Review: The Pinball Arcade (PS4)

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Title: The Pinball Arcade
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.3 GB with all tables in Season 1 installed)
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Publisher: Farsight Studios
Developer: Farsight Studios
Original MSRP: See Below
ESRB Rating: E10+
The Pinball Arcade is also available on PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Steam, iOS X, iOS, Android and Ouya.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.

Pricing Details:
Pricing is the same as the PS3/PSVita versions. $4.99 for a standard Table, $7.99 for the Pro Version.

The entire first season is $29.99 for the standard bundle, or $39.99 for the Pro bundle. Customers who owned all of the tables in season one on PS3/PS Vita can buy either season bundle for PS4 at half price.

Gameplay:
It’s Pinball! R1 and L1 control your flippers, the left stick controls nudging the table, and using either X or pulling back on the Right Stick launches the ball. The Pinball Arcade on PS4 won’t catch you off-guard if you’ve played it on any of the other numerous platforms that it’s available on, but there are some clear upgrades to be experienced in this iteration, and all are definitely for the better.

Farsight’s Pinball simulation is all about recreating tables that actually exist in the real world, and for the most part, they’ve done a great job. The complaints about the past versions of the game though have centered around some weirdness with the ball actions, the physics being less than perfect, and that some of the tables felt a bit static. I can say with confidence that these issues have been addressed, but there is still room for improvement. I’m still experiencing the ball falling completely off of the table in at least ‘No More Gofers’, and I can still hit the ball into the middle hole in ‘Funhouse’ 20-30 times in a row with no effort. This indicates to me that the game is still “cheating” a bit with the physics engine, since I shouldn’t be able to repeat hits to specific locations over and over. Some instances of this could even be seen when I streamed the game last week. Don’t get me wrong though, the physics are most definitely the best they’ve ever been, and anyone that has played the game before will instantly recognize the improvement.

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What I’ve also noticed is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any perceivable input lag any more, which seemed to affect the PS3 version more than any other. The flippers are crisp and responsive now, and the L1/R1 shoulder buttons of the DualShock 4 feel fantastic. Furthermore, because the game runs at a higher framerate, everything feels more responsive, and it does seem like it’s even easier to track the ball as it slides all over the table.

‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ is included with The Pinball Arcade when you grab it from the store. As on the PS3 and Vita, tables can be purchased in packs, or you can simply grab Season 1 to get all of the tables available at launch. I don’t have details of what’s included in the table packs, but here is a list of every table available in Season 1:

Attack From Mars
Big Shot
Black Hole
Black Knight
Bride of Pinbot
Cirqus Voltaire
Creature From the Black Lagoon
Elvira
Funhouse
Genie
Gorgar
Harley-Davidson
Medieval Madness
Monster Bash
No Good Gofers
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Scared Stiff (The other Elvira table)
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Tales of the Arabian Nights (Included with the game)
Taxi
Theatre of Magic
Twilight Zone

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Some of these are my favorites, including ‘Attack From Mars’, ‘Funhouse’, ‘Medieval Madness’, and ‘No Good Gofers’ (to name a few). In terms of additional bells and whistles for these tables (such as adding additional visual cues on certain Marquees), I haven’t seen any, and that’s alright for me. But that’s also the biggest caveat so far, if you’re expecting any upgrades to existing tables, well, that’s not really what this is about from a functional standpoint. I’m still experiencing small quirks on some tables that were developed early in the game’s lifecycle, but at the same time, that’s kind-of expected with Pinball in general, so even though I’m sure it’s not intentional, things like this just sort of fit the genre.

Visuals:
This is where you’ll experience the biggest changes from the past versions of the game. Everything from the textures, to the framerate, to just the overall look have improved quite a lot. It’s much easier to read text on the playfield now, and tables like ‘Bride of Pinbot’ have gotten quite a facelift in certain areas, especially those that have a metallic look.

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The biggest improvement though, is in the lighting, which has been seemingly completely revamped. Any time while you’re playing a table, hit the ‘Options’ button on your Dualshock 4 and go to the options for that table. At the bottom you’ll see a selection for ‘Room Brightness’, which controls the lighting in the room that your Pinball machine occupies. There are 3 selections: Neutral, Bright, and Dark, and the “Dark” setting is where the real action happens. It’s like turning the lights off in the room, allowing the playfield to illuminate everything visible, and the effect is pretty fantastic. Everything glows and flashes, and the ball mirrors anything in its proximity, including the lights underneath the playfield. It’s a pretty great effect, and on most tables it can definitely add to the experience. There are a couple of tables though, that are just too dark to be able to play the game effectively, but on most, it’s really impressive.

Audio:
The audio hasn’t really changed at all in this version, but that’s not because Farsight have done something wrong though. The developers have either recorded audio from some of the actual tables, or they’ve reverse-engineered the actual table electronics themselves, so what you hear in The Pinball Arcade is what you’d hear on the real machine, even from those that used primitive technologies. I’ve always been impressed with how accurate they’ve been in this area, and I applaud their efforts.

Online/Multiplayer:
Online Tournaments aren’t available at this time, so there’s nothing that I can really tell you about them. Other than that, the requisite Online Leaderboards are present as in past versions of the game. They offer filters for Overall High Scores, Monthly, and Weekly as well. You’ll also be able to filter against the Global list or look at where your score is placed on the list. It’s also interesting that the scores are seemingly from Consoles, PC, and Mobile versions of the game, so you’re truly competing against everyone that plays it, no matter what platform they’re on.

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Conclusion:
I’ve always been a fan of Farsight Studios’ efforts to recreate classic Pinball tables in digital form, and this latest version is the best yet. The improved mechanics and framerate, and especially the revamped lighting have made a good game better. There’s still work needed on some of the more finite aspects of the physics system, but the improvements are tangible already.

I’m happy to see that Pinball is experiencing a nice resurgence in the last few years, and a big part of that is because of digital efforts like this one. If you liked The Pinball Arcade in the past, you’re going to be very pleased with it on PS4. Now they just need to get Season 2 released!

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Here’s 15 minutes of gameplay:

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Stoffinator2008?gl=CA&hl=en Stoffinator

    I never did care for this series over the Zen Pinball. This one always felt “off”.

  • jayhest

    My problem is that although I enjoy the game, I don’t enjoy it enough to spend $5 per table again. If it were $2.50 or less, I’d double dip. Well, it looks like Zen is my choice for next gen pinballing.

  • Freelance

    If I got a PS4, TPA would be the very first game I’d buy. Can’t wait for the PC version to get the same upgrades that the PS4 version has. There’s little reason for me to get a PS4 at this point.

    • KosmoCrisis

      Zen Pinball 2 will have a lot less wrong with it. There are still many “finite” things I was hopefully the PS4 version of TPA would’ve fixed. Alas, nothing. I’ll list them in great detail with my review in a few.

      • NintenScience

        =D