Thanks to for Farsight Studios for the review codes
Title: The Pinball Arcade
System: Wii U (eShop)
Release date: 04/21/2016
The main game/story
Opening in 2012, The Pinball Arcade is an online platform of pinball table replicas, from all across time! With new tables added every few months, it’s no wonder the Wii U version took so long to be released with every table to date available at launch. Already it does one thing that Zen Pinball 2 won’t do, and that’s keeping things on par with the other home versions. A wide variety of tables, from the modern Stern era to the famous Williams era are available for download, and for the purposes of the review Farsight gave me the complete Seasons 1-4 Gold packs! While I’d be here all week if I gave an in-depth review on each table individually, I’ll still be sure to give recommendations on which seasons are the best and how the game as a whole plays.
The tables themselves are recreated pretty much as you’d expect, faithfully and identical to their real life counterparts, even including the Dot Matrix displays for tables that originally had them! Outside of that, the menus used to select the tables are simple to navigate, although I do wish there was a way to organize the tables by pinball publisher and release year, as that would make it easier for folks to play these in chronological order or to find their favorites much faster.
Music and Sound
The original sounds and music of the pinball tables are replicated just like they should be, so there’s really not much to say here besides the fact that the only “original” track (the title theme) is a rather bland song, similar to the ones found in Brunswick Pro Bowling. Overall though the authenticity is spot-on. This is even reflected in tables like Central Park which had no music and only the sound of the bumpers!
Pinball plays just as you expect, which is to use the flippers in order to shoot the ball to certain targets to get the highest score. Even in the oldest of tables this general idea remained the same, although there are quite a few Pinball tables to add variety to the mix and provide plenty of objectives for you to accomplish, along with five Goals and five Wizard Goals on each table! The flippers are controlled with the ZL and ZR buttons and work rather well, with physics that make the digital pinball tables feel accurate, from the difficulty of the original tables to all the little features each table included. There’s even cool little bonuses like the original table flyers for extra authenticity!
Honestly, that’s pretty much all that needs to be said on how the game plays, as the basic controls remain the same for every table in this collection, with the main difference between the tables being the design and table mechanics of each one. For example, the No Good Gofers table has a heavy focus on hitting targets and shooting at ramps while the Harley Davidson table (Yes, that actually exists) focuses on precise shots to activate the multiball to help increase your score. There are demos available for each table up to the first high score, for those wanting to try before you buy, and I feel that this model works really well, and helps The Pinball Arcade become more of an evolving platform in the sense that you can pretty much try any new table that launches on the platform before you decide to purchase them.
Speaking of purchasing tables, that’s where things get complicated in terms of the review. At the time of writing, every table up to Judge Dredd is available. Unfortunately, DLC packs 46-48 are not available at the time of this review. That being said, from the get-go there’s still a lot of pinball action for you to choose from, and thankfully there are multiple ways of purchasing tables for you to try out. The most efficient way is to buy the individual Season Packs, which cost $29.99 and will save you the extra $20 you would spend if you bought every table individually. Of course, if you want extra bang for your buck, you can buy $14.99 pro upgrades for each of the seasons, which give you minor bonus features on a couple of tables from each season, such as being able to freely control the ball and change numerous settings for the fun of it. If you’d rather buy every table plus their pro versions, you can buy a Season Pro pack for $40 and save yourself the extra $5 if you bought the season and upgrade separately. As yet another bonus, you can buy custom balls to use in the Pinball tables, with season packs of the Custom Balls costing $1-$4, which is actually the same price as the individual balls. These balls don’t do much besides look different, so it’s all up to you if you want to buy these extra designs or not.
My advice regarding which table packs you should buy first? I suggest skipping the Gold packs altogether and jumping straight to the Season 2 pinball Pack, which offers a good amount of classic tables that are enjoyable to play, although the majority of these tables are from the early era of Pinball which may or may not interest you. Then I’d go for Season 1, then Season 4 before finally getting the Season 3 bundle. In the end, that’ll cost you a lot of money for pinball tables, and at the moment Season 5 has no bundle since it’s incomplete, but with some patience you can wait and get that bundle as well. Alternatively, you can just buy the pinball tables you remember growing up with back in the day and leave it at that. The choice is up to you!
In conclusion, despite the long, four year road it took for Wii U owners to get to this point, the Pinball Arcade was still worth the wait. With 45 table packs available from the beginning along with more tables on the way, there’s a lot to enjoy here for Pinball fans. It may be a bit more pricey than Zen Pinball 2 in the long run, but considering how it doesn’t seem like that game will ever get up to date on Wii U, I’d strongly encourage you download this game and give the table demos a try. If you like how they play, then go ahead and buy them however you like, as no matter what tables you choose, you’ll still have a ton to enjoy if you are a high-score fan. I give The Pinball Arcade a 9 out of 10, and strongly encourage all Wii U Pinball fans to check this game out! It was certainly worth the wait, and I can’t wait to see tables like Fireball hit the Wii U in the future.