Video Game Review: Addictive Vita Version of ‘The Pinball Arcade’

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CHICAGO – Do kids still play pinball? Or is it a piece of nostalgia now? I must confess to hours spent in the arcade playing the addictive game, always my personal favorite when I had quarters burning a hole in my pocket. And so I’m kind of a soft target when it comes to Farsight Studios’ “The Pinball Arcade,” a clever new title available for the PS3 and PlayStation Vita. The console version looks better but the handheld features a spectacular portrait angle which might replicate actual pinball better than any video game in history. If you love pinball as I do, this is a solid PSN purchase that will make your PlayStation Vita a more essential piece of gaming hardware in your arsenal. Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0

Much like “Zen Pinball” and “Marvel Pinball” (two other essential titles for fans of the game with flippers and a silver ball), “The Pinball Arcade” is clearly designed to serve as a platform for future tables. The launch edition comes with four tables, all based on actual, legendary pinball games and all replicated with as much detail and real-life physics as possible. There’s an attention to realism here that’s not common in video game versions of pinball, which often feature tricks and shots that could never happen in the real world. The team behind “The Pinball Arcade” had one major goal in mind when they set out to make their game and it’s right there in the relatively boring, straightforward title — bring the pinball arcade experience home. And, in the case of the Vita version, take it on the road.

The Pinball Arcade
The Pinball Arcade
Photo credit: Farsight Studios

The four tables included in the initial download are, in my preference order, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Theatre of Magic, Ripley's Believe It or Not, and Black Hole. The games have been so accurately recreated from their acclaimed physical incarnations that it almost becomes difficult to criticize their development. If you think parts of "Arabian Nights" are clunky or that "Black Hole" is just bizarrely designed, don't blame Farsight. Their goal is to bring you what is harder and harder to find -- real pinball tables -- and they do so almost with a historian's sensibility as much as a video game developer's.

The Pinball Arcade
The Pinball Arcade
Photo credit: Farsight Studios

Now, that doesn’t mean Farsight is completely off the hook. There are only three viewing angles and they’re oddly similar. I hoped to be able to play around with how the game functions as I can in “Marvel Pinball” but you’re basically stuck with one look. However, the Vita version does offer one of the coolest things that I’ve yet seen on the new handheld. If you turn it portrait style, vertically instead of horizontally (in which you use the right and left upper buttons for the flippers like a standard pinball game), “The Pinball Arcade” looks even more like its real-life inspiration. The player uses the touch pad to control the flippers, although you should be warned that the table is very prone to tilting in this position. Still, I loved the portrait-style pinball experience as it feels more accurate than the game ever could on a widescreen TV.

As for glitches, the commonality of tilting in portrait isn’t alone. The game froze a few times, especially after a game as I was trying to record a high score and expected to be sent back to the menu screen. In fact, it happened repeatedly on “Arabian Nights,” even after the best game I had ever shot, nullifying my chance to show off my high score to my friends. And a high score on a pinball game for a good player takes some time. There’s nothing as disappointing as racking up points for twenty minutes only to have your score nullified.

There are also a few table elements that are disappointing. Realism doesn’t always equal entertainment. The way the ball bounces on “Black Hole” can be hard to track and the design of that table is particularly annoying. (I played it for review and likely won’t play it much any more). But the issues with “The Pinball Arcade” are minor and, as said, probably were there on the actual tables to begin with. Ultimately, the game is fluid, responsive, and incredibly addictive — something that can’t be said about most Vita games to date.

“The Pinball Arcade” is worth adding to your Vita library for “Arabian Nights” and “Theatre of Magic” alone and I look forward to seeing what they do next in terms of downloadable tables. It will be hard to replace my absolute addiction to “Marvel Pinball” on the console but being the first Vita game, along with that wicked cool portrait view, should make “The Pinball Arcade” the one to beat on the handheld for some time. Why pick a favorite? You can’t have too much pinball. If you don’t believe me, go ask your parents.

“The Pinball Arcade” was released for the PlayStation Vita, Sony PS3, iPhone, Android, and Nintendo 3DS on April 4th, 2012. It was published and developed by Farsight Studios. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Bowen Kerins's picture

Pinball in Chicago

There is a lot of pinball available in Chicago; a nice map of where to play what can be found online at

Additionally, there are two big pinball tournaments in the Chicago area coming, one in May and one in October. The one in May is at Gameworks in Schaumburg, and October has the long-running Pinball Expo in Wheeling.

For more information, see

Pinball Arcade is good, but the real thing is better!'s picture


How about that! Thanks for the great information!

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