pinball

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Ever since pinball games began to fill arcades they’ve become a staple of the genre. Since the trend towards digital over physical arcade games has accelerated recently, tons of pinball style games have come out for PC, mobile, and even been featured in console games. From the classic 3D Pinball (space cadet) for Windows 95, to the Pinball-like mini game in Final Fantasy XV (Justice Monsters 5), Pinball games are everywhere. A quick visit to any App store will reveal dozens of Pinball games to choose from, but Pinout is the only one that has ever stayed on my iPhone/iPad for more than a few days. Here’s what makes this Pinball adaptation stand head and shoulders above its competition.

Simple, Elegant Design 

The style of Pinout, Mediocre’s newest title, is a clean, crisp series of ramps and tracks dipped in a thick coat of 80’s neon. The level design is reminiscent of arcade-style pinball cabinets but is stripped down to only the essentials. Familiar elements such as ramps, bonus points, mini-games, and high score are all present, but without the usual busyness of 1000 flashing lights, and sounds. The combination of simple design with a heavy dose of style is perfect. It’s just so damn, cool. This simple design not only adds to its aesthetic value but also makes it feel really natural to play on a phone sized screen.

Adapted for Mobile

Though the visual design of Pinout is stunning, the most interesting and innovative change made to original pinball games is its progressive level design. Instead of well-aimed shots gaining the player points on a static arcade table, a successful shot scrolls the board up to new paddles and tracks to use. This is a natural adaptation for mobile and feels awesome! It keeps the feeling of traditional pinball machines with an added feeling of motion and progression. The player is battling the clock to get to the end of each area with the most extra time left as possible. Players who end each level with a low time left will have the opportunity to replay that level in order to bring more bonus time into the next level. Finishing one of the harder levels with only 10 seconds to spare will inevitably mean doom, as finding enough bonus time-points to sustain a whole level starting with non is almost impossible. The need to bank time as a sort of currency gives the game a feeling of linear progression, in what could otherwise be a series of scattered and unconnected levels.

Amazing Soundtrack

From the moment I saw the trailer I knew I would love the style and feeling of Pinout, but I wasn’t expecting the soundtrack to be such a strong addition to the overall value of the game. for an arcade game Pinout has an unusually striking soundtrack. Each level has it’s own song dedicated to it. As the player battles their way through the maze of ramps they are simultaneous journeying through the album. The game trailer doesn’t feature any vocals, but several stages layer mesmerizing vocals over the hypnotic, electronic beats, deepening Pinout’s winning style. The soundtrack is by Douglas Holmquist, who is joined by by Susanna Lundgren for the vocal tracks. Douglas Holmquist has done OSTs for other games such as, Smash Hit, Beyondium, and Does Not Commute. Pinout’s OST is available on SpotifyBandCampGoogle Play, and iTunes.

Pinout itself is technically free, but won’t save your progress unless you pay for it, so essentially the free version is just a demo. To really enjoy Pinout as it is meant to be played you will need to buy the premium version, which is $3. Not a bad price at all for the quality of the game.

What I’d like to see changed

Pinout is a win in my book, two thumbs up, a “Must Buy” for arcade lovers. My only reservation about Pinout is that it is a little too short. I felt like the game was building to a more dramatic and energy infused game ending, but as I thought I would be approaching what might be new game elements or some kind of dramatic end-game sequence, the levels were all gone, and a new endless mode was unlocked. The Endless mode is actually pretty cool, and introduces more randomness into the gaming experience than the main game did, but I wanted more handcrafted levels, with new themes and  new game elements. Pinout did some really cool stuff with doors and buttons near the end, but didn’t explore these options as long as I wish they did. If the developers would release more levels with a new song for each level that would really make Pinout a home-run. I would even pay another dollar or so for another 5 stages. It feels like they have something really unique and amazing here, and I would love to see that expanded on and explored more. However, the short time I had with it I enjoyed immensely, and I still recommend it as a game purchase.

Pinout is available on IOS and Android, and is a great mobile game to kill time when waiting in lines but is equally fun to play on the couch with a beer on Saturday night.  With good mobile games being hard to come by, Pinout is a creative and well made gaming experience, with a level of design and style I hope to see in more titles in the future. Let the chillwave, 80’s trance vibes flow over you as you gaze into a maze of neon! What’s your best end game score?

If you have thoughts about Pinout, feel free to leave them in the comments section, and as always…

Happy Gaming Friends!