Reviewed: May 6, 2007
Released: April 25, 2007
Back in the day, EA had a great game called Pinball Construction Set for the PC. I loved that game. So much so that I begged my parents to take me to the arcade to play real pinball games along with TRON and Gorf. Before long, Santa went to Sears and left a full size pinball game under… well actually next to… the Christmas tree.
Pinball games got more and more complex over the years. Pinball has turned into more of a task oriented game. If you hit certain bumpers and achieved certain tasks you get a multi-ball extravaganza and big time points! So while I wait patiently for Konami’s Track & Field and Disney’s TRON to come to XBLA, I’m putting on the “Pinball Wizard” MP3 and having some old school fun with Pinball FX.
Pinball is a pretty simple game. Shoot the ball up in the play area and when it comes down your way, use the buttons to knock the ball back into the play area. Things get a little more complicated when you start going along with the theme of each pinball ‘machine’ and purposely shooting the ball into specific areas to get bonus points or achieve other tasks.
Pinball FX includes 3 tables, which range from really fun to almost unplayable. Each table features 5 vantage points (changeable during play by pressing the X button). All the tables have various challenges and goals to get multi-ball bonus’.
The controls are easiest with the standard controller. It really has the ‘feel’ of a pinball machine with the rumble feedback in the controller. The left and right triggers are the standard controls for the three flippers (two at the bottom and one at the upper end of the table).
Alternately you can use the Live Vision camera to control the flippers. It is a nice idea but you need the ideal lighting conditions to get responsive flipper action. Do you know any gamers that play in a well-lit room? After a couple games using the camera, I got frustrated and missed the feel of the rumble feedback in the controller.
Table one has a street-racing theme called Speed Machine. It is by far the best of the three tables and the easiest to learn the tricks. There are various car upgrades and tasks available for bonus points.
The second table is a skateboard/hip-hop theme called “Extreme” and is by far the worst of the included tables. The majority of your time will be spent watching your ball zip around a little loop in the center of the table. The design of the table is just not made for much action. After seeing your ball do the loop-de-loop several hundred times you’ll likely get bored and move on. You’ll also get to hear an annoying voice get down with the street by saying “yeah boy” and “can’t stop” over and over and over again. I suppose if someone really wanted to spend hours learning the perfect flipper spot to shoot the ball, there might be some level of redemption here… but why bother then there are two other much better tables available?
The third table is a not so subtle James Bond knockoff called “Agents”. While not as fun as Speed Machine, Agents does have plenty to do from rescuing girls to car chases and disarming bombs. When you get on XBOX Live, you will likely end up playing Agents or Speed Machine. I have yet to get a single game on the “Extreme” table.
XBOX Live play is the standard ranked and unranked games for 2-4 players. The host player picks the point value that will end the game and the penalty value for letting the ball go down the drain. For example, to win a game you would have to be the first to 100,000 points, but you might loose 10% of your points if the ball makes it past your flippers. So it’s basically a race to see who can get 100,000 points the fastest. So the players that know the tables best have a big advantage. There is a place indicator with color-coded bars for each player, which informs you of your standing during play.
The graphics are nearly photorealistic. The three included pinball tables look exactly like a real arcade game. If you have your Live Vision camera activated you will even see your reflection in the table glass.
There are 5 views to see the play area. Views range from a static view where the camera never moves, to a zoom camera that follows the ball very closely and a few levels between. As with sports games, I prefer the wide angle to see the whole table. But many people like the variable or increased zoom to see exactly where the ball is on the table.
The sounds are accurate to the theme of each pinball machine. Each table has its own looping music and effects. The Speed Machine game has car sounds, Extreme has skate/hip-hop sounds, and Agents has spy and law enforcement sounds. You can increase and decrease the volume of sound types if anything gets too repetitive or annoying. The general pinball sounds like bumper hits and other standard sounds all are authentic to the real thing. I was amazed at how much the combination sound and feel of simple bumper hits came across.
It’s difficult to judge value in this game. It cost 800 points to purchase and includes three pinball tables. The Speed Machine table is by far the most entertaining and especially if you play on XBOX Live you’ll probably spend the most time on that table… and it is a fun table.
There are 12 achievements totaling 200 points. The tasks are about split in their difficulty – most are easy to achieve just by playing a few games on each table. There are a few unique challenges that would really require you to learn the nuances of each table to get all 200 points.
Unfortunately there is no way to make your own tables. It would have been amazing to have something similar to Pinball Construction Set where we could import artwork and share tables with our friends list.
I felt a bit disappointed to only get 3 tables, but more are planned for download on XBLA in the near future which will certainly increase the shelf life of Pinball FX. Hopefully they will be free downloads to make up for the “Extreme” table.
I really enjoyed Pinball FX. Granted, pinball is fairly simple and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s great for a quick break from the normal game routine.
I hadn’t played a pinball game since Windows 2000 came out. I didn’t realize how much I missed a good pinball game and I can’t wait to see the other tables for download soon on XBOX Live.