Pinball Apps Review — Geezer alert: I remember real pinball. I know you can still find a freestanding machine here or there in a turnpike rest-stop or an arcade. But I remember row after row of tables lining our arcades, bowling alleys, and other dens of iniquity, before the Galaga and Donkey Kong consoles stole their thunder. Over time gamers migrated to couches and desk chairs, where you could not bump, grind, and shake like an epileptic in mid-coitus. Pinball was dead, except as a casual time-waster on your dumb phone.
Or was it? With smarter devices, some of the newer pinball apps are downright faithful to real pinball. Others are just out of order. To find out which is which, read on for our "best of the best" pinball reviews!
Pinball HD, $2.99, 9.9/10. I don’t care of you’re seventeen or seventy: until the iPad Holo is available, there is little that could be better about this game. The physics are perfect and the graphics lavish, taking advantage of the iPad’s big HD-capable screen. The game-play is smooth and super-intuitive. Shake the pad to bump the ball, shake too much and you tilt. The game looks, feels, sounds, and responds like real pinball, on any of three photorealistic tables. Multiple players can coop-play. For full immersion, throw on a pair of 3-D glasses and flinch when the ball hits the glass. About that tenth of a point: You do have to slide both thumbs to toggle from zoom view to full-table. I hate pinball zoom views, but at least you can escape.
Slayer Pinball Rocks HD, $4.99, 9/10. What’s a pinball made of? That’s right, metal. If you like Slayer, this is a brilliant metal-band homage and pinball machine in an iPad. If not, this is a brilliant pinball machine in an iPad. Slayer Pinball’s single gorgeously rendered table is injected with a dose of thrash metal, complete with sampled songs from the World Painted Blood album and band voiceovers. (Bonus: might scare your parents!) Great physics engine and smooth game-play, but not recommended for classical music buffs or the religious set. Otherwise, never mind the ball-eating skull and inverted pentagram graphic – Slayer Pinball does, in fact, rock. As with Pinball HD, slide both thumbs to toggle views.
The Deep Pinball, $.99, 8/10. "The Deep" is a bargain at a buck. An iPhone forerunner of the Pinball HD app reviewed above, The Deep delivers a convincing small-screen pinball experience with the same realistic physics of its HD descendent. But there are signs that this app may be getting left behind. Its problems include sticky flippers and some choppiness, though it does not seem to crash or freeze for any appreciable length of time. Pinch to toggle cameras.
Wild West Pinball, $.99, 8/10. Another iPhone subset of Pinball HD, Wild West features less complexity than The Deep, but also more reliable game-play. Highly addictive and faithful to the “real pinball” experience, Wild West is, like The Deep, not bad for a buck. As with “The Deep,” a Vulcan nerve-pinch zooms you in or out. Read our full review of Wild West Pinball.
Monster Pinball, $.99, 7/10. I like my pinball machines festooned with lurid graphics, and featuring tons of bonuses, chutes, and targets. Monster’s developers clearly don’t. This is the pinball app you sell to demographics who can’t handle Slayer – not to play themselves, but to approve for play by their kids. That said, if you like simple and cute, Monster Pinball looks right, sounds right, and plays right. Digital age departure: Monster flips you from table to table whenever the ball goes to a certain location. Monster’s simplicity probably contributes to its fluidity of play – there's not a lag in the app. Check out a more detailed review of Monster Pinball.
Did your favorite pinball app get reviewed? If not, leave your own pinball review in the comments below.