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Portable Perks: Pinball Arcade

Get ready, OMGeeks!

This week on Portable Perks, we’re going to talk about something mystifying and magical -- a symbol of a bygone era and an astonishing product of clever engineering. The post title gives it away, but just think about all the possibilities that have sprung out of a sloped table, a pair of rubber-wrapped flippers, and a little silver ball. Adventure! Excitement! Drama! Horror! Boomerangs!

I’m here to tell you all about the wonder that is pinball, and the modern, portable wonder that is Pinball Arcade.

The game of pinball is as American as cheeseburgers. And neon lights. And gambling. And it shows. A pinball table is a loud and garish collection of lights, sound effects, ramps, beautiful brightly-colored artwork, and strange gimmicky assemblies, all designed to catch the eye and lure the passer-by into giving up some change for a minute (or ten) of non-stop madcap pulse-pounding excitement. Designers have come up with all sorts of incredible mechanisms to make pinball more than just a game of keep-away. Magnets can hold the ball in place. Trapdoors can open to swallow your ball, sending it to dimensions unknown -- which in this case would be the other side of the table. Mirrors obfuscate, making the field seem bigger than it actually is. There’s even a pinball table that hides another table beneath its regular playing surface -- and you play that table upside-down with the flippers on top! Just think about that.

Theatre of Magic in real life!

The most amazing thing about pinball is of course the fact that it’s a physical construct. Video games are easy. Anyone can make a planet blow up. That’s old hat. We’ve seen guns that shrink bad guys and cars that sprout legs, but actually seeing and controlling a game that exists in the same physical space that we do is certainly a special kind of wonder indeed.

Here lies the oddity of this recommendation. What's the point of playing a video game recreation of pinball at all? If the real table designs are so clever and engaging and awe-inspiring, what can a 3D-rendered physics-engine powered counterpart do to top them?

Well. Pinball machines are kind of rare nowadays -- even more so outside the States.

Theatre of Magic in Pinball Arcade!

Pinball Arcade is unique in that beyond being a game, it's also a preservation project of sorts. Pinball Arcade features real-life table designs ranging from the 70s to today from four major pinball table manufacturers. This means no crazy videogamey fakery (although Zen Pinball and Pinball FX also exist for those who prefer a little more physical impossibility in their pinball) and absolutely faithful recreations of the best table designs that pinball ever had to offer. There are currently more than 40 tables to purchase and download for the title, including really intriguing ones like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Twilight Zone, and new tables are continually being released by developer FarSight Studios regularly.

There’s also portability. This is Portable Perks, after all. Pinball is a great game made even greater by the ability to pause it and slip it into your pocket anytime. Pinball Arcade is available on Android, iOS, and the Playstation Vita. You can also get it for the PS3, Xbox 360, Mac, and soon for the Wii U. There’s a great pinball game available for you regardless of your platform of choice.

"Numba One, engage multiball!"

Let’s get into the specifics for the portables.

Playstation Vita buyers get four free tables with their $9.99 purchase, and if you’re reading this in June 2013, chances are that it’s still being offered for free to PS Plus subscribers. Pinball Arcade is also a cross-buy title, so getting in for Vita will also net you a Playstation 3 copy of the game, and vice versa. We also have it on good authority that the cross-buy extends to Playstation 4! Additional tables are available in table packs, each of which costs $4.99 and contains two new tables for the game.

The Android and iOS versions of the game are much cheaper -- free and $0.99 respectively, and come with one free table. There’s also a monthly rotation of free tables, so you’ll never run out of something new to play on your phone or tablet! Sure, it feels kind of weird to play pinball without actually pushing buttons, but that’s a hard deal to pass up on for quality pinball action. Like the Vita version, the rest of the 40+ additional tables can be purchased in table packs for the app.

It's like carrying this many wonders of design and engineering right in your pocket!

I’ll say again that these are awesome tables. 3D Pinball: Space Cadet pinball has nothing on these. There’s an endless amount of variety and theme and clever situations to find yourself in that you might not have expected from a silly little pinball game. Some of these pinball tables may be silly, but the gameplay behind the silliness is not. Anyone remotely interested in quick-but-high-quality portable gaming needs to give Pinball Arcade a try. Do it! Now!

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