Perhaps the last generation to have the opportunity, pinball was part of my growing up. The latest fighting and racing games dominated the arcades in my area, but always in the corner were two or three dinging and flashing pinball machines. I pumped many a quarter into The Addams Family, Terminator 2, and Lethal Weapon. With Pinball Arcade on the Playstation 4 not only am I able to play those very tables and dozens of others, but can do so in as authentic a fashion as the virtual pinball allows. FarSight Studios, developers of the game, clearly aimed to make the experience as 1:1 as possible, from scoring to sound, individual table characteristics to the different types of flippers and plungers, even the usage of forefingers (as opposed to thumbs) for gameplay.
Pinball Arcade is available as a free download from the Playstation store. However, there are only a couple of machines which can be played for free. Available individually or in a bundle, the other machines can be played up to a point limit but must be purchased to have the full, unlimited experience. (It is possible to join tournament mode and play tables that normally must be paid for, but this is limited to schedules and tables selected for the tournaments.) For what it’s worth, the main table provided free with the game, Tales of the Arabian Knights, is phenomenal, offering hours and hours of twitching fingers—which, after all, is the addiction of pinball.
Where licensing permits, the game’s designers are continually adding new tables. Currently at Season 6, there are five previous seasons, all of which feature a dozen or so tables, with more seasons to come. To be fair, it would appear that the majority of the most popular tables are already included in the game, which means if there is a particular pinball machine that you love, there is a good chance it’s available. (I’m still waiting for Lethal Weapon, though…)
In the end, Pinball Arcade is a phenomenal translation of a physical game to the virtual environment. (Play it alongside another pinball freebie called Zen Pinball and you will see and feel the difference.) Hitting the ramps, slinging the ball around a rail, multiball, nailing an open gate, pinging those hard to hit targets—nearly all of the joy of real pinball is ported into Pinball Arcade, even jostling the table to prevent a ball from draining. If you like pinball but don’t want to shell out the hundreds of dollars to have a table of your own in the basement, Pinball Arcade is the way to go. Or, if you’re like me and looking for a little nostalgia, The Addams Family comes right back to life.