It’s a brave move from Farsight Studios to try and stake a claim for a slice of the video pinball pie with latest release The Pinball Arcade.
The reason being of course that the superb Pinball FX 2 has been more than catering for all our silver ball shooting needs and high score feats within the Xbox LIVE Arcade for some time now.
So is there room at the (pinball) table for this bold newcomer or are we gamers already beyond content?
Well, speaking for myself, when video pinball is done right it’s an absolute delight to play and with The Pinball Arcade, Farsight, have certainly done things right. Looks like it is time for Zen’s FX game to budge up.
The Pinball Arcade though treads a slightly different path to that of FX 2 in that it uses a selection of video versions of real life tables. So where the Zen boys where free to roam the recesses of their overactive imaginations and create all manner of wild and wonderful tables the Farsight folk have delivered a game that will appeal to the pinball purists as well.
Not that the tables within The Pinball Arcade aren’t wild and wonderful themselves, the four up for play initially are all solid and fun within their own right. Each is introduced with a brief history detailing when it was released, why it was deemed special enough to appear here, who made it etc.
The chosen four are: Stern’s ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’, Williams ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’, ‘Theatre of Magic’ from Bally and displaying some true old school pinball, Gottlieb’s ‘Black Hole.’
The tables date from 1981 through to 2004 and have been beautifully recreated.
To be fair though I did have to ask myself, ‘who is actually have going to have heard of these tables, let alone played on them?’ It’s true to say that had I been unaware of the use of real life tables here I’d have been none the wiser. Real world arcade pinball was, in my mind at least, a long extinct beast.
But despite this it’s actually quite a thrilling experience to be playing a perfect video rendition of a genuine ‘legendary’ pinball machine. It works really well and allows you to try your hand at a machine that would otherwise have been long forgotten, gathering layers of dust in some run down arcade museum.
Gameplay wise Farsight’s take on pinball stands shoulder to shoulder with Zen’s game. The ball physics are spot on, the challenge is nicely taxing, the tables are superb, there are a variety of challenges to complete and the ‘just one more go’ factor is firmly in place.
Of the tables ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ was a personal favourite with masses going on at all times and a great soundtrack backing it all, Ripley’s and Theatre of Magic are similar in style, all razzle and dazzle and no time to breath as the ball zips around, while Black Hole is a far more bare bones machine. No ramps, no myriad of tabletop features but it does have a multi-layer with a lower tier becoming available as you play and it has four flippers, four flippers, I tend to struggle with two.
The challenges on each table range from the simple stuff like getting a top score to far more testing fare such as unlocking special multi-ball plays, these alone will definitely keep you coming back for more as you edge closer and closer to nailing the seemingly impossible and hearing that beautiful achievement unlocked ping.
The graphics are spot on, each table has been lovingly re-created and all the bells, whistles and lights are perfectly realistic, if you’ve sampled Pinball FX 2 then you pretty much know what to expect here.
The Pinball Arcade then is a fantastic addition for fans of pinball and for fans of fun, addictive gameplay. Rather than going up against Pinball FX 2 it actually compliments it, both games offer a similar experience and seem to go hand in hand rather than duking it out.
This latest game doesn’t have quite the same levels of community interaction as the Zen game but it does have oodles of history and realism instead and it still provides the all-important leaderboards to track your scores. With more tables from the pages of pinball history set to release as DLC for the game it looks in great shape to run and run. Get your flipper action on now, you won’t regret it.