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Pinball tables are complex, interesting pieces of art that used to be easily found in arcades everywhere. Sadly, over time, both arcades and pinball machines have phased their way out. FarSight Studios, a veteran at pinball game development, isn’t happy with this and is doing something about it with their latest release, The Pinball Arcade.
As you start up the game you are greeted with the company’s ethos. They simply want to painstakingly emulate classic tables to preserve their glory. A lot of work goes into this recreation. Actual tables are acquired and restored. From there, every detail about the table is reproduced as accurately as possible. Pictures are taken; sounds are recorded. Even the lights and table logic are mimicked. Not a single detail is overlooked. I’m not familiar with the tables, but they seem to have executed on the promise of near-perfect emulation.
Pinball games live and die by their physics. Digital tables can be as elaborate and flashy as they please, but without the proper physics, they are doomed. The Pinball Arcade feels smooth. The ball reacts accordingly in all situations, as do the various mechanisms of the tables. The camera’s zoom and angle can also be a pinball game’s worst enemy. The zoomed-out approach used here not only allows you to soak in the detail of each table, but makes gameplay easier. Responsive and intuitive controls complete this trinity to form a satisfying experience.
For $9.99 (less than a roll of quarters) you’ll get unlimited credits on four tables: Tales of the Arabian Nights, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Black Hole, and Theatre of Magic. They span quite a time period, from 1981 to 2004. This offers quite a bit of variety. Black Hole features a secondary lower level, which I was unfamiliar with until now. There are also more downloadable tables coming down the pipeline, which will follow a similar pricing structure. These include Medieval Madness, Attack from Mars, and other greats from legendary pinball-creating, game-designing god, Brian Eddy. (I’m still waiting on that sequel to Psi-Ops, Brian.) FarSight even has a kickstarter page going to raise funds in hopes of including the popular Twilight Zone table. Their plans are rather ambitious. Over the next year they want to release over twenty tables.
There’s something for every pinball fan. Lowly pinball apprentices who love the game but never really frequented the arcades – the group I wish I didn’t fall into – will find pleasure in the solid controls and the brief history on the tables, which explains why the tables are considered classics. Pinball wizards – like the deaf, dumb and blind kid, Tommy – will appreciate the attention to detail and realistic feel (providing they aren’t too deaf, dumb, or blind). Background information is also provided on the individual components of each table, allowing for a better understanding of the table’s parts. This is helpful in maximizing your high score and achieving the handful of secondary goals laid out for each table.
The Pinball Arcade is just what you would expect. It’s a great simulation. It’s hard to digitally emulate such exquisite works of art, but FarSight is giving it their all. Ultimately, there’s no replacement for the real McCoy. Like almost all creations in this digital age, the pixels just don’t stack up to the brilliance of their analog counterparts. However, it is a lovely homage to a great part of gaming history.
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- Physics feel realistic.
- Goals add fun challenges.
- Simulation is spot-on.
- The classics are not always as flashy as the more modern, creative tables.
- There’s just no replacement for the real thing.