Pinball is something I have never really been good at. Going to the arcades at Hunstanton as a child was a regular occurance and I was always faced with a 3 way decision of where I would spend my pocket money. Slot Machines, Video Game cabinets and Pinball were all choices, and Video Games always won out. But watching a good player on Pinball was mesmerising, as they played for ages and racked up this ridiculously high score. But when I dabbled, I just couldn’t replicate this skill at all.
Pinball on consoles again is a strange beast. Surely the tactile feel of a pinball table is impossible to replicate, so just how does it port over successfully? There are a few options available to experience Pinball on a console. The one most familiar to me is Pinball FX, which is now available on current consoles as Pinball FX3. There is also Stern Pinball Arcade, which is the review subject here. Both games are free to play, with additional tables available as paid DLC. FX3 goes down the licensed route and features new tables based on popular franchises, such as Star Wars and The Walking Dead. Stern Pinball Arcade goes down a slightly different route.
In 1999 the Pinball industry was virtually dead and the main two creators moved away from manufacturing machines. Williams moved into gambling devices and Sega sold its division to a chap called Gary Stern, who created Stern Pinball Inc. And, after recruiting staff from Williams, they started to create and manufacture Pinball machines. Stern Pinball Arcade is a pinball simulation video game developed by FarSight Studios which includes recreations of those pinball machines manufactured or licensed by Stern, who also owns the rights to machines from Data East and Sega Pinball. So the aim of the video game is to faithfully recreate these tables in digital form. The first sign of this is on the loading screen, where you can see the original advertising artwork for the table.
According to Stern, the Ghostbusters pinball experience highlights the humor of the film as the player progresses through the game. It includes custom speech by original “Ghostbusters” cast member, Ernie Hudson, who guides the player to become the newest member of the Ghostbusters team in order to defeat Slimer and The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!
Gameplay wise the mechanics are incredibly simple. RB and LB control the flippers, and the RS releases the ball at the start of every round. And thats it. The table (as per most tables) also has intricate details and gameplay features that are not obvious. For example, at the beginning of each ball you have a set of Skill Shots to choose from. Using your flipper buttons you can choose what you would like to go for. You have nine distinctly different choices which include “Start A Scene” and “Light Playfield Multipliers”. To the uninitiated (like me) this is intriguing and confusing, so you can go into the settings to find the table instructions. All 398 pages of it! However, these are a great way to learn the table and can be an enlightening source of information to learn more of the basics of scoring and basic table layout of a pinball table.
The original Ghostbusters table contained a simple graphics screen on the top panel and this is recreated as a panel in the top left of the screen. This is your main source of information as to which quest is active and occasionally gives you instruction as to what to aim for next. Obviously being an officially licensed table the music and sound effects are just what you would expect, and fans of the films will not be disappointed. It looks great, and the way that the screen scrolled and zoomed to ensure your viewpoint was correct worked for me. The display is also set out from a players viewpoint of the original table and graphically the game is quite impressive.
I enjoyed my time with Ghostbusters, but only up to a point. There were too many occasions where the ball was fired straight at the hole in between my flippers, ruining the run I was on. This might be a Pinball “thing” but I found it frustrating. The game is great for a short five minute blast, but I just can’t see this being a game that I will return to regularly. But I query whether that’s because the game isn’t great or because I’m not a big Pinball fan? Researching this subject on the internet does uncover some love for the digital games, especially from those fans who may not have immediate access to local arcades. There was also love towards Stern for replicating these classic tables. So, I guess that fans of Pinball will enjoy this game, but I assume that people who don’t would probably not be interested anyway!