Pinball games have been around on the PC for donkeys’ years, getting prettier and more realistic as time goes by. The PC’s two shift keys lend themselves quite naturally to flipper control, and although you can’t ‘accidentally’ nudge the whole table with your leg, the space bar is an adequate substitute.
Microsoft’s Pinball Arcade is, along with most pinball titles, a collection of different tables. Seven in this case, and there’s a theme too. Each table is from a different decade, so we have Baffle Ball from the thirties, Slick Chick from the sixties and Haunted House from the eighties. While this makes for a pleasant enough nostalgia trip, it’s the more recent tables that will appeal to the bright-eyed, youthful games player of today. Cue Ball Wizard has lights and ramps a-plenty, along with video games-within-the-game and all manner of bonuses. It’s not too easy, either; a complaint which could be levelled at some other pinball games.
Playability is what really matters with this type of game, and Microsoft can be justly proud of what’s been achieved here. The physics model is a good one, to the extent that you can pretty much predict where the ball’s going to go when you hit it – straight past the flippers if you’re not careful. It’s lucky that only virtual money is involved, because the combination of addictive gameplay and steep learning curve could otherwise prove expensive. As it is, unlimited replays for twenty quid is a fair bargain.