable modes.  But once you start playing you will love the classic pinball action and with more tables coming as DLC regularly, and a buy once get both the PS3 and Vita versions, any pinball fan should be very satisfied with The Pinball Arcade.

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.

General Info

  • Finicky Leaderboards
  • Cant access Challenge mode till DLC released
  • Black Hole table music