Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Pinball Arcade Review (XONE)

With the death of arcades, the only way to play real pinball other than at a bar or Chuck-E-Cheese these days is in digital collections like The Pinball Arcade.  Good thing for pinball fans, then, that The Pinball Arcade is freaking amazing.  With more than 70 classic tables available, your favorites are probably here and they play just like you remember.  See our review of The Pinball Arcade for details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: FarSight Studios
  • Developer: FarSight Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Pinball
  • Pros: Amazing collection of tables; plays perfectly; looks and sounds perfect
  • Cons: Can be expensive
  • MSRP: $30 per season, $5 per table

The Pinball Arcade is a platform dedicated to releasing digital versions of real world pinball machines.  Unlike the PinballFX series, also available on Xbox One, which uses fantasy tables created just for the game, The Pinball Arcade tables are real tables from the 60s, 70s, 80, 90s, and early 00s that really existed in real arcades.  Developer FarSight Studios has also gone above and beyond to acquire licensed tables like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Twilight Zone, Starship Troopers, Terminator 2, and more along with arcade originals like Theater of Magic and Tales of the Arabian Nights.

There are currently more than 70 tables available for The Pinball Arcade, but if you want to play them all it can get pretty expensive.  The Pinball Arcade itself isn’t so much a game as it is a platform for delivering the tables.  You can download The Pinball Arcade “app”, along with the Tales of the Arabian Nights table, for free and then buy any other tables you want separately.  Tables cost $5 each, but there are some bundles with two tables for $5 as well.  Or you can buy an entire season’s worth of tables for $30.  Obviously, buying a whole season for $30 is cheaper than paying $5 each, but not all of the seasons offer the same amount of content.  Season 1 has 21 tables, Season 2 has 19, but Season 3 and 4 have 10 each while Season 5 has 11.  If you want every table in the game, you’re looking at $150.

It is definitely a bit annoying that the price is the same despite having less content, but as FarSight Studios has to reach out for increasingly rarer tables or try to get licensed tables, their cost to produce them has gone up significantly.  The first couple of seasons had so many tables available because they were dirt cheap to produce.  Now things aren’t so cheap anymore, so they have to charge more to stay afloat.  Kind of a bummer, but that’s business.  The good news, though, is that you can actually try out any of the tables in the game for free before you decide to buy, so you don’t have to jump in on a table blind.

There are also “Pro” versions of all of the tables, which bumps the price up to $8 per table and adds $10 to each season.  The Pro version of a table gives you a free camera to really look at all of the details as well as the ability to adjust difficulty and other things on the table.  Normal players don’t really need the Pro tables, thankfully.  You can also buy custom ball packs for $2 that give you custom ball colors and styles. 

For all of our hand-wringing over the price, though, there is little doubt that it is totally worth it if you’re a pinball fan.  It might be expensive, but you can spend dozens of hours with almost any of the tables included here.  The whole point behind pinball is to practice and practice and practice until you master a table and can get high scores.  Multiply those dozens of hours times 70 tables, and you’re looking at a pretty darn good investment compared to other video games.  Not every table will keep you occupied for that long – there are some super old and simple ones that are really only here as museum pieces – but even then you’re still getting a ton of value here. 

Gameplay here is pretty straightforward.  You’re looking at a pinball table from the perspective you’re standing in front of it in first-person, though you do have a couple of different camera angles to choose from, and you play pinball.  The triggers control the bumpers, and you can shake the table (be sure not to tilt it!) with the analog stick.  That’s it.  Something you have to remember is that pinball isn’t simply about surviving and keeping the ball in play as long as possible.  Each pinball table has different goals and objectives and even stories to tell and it requires a fair bit of skill and practice to see everything a table has to offer.  Learning how everything works and applying that towards high scores is the true joy of pinball. 

The presentation is fantastic in The Pinball Arcade.  The tables look fantastic in high definition and you can really see all of the details and artwork on the tables, which is an improvement over past gen pinball games that tended to be a bit blurry.  A great feature is that the game also offers lighting options, so turning the setting to “Dark”, for example, really makes the lights on the tables pop (but can make it harder to play since you can’t see the ball as easily).  Most real world arcades were pretty dark, though, so it makes for a pretty authentic experience.  Each of the tables also has all of the real sound effects, music, and voice samples they’re supposed to, which is awesome. 

The Pinball Arcade is admittedly expensive, but for die-hard pinball fans it is money well spent.  It is the most authentic and detailed and fully-featured pinball simulation ever and, while not quite the same as playing on a real table, is a fantastic way to preserve these games for the future.  Even if you aren’t a die-hard pinball fan yet, The Pinball Arcade is accessible and fun and will turn you into a die-hard if you spend some time with it.  Pinball is awesome.  The Pinball Arcade is awesome.  Definitely check it out.  

Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.