Hands-On: The Pinball Arcade (iPad)

Old-school pinball fans are gonna love this.

The digital pinball market is on the rise again, thanks to some savvy developments being handled by development teams.  No longer is it an embarrassing affair of crappy ball physics or lame table design.  No, these guys are dedicated.  Take Zen Studios, who have been pumping out quality releases with their Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball compilations.  And that's just the beginning, as Farsight Studios is preparing for its own pin assault later this spring with The Pinball Arcade.  Luckily for us, we got a taste of what the company has in mind...

Farsight recently launched a beta for the game on mobile devices, namely the iPad/iPhone and Android.  Now, the game is coming to other platforms, including Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS and, eventually, the Wii U.  But, for now, we focused on the mobile front, with a package that includes four tables, all taken from the yesteryear of pinball.

First up?  Gottlieb's The Black Hole, which first appeared in the Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection, under Crave Entertainment (and also developed by Farsight).  Though this is probably the least technically proficient of the four (there are no upward ramps), this table is still a gem, thanks to the inclusion of several bumpers, targets and, most notably, a table that's built underneath the main table.  You hit the ball into a certain slot and the perspective changes to this smaller table, where you shoot at everything from an opposite angle, preventing the ball from slipping away and thus losing the turn.  So, in a way, it's its own little Black Hole.

The only detail that seemed to be missing from the table (in the beta, anyway) was that the spinning effect on the backglass wasn't taking place, like in the original game.  But, really, the rest of the table is pretty damn accurate, typical of Farsight's standards.  We're glad to see they're still caring about Gottlieb tables, and who knows, maybe they'll revisit the long-lost classic Haunted House, which also has the "table within a table" effect.

Next up is another pinball that saw a previous release, Williams' Tales of the Arabian Knights.  Originally included in Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, this table has seen a slightly marginal improvement since that release, with mildly better ball physics and table effects.  These include a snake charmer skill shot, a spinning lamp (which you can hit multiple times to activate bonus points) and a genie who actually grasps onto your ball -- with magnets, obviously -- as it furiously shakes around to activate a new round.

I really enjoy this table, mainly because its effects are quite cool, and the video presentation on the LED display is quite spirited.  Plus, the sound is the best you'll hear in a pinball, between the superb Aladdin-style soundtrack and the voicework.  Between the sultry female genie and the mad, maniacal male genie, you'll be keeping busy.  It's good to see this table again, and Farsight has already confirmed several Williams favorites will also make a return with this downloadable release, including the fan favorite Medieval Madness.