Pinball FX Review


Since I was a young man, I played the silver ball, so I have a decided interest in checking out videogame versions of pinball. Now I know that no videogame can really capture the visceral experience of playing a pinball machine, but it can still be fun to aim the virtual pinball at ramps and targets and strive to unleash the excitement of multiball. As long as the ball physics is pretty realistic and the table design is interesting and fun to play, I'm happy to have some fun with a video simulation when a real table is not nearby. This brings us to Pinball FX, a pinball game available for Xbox Live Arcade. Does it meet a pinball enthusiast's criteria for fun?

First let's look at the physics. For the most part the game does a capable job of mimicking the movements of a metal ball rolling around a table, but there are a couple of ways it's off. The ball's acceleration does not feel quite right when it's coming down the table. It's not completely off; it just does not intuitively feel quite right. It's as if the simulated angle of the table is too low and the ball does not accelerate quite as fast as it should as a result. On the other hand, the ball accelerates too quickly off of the flippers. It's possible to catch the ball on a flipper to set up a shot, but it's pretty much impossible to pass the ball between the flippers. Lastly the tilt feature is simply unusable. Subtle tilting of the machine is a big part of playing pinball. I love giving the machine a sharp tap to the side to save a ball from going down the wrong outlane. In Pinball FX there's only one way to nudge the table and it does so with enough force to virtually guarantee that you'll get the hated tilt violation.

As for the tables, they are consistently inconsistent. The game comes with three of them, one of which is terrible, the next of which is decent, and the last is enjoyable. The terrible board is Extreme, which has an amalgamated urban theme of skateboarding and hip-hop culture. The two-tiered has hardly anything going on on the lower tier and when you reach the upper one you'll find it to be pretty bland. For me it was one and done with this table. The next table has a street-racing theme and is interesting with its numerous ramps, but it's a bit too much by-the-numbers to really capture your interest. The last board is Agents which has an espionage theme. This is by far the best table, with plenty of targets, a nice layout, and a number of "missions" to accomplish. The game also has a bonus table in the form of a downloadable table that's available free of charge. This table has a pirate theme to it and thankfully is more on par with the Agents table than the Extreme one.

The game does a good job of rendering the tables - they're all bright and colorful and look pretty good. I like that the dot matrix graphics you see on the backboard of pinball machines has been included here, albeit as an overlay on the upper left corner of the screen. The game has several camera view options and you'll probably find one that works for you even though none of them are ideal. It's just hard to capture a vertical table on a horizontal screen.

If you enjoy pinball, then Pinball FX is definitely worth a look. Downloading the demo and giving it a try is pretty much a no-brainer. However if you're not already a fan of pinball, then there's not enough to Pinball FX to win you over.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 74%. Pinball FX does a good enough job of recreating the game of pinball to warrant a look by fans of the silver ball who wouldn't mind occasionally saving themselves from a trip to their local bowling alley.