Want to replicate the feel of real pinball on your iPad? It’ll cost you. We’ve talked on this blog before about the iCade wooden iPad holder, and the Arcade Duo by Atari, both of which add sturdy joysticks and solid button arrays to your retro video game experience on the iPad. But the Duo Pinball by Discovery Bay Games does the same thing for pinball games on the device. The drawback is that it only works with one pinball game.
You can check out more details here.
From its modern incarnation with the advent of the flipper after WWII, pinball enjoyed a long run as the go-to electronic amusement pastime. It lasted until the 70’s, when the shimmering graphics and bloop and bleep siren call of video games lured players away from mechanical playgrounds to ephemeral worlds comprised of phosphors on a screen.
Pinball limped along, the market steadily shrinking until a few old warhorse manufacturers remained, companies like Williams, who attempted to resurrect the genre with a daring video/pinball hybrid system in 1999 called Pinball 2000. As detailed in the excellent documentary TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball (Two-Disc Set), this gambled failed, Williams moved to the more lucrative slot machine market, and so pinball has languished as a niche collector’s market.
But now former arcade operator and online pinball machine retailer “Jersey” Jack Guarieri has hopes to propel the silver ball back into public consciousness with a new machine of his own design, based on a slightly dated property… The Wizard of Oz. Guarieri’s sense of timing might be spot on though, riding the buzz of the upcoming Disney prequel to Wizard, Oz: The Great and Powerful. Only time will tell if Guarieri is truly the wizard who can save pinball.
Slate has the story here:
Someone who grew up during the birth and golden age of video games would also have to be at least passingly familiar with the electronic pastime it replaced… pinball. In practically every arcade there would be at least a few pinball machines vying for the attention of someone looking for something a bit more physical than Pac-Man. I remember one of the troika of video game palaces here in downtown Toronto being the Pinball Spot. After carefully traversing down the slick-tiled steep and dark stairway, one would be greeted by a huge square basement of video delights, as well as a long line of pinball machines stretched back along the left wall. It was a pinballer’s paradise to be sure.
Hoping to recapture that sultry allure is FarSight Studio’s Pinball Arcade for iOS devices. There is no shortage of pinball game simulations for game devices these days, so how does Pinball Arcade shape up against the competition? PA’s main hook is the painstaking detail that has gone into the recreation of the featured tables. Tales of the Arabian Nights is unlocked when the game is installed, with The Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Theatre of Magic available for paid download in-game. These games range from between $1.99 to $3.99, and you can pick up all three in a pack for $8.99. The app itself is 99 cents. Other classic tables are promised in future updates.
The tables are great to play, lovingly constructed with no detail overlooked. Each table also features a tutorial to take you through the scoring system, as well as an interesting text screen outlining the history of the machine. Problems arise, however, with the game’s physics. Pinball games are the epitome of ‘feel’ in coin-op amusement. How the ball interacts with the flippers, the speed it travels around the board, and the player’s ability to influence these events are all critical elements to a pinball game’s success. There is a tangible connection between player and pinball. I believe it is possible to recreate this connection and ‘feel’ in a computer simulation, but Pinball Arcade doesn’t quite feel like it. For all the love and care that the creators obviously poured into the tables, they skimped a bit on ball physics. It moves wonkily quite often, changing speed or direction for no good reason. The ball’s movement off the flippers feels a bit strange too, all of which equals a bit of frustration on the player’s part and failure to close that gap between the physicality of pinball and the cold calculations of computer simulation.
Wacky ball movement notwithstanding, I would still heartily recommend this app to all you Pinball Wizards out there. Pinball Arcade sure plays a mean pinball.