We already have a large variety of games on Xbox Live Arcade, but it was missing a pinball game. The genre has been around for decades and the basics of the game have remained pretty much the same. Can you buy a decent pinball game for 800 MS Points and will it keep you entertained in the long run?
Pinball FX features 3 different tables right now on which you can perform your ball-magic. Our main gripe would be the presence of only 3 tables, but luckily they promise downloadable tables as well already. Each table has a different theme to which all of the gameplay elements have been adjusted, sound, difficulty and graphics. The Speed Machine is a very basic pinball table with plenty of fancy looking scoring objectives. The Extreme table is divided into two sections which makes completing objectives a little harder. Finally the Agents table is more open, which makes scoring tougher, and losing your ball easier. All of the tables are available from the start which means you can skip the one(s) you don’t like. The achievements for the game are spread out evenly across the different tables so if you want to get them all, you’ll have to play all the tables.
This game is categorized under Camera-Enabled games which means that it supports the Xbox Live Vision Camera. It’s good for three things: a fancy looking main menu, video chat and the ability to control the flippers with your hands or feet. What the camera does to the main menu is basically the same as what it does on the Xbox 360 Dashboard, display the camera output with a cool graphics filter applied to it. There’s only one filter available which looks like some sort of watery effect, and it must be said, it looks pretty good. However, with the Totemball game debacle in mind, the Xbox Live Vision controlled flippers don’t really sound exciting. Pinball FX proves again that camera controlled games should be developed separately instead of trying to implement the feature in a regular genre game. To control the flippers with your limbs you just have to raise them so they become visible for the camera in the bottom left or right of the screen. You can also choose to reflect the image captured by the camera onto the objects on the playfield, this basically acts like a mirror.
The multiplayer features are pretty standard for this title, you can play a ranked or player match in quick match or custom match mode. Pick a table, score and penalty limit and you’re ready to play against other people. Everybody has his own table on screen and you can keep track of how well your opponents are doing by looking at the progress indicator which has a start and finish with everyone’s player color in between. When you reach the set score limit first you win and you’ll be moved back to the game lobby which leaves an unsatisfied feeling. The Vision camera videochat works both in the gamelobby and while you’re actually playing, but it takes up a rather big portion of your screen so you might want to disable it. You won’t have much time to look at someone else’s genitalia anyway because you need to keep your eyes on the ball.
Visually the game doesn’t score that bad, the tables are very lively with blinking lights everywhere which make it look like a real pinball machine. With the X button on your controller you can switch between different zoom modes. The default overview mode isn’t really suitable for standard definition TVs because you can barely read the text on the table. If you play on maximum zoom level, the game is pretty intense, especially if you’re not completely familiar with the table. The dot matrix LCD display also adds a nice touch and displays geeky animations in style of the table you’re playing on, especially when you pull of some crazy tricks or complete a mission. Unfortunately the sound isn’t particularly good, the music is very repetitive even though there’s a different track for every table available. The sounds effects are just what you could expect from a pinball table but the tables all of have some theme specific sounds which give them a nice touch. Keeping in mind that this is an arcade game and shouldn’t be compared with full price games, the sound and graphics are sufficient and thus won’t be the decisive factor whether the game is a buy or no-buy.
Considering this is the only pinball game on Xbox Live Arcade and there isn’t any comparable material in high definition, it looks and plays slick enough to have some fun with. If you’ve never played a pinball game before there’s no reason for you to not try out this title as it gives an honest representation of what pinball is all about. If you’ve played pinball before it’s not a bad choice either, the tables have enough content to keep you entertained and even if you’re an avid player, the achievements will keep you busy for a while. Most of the extra features aren’t really worth mentioning although leaderboards can be fun if you’re of the competing kind.
All in all the game isn’t that bad, for 800 MS Points you get a decent pinball game which does the job, but don’t really expect anything beyond that. The Xbox Live Vision mode isn’t anything special and the time the developers spent on that would’ve better been invested in more tables. The Multiplayer features don’t do Xbox Live any justice due to the lack of exciting game modes.
Final Score: 6 out of 10 - Average (How do we rate games?)