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Farsight's Pinball Arcade Brings Awesome Digital Recreations of Classic Action-Packed Pinball Tables

Updated on January 12, 2020
Just some of the many tables available.
Just some of the many tables available.

Note: As of this writing, Farsight has lost the license to a decent amount of pinball tables that were previously available to purchase and play.

If you've purchased these tables in the past, you can still redownload and play 'em. You just can't buy any of them.

Digitally Delightful Pinball

Farsight Studio's The Pinball Arcade is an awesome game that first appeared in the Steam Store on November 4, 2013. It is also available on other consoles as well, such as Android, iOS, and even PS4 and Xbox One.

Though as a side note, it can get rather bothersome trying to transfer purchases between versions.

The Pinball Arcade is a pinball simulation video game developed by FarSight Studios that aims to faithfully recreate real pinball tables for gamers everywhere to enjoy.

Yes, that's right: real, actual pinball tables that you may have played in an arcade. With TPA you can enjoy classic tables like Addams Family, T2: Judgement Day, Victory, Black Hole, Cirqus Voltaire, Class of 1812, The Black Knight (and its sequel, Black Knight 2000) and more.

Tables are available in either packs or you can buy single tables on their own. Each table can be tried out for free as well that lasts until you hit the highscore table. You can play it over and over though. I like this as it lets me try out tables before deciding to go all-in on a purchase or not. In addition, there's usually a free table each month you can play as much as you want if you haven't purchased it yet.

TPA is free to download, and comes with Tales of Arabian Nights for free. This is an awesome action-packed fantasy table where you journey to defeat an evil genie and rescue a beautiful princess. Who knew pinball games could be so epic?

The game is played via keyboard and mouse, but you can also plug in controllers and play that way as well - there's even a vibration feature for when the ball gets whacked around.

There is multiplayer, but it's only local and it's hot seat, meaning that players will alternate turns rather than play at the same time.

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Digitized Arcade Fun

No one escapes the Black Hole!
No one escapes the Black Hole!

One of the really great aspects of TPA is the level of effort and detail that are FarSight puts into the digitization of these tables. I've played some of these tables in real life and playing them on TPA is a blast and almost just as fun as playing them in a real arcade.

Every light, every sound effect, bonus feature, mechanism, all of it have been faithfully recreated for TPA. In addition, there's now support for Direct X 11, so if you've got yourself a gaming rig you can gain access to even more detail and special effects, including advanced lighting, shading, reflections, and more that really bring the most out of FarSight's work.

And boy oh boy are there certainly lots of mechanisms! Take the table above, Black Hole, which has its unique miniature field. In Black Hole, your ball can get trapped in the smaller miniature field. When this happens the camera zooms into it, the field lights up, and it'll take about as much skill as you can muster to successfully open the drain gate to reenter the main play field successfully.

This miniature field also has lots of targets to hit that will increase your score in various ways and up your multiplier so you can rack up even bigger points. If you mess up though, your ball gets spat back out onto the main field but on the fast track to draining. It's an exciting high-risk high reward situation. It's one of my more favorite tables for that reason, and the primitive sounding electronic voices that come from the game give it that nice retro charm.

And that's only one of the many tables, each with their own rules and mechanisms that keep games fast-paced, frantic, and fun. I used to just hit the pinball around when I was a kid, but since I started playing TPA I've started paying more attention to the rules for each table and learning the ins and outs of each table.

Twilight Zone gives you a tour of its rules.
Twilight Zone gives you a tour of its rules.

It's All In the Rules

If you don't know the rules to your favorite table, don't worry! Each table has its instructions included and it'll even walk you through all the various mechanics and features. There are also tips on how to score big such as how to up the multiplier for your score and getting into the more exciting modes such as Multiball.

These guides literally walk you through step-by-step too, showing you each mechanic on the table and explaining its purpose, as well as showing the different areas for what you need to hit.

For an example, if you have to shoot up the ramp in Twilight Zone to start the Powerball Mode, it'll tell you the ramp you need to shoot up by either zooming in to that ramp or showing an arrow pointing to that ramp as well as highlighting any additional requirements.

By the way, this is also an excellent time to see the huge amount of detail and effort put into modeling the tables up close.

Those looking to master these tables should really take a walk through these modes and get a grasp on how to score big on these tables. And you can even go through them at your own pace without having to worry about the game going by too fast. You can also skip ahead to specific parts as well, so if you need to review real quick on how to activate Powerball on Twilight Zone you can skip right to that instead of clicking through the entire guide.

Each table also has a set of challenges, called "Table Goals" and "Wizard Goals", for you to complete, and are usually based around the rules or modes of the table. One of the Table Goals on Theatre of Magic is to get your ball into the Haunted Basement.

Once you beat Table Goals the Wizard Goals are unlocked which provides an even challenge. So to use Theatre of Magic again, one of its Wizard Goals is completing the Grand Finale, a difficult to reach mode that requires the completion of four difficult objectives. The perk behind completing these, other than bragging rights and Achievements, is the ability to turn off the Tilt Sensor for the table - though you sacrifice being able to have your name put on the high score table.

Extra Ball!

Information on Twilight Zone.
Information on Twilight Zone.

In between bouts of whacking the ball around you can check out some bonus content for each table as well. When playing a table for the first time, a short blurb will appear and give you a good handful of information about the table including when it was made and by who, the unique mechanics of the table, the designer, and even how many units of that table were made. If you ever want to re-read the blurb for that table it's available in that table's options menu.

There's more extra material as well, such as the original fliers for the tables, and of course, if you bought the Pro Packs you get even more stuff, such as tips and tricks by real-life pro pinball players and even access to some extra options for the tables. It's nice little bonus trivia for the pinballers who like to know more than just simply how to win at the table they've picked.

So I would definitely recommend this game all the way. I was a pinball newcomer when I started, and now I would venture to call myself a casual player, but a causal player that's fascinated with the different tables and their mechanisms. TPA is lots of fun to play and it's really nice to see all the different pinball tables and all the various gimmicks and mechanics each one tried to pull off (usually very successfully).

It's honestly the closest one can get to playing actual pinball without coming up with the money for an actual table, or driving out to find a local arcade that has (working) arcade tables. Though if you want to get a little closer to playing actual pinball you could always invest in a controller like the X-Arcade Joystick; there are even specially-made joysticks with digital pinball playing in mind.

The DirectX11 graphics mode also adds another great graphical layer to the game. It might take a lot of power on lower-end machines, but boy is it worth it as it brings your tables to life with even better textures, effects, and full-on lighting effects as well that include being able to adjust how bright the table's bulbs are or how bright the room you're playing in is.

So go on and give it a try. After all, you do get Tails of the Arabian Nights for free, free table demos, and even a free table of the month. You just might find yourself sucked into the world of Digital Pinball...and perhaps even real-life pinball!

Do you have any tips and tricks for pinball? Do you have any favorite tables of your own? Have you played The Pinball Arcade before? Let me know what you think - let's get a discussion going!

5 stars for The Pinball Arcade

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