The Game: Pinball Arcade
The Device: iPhone 4
The Price: Free to try for iOS and Android, but each table will cost you.
The Basics: Classic pinball games recreated with the utmost authenticity. These tables are exactly as you remember them from the arcade, controlling and sounding exactly the same, so faithfully digitized that the ball can even get stuck and you have to call an attendant to fix it. (That hasn’t happened once, but it can…) But how did we forget how much fun pinball is? It’s probably because it’s near-impossible to find any tables nowadays, and there’s only a couple of companies still making them for established properties like X-Men and The Wizard of Oz.
Enter Farsight Studios, who has secured licenses from Williams, Bally, Stern Pinball, and Gottlieb to bring us what are inarguably among the best pinball tables ever made.
The Review: Pinball is a relatively simple game and so works perfectly on your phone. Slide back the plunger to launch the ball and then tap on the left or right side of the screen to hit the flippers on that side. You can also shake the phone to nudge the ball around a bit if it’s about to be lost, although if you do it too much you’ll get that dreaded TILT. The games all control beautifully and the ball has real weight to it, and the tables look incredibly realistic.
Besides being able to play these classic tables you’ll also get a wealth of information about their history, fliers and ads, and also intensive instructions. How intensive? Hundreds of pages show you step by step how to get the highest score, how to get the multi-balls, and various rules for each tables. Read them and you’ll figure out how to make the Bride of Pin-Bot come alive, or conquer the kingdom in Medieval Madness, or survive re-entry in Black Hole. Fact is, unless you’re a pinhead you didn’t realize how many things there were to do in most of these games, and once you see all that you can do (and the various achievements that come with doing them), you’ll be absolutely hooked. The leaderboards certainly don’t hurt.
The one caveat is that you have to purchase each table individually or in packs of two. You can start off with the game’s initial four tables (Tales of the Arabian Nights, Ripley’s Believe It or Not®, Theatre of Magic, and Black Hole) that come packaged together for $9.99. That pack is well worth the price, as you’ll get a nice range of old and new games that show off much of what the genre has to offer. If you’d rather not pay you can download any of the released tables and play for free, right up until you get a high score. Then the game will stop and allow you to purchase it or try it over again, although if you’ve played enough to get a high score you’ll likely be so hooked that the idea of stopping is impossible.
Of the tables currently available the most addictive is likely Medieval Madness, a genuinely funny game that has you trying to claim a kingdom for yourself by destroying increasingly tough castles, while saving princesses from dragons, inciting peasants to riot, and fighting trolls. Lots of multi-ball chances make things that much sweeter. Monster Bash is another crowd-pleaser as well, a fun table that sees you recruiting the Universal Monsters for a band.
Each month Farsight Studios features one table for free, ad-supported play. The ads don’t interfere with the gameplay, they just pop up in between each game, so you can dive right in with the current selection, the incredible Bride of Pin-Bot. This table’s one of the highlights of the collection so far, fast and full of ramps and with a really fun theme that sees you slowly putting the Bride together.
A new table is released every month and in the future amazing classics like Twilight Zone and Attack From Mars will hit. The only reason not to pick this up would be if you were going to get it on consoles, because it’s a whole other thing to be able to play these classic games on the big screen. Even if you own it there you’ll want it on your phone for a quick fix.
The Final Grade: A