iPod / iPhone Pinball Mash-Up

   07/04/2009 at 21:00       Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar       1 COMMENTS.
I've loved pin tables ever since I first found my way into the dark recesses of an amusement arcade on a family holiday to Bognor Regis.

The holiday was unremarkable, but before the era of videogames came and went, pinball was the most action packed fun you could have in an arcade if you really weren't into those daft coin-drop things or the illicit gambling thrills offered by fruit machines.

A love of pinball's stayed with me through the dizzy heights of Bally and Midway's best, through some of the sumptuous movie-themed cabinets that always seemed to come up with innovative new ideas that videogames based on movies could never seem to muster.

Now, it seems almost too good to be true that you can tuck a device into your tightest pocket that can allow you to recreate the thrills of a decent pin table in miniature form. On the iPhone / iPod touch you're not exactly spoilt for choice for pinball games but the ones that do exist are actually very good representations of those noisy clacky tables you've probably stood at, trying to rack up a decent score during a misspent youth.

Three main contenders are under scrutiny here, so let's kick off in reverse order with the newest of the bunch.

Wild West Pinball
Developer: Gameprom
Cost: £1.79

Wild West Pinball attempts to recreate a more realistic pinball experience. Whereas our other two contenders are pure video game escapism, Wild West Pinball offers up a really nice recreation of the sort of pin tables that were kicking around in my youth before the microprocessor started blinging everything up with digital scoreboards and seriously overblown sound effects.

Though you only get one table on offer here, it's a doozy with the sort of features and bonuses a good pin table should have like bumpers, drop targets and of course unlockable mini-play areas and mid-game missions.

Controls are easy as pie to master. Slide a finger down the spring mechanism to launch your ball into the main table area. Touch any part of the touch screen on either the left or the right to activate the flippers.

Wild West Pinball's graphics and scrolling table are as smooth as silk and the ball physics feel nice and solid and proper so even though you're strictly playing for online bragging rights and scores (there's a superb worldwide online score table you can synch your scores with) it's a very good game indeed and probably the best digital pin table I've seen in a long time.

WWP makes good use of the iPhone / iPod hardware to deliver 40 frames per second without so much as a stutter or a blink. A superb snatch of pinball genius from developers who obviously love pin tables as much as I do. Well worth the money.


Second on our list is:

Developer: IUGO
Cost: £1.19

Freeballin' is also a relatively new release from a well established iPhone / iPod touch developer. IUGO have thrown the pinball rule book out of the window and offer up a selection of four distinctly different pinball environments (you can't really call them pin tables in the traditional sense).


Tiki Trouble

Dreams and Nightmares


As with Wild West Pinball, controls are kept very simple - in fact they're identical with the same drag-spring to launch a ball and the same touch-screen tap to the left or right to activate the flippers. The major difference is that each pinball scenario is a lot more focussed on offering up gameplay you couldn't hope to recreate on a traditional pinball table, opting for a more fantasy-based experience.

Monsteropolis is a multi-mode game that has various hit targets and trigger zones. Hitting these will activate missions in the game that require deft flipping and a keen eye to notch up the big scores. The game is overlooked by a rather surly giant octopoid who you'll get to even the score with as you progress.

Tiki Trouble is an Aztec / jungle themed 'table' that's probably the weakest of the four, soon becoming a bit tedious and repetitive.

Dreams and Nightmares is by far the strongest of the four games on offer, a surreal poke around your deepest darkest fantasies and fears. Some of the options and modes on this level are absolutely brilliantly designed and this was obviously where most of the effort was put in.

Lastly, Neometric is a retro old-skool themed level reminiscent of Pinball meets Tron. Some great spot effects and missions make this worth replaying a fair bit.

Overall, the graphics aren't quite as smooth or as pinball-esque as Wild West Pinball but for a shade over a quid it offers up hours of entertainment even though you'd be hard pushed to liken it to any other pinball experience.


Last but by no means least, there's...

Pinball Dreams
Developer: Cowboy Rodeo Oy
Cost: £3.49

Owchies at the price, but Amiga fans will instantly remember this classic Digital Illusions pinball game, recreated by maverick developers Cowboy Rodeo Oy. Pinball Dreams is a multi-table pinball game that offers the original four tables from the Amiga / Megadrive classic in a straight conversion pepped up a little with slightly crisper and smoother graphics.

The tables on offer here are:

Party Land

Speed Devils

Stones 'n' Bones

Billion Dollar Gameshow.

Despite the hefty price tag (for an iPhone / iPod game at least, I remember paying 40 flippin' quid for this on the Megadrive, eek!), this is a fantastic collection of pinball tables with Speed Devils easily being the star of the show with its racing / car themed table. Party Land is also excellent despite being a tough table to notch up a top score on.

Control wise, I think you pretty much can guess how this goes - yep, drag to ping the ball into the play area, left and right touch to flip but there's also a rather naughty tilt mode if you're so inclined. Use it once too often though and your ball will drop listlessly out of play.
The developers are currently working on the sequel to Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies and this should be hitting the apps store sometime in the next couple of months - but for now, savour one of the best pinball collections you can score for under four quid.


And the winner is:

It's a very tough choice but despite only featuring the one table, Wild West Pinball is the standout title purely because it's so darned playable, and captures the very essence of playing on a pinball machine far better than the other two titles reviewed. A solid effort, and here's hoping that Gameprom have more like this up their sleeves in the near future.
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