"The Pinball Arcade" Review (PS3)

The Pinball Arcade
The Pinball Arcade. Image © Farsight Studios

The downloadable wave continues as 2012 looks likely to be one of the most important ones in terms of how we play games. It's long been theorized that on-disc games will eventually be replaced by ones we download from the PlayStation Network but the tide has been slow to come in. Sure, there have been some landmark titles but the first three months of 2012 have been the real watershed as two of the most acclaimed titles of the year to date have been unavailable in stores -- "Journey" and "I Am Alive." And now we have "The Pinball Arcade," a highly-anticipated simulation from the company that made "The Williams Collection," one of the most acclaimed pinball games of all time.

Game Details


  • Publisher: Farsight Studios
  • Developer: Farsight Studios
  • ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
  • Genre: Arcade
  • Pros: Realistic physics, world-famous tables, a clear love for the game
  • Cons: Occassional glitches, small number of initial tables, limited replay value

The initial download of "The Pinball Arcade" is clearly, much like "Zen Pinball" and "Marvel Pinball," designed to be a starting point for a delivery system for future tables. Spend ten bucks now, get four tables, and get addicted enough to buy more as they're released. The first four are all based on real tables -- "Tales of the Arabian Nights," "Theatre of Magic," "Ripley's Believe It or Not," and "Black Hole" -- with an emphasis on bringing something back to players that seems to have gone missing in this generation: the arcade experience.



As simple as its title, "The Pinball Arcade" sets out to serve as nostalgia for older players like myself who can remember days of tokens and eye strain in actual arcades while also reminding younger players why pinball used to be so incredibly popular. The fact is that the real game has gone somewhat the way of the vinyl record and the VHS tape, but games like "The Pinball Arcade" prove that it can still be remarkably addictive. The developers at Farsight set out to recreate their chosen tables with finite detail down to every blink, flip, and tilt.

Consequently, any design complaints should probably be levied at the table creators and not the game developers. So, while I could argue that "Black Hole" is kind of a silly table all around, the same is probably true if you could find it in an actual arcade. By the same token, "Tales of the Arabian Nights" and "Theatre of Magic" are beautiful tables, arcade experiences that truly do allow this player to recall when the pinball section was the first I would go to in an actual arcade. There are moments in "The Pinball Arcade" that are like hearing a song from a band that you haven't listened to in years. If you used to play pinball, you'll remember why you loved it (more so than the great "Marvel Pinball" since that title is more video game and less real-life pinball simulation).

Graphics & Sound

"The Pinball Arcade" looks predictable -- neither remarkable nor flawed. It's not a visually complex title although the table design is more detailed than you might expect. All the bleeps, boops, and table sounds are what you would expect from a game called "The Pinball Arcade." All that's missing is the kid screaming for more quarter from his mom next to you.

Bottom Line

I'll admit to being a huge pinball fan and how that might color my appraisal of a game called "The Pinball Arcade." However, at $2.50 a table (which would be a steal for one game-playing night at Dave & Buster's), I find it hard to believe that anyone could call this downloadable experience one that's not worth the purchase price. With a notable level of detail and the potential for exciting new tables to hit the network, here's just another reason to keep an eye on the downloadable market.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.