Posted by Dave Letcavage
Back in 1985, when Nintendo launched the NES in North America, there were a slew of games released with to-the-point titles like Baseball, Golf, and the game of the hour, Pinball. At the time, inviting these simple, accessible games into your home was almost life changing, and we have great memories bouncing around our heads of how they brought family and friends together around the TV. But these days, while dropping back in may put nostalgic fuzzies in your stomach for a short time, there just isn’t quite enough meat on the table to recommend inviting anyone new to the party.
Pinball consists of one table made up of two levels. When the ball drops into the drain of the top screen, the view switches over to the lower half – but drop into that drain and it results in a lost ball. There are bumpers, rollover games, kickout holes, and other fun little ways to rack up points, but it’s all very simple and basic. The weight of the ball feels solid and the flippers are responsive, but if you’ve been exposed to games like Zen Pinball 2, we have to imagine you may be more than a shade underwhelmed by Pinball’s primitive nature, as things can feel rather uneventful in comparison to the design of modern offerings.
Default controls find you using any direction on the D-pad to flip the left paddle and pressing the A-button for the right. Using the pad as a button was something we didn’t care for, but did get used to it after a couple of games — it would have been nice to have the paddles default mapped to the triggers or shoulder buttons when using the GamePad. On a positive note, playing this one on the GamePad accompanied by something on the television is a much better experience than being completely one-on-one with it. Additionally, inviting competition into the mix via the game's two-player mode adds a little electricity to the proceedings.
There is even a bonus stage that invigorates the gameplay from time to time. When the ball finds the kickout hole on the lower section, you’re whisked away to a stage starring Mario, in which he must move left to right with a girder beam, keeping the ball bouncing into the air. It’s kind of like single-player, vertical Pong with dense gravity. Partaking in this mini-game can increase your score substantially, which makes it an essential practice to topple any standing high scores.
Like many games from the NES launch window the audio and visuals are very limited. The sound effects are fun enough, but there is a complete lack of music, which can sometimes feel like it’s slowing down the gameplay – there were a few occasions where we couldn’t help but to zone out and feel disconnected because of this. Visuals don’t offer much appeal, either, but because everything is placed on a black background, the colours do pop in a nice way. Overall, Pinball doesn’t do much to stimulate the senses.
What it comes down to is that Pinball functions well, but doesn't offer much variety. Anyone looking to revisit an old favourite will probably enjoy their time setting and toppling high scores. Where it gets hard to recommend, is to the people that haven't previously spent any time with this one; when you can download Zen Pinball 2 from the eShop and have the option to only purchase the tables that you're interested in — which are much, much more full of life — this title loses much of its appeal.
There just isn’t that much to say about Pinball. It’s a small piece of history, teaching us what home console video games were, before they knew what they could be — a lesson that can fully be learned by most in one sitting. Nothing here is bad, in fact, the game functions quite well; it's just repetitious, lacking variety and overshadowed by better options on the eShop. Those who were around when the NES launched and have fond memories of Pinball will surely find enough value in this purchase, but anyone else would probably fare much better going with a modern alternative instead. There is fun to be had here, but it's not going to be a lock for everyone.