STAFF REVIEW of Pinball Arcade (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Monday, April 23, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Pinball Arcade Box art I remember going to the local arcade as a kid with my pocket of quarters, excited to try the new games and old favorites. A backup for me was always the pinball machines, as there?s nothing else really like a pinball machine that other arcade games were able to recreate. It?s a shame kids of today will never know what it?s like going to an arcade and playing pinball for hours with a handful of quarters.

FarSight Studios has now released The Pinball Arcade on XBLA, and for any pinball fan, new or old, this is a must. You?ve probably played their last offering, Pinball Hall of Fame. Great detail has gone into recreating actual pinball machines that are both historical and modern, which I remember playing when I was younger. Every flipper, sound effect, bumpers, lights, and detail have been recreated to be as true to the original machine as possible.

The big names of pinball are all here, as there?s machines from Bally, Williams, Stern, and Gottlieb. If you aren?t a pinball buff, these were the best manufactures out there bringing us some of the most memorable tables that you?ve probably even played and don?t know it. The initial game will come with four classic tables (which I?ll go into detail) and there?s a whole slew of DLC that?s planned to come out in regular updates, which I?m excited for as my two favorite machines will eventually be coming out (Pinbot and Medieval Madness). Farsight is even planning on adding online tournaments and modes in the future once more machines are released.

Playing pinball is very simple; you control your flippers and try to make sure that the ball doesn?t go straight down the middle between them. For the controller, the triggers are your flippers (they can be swapped to the bumper buttons if you prefer) and the right stick is how you launch the ball. The power on your ball launch is determined on how much you pull back the stick and let go, and is a needed tactic especially when playing the Tales of the Arabian Nights machine. Any good pinball player knows that sometimes a friendly nudge is needed against the machine to ensure that the ball goes (or doesn?t go) where you want it to. This is done with the left stick, but just like playing actual pinball, make sure you don?t overdo it and tilt the machine.

Each machine has a menu that will give you detailed explanations of each table?s goals and how to get their multiball and jackpots among others. Each has its own table history and even the release flyer (though you can?t zoom in as much as I would like to actually read some of it). Should you need to pause, when you come back and unpause, you?re given a countdown timer so that you?re not caught off guard. As you wait to play a game, the camera will zoom across the unit and show close-ups of all the intricate sections. The camera is even smart enough to zoom out for multiball so you can keep an eye on where each ball is. Not expected, but there?s even a ?call attendant? option if the ball happens to get stuck (not a design flaw, as this happens in real pinball) which will eventually free your stuck ball. It?s been a long time, but I remember having to call over the arcade owner to unstick my ball from time to time. It?s a very retro addition that gives it that sense of realism.

So let?s get to the four included tables shall we. First off is the Theatre of Magic machine (Bally 1995, 6600 units made). This was one of the most popular machines and easily one of the highest scoring games. Even in my first game, I was able to take first place on the leaderboards by a massive amount. Balls can levitate and disappear, there are trap doors, and numerous ramps. What I was most impressed about was that the Easter eggs included in the actual machine were left in and are included (the digital pinball and Mortal Kombat 3 codes).

Tales of the Arabian Nights (Williams 1996, 3128 units made). This was another highly rated table and your goal is the rescue the princess from the evil genie you see at the top of the playfield. There?s a magnet near the top that can grab onto your ball for a few moments and then shoot it back out randomly, which I really enjoyed. My favorite thing about this machine though is the skill shot you?re given as soon as you launch the ball into one of three holes.

Ripley?s Believe It or Not (Sternl 2004. Designed by Pat Lawlor who created two of the most memorable pinball machines; Funhouse and Addam?s Family). The dot matrix display will show odditorium facts and the playfield even has a third flipper near the top right side. You travel with the one and only Robert Ripley across seven continents to discover everything weird, bizarre, and unusual. This machine is very complex and confusing at first, but once you learn your objectives, earning frequent multiballs is not a problem. Oh, and it also comes with a shrunken head, so there is that.

And lastly, Black Hole (Gottlieb 1981, 8774 units made). This machine was well ahead of its time for a few reasons. It not only had four flippers, but it was the first machine to have the then-revolutionary lower reversed playing area that lights up when your ball goes down there from the top left corner area. You can see the lower play area on the main playing field, but it isn?t illuminated until your ball goes down there. It might be more known for being the highest earning table ever at its time. This was because Black hole was the first machine to cost 50 cents to play. The machine had very little bumpers, ramps, and objectives compared to newer machines, but it really was ahead of its time when it was released over 30 years ago. High scores might not look so high when comparing to other tables, but this machine surely falls under the classic category.

All the tables look and sound authentic, the balls move like they should, the dot matrix displays are authentic, and more impressively, the game even uses emulation as if it was using the actual code from the real tables. These are so exact to the actual table that you could learn on here and then play the real machine without any problems.

With strong DLC plans in the future, I?m excited for some new tables and especially the eventual online head to head tournaments that are planned. If you can?t afford an actual machine in the house or want to play some of the best rated machines ever, spend the 800 Microsoft Points and pick this up. It?s clear that Farsight Studios took its time and care crafting this offering for all us pinball fans that miss the glory days.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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