Playing Pinball always brings up pleasant memories of hitting up the arcades and competing with friends & family for the highest scores. It’s fitting that the NES launch library would attempt to capture this bit of arcade joy with their own take on it.
The game captures the physics of Pinball excellently. Once launched, the ball behaves and bounces around the arena like you would expect. It’s a far cry from the bizarro logic of Video Pinball for the Atari 2600. Equally impressive is the large playing field split up into two main screens with their own flippers, which the game effortlessly switches between almost instantaneously. If the ball escapes you on the top screen it’ll appear on the bottom one, and only there will a second mistake end the game. The position, angle, and velocity of the ball are all maintained during this quick transition.
You can flip the ball back up, but it does have to be said that the lower screen is more active than the top one. There are more bumpers to play around with, a set of cards that reveal themselves as you pass through narrow gates, secrets and switches to find. The top has fun mechanics of its own, but they are more difficult to hit and, in my experience, less efficient in getting a higher score. Still, being on the top half does give you a sense of safety, knowing that a mistake will merely drop you down to the next screen from which you can still recover.
There is only one cabinet to play in, but there is a lot to see and do here. After every ball, you lose progress towards the mechanics, so the cards turn back and the switches are turned off. Unless you are exceptionally skilled, it’ll take a while before you have tried out and seen everything the board has to offer. With that said, it does lack in theming. The backdrop is fairly generic and the decorations feel random; there are arcade elements like flashing lights and poker cards, but also funny animals and some Nintendo cameos. A generic board would have been fine and a Mario one would have been cool, choosing the middle ground isn’t ideal here.
While there are many Pinball games available, this NES classic is well worth picking up and easy to learn. it is rich in content and will have you trying, again and again, to beat your latest high scores or outperform your peers. Anybody willing to take me on can see my best score in the picture below.