Become a Pinball Wizard – Stern Pinball Arcade Review [PS4]
Replay replicas of classic pinball machines and become a pinball wizard with Stern Pinball Arcade – Stern Pinball Arcade Review [PS4]
It’s hard to remember a time when arcades ruled the social landscape. It was a great place for people of all ages. You could be a good kid and go play video games while your mom spends 4 hours at Mervyn’s or buy some botanical shavings from your friend’s big brother in the “VR” game. Arcades were sanctuaries for all. Every arcade had a section full of giant machines with lights, bells, and whistles, that cost more than the other games, but also provided a completely different experience. That section was the pinball section. Pinball is the easy to learn and hard to master game where you bounce a steel ball around a brilliantly constructed obstacle course with rubber paddles. The machine would make noise light up and be a sensory overload of gratification. Simple in theory, intricate in execution, pinball is a unique combination of physical and digital that just embodies fun.
Stern’s Pinball Arcade has a large collection of classic arcade pinball machines for players to play, all of which are exact digital replications of Stern Pinball Machines. Such classic machines include Starship Troopers and The Last Action Hero, and even a modern classic Star Trek. The game initially comes with about 5 tables ready to play with other tables available for purchase. A cool feature added to the game, is that every table comes with a full breakdown of the different modes and bonuses the table has to offer, as well as the table’s history. It’s not much for the general audience, but for arcade nerds it’s pretty much like the ultimate easter egg or the director’s commentary for film nerds.
The gameplay is as close as you can get to playing pinball without having a real machine. The paddles are flawlessly rendered, having the same reaction to timing and pressure as they do in real life. The tile feature is connected to the thumbstick, which is nice being able to direct and force of your tilt; a feature often not found in pinball video games. The only downside that initial launch if a button press rather than a spring loaded handle pull. Not that ever really made a difference in a pinball game, and the machines recreated all had button/trigger systems for initial ball launch, but it’s something that I felt was always part of the pinball experience.
The graphics of the actual tables are magnificent. It is like looking down at the machine as you play. The graphics around the machine, pretty lack-luster. It doesn’t blend well together or serve to make the machines look better. It kind of blends together until you get a closer look at the machine. Also, there’s a small screen that plays that show’s you what is being displayed on the machine’s digital screen. It pretty much tells you when you hit a bonus, unlocked a new mode, your score, and all that information. Essentially it’s the HUD. Something about seeing a digitized Last Action Hero on a 8-bit digital screen really brought back memories.
The one big drawback to the game is the POV. It is perfectly set up so you can see the area where you hit the ball, and it’s never as iff the ball becomes hard to see. But there is no good angle to see the entire board as you play. It’s as if the close ups of the machine were shot from a still lens and doesn’t fully capture the grandeur of the board in its entirety. You can see it all, just not all at once. Which is a huge bummer, because seeing the whole board light up as you bounce the steel ball around is a huge staple of playing a pinball machine. When I used to get in the zone, I would almost never focus on the paddles and just focus on where I wanted the ball to go. Something about the viewing angles never let me get that connection. That might also have to do with the feel of the machine, so it could be that too.
Stern’s Pinball Arcade is hands down the next best thing to a pinball machine; the closest you can get to pinball machine without having one. It is the ultimate in classic pinball experiences. The gameplay is an amazing replication of the real-life experience and one I know that classic pinball players will enjoy. However, it’s a classic pinball experience, not a digitally focused pinball game. So it is not the same experience as say Marvel Pinball which was designed to be a digital pinball game. Which is something to keep in mind. That being said, Stern’s Pinball Arcade is a game for those who love classic pinball machines and respect the amazing craftsmanship that goes into them. But considering pinballs gameplay, and how easily it could be made into a mobile game, it seems lack-luster on a console/PC. In the sense of classic pinball enthusiast, add a 2 the score, but as an overall general game, my Stern’s Pinball Arcade Review gets a 6/10.