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Review: Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force

Oct 23 // Ian Bonds
Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosRelease date: October 14, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (PSN and XBLA), $1.99 per table (App Store and Google Play) The Star Wars franchise was a perfect choice for a set of pinball tables, and is arguably one of the best sets Zen Studios released for Pinball FX2. Once again, it is offering three themed tables, each filled with unique sets of trials, challenges, and special events that just wouldn't be able to occur on a real table in the arcades of yore. Full of the iconic sights and sounds of the films, there's a lot to take in with this set, and each table is better than the last. We'll start with the Episode VI table. Set on Endor, many of the elements of the last half of the film are represented, with the Empire base (complete with AT-ST guarding the front) and biker scouts lining the sides. Bright and vibrant, this table has the most ramps, nooks, and tricks to keep you playing, attempting to best your high score with each turn. As before, there are various places to lock or lose you ball, and multiple paths that trigger specific scenes reminiscent of the film. Since this table is based on one particular film and not just elements from the series, you'll hear a lot of specific lines of dialogue recreated here. None of the original actors' performances are used, and some are just trying too hard to sound like they came from the movie. It's a bit jarring, and sadly, on this table especially, you hear a lot of repeated dialogue. Thankfully, this is my only issue with the table. As with all three of the tables, multiple routes along the lanes and ramps yield multipliers that unlock special missions; ones that often take you outside of the playing field of the pinball table. One such example on the Episode VI table has you maneuvering a speeder bike using the flippers, trying to either steer around trees by flinging the ball down the right or left lane at the front of the bike, or down the center to fire your blaster. It's a bit disorienting, but a neat little diversion -- though some folks may not like the separation from the table game itself. The next table is based on the series' iconic villain (or centerpiece, if you allow the prequels to direct that idea), Darth Vader. Offset in blacks, reds, and chrome, this table is one of the coolest looking. Alas, it is also one of the blandest, feature-wise. There's not a whole lot of ramps or instances to encounter at first glance, but with time and skill, there are still a lot of cool bits to uncover. From the outset, you can chose to begin with the assemblage of Vader on the operating table by directing the pinball into a series of robotic arms used to build the Sith lord. From there, scoring allows you the opportunity to battle through such iconic set-pieces as the lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan, or even a trench battle on the Death Star. Swerving your way around pillars using the flippers is again utilized, but somehow manages to be more frantic on this table. Finally, there's my favorite table, Starfighter Assault. Split down the center, you choose to play as an Imperial Tie-Fighter or a Rebel Alliance X-Wing pilot, which determines which side of the table your ball is launched from. Missions vary depending on which side you chose, but there's always a ton of things going on. Bumpers are connected to blaster turrets, and X-Wings and Tie-Fighters zoom over the table to be blasted down during play. This table is arguably the most interactive, as you can actually earn upgrades during play to boost your turrets, your "fleet" of ships, and even the jackpot scores. As before, there's missions that take you away from the table, but this time around, it's a mock-up of the classic Galaga, with you controlling the direction of the ship with the flippers, and firing lasers with the launch button. I actually enjoy the moments where the action left the traditional pinball game, but I know not everyone shares my affinity for these sequences. Regardless of that, the tables as a whole are fantastic to play. There's so many different paths to find, skill shots to master, and challenges to unlock that you may not even see half of what they offer even on your 50th playthrough. It's impossible not to have fun with these tables, unless you just don't like Star Wars at all, or pinball. For those who do, these tables are the cream of the crop, offering everything you want not only in a Star Wars pinball game, but in a pinball game more generally.
Star Wars Pinball photo
I sense much TILT in you...
Back in February, Zen Studios released three tables based on the Star Wars series, adding to the already vast library of tables for Pinball FX2. They were fantastic, diverse, and just as feature-rich as the other tables for the game. Many believed it would be hard for the studio to match that collection. These newest tables not only match the previous set but manage to surpass it.

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Dazzled by virtual pinball: VP Cabs' brilliant table


Uses Zen Studios' Pinball FX
Jul 20
// Dale North
Imagine a pinball machine with no moving parts other than buttons for flippers. Imagine being able to load up any of your favorite tables from memory to play instantly. VP Cabs custom pinball machine lets you do exactly that...
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Pinball FX2

Free Pinball FX2 table coming for Steam users


Free forever
Jun 18
// Abel Girmay
Zen Studios, the minds behind the Pinball FX series, will be bringing their Sorcerers Lair table for free to all Pinball FX2 Steam users starting June 21, 2013. Good news too, as this table isn't a timed giveaway. It will rem...
Atomic Indie Bundle photo
Atomic Indie Bundle

Bundle Stars bundles ten games together for five bucks


Atomic Indie bundle makes me feel like a neutron: neither positive nor negative
Jun 04
// Darren Nakamura
Bundles seem to be all the rage these days. With the Humble Bundle, Groupees, and the Game Music Bundle, I'm building up a huge collection of content that I might never get around to experiencing. Since I clearly needed anoth...
Star Wars photo
Star Wars

Star Wars Pinball goes standalone on PSN next week


With Cross-Buy for PlayStation 3 and Vita
May 08
// Jordan Devore
The current three tables of Zen Studios' Star Wars Pinball will be available as a standalone pack on PlayStation Network starting May 14. That's Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clon...
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New releases

New releases: Minis are on the Move again with Mario & DK


Plus Pinball FX 2, Sid Meier's Ace Patrol, and Monaco
May 06
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
It's a rather light week as there's only a handful of new releases. The biggest being Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move for the 3DS. This is an eShop only title too, which makes it an an interesting little experiment ...
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Sleeping Dogs and BlazBlue head to PS Plus this month


Plus Pinball Arcade, and Knytt Underground
May 04
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Have you played Sleeping Dogs yet? If not what the hell is wrong with you? It's an amazing game, and you really have no excuse. Especially those of you with PlayStation Plus membership as it's about to become available for fr...
Star Wars photo
Star Wars

Pinball FX 2 comes to Steam on May 10


No balls of steel required
May 03
// Allistair Pinsof
Outside the dedicated and nebulously legal emulation scene, PC hasn't received much virtual pinball love lately despite being its birthplace. Zen Studios is changing this by bringing Pinball FX 2 to Steam on May 10. The titl...
Star Wars Pinball photo
Star Wars Pinball

Star Wars Pinball 50% off on all platforms


May the 4th be with you
May 02
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Star Wars Day is this week on May 4, so Zen Studios is celebrating by offering 50% off on Star Wars Pinball across all the platform it's available on. It's going for $5 on Xbox Live Arcade, $1.99 for the Kindle HD, and $0.99 ...
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This Duck Hunt pinball machine is a beauty


Damned laughing dog returns
Apr 12
// Dale North
Ah, Duck Hunt. If you think about it, the lightgun NES classic is actually the very first first-person shooter. That explains so much! I'm terrible at modern day FPS games, so it makes sense that I was bad at Duck Hunt. I gu...
Zen Pinball 2 photo
Zen Pinball 2

Zen Pinball 2 will launch next week on Wii U


After a long delay, it's finally here
Mar 15
// Chris Carter
It looks like the long wait is over, as pinball fans will be able to enjoy Zen Pinball 2 on the Wii U come March 21st. Zen Studios notes that the delay was to make sure the game was fully polished, and didn't need any patchi...

Review: Star Wars Pinball

Feb 26 // Brett Zeidler
Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: February 26, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (XBLA and PSN), $2.99 per table (Mac App Store), $1.99 per table (Apple App Store and Google Play)  At first glance, The Empire Strikes Back looks empty. There's a few lanes on the sides, a couple of ramps, and a big, flat platform in the center of the table that takes up most of the real estate. The player doesn't know it yet, but that giant, empty platform is where all the action is going to happen. Once the player hits two barricades ("Star" and "Wars") in the dead center of the table, a flap opens up right above the flippers that, when the ball is locked inside of it, starts the player's choice of one of five Empire Strikes Back scenes (this table's version of missions). Depending on their choice, various 3D models will appear on the platform and finally bring some life to the table. The coolest example has an AT-AT walking across the platform where the player needs to help the snowspeeder bring it down. Each mission has two parts, and should time run out (or some other misfortune occurs), a checkpoint is created at the start of the second part of the mission. This a new and, believe me, entirely welcome addition for aspiring pinball wizards such as myself. Empire also introduces a new mini-game that actually takes you completely out of the table and into a first-person mode where you control Luke Skywalker himself. There's what I like to call a micro-loop behind those "Star Wars" barricades mentioned earlier; going through it enough times to spell "Training" and locking the ball in the center slot starts up the mini-game. Featuring the scene from A New Hope where Luke learns to use the force on the Millenium Falcon for the first time, the player uses the plunger and flipper buttons to reflect blaster fire. It's pretty cool, but it feels slightly out of place even in a fantasy pinball table. The next table is probably the one everyone is most excited for: Boba Fett. Once everyone saw him in the original films, Boba Fett stole the show and became one of the most popular Star Wars characters. I can see the same thing happening here. Fett's table is centered around the concept of playing as the bounty hunter himself, where the player must receive either Empire missions from Darth Vader or missions from Jabba the Hutt, earn respect for doing so, and defeat each of his bounty hunter rivals. It doesn't matter which missions you do, as they give the player a choice of five missions that are exactly the same and only offer more points and respect (all you have to do is hit every single lane). The higher they go, the less time the player gets to finish the mission. Experiencing the rare moment of hitting every lane in rapid succession and locking the ball/bounty onto Slave I truly makes one feel like the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy. It's moments like these that will make the Boba Fett table the obvious fan-favorite and most rewarding of the three tables. Boba Fett features set pieces from his two short appearances in the films, such as Vader on his imperial ship (representing the left half of the table), Jabba's Palace (the right half), the sarlacc pit (which the ball can actually fall into), and Han Solo in carbon freeze hovering above said pit. The ramps and lanes are inspired by pieces of Fett's suit that will make even his biggest fans truly pleased with the love and care put into the creation of his table. The Clone Wars table is the dark horse of the three. Going in, I wasn't expecting much. Upon first firing it up, Clone Wars is the only table that has the classic intro text scroll. I thought was a really cool touch, especially as it was read by an announcer who also happens to narrate the entire game. This is by far the busiest table, with lanes and ramps stacked on top of each other on just about every visible inch of real estate, invoking a cramped, claustrophobic, and hasty feeling while playing the table. It's this quality of sheer fastness that makes one initially think it would be the most challenging of the bunch, but that turns out to not be the case at all. Clone Wars practically throws points at you, letting the player easily get five to ten million points just in the first handful of minutes alone, and it's not a demanding task to get far beyond that within a short amount of time. After spending so much time on Empire Strikes Back and Boba Fett (tables that will certainly put your pinball wizardry to the test), dominating a table for a change was a nice break from the difficulty of the other two tables, and seeing a new palette of colors was a refreshing change of scenery. Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables.
Star Wars Pinball review photo
The Force is strong with this one
It's been a couple years since Zen Studios first took on the Marvel license and subsequently released expertly crafted tables centered around the biggest characters and story arcs in the comic book giant's vast library. Each ...

Pinball photo
Pinball

Check out the Boba Fett table for Star Wars Pinball


Galactic bounty hunter gets his due
Feb 22
// Conrad Zimmerman
Zen Studios released this trailer for the Boba Fett table players will be able to test their pinball skills on when Star Wars Pinball releases next week for Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, iOS, and Android. It looks as though t...
Xbox 360 photo
Xbox 360

New Xbox 360 320GB HD will include three full games


Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Pinball FX, and Ms. Splosion Man
Feb 21
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
There's going to be a new Xbox 360 320GB hard drive on sale this March for $129.99, and it's going to include three full games with it. The included titles are Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Ms. Splosion Man, and Pinball FX2 wi...
Star Wars Pinball photo
Star Wars Pinball

Release date and pricing announced for Star Wars Pinball


Tables coming next week
Feb 19
// Patrick Hancock
Combining Star Wars and pinball is a surefire way to get people interested. I haven't been too interested in Zen's pinball games until now, that's for sure. Star Wars Pinball seems to nail the feel of the source material...
Star Wars Pinball photo
Star Wars Pinball

See Star Wars Pinball in action with the Episode V table


Zen Studios' take on The Empire Strikes Back
Feb 13
// Jordan Devore
As someone who has wanted to get into Zen Studios' brand of pinball but has somehow managed to not pull the trigger yet, it was great to hear about Star Wars Pinball. This latest trailer shows of the table based on The Empir...

The next Zen Pinball takes us to the Star Wars universe

Feb 05 // Abel Girmay
Star Wars Pinball (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC, iOS, Google Play)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosRelease: February 2013 Lets start with the big boy, Empire Strikes Back. Now while each board's layout is relative similar, they differ where set pieces and objectives are concerned. Unless you're a seasoned vet, pinball has a sort of chaos to it that makes it real difficult to actually master. Sure, it's real easy to keep the ball from sinking, but hitting precise shots with consistency is more than a challenge. Still, it's what you will need to do to get the most out of any board. If you do manage it hit the precise shots on the Empire board, you get quite the payoff at least. Hitting exact shots launch missions, of which there are five in Empire. Each mission is based off of an iconic scene from the film: Luke vs. Vader, the chase in the asteroid field, etc. Missions themselves seem to be mostly an aesthetic affair, though a damn good one at that. Depending on which mission you choose, the board becomes populated with character models acting out their respective scene from the film. Again, mostly visual, but it's still kind of cool to see Luke and Vader duke it out in a pinball machine. The Clone Wars boards operate similarly. Play pinball, launch a mission, and see a cool spectacle while playing pinball. The Clone Wars board actually enacts scenes that take place before the TV series, closer to the time of the original theatrical film release. The Boba Fett board shakes it up a bit, though. Each mission on the Boba board is essentially a bounty, with bit a sense of urgency to it as well. You gain points for successfully completed mission, and run the risk of failing if you haven't hit certain targets precisely within a certain time frame. The added urgency is meant to sell the idea that you are a bounty hunter racing against other hunters for the same prize, and thematically at least, it works well enough. When you put the fancy Star Wars dressing and amenities aside, well as they are, it's still pinball. And that, really, will be your determining factor. The new boards will be available to purchase through Pinball FX 2 on Xbox Live and Windows 8, Zen Pinball 2 on PlayStation Network (PS3/Vita cross-buy), Zen Pinball on iTunes App Store, Zen Pinball 2 on the Mac App Store, and Zen Pinball HD on Google Play later this month.
Star Wars Pinball photo
Ten boards spanning the Star Wars lore
There's not a whole lot of explaining needed when talking about pinball, unless you've been socially ignorant for the past forty years. There is a ball, and you must make sure that it doesn't fall off the board. Sometimes...

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Zen Pinball 2 Wii U Pricing confirmed


Same as other consoles
Jan 21
// Chris Carter
Zen Pinball 2 was delayed on the Wii U, despite the fact that it was originally going to be a launch title. After some deliberation, some fans speculated on the price, saying it would be higher due to the new functionality o...
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Zen Pinball HD now on Google Play, Marvel tables on sale


Hey Zen Studios, take all my money... again
Dec 18
// Brett Zeidler
Zen Studios has announced today that Zen Pinball HD would make its way to the Google Play store today. Yes, I'm sure some of you have had it for awhile (myself included), but that's because we're running one of those sexy Teg...
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Zen Pinball 2 launches into Wii U eShop this month


Same tables, new features
Dec 05
// Conrad Zimmerman
Zen Studios has announced that their delightful pinball simulator, Zen Pinball 2, will be arriving in the Nintendo eShop for Wii U later this December. So, now there's yet another platform that I'll feel compelled to engage ...
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Pinball Arcade adding Elvira table in time for Halloween


"Party Monsters" now available on PS3
Oct 29
// Conrad Zimmerman
I love Pinball, as I'm sure readers of this blog are well aware. I'm also deeply affectionate for the Mistress of the Dark, Elvira, late-night spookshow queen of the eighties and nineties. So, it's no surprise that I'm highl...
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Civil War arrives in Marvel Pinall


Oct 14
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The infamous six-part comic event from the Marvel universe is now in playable pinball form thanks to Zen Studios. The new table will let you side with either Iron Man and his Superhuman Registration Act, or with Captain Amer...
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Marvel Pinball 3D to hit 3DS eShop this week


Jun 25
// Conrad Zimmerman
If you have been anticipating the release of more pinball goodness for your Nintendo 3DS, you won't have to wait long at all. Announced less than a month ago in the run up to this year's E3, Zen Studios' Marvel Pinball 3D is...

Avengers Chronicles features the best pinball tables yet

Jun 13 // Brett Zeidler
First up, we launched the "Infinity Gauntlet" table. I let Conrad take up the game first (I really just wanted to see the master at work). I was always really looking forward to the this table because Thanos is one of the pivotal Avengers villains, and Marvel's upcoming plans with his character make this table even more exciting. This is the most story-driven table Zen has ever put together. There are 139 lines of dialogue, and quite a few moving parts around the table. In the top-left, the Infinity Gauntlet itself has the capability of picking up your ball and moving it onto the nearby blue ramps. Silver Surfer hangs out on the left side, and after initiated he and Thanos will fight it out. After Conrad finally gave up the controls, I played a round myself before moving onto the next table. This one seemed to move a lot quicker than other tables; almost as if it was at a higher angle. This could just be because of the fact that there are so many big ramps along the back wall. [embed]229343:44041[/embed] The guys from Zen Studios recommended I check out the "Fear Itself" table next to "see some really crazy stuff." Yeah, I was all over that. Upon starting the table, I instantly saw what they were talking about. There is a ton of things going on in there. "Infinity Gauntlet" may be the most story-driven, but "Fear Itself" probably has the most stuff. That's not a bad thing either, as it doesn't feel crowded at all. I'm not at all familiar with the Fear Itself story arc from last year, so forgive me that I don't know the characters' names. At any moment, there are three characters standing around the table. I should also let it be known that this table has the coolest launcher in the history of pinball: a guy crouches over the launching area and slams his hammer down. Captain America's shield is broken in half and acts as the two bumpers right above the flippers. There are numerous metal ramps to take your ball around the table, and a lot of interesting nooks and crannies to initiate different parts of the table. Other characters from The Avengers make appearances on the art throughout the table. There's even a giant serpent that can pop out of the back and mix things up. As I was playing, I managed to start one of the main missions that opened up a portal. It was relatively easy to get to (being on the middle ramp in the back), but I became nervous and accidentally let the ball go. Not only that, but that was my third lost ball. I suppose I'll just have to wait until next week to see what that does. I'm a little sad that I didn't have time to go hands-on with "World War Hulk" or "The Avengers", as those seem equally awesome in their own right. As I've already stated, the two tables I did get to play were enough to sell me on the entire pack that's arriving next week. Not only are they fun to play, but they are masterfully crafted and should hold their own among the best tables Zen Studios has made to date. I don't know how they could do any better than Avengers Chronicles, but I have a feeling the best is yet to come.
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There are two things in this world that consistently remain on my top-ten of all-time favorite things ever: Pinball and The Avengers. The fact that those two things are coming together in not only one, but four tables as part...

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Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles has a release date


Jun 11
// Brett Zeidler
After being pushed back a tiny bit, the Avengers Chronicles expansion is finally headed to Marvel Pinball and Pinball FX2 on June 19th and 20th, respectively. As always, it'll be 800 Microsoft points ($9.99). In it, you'll f...
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E3: Zen Studios announces Marvel Pinball 3D for 3DS


Jun 05
// Conrad Zimmerman
Zen Studios is keeping the pinball coming and will release Marvel Pinball 3D for the 3DS later this summer. Containing four of the tables previously released for the PS3 version of Marvel Pinball (Blade, Iron Man, Captain Ame...
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Zen Studios putting on Ms. Splosion Man table tournament


May 11
// Brett Zeidler
I hope you've been practicing the Ms. Splosion Man table on Pinball FX2, because Zen Studios has teamed up with Twisted Pixel to put on another high score tournament. Starting on May 18th, all you have to do to enter is play ...
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The first look at Zen Studios Avengers pinball table


May 04
// Conrad Zimmerman
The Avengers are storming the box office this weekend but they'll soon be bringing the fight to the pinball arena in the new "Avengers Chronicles" pack of tables for Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2. In the above video, we...
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All Marvel Pinball tables on sale for mobile devices


May 01
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The Avengers is hitting theaters this week and to celebrate, Zen Studios has dropped the price of all their Marvel-themed pinball tables for mobile devices! On iOS, that means the Captain America, Wolverine and Thor tables ar...

Review: The Pinball Arcade

Apr 25 // Maurice Tan
The Pinball Arcade (Xbox Live Arcade [Reviewed], PS Vita [Reviewed], PSN [Reviewed])Developer: FarSight StudiosPublisher: FarSight Studios, Crave EntertainmentReleased: April 4, 2012 (XBLA, PSN); April 10, 2012 (PS Vita)MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points, $9.99 The Pinball Arcade is both a collection of four classic pinball tables, emulated in great detail, and a platform for future downloadable tables à la Pinball FX 2 or Zen Pinball. While the Zen Studios games offer more modern digital incarnations of pinball, The Pinball Arcade is not just a love letter to classic tables, but a product that is overflowing with FarSight's dedication and passion for the favorite pastime of generations who grew up in the tail end of the previous century. The four tables included in the package, Black Hole (Gottlieb, 1981), Theater of Magic (Bally, 1995), Tales of Arabian Nights (Williams, 1996), and Ripley's Believe It or Not! (Stern, 2003), are a mix of classic tables which offer a good variety for fans of pinball both old and young. [embed]226451:43495:0[/embed] The most striking aspect of The Pinball Arcade is without a doubt the enormous attention to detail that the four tables sport. Compare the virtual versions to images of their real-life counterparts side by side, and it's evident how serious FarSight is about digitizing classic tables for posterity. In fact, FarSight's mission statement of their goal to create the best pinball simulation stares you in the face upon starting the game for the first time. Suffice it to say that these four tables are excellent. It's important to keep in mind that they come from different eras, and many casual pinball fanatics will likely prefer one table over the other, but each table offers a great deal of fun. From Black Hole with its six flippers and "inverted gravity" lower layer, to the excellent Ripley's Believe It or Not! table which was designed to cater to both beginners and veterans of pinball with its many easy goals, each table offers something unique. Even Theater of Magic's secret "hold right flipper" cheat code, which reveals Mortal Kombat 3 symbols after spelling THEATER, is included in FarSight's virtual emulation. As a pinball simulation, the level of detail and authenticity found in all the tables cannot be praised enough. A pinball simulation wouldn't be any fun to play if it didn't control well, and thankfully The Pinball Arcade succeeds in this regard. The ball physics feel right (compared to what I remember real-life pinball plays like), and the different tables lead to distinct experiences due to their expert design. Three camera modes offer slightly different tilted views of the table, and these can be locked for a more static view with the press of a button. While the different versions on the various platforms are mostly identical in content, there are minor differences. The console controller's triggers may not be the buttons of choice due to their analog nature and the relatively long time it takes to press them down. They work fine, but setting flipper control to the shoulder buttons on both the DualShock 3 and Xbox 360 controller allows for a faster and more direct connection between your hands and the flippers. For both console versions, it's worth pointing out that when displaying the game in 1080p, the playfield of the tables is vastly more detailed and clean than in 720p. While any game is generally playable enough in either display mode, in 720p The Pinball Arcade makes the playfield detail hard to read, and the classic playfields are filled to the brim with lights and art that you would rather see clearly. On the upside, the dot-matrix display -- which isn't rendered in dots anymore -- looks slightly more dot-ish in 720p compared to the smoother version in full HD. The 360 version is also slightly crisper than the PS3 version, although you'd be hard pressed to notice it, while the PS3/Vita version offers Facebook integration. The latter version also has a Challenge Mode and a Tournament feature, which will both be unlocked at a later date when more tables are available. Challenge Mode will let you increase your level by beating target highscores, while Tournaments will use rules based on authentic pinball tournaments "for prizes and bragging rights." Thanks to the cross-play compatibility on Sony hardware, buying the game on either a PS3 or Vita will unlock the game for play on both platforms. The Vita version is perhaps the most interesting choice, since tilting the handheld 90 degrees to the left lets you view the entire table at a glance in portrait mode. In horizontal landscape mode, The Pinball Arcade is still a lot of fun, but the smaller screenspace certainly has a noticeable effect on play when moving back and forth between a TV and the Vita's screen. If you stick with either version for an hour at a time, though, you won't notice much of a difference. Vertical Vita play also means that the front touchscreen is used for flipper control, while the rear touchpad is used for nudges. However, you can't disable the rear touchpad or change control settings for nudging, making it very awkward to hold the Vita in your hands without making a table go tilt by nudging it inadvertently. Either you need to grab the device and never move your fingers on the back of the handheld, or you have to try and hold the thing without touching the rear touchpad whatsoever. Good luck with that. It's also rather strange that you can only switch between portrait and landscape mode before starting a game on a table, just like it's odd that there aren't more options for control configuration in the Vita version. Hopefully, these options will be added in the near future as new tables become available. Despite being a game about classic tables, modern online leaderboards allow you to compete with weekly, monthly, and all-time high scores of both your friends and random strangers. Scores are only uploaded as long as you are signed in to either Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, which can be a minor obstacle if you forget to reconnect your Vita to PSN after it has gone in standby mode. High scores aren't as in your face as Pinball FX 2, but they work as advertised and are easily accessed from most menus. Because it's a title where simulation is the name of the game, the nature of the tables can be charming to one player and archaic to another. Likewise, the presentation of the package on the whole leaves a bit to be desired in terms of flashy design, and there are no kinds of operator controls or statistics for the tables which you might expect from a simulation approach to pinball. However, having access to a visual guide to each and every goal for these tables, as well as their original promotional flyers, more than makes up for these minor omissions. As a platform for classic tables alone, The Pinball Arcade will be a must-have for fans of classic pinball. FarSight aims to release as many tables as they can on a consistent basis, and the first new tables to hit the console and handheld versions in May will be Cirqus Voltaire and Funhouse. There are also iOS and Android versions for those who prefer their mobile gaming device to be pocket-sized. There aren't a whole lot of different pinball games out there, especially with Zen Studios dominating most of the downloadable market when it comes to this niche. With The Pinball Arcade, FarSight Studios doesn't necessarily offer a direct competitor to the popular Zen titles, but a complementary addition for pinball fanatics that is well worth their time.
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The ever-maturing downloadable space has allowed for some rather niche genres to find their audience. From The Legend of Grimrock to Lone Survivor, players can find new games for their favorite genres for a price that's hard to argue with. Enter The Pinball Arcade, the latest pinball simulation game by FarSight Studios, who are probably best known for their Pinball Hall of Fame titles.


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