GameOver Game Reviews

Game & Publisher Pinball Arcade (c) Microsoft
Overall Rating 73%
Date Published , , at (Pacific)

Divider Left By: Mud Divider Right

When I was a little bit younger, I was the master of a pinball machine down at a bar called "The Corner Tavern". I used to go down there when my granddad was playing pool with some of the guys. That is probably where I first fell in love with pinball. It just seems to be a much more controllable environment than a video arcade. No longer are you controlling little dots of light on a video screen but you are controlling actual physical objects. Then I heard about Microsoft Pinball Arcade coming out for the PC. Needless to say, I was more than a little bit overjoyed that someone would bring some actual pinball tables that aren't completely made for the computer but that were truly tested and innovative in the real bars and pool halls of the world. "Humpty Dumpty", "Knockout", "Cueball", "Spirit of 76", "Haunted House", "Baffle Ball", and "Slick Chick" make up the seven titles of this set. All the way from "Baffle Ball" in 1932 to the most recent "Cueball Wizard" in 1992 the whole spectrum of pinball is represented here.

Graphics: 17/20

Graphically this game is top notch as far as duplicating the look and layout of these original tables. At least from the last two that are on the game. "Haunted House" and "Cueball" were two that I got to play in the arcades when I was growing up. So I am assuming based on their high quality representation that the other tables are as accurately depicted. I also noticed that the ball itself has a real silver shine too it that is not just a little "shiny texture" pasted on the ball object. I tried to find a flaw in the reflection of the surrounding area around the ball as it would pass through the labyrinths of bumbers and lights but I couldn't. The graphics artists and coders should be commended for such an impressive piece of work. However I have one beef with the coders that I will get to later on in the review.

Sound: 14/15

Hey, what can I say but good job. Although after seeing the graphics, I knew that the sound would have to equal the quality. It has the correct mechanical sounds for all the actions: whether it be hitting a bumper or listening to the weird voice in "Cueball" say "Go up the right ramp", they seemed to be dead on. To me, in pinball this is an extra to have a good set of sounds but nevertheless it added to my gaming experience.

Gameplay: 20/30

Well here we go with the part of the game that seemed to fall a little short for me. After looking at the graphics and hearing all the nice bells and whistles I was ready to love the action and gameplay of the ball. Alas, I cannot say that this happened. The ball felt abnormally heavy or jumpy when it would move around the table. And by heavy I don't mean that the ball seemed to weigh five pounds but that it was kind of slow, almost as if the table had been raised half an inch on the front two legs. I could catch a ball on a real table with the best of them and hit it up a ramp or in a hole nine times out of ten. On this, however, the aiming mechanism seemed to be off slightly. I would let the ball roll out towards the tip of my left flipper to aim it farther to the right and it just wouldn't behave as I was expecting. This was especially discouraging on the two tables that I remembered playing as a kid. They should have brought some physics guy in or something to really make this part of the game the best. Because after all what is more important in pinball and gameplay? ZILCH as far as I am concerned. I had a more entertaining experience playing "Humpty Dumpty" or "Knockout", two of the older tables, that I did with the newer efforts. I would love to see Microsoft release a "physics" patch for this puppy but I really doubt that will happen. I guess the only pinball that is worth playing is the real thing. A substitute hasn't come along yet to my satisfaction.

Fun Factor: 14/20

The fun factor is maybe higher than the gameplay score because of the fact that with pinball you can load it up, play five minutes, and enjoy yourself. And this is definetely one of the computer pinball games I can give the honor of being one of the better computer efforts. I would love to see another volume of this that included some of the hits of the late eighties like "High Speed", "Carnival", and "Draw Poker". I would forgive a lot of the gameplay gripes if I could just nostalgically experience those classics again without having to search and hunt in the arcades. A lot of people with enjoy this title because of its low learning curve and ease of play.

Physics: 2/5

After mentioning the poor physics above it is no surprise that the phyiscs of this game are lacking tremendously. If you want a truly correct pinball experience with physics that seem somewhat real then please look to your local Chuck E. Cheese or movie theater because this game doesn't seem to have it.

Overall Impression: 7/10

The only reason that this game even got a seven out of ten is the very professional and throurough job the graphics and sound people did to bring me back to the times when I whipped up on all those old fools down at that bar. Other than that, the game falls amazingly short in the true Pinball type factor. Somehow though after playing this game, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed.

Please someone reading this... PLEASE program a computer pinball game that has close to normal physics. I don't care if you make it wireframe. I would still play the heck out of it.


Divider Left By: Hades Divider Right

Pinball is one of the oldest arcade style games but these days every pinball game seems to be the same. I am an avid pinball player and have been disappointed in the current slew of pinball games put out for the PC. I remember spending my entire allowance playing the tables at the local arcade and I still drop in a few dollars every week or so. These days there seems to be some goal both real life table makers and the virtual table makers are trying to attain: a mix between virtual and reality. Modern pinball tables are now so multimedia oriented, that you need an instruction manual to play them as the little blurb down in the lower left just doesn't cut it anymore. In comparison, the computer adaptations of these games are moving towards expanding the realism.

Pinball has always had an easy concept regardless of the little add-ons that seem to be popping up on every new table: hit the ball against the targets/bumpers and ride the ramps in order to get the highest score. Of course eye candy is always a plus when playing a pinball game as watching a ball bounce around a wood/plastic table is just not appealing to the senses.

In the recent outbreak of pinball games released for the PC, no game has ever been worthy of my time, except the classic Epic Pinball. Game developers must be begging for ideas for tables, because Soccer pinball and Star Trek pinball were really odd ideas for standalone games. Microsoft Pinball Arcade encompasses the many eras of pinball tables starting from 1931 and ending with a table from 1992.

The interface uses the standard top down view of the table which is slightly angled so you can see the entire table without having to motion sickness due to the screen moving in front of your eyes. Then again, there are enough flashing lights to give even a calm person an epileptic seizure. The table and ball graphics use chrome and lighting effects well and I found them adequate even though I am very picky in such areas.

The sound effects in general were of average quality but after hearing the music from the Haunted house table over and over again, I was feeling a little Ill. There are actually different sounds for each different angle that you can hit a target or ride up a ramp. The sound of the nudging in the game sounds nothing like what such actions sound like in real life.

For once I found a game that does not have a steep learning curve. Simply smash the flipper keys down and occasionally nudge the table to get the ball to move a little in your favor (Careful of the TILT). There are a few hard targets to hit or odd angles to bounce from but none the less the engine seems good in its calculations. It seemed to me however that Haunted House was the only difficult table.

If your a pinball freak like I used to be, then this game is fun, however there is nothing new to make you want to jump genres. Despite what one may thing even the 1931 game engrossed me and I found the game to be fairly addictive.

What fun is pinball without the existence of an opponent. Of course you can play by yourself but where is the fun in that. I guess if you had multiple personalities. Maybe you could invent friends and play under different names. No Network play but then again I didn't expect it to have any. It would be boring to sit on your computer and wait for however long it takes for your friend to finish his ball.

All the tables are old tables which existed in real life and even thought the eye candy is good and so are the sounds, nothing beats Extreme Pinball or Illusion Pinball, or even the classic Epic Pinball. If you're a pinball fan you may like this just so you can actually get some decent pinball action on your PC as opposed to some of the recent releases. If you want to switch over to pinball games, please check the classics out first, this one is only for die hard fans.

Graphics: 14/20
Sound: 9/15
Gameplay: 26/30
Fun Factor: 16/20
Multiplayer: 1/5
Overall Impression: 6/10


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