As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up alongside the evolution of the video game. A precursor to the arcade cabinets that helped to swallow so much of my allowance, the pinball machine had been a fixture in bowling alleys and bar rooms long before the advent of video games. In fact, the history of pinball reaches back into the 1700’s. For an interesting read, check out the Wikipedia article on pinball.
Nevertheless, pinball machines played an integral part of my youth. As the years passed advancements in technology, like solid state electronics and digital displays, allowed these gaming devices to become more advanced and complicated, adding levels of exciting play to an already novel concept. Unfortunately, arcade games took a dominant role in the gaming marketplace, slowly pushing pinball machines to the side and eventually nearly causing their extinction, along with the move towards home-based video game consoles.
Pinball games on a computerized platform have been around since the Apple II and the Atari 2600. Pinball remains a fun and challenging game, and I’m glad to have found the best pinball simulator yet, much less on my handheld iOS devices. Pinball Arcade, from FarSight Studios, is an incredible pinball simulator with a great deal of repeat play value. It sells for $.99 in the App Store, and it comes with one table, Tales of the Arabian Knights. What really set this game apart are the faithful reconstructions of classic pinball machines. The developers have painstakingly recreated some of the greatest pinball machines ever to grace the arcade, and these additional tables are available as in-app purchases. Granted, each table can sell for at least $1.99 each, but multi-table packs are available for a discount.
Normally, I’m not one to spend much on a game for my iOS devices, but after spending that first $.99 and experiencing how realistic this pinball experience was, I quickly plunked down a few more bucks and bought the first expansion pack. FarSight has been pretty good about coming out with new tables, and to date they have released Circus Voltaire™, Funhouse™, Medieval Madness™, The Machine: Bride of Pin•Bot™, Ripley’s Believe It or Not®, Theatre of Magic®, and Black Hole™. They plan on bringing more like Monster Bash®, Creature from the Black Lagoon®, Attack from Mars®, Black Knight®, Space Shuttle®, Pin•Bot®, Big Shot®, and even Twlight Zone, one of the most complex, interactive, and fun pinball machines ever to have been created. There are a huge number of licensing hurdles that need to be surmounted, and they’ve even got a KickStarter project for help in getting the funding necessary to make this table a reality.
Don’t have an iOS device? That’s ok, because Pinball Arcade is available for Android, Xbox360, PS3, PSVita, and MacOS, with more platforms to be available soon. What really sets this game apart is the attention to detail. By getting licenses from the biggest pinball manufacturers, like Bally, Willams, Gottlieb, and Stern, the tables they’ve digitized are dead ringers for the real tables. I should know, I played a great number of these, and they are every bit as fun as I remember them. Game play is fast and furious, and I do prefer using my iPad for play just because of the screen real estate available. Of course, playing on the iPhone can be just as rewarding, and that $.99 purchase is good for both devices.
“Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball.” While I might not be a pinball wizard by any stretch, this great app has enabled me to relive my youth in this digital age.