Earlier this week, the Pinball Arcade finally landed on my PC, via the medium of Steam. Pinball tables were among the games that made me and the Arcade contains some of my favourites, so I'll write more about this soon. The free download contains one table, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and there are two season packs available for purchase, with more to come. Tables can also be bought in packs of two. I've tried every table and while there are some camera issues, where I've also played the physical counterpart, I've found the actual recreations hugely impressive. It's like owning a lovely digital museum. However, I do have some quibbles and they are below.
Quibble #1: Tables can only be purchased in-game, using Steam Wallet credit. As far as I can tell, that wasn't Farsight's choice and they'd prepared the content to sell as DLC through the Steam Store, where it would be plainly visible and available to purchase as gifts, but the Powers That Be thought that the quantity of DLC, released all at once, would clog up the front of the store page. There is an option to make DLC invisible though, right? This qualifies as a quibble because it's impossible to see prices from the front page of Steam and probably means Pinball Arcade paid content can't be included in Steam sales. Boo.
Quibble #2: Those camera angles. They're decent enough and the viewpoint can be fixed into position, but there are times when features at the top of certain tables are obscured.
Quibble #3: Tales of the Arabian Nights is a great table but it can seem unreasonably harsh, with near misses often resulting in a lost ball. One of Brian Eddy's mid-nineties spectacles might have been a better demo machine. Medieval Madness and Attack From Mars are both available to buy, and they're the tables I'd used to introduce somebody to pinball. They're simple, have strong themes and allow for enormous scores, with almost every flip of the ball hitting something that lights up or makes a noise.
Quibble #4: No Addams Family table. Yet.
Quibble #5: Pro versions of tables cost extra. For selected tables, these allow access to the operator's menu, pro tips and full table exploration. The table packs aren't cheap and I'd prefer for all the available functions to be included in a single purchase.
They're all relatively minor complaints given how strong the package is. Unlocking every table cost me I've spent hours playing already, mostly trying to crack the secrets of enormously high Twilight Zone scores and wondering how long it'd take for Black Knight's sound effects to murder my ears.
It's free to download, with Tales included, and every other table can be played on a trial basis, shutting down as soon as a certain score threshold is reached. If you have any problems with flipper lag, try this fix.
Some people will always prefer the likes of Pro Pinball, which feature unique fictional tables, but I love the simulation of actual machines that I'll probably never have a chance to play, which is why Visual Pinball has been a permanent fixture on my desktop for the last few years. The Pinball Arcade can sit alongside it for now because it doesn't cover everything yet, but the few tables that I already had a Visual version of are improved in the Arcade, and besides, I prefer to pay for the use of the license where I can.
Farsight have been delivering a couple of new tables a month, using Kickstarter to buy some licenses, and they've just secured Terminator 2 rights. It's a wonderful archive already, with a great deal of variety, and hopefully it'll continue to grow for years.