Pure Pinball


Review by Dan Loosen

Jack of All Games


Graphics: 9

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 6

Pure Pinball pretty much defines what it sets out to do in the title. Pure pinball is supposed to be a game of pinball that is as realistic as possible. I decided that I would be purchasing the game shortly after its release when I saw that they were trying to make the game as realistic as possible and that it would have four distinct tables. Being a huge pinball fan in a small apartment, I don't have room for four pins of my own right now (although I do own two at my parents house...) and I figured this would be a nice game... especially for $20.00 new. When I saw a used copy a few weeks after release for $16, and $1.60 off with my GameStop card, I figured that it was great. For four tables, I was paying less than $4.00 per pinball table.

Looking at the game's box and seeing some of the loading screens gives me my first gripe about this game -- while I have no problem with games that use sexuality as part of the game, such as a love story or even the prostitution that goes on in GTA, I do take issue with games that seem to use scantily clad women or offensive material for no reason. Pure Pinball features a picture of four women in various sexual positions. Why? Apparently, so that my wife can ask me what sort of game this is with these women on it and I can answer that I don't know why they're there. Then, I can get one of those "yeah, right" stares. I mean, check out the Web site for what I mean about this:


"Check out one of the girls above to check out the awesome table designs!" What the heck? Why do we have to make the game that sexual? It isn't a huge detraction, but it is wholly unnecessary.

Well, lets talk about the game itself. The game itself is very solid and the tables are quite awesome. The designers seem to have taken the route of "lets put everything cool into a pinball that they couldn't do in real life because of how expensive it would be." Because of that, you get tables with huge ramps, tons of pop bumpers and more flippers than you can shake a pinball at. The tables are very diverse, and have tons of different things you can do.

The problem is that there simply isn't a clear enough bunch of things to do on the tables. On great pinball tables like Medieval Madness, Addams Family or Jurassic Park, you were told that you had to shoot a ramp three times to get multiball, or three times to start a new mode, or five times to score 1 million points or whatever. On pure pinball, there is nothing like that. You shoot ramps over and over, and sometimes you'll get a combo and sometimes you won't. I still haven't figured out how to start multiball on two of the tables. Pinball tables should be simple enough for new players to jump in and understand right away, while still offering a challenge to older players. In this area, Pure Pinball falls flat. You have to figure out exactly what is going on to get the things to happen.

Another flaw is that somehow, none of the tables have skill shots. What the heck? Even games that fire the ball in like Jurassic Park have a video mode that awards you with extra points for doing something at the exact right time. Without a skill shot, the games don't quite feel right.

Something odd that I discovered while playing yesterday -- the rumble feature of the tables is very strange. It isn't in the fact that it goes off for just about everything (which, in itself is really strange) but it is the fact that all controllers that are hooked up to your Xbox shake. I had one on our entertainment center, and I fired up the game and all of a sudden I hear this loud "gggaaarrrrank" noise and see my second controller shaking one of our vases to the edge. Luckily, I paused the game and grabbed the vase before it fell off.

Other than it doing both controllers, the shaker is weird just because it goes off for everything. It's kind of like they wired it to EVERYTHING in the table, and there isn't another pin in the world like this. Thank god. It gets rather annoying, but if you turn it off it isn't that great either.

Here's where perhaps the biggest gripe about the game comes in -- the options, or lack thereof. You can turn on or off the rumble feature, but you can't adjust it. Not that big a deal, but you can NOT select how many balls you want to play with. Now, that wouldn't be too big of a deal if the tables didn't always run with 5 balls, but they do. My real pin game from 1983 has an option to run with five balls, but it wasn't the default option. In fact, I can't remember any game that I have played that wasn't an electro-mechanical game that gave out five balls. So why does this game?

Then, you have the option to turn on stuff in the room that the game is "in." Apparently, the only stuff that you can surround your game with is a wall and something that looks like a walker. If they were going to include this option, they should've put something better in there -- maybe an ad for the game on the wall or something. And seriously, what in the world is that walker thing doing here? It would have been extra cool if you could select your environment to put the game in -- bar, arcade, home, restaurant, etc. It wouldn't have been that hard, and it would've made it a lot cooler.

There seems to be no personal high score table, or if there is it isn't easy to find. I seem to remember that there was one, but I couldn't find it when I went looking for it yesterday. Without this, what's the point?

Some other smaller gripes:

  • A few places on the tables, the physics are odd. You slowly hit a ball up a ramp, and it sits for too long before deciding to return.
  • Music? I've played this game for a few hours since getting it, and if it has music I can't remember it at all. On the other hand, I can think of the music from Medieval Madness, even though I've only played it a handful of times. Either it isn't there, or it is completely forgettable.
  • Goals. I have yet to find one that is clearly drawn out.
  • Video modes. Most newer games have at least one. Not these.

Now, for a few things that the game does right:

  • The control is dead on, and the accuracy is just about perfect too. You can figure out what the sweet spot is on the flipper and it works probably 90% of the time for hitting your shots -- about what it is in real life. I would actually suggest the original Xbox controller for controlling this game, as the size of it reminds me of an actual pinball machine.
  • The sound of the ball and the stuff going on in the game is perfect. Never before have the thumps, flips and hits sounded so dead on.
  • The tables themselves are beautiful to look at, and they are in full 3D. You have something like eight different ways to look at them, and while it seems that only a few are actually useful, they are nice to look at all the details on the table with.
  • The game gives you little pinball facts as it is loading screens. These are actually very informative and interesting.

Overall, with all of this games shortcomings and everything else, I'm not totally disappointed by it. I have pulled it out from time to time to play it for short periods of time, but I know that I'm never going to want to sit down and play it for hours. For short bursts, the game is pretty decent though.

Again, gameplay is the most important factor in this one, and the lack of options and the lack of a clear set of shots definitely cuts it down. At the same time, I give it one overall point just for the fact that it only costs $20.00 new. If I had paid more than $20.00 for the game, I can guarantee I wouldn't have ranked it above a five, but for that price it's worth it to the huge pinball fan.

As an aside, Microsoft has a new Xbox pinball game coming out that will feature a bunch of real-world tables. Considering that I think that Microsoft's Pinball Arcade was actually the best pinball simulator to date and that it is supposed to be released for only $20.00 too, it may be that Pure Pinball has a HUGE competitor that will completely dominate it very, very soon.


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Last updated: Monday, November 22, 2004 05:44 PM