The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 2 of 10)

 

By: Krooze L-Roy

 

Click HERE for the Rest of the List

#9 – Pinball Fx

Every once in a great while, a game comes along that is so unoriginal, so void of new ideas, so downright plagiaristic, that you can’t help but put it on a top ten list. Such a game is Pinball FX, for the Xbox Live Arcade.

Now, with other genres, this sort of blatant, unchecked anorexia of creativity is considered a damnable offense. Sonic Shuffle, for example, didn’t fool anybody. Such a bold-faced rip off of Mario Party was seen as an atrocity, an insult to video games as an art form, and as a result, not a single copy of that game was sold. That’s a true figure.

But pinball is a different story. Pinball is more like jazz music. A jazz musician might struggle for his entire career; living in poverty, eating out of a can (cat food, no less), until one rainy day, inspiration strikes him. Countless hours he spends in deep concentration. He doesn’t eat. He doesn’t sleep. Slowly he begins to descend into insanity. But in the end, he’s created a masterpiece, the only one of his life. His mind and soul transmuted into pure wondrous music. The song is a hit. Audiences are amazed.

And then another jazzman starts performing a slightly catchier rendition of the same song and becomes a superstar as a result. The original songwriter doesn’t even get a mention in the liner notes of the plagiarist’s triple platinum record, and no one in the lunatic asylum takes him seriously when he mutters to himself, “but… but I wrote it… that’s my song… I made it.”

The point of this tiresome analogy is that, with pinball, creativity ain’t worth jack shit. What matters is how well you pull it off.

And Pinball Fx pulls it off like it was Mardi Gras. The physics feel right (though a bit on the speedy side), the graphics are clear and crisp, and two of the three tables are damn fun. The other one is just fun. Not quite worthy of damnation, but fun.

In keeping with the overall generic-ness of the game, the table themes are as follows; racing, secret agents, and extreme sports. Racing has to be the most overused theme in all of pinballdom, but Pinball Fx has modernized it with a tuner car aesthetic that would make even Paul Walker happy. Agents is slightly less generic thematically, but the table design is lifted straight out of another game (a Saturn game called Hyper 3-D Pinball). But back to the jazz analogy; Pinball Fx does it better (in fact, it’s easily the best table of the three). So neener neener, Hyper 3-D Pinball, your shit just got took. Whacha gonna do about it? Cry?

Pinball Fx - Better.

Now, extreme sports is a fairly original gimmick, and while it’s easily the least approachable machine, due to it’s claustrophobic design and the fact that it could also be labeled as “the wigger table”, it’s actually quite fun if you give it a chance. And despite (or because of) the constant battle cries of “yo yo yo, fo sho,” and “yeeeah boy,” the song for this table is actually fairly catchy.

The machines are all fairly short and squat, and there’s an assortment of camera views that allow for easy viewing of the entire table without the necessity of scrolling, though scrolling views are available for those who like to be close to the action. The controls are configurable, but the defaults are probably your best option (with the triggers controlling the flippers and the left stick handling the nudge). There isn’t an option for using the sort of control scheme you’d find on an old school pinball game (like for the SNES or Gameboy), but the Xbox controller really isn’t suitable for that scheme anyway, so no loss.

Pinball Fx does in fact have a few features not usually (if ever) seen in console pinball games. In keeping in step with the relentless drumbeat of technological progress (not to mention the demands of Microsoft), the developer has tacked on a few extras that could be considered standard fare for modern games (rumble technology, online scoreboards, Achievements) as well as a couple of slightly less common ones that serve to enhance the longevity of the game.

For one, there’s online play. On the original Xbox, Tetris Worlds held the honorable distinction of being the game of choice for stoners around the world, and for the 360, Pinball Fx easily secures that title (and they don’t even have to leave the house to buy it). There’s also support for the camera peripheral, so now rather than just hearing people say “hold on, bruh; gotta take a quick toke,” you can actually watch them engage in this activity, and then compliment them on their high quality bong.

 

The other mind-blowing innovation is the promise of downloadable content, which is still a no-show as of this writing. So I emailed the developer, Zen Studios, to ask if this feature was ever actually going to be utilized. I was surprised to receive a prompt response from the tiny studio, stating that “a new batch of tables” would “be available very soon” and that they were currently in the testing stage. The person who wrote the response, who had the fukken awesome first name of Zsolt (the studio is based in Hungary), concluded his or her email with the following smiley: :o) Interesting…

There’s also one other feature, and I hesitate to even mention it simply because it is incredibly, insanely, embarrassingly retarded. For those few individuals who happen to own the camera peripheral (sexual perverts, most of ‘em), they have the option to *breathes deeply* control the flippers by waving their arms. I haven’t tested this feature out myself, and frankly I don’t plan to. And, with your permission, we shall speak no more on the topic.

Even in it’s current state, with the additional content not yet available, this game is a surefire winner. It might be only nine on this list (which is certainly nothing to sniff about), but if I were to compile a top ten Xbox Live Arcade games list, this would undoubtedly be in the top spot. And for just ten bucks, you really can’t go wrong. It’ll also be ten dollars invested in the future of video pinball, since Zen Studios seems to work exclusively on this venerable genre. And despite the prevailing lack of creativity, you’ll be getting the single best wigger-themed table that money can buy. At least, until someone else comes along and does it better.

 

Best Table: Agents
Also check out: Pure Pinball, for the original Xbox (and yes, it is backwards compatible, though the middleware adds the occasional bit of lag to the game). This set of four tables actually manages to be even LESS original than Pinball Fx, though the design for Pure’s mandatory racing themed table is somewhat superior. It was a fairly tough call for me to choose between the two games (both having strong pros and cons), but Fx won out in the end due to better table variety, faster load times and a bit more polish.

Click HERE for the Rest of the List

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on September 15, 2007.

3 Responses to “The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 2 of 10)”

  1. […] compatible, though the middleware adds the occasional bit of lag t o the game)…. source: The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 2 of 10), Krooze L-Roy’s […]

  2. […] came across this post – The Top Ten Video <b>Pinball</b> Games in the History of the Universe <b>…&l… – and thought it was worth sharing. I hope you find it interesting too and take the time to read […]

  3. […] got released), it was with considerable dread that I contemplated the reality of a new downloadable Pinball Fx table. Hungarian-based developer Zen Studios seems to be pumping out these tables at a steady rate […]

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