I’ve had a lot of these downloaded games I’ve been playing recently, and I thought Pinball FX would be a good one to touch on next. My last review was for Peggle – a somewhat pinball-like gaming experience and one that appealed to much of my family. With my dad up and visiting however, I thought that now might be a good time to score this game. Why? Well for starters, he’s been playing it some and seems to enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed pinball, but my father? Even more so.
When I was a kid, my dad would take me out during the warmer months to ‘make a day of it’. We’d start with breakfast, go fishing, usually swim, then do something like mini golf or tennis or basketball and then finish up with a trip to the local arcade (there were a few to choose from, but we always went to the now-defunct DC Action). While I would inevitably spend my quarters on video game cabinets (usually some combination of Solar Warrior, Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, Elevator Action… you get the idea) he would spend his time playing pinball tables and we’d usually finish up with a round or two of air hockey.
I would almost always blow through my quarters faster (we’d start with an even split and inevitably he would wind up giving me a good share of his quarters too since my dad’s pinball matches usually went on for much longer – he was pretty good at them). I would eventually wind up playing a few rounds of pinball when it was said and done, but my dad played a lot more.
Why am I sharing all of this? Well, in part because with my dad visiting from Florida I was already feeling somewhat nostalgic, but more so when we were playing FX Pinball the other night. Also, I wanted my dad’s input on the games – he’s played a LOT more pinball over the years, and I figured he could offer a better perspective to the authenticity of the video games.
Graphics – 7:
The overall aesthetics can vary quite a bit by table. Each one is themed a bit differently and have their own look and feel. The basic engine used is pretty good. You can view the table from a variety of angles, things light up and flash like you would expect. There are really not a ton of animated pieces at any given time – primarily the ball, the flippers and any of the environmental objects being interacted with. It looks good for the most part, and recreates the feel of a pinball table.
Sound & Music – 6:
Again, the idea is to try and emulate a pinball table. The thing is, these tables generally lacked the processing power of an actual video game. As a result, you are usually getting limited clips of music and electronic sound effects that can get a bit repetitive. Still, there are some nice subtle sounds to experience, depending on the table. I noticed on a few tables we could actually hear the ball rolling faintly or bumping into objects that on other tables you could not discern because of the blast of music and sound.
Gameplay – 7:
The experience is pretty authentic in my opinion, and my dad seemed to agree. Most, but not all, tables allow you to apply a certain amount of varied pressure to your shot. You have at least two flippers at the bottom of the table, but in some tables there are additional ones higher up that can be used for certain kinds of skill shots. A lot of what you see though is the ball rolling about of its own accord as you wait for your next opportunity to interact with one. One neat feature is that by shaking or tilting your PS3 controller, the Sixaxis kicks in and tilts/jostles the table a bit, though the effect is usually pretty minimal on the actual path the ball takes. You can also make modifications to the tables to change your play experience, though using anything but the defaults makes you ineligible for online scoreboards. This is reasonable – expected even – since you want everyone on a level playing field. One big gripe – it seems to take the tables an awfully long time to load.
Intangibles – 8:
The more tables you purchase, the better your mileage here. They’re basically $2.50 apiece. Not too bad, and there are a wide variety of themes. There’s a tesla coil one featuring lots of electricity and zapping sounds. There’s one with a car theme. Another tables sports a medieval theme. There’s even Street Fighter 2 and Ninja Gaiden tables. I picked them all up and probably spent about $20 on them at the time. The online leader boards definitely help since it is fun to compare stats to others as well.
Overall – 7:
Some of the tables are better than others, so that is a factor. The thing is, everyone may have certain things they like about one table, that someone else really dislikes. My dad seemed to enjoy though, though his hands were a bit sore after the first half an hour or so. He doesn’t play a lot of games and the button scheme was one that was not comfortable for him, but did not bother me as well. There’s definitely a niche group these tables are aimed at. If you have fond memories of arcade pinball tables, this is one of the better versions I’ve had the pleasure of playing and my father enjoyed it as well. My son’s played most of the table a few times now, but usually only when I play. None of my girls have shown even the slightest interest.
– Street Fighter 2