The Pinball Arcade developed and published by FarSight Studios. London’s Soho area is the hub of Britain’s entertainment industry and the birthplace of the teenager in the uk. Soho in the swinging sixties saw the introduction of coffee houses rock and roll, jukeboxes, teenagers and the eponymous pinball table. Since those days everything has had an upgrade the coffee has morphed into latte, the juke box has ditched it’s vinyl records for an internet database and don’t get me started on rock and roll and teenagers because they change every month. Only the pinball table has remained relatively unchanged so it was fitting that i met with the developers in Soho to get a look at the Ps4 version of the pinball arcade and a rare opportunity to compare it against two wonderful old vintage pinball tables.
FarSight studios have been going since the eighties and have had a great deal of success with sport sims and party games whilst working with some of the best known publishers in the industry like Midway Atari and THQ. Given this background and depth of experience it becomes less surprising that the pinball arcade was so well received by reviewers and gamers. It achieved an amazing metacritic score of 84 now consider that battlefield four got an 86 and you will begin to realize you might be missing out on something. For those that don’t know pinball. The game is pretty straight forward and based mainly on skill experience and reaction speed it’s essentially the same skill set as you use in a platform game. The ball is something you are either catching or firing at a target, in just the same way that Mario is either jumping on something’s head or falling to his doom. Pinball is all about high scores so you have to keep your ball in play which just two flippers placed above a large hole at the bottom of the table whilst actively flicking it up at the various targets and bumpers in order to open up features multiballs and even mini games. This increases the amounts you can score with multipliers and bonuses.
It’s all about that high score and about the leaderboard. I was very pleased to be invited up to London to meet MarkCale CEO of System 3 (one of the most successful independent publishing houses) so they can showcase to me the recently released ps4 version of “The Pinball Arcade” alongside the original tables was about the best test you could imagine for this type of game and it does compare very well indeed. In fact given that you can play pinball from a sofa on the ps4 instead of having to stand at a real machine it already has a solid point in its favor. The tables are painstakingly exact versions of their real world equivalents even down to the waxy varnishy sheen on the table surfaces; every buzzer bleep and sound effect from the original machines is rendered faithfully. In fact the whole game across all its platforms has the feel of a living history project and it often gave me feelings of wonder and nostalgia seeing and playing machines that were once in every bar, arcade and cafe.
The ps4 version has been tweaked and optimized to full take advantage of the next gen consoles features so that probably makes it the version of choice for the enthusiast, however it is on most platforms and you can download the free version on steam right now and take a look? You will certainly not regret it. There are over 40 tables rendered so far and new tables are released each month all fully licensed and approved by the original companies such as Bally Williams Gottlieb and Stern. They work with the designers and engineers from these companies very closely and are even laying plans to develop new tables in conjunction with FarSight and the pinball arcade. They told me this when i asked about the games future considering they didn’t make that many pinball machines these days.
They also mentioned that there are still thousands of pinball machines they have yet to collect I might sound gushingly over enthusiastic in my praise and you may well be thinking they must have taken him for an awfully big lunch that day but in all honesty i can applaud this game very honestly because it does a number of things that I like games to do. It is a faithful worthwhile update to a tried and trusted genre.
Whilst it adds features to pinball like world leaderboards, versions available for every device and platform, custom balls, and a massive variety of tables, it has remained entirely true to pinball as a game and cultural icon. If anything it’s the equivalent of the gaming industry giving pinball a lifetime achievement award. It’s always nice to see game developers respect not only gaming in general but their own game in particular. It puts the emphasis on pure player skill. You have to have quick wits and quick reflexes to do well but equally you do need to learn the tables and their features and hazards. You have only two flippers and a tilt to interface with the game environment and yet from the second you launch the ball till the second the ball finally plummets into oblivion you are remorselessly engaged and focused, and finally platform coverage.
It can be a bit of a pain when a game is limited to a particular console or in the case of some indie games never really gets out into a wider market because of licensing costs for development kits. The pinball arcade is available on pretty much every platform that people use even the Ouya in fact if it were not clearly dangerous i would imagine FarSight would have written a version for sat nav. As this was intended to be part report and part review i can’t leave without giving it a score and I have to totally give this awesome game a five out of five. You should buy it not just because it will give you immense amounts of direct uncomplicated fun but also because it’s a great project that really deserves peoples continuing involvement, five out of five, this game has multiballs!
System 3 – The Pinball Arcade: http://www.system3.com/games/pinball-arcade-ps4/
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.