There aren't a lot of pinball games on Xbox. In fact, there's only one -- XS Games' Pure Pinball
. Good news for pinball fans, however, as XS and developer Iridon Interactive have done a nice job of recreating the overall atmosphere of an arcade pinball machine, with realistic physics and ambient arcade noises. However, that doesn't mean Pure Pinball
is the pinball Halo
killer we all hoped it would be. A budget title at only $20, Pure Pinball
does quite a number of things right, but also manages to make a few gaffes that hold it back from being anything beyond ordinary.
Pure Pinball's greatest success is with its ball physics, which are as real as could be asked for. The ball rests when cradled by a flipper and responds correctly to soft and hard hits. There's never a moment where the ball is doing anything unnatural. Really, there's nothing more important to a pinball game than accurate physics and for that, Pure Pinball gets major kudos. It feels like pinball and that's not an easy thing to simulate with a controller -- or from a couch.
Iridon created four different fictitious tables, each with a unique theme. These tables aren't particularly interactive in the way that many of the most modern (and expensive) pinball tables manage to be. For instance, the World War table features a giant tank, but it's mainly for window dressing. However, the tables in Pure Pinball have all the goodies you'd expect -- ball catches, multipliers, ramps, safety kicker, multi-ball and multiple flippers.
The table looks almost photo-realistic with over a half-dozen camera angles to choose from as you follow the shiny silver ball round the machine. There's even reflective glass and some nice ambient sound (that mixes in with some very generic music). It would have been nice to have custom soundtracks, but the only Xbox-exclusive aspect you'll find is the ability to toss your high scores on Xbox Live. The CGI honeys on the cover and in the load screens never make an appearance in the actual game -- so you won't see these lovelies reflected in the glass table, sorry.
There are three major problems with Pure Pinball. First, there are only four tables total. That doesn't lend for a lot of variety, especially since the four themed tables are not licensed and don't have some of the animated flair of newer machines. It would be great to play the Jurassic Park or Guns 'N' Roses tables on Xbox, but instead we get some old-school generic varieties that, while interesting, don't really stand out as top-of-the-line machines. Four tables for $20? Informally polling editors around the IGN office as to how many tables they'd expect from a $20 pinball game, the answers ranged from six to twenty, but not four. Sorry Charlie (or XS Games in this case), but four just isn't enough unless it's four real-world, licensed classics.
The second problem? It's only single-player. Granted, I know a lot of people that play pinball by their lonesome, but I know that if I am with a friend and there is a machine near the bar, we'll plug in a couple of quarters and play hot potato. Just about every pinball machine out there allows for hot potato play (I even played one that let two people play at the same time, which was a little weird), so not having any multiplayer options in Pure Pinball is a strange omission.
Lastly, there is no analogue function for the spring-loaded launcher. This means that you tap A to launch your ball and that's it. You can't choose a soft or hard launch and that's something that has always been part of my game. Sometimes you benefit from a skill shot tap launch and other times you just wanna slam it, but for Pure Pinball that's not an option.
It's these three things and the lack of a clever interface (why not have a virtual arcade instead of a boring menu list?) that drag Pure Pinball down. If you are interested in just having some pinball fun and don't mind dropping a 20, by all means, go for it. Pure Pinball doesn't disappoint in terms of overall feel, just in the overall package.
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