He’s a pinball wizard, there’s got to be a twist

First impressions

Before the likes of Halo hit the gaming scene, and even before Pac Man started chomping his way into our hearts, there was pinball.

Back in their heyday, pinball machines could be found at venues all over the world, with flashing lights, loud noises, scores that quickly ran into the thousands and themes that ran the gamut from favourite films to comic book characters. When we found this app we were instantly taken back to our misspent youth and tens of dollars of pocket money being fed into such fun distractions.

There weren’t many pinball machines in the Cayman Islands, so we never became any kind of an expert, but we enjoyed the thrill of playing nonetheless. This app got our heartbeat pounding in that familiar way almost immediately.

One of the only differences between this app and the real thing is that it’s not advisable to hit your iPad so hard that it tilts.

How it works

Download the app and your first screen lets you set your sound effects and music levels. You can also get all the valuable information here, such as bonus opportunities, promises of hidden locks revealing surprise gifts, and tips like making sure you hit Santa when he’s laughing. The last one seems a little unsportsmanlike, particularly at Christmas, but hey, whatever drives that score up.

Once you’re clear on your mission, get playing. Pull the spring back and set that ball in motion. Watch it as it makes its way around the bumpers and lights with your hands poised above the flippers at the bottom. Instead of buttons on the side of the machine as you’d find in real life, here you tap the flippers themselves to operate them. If you miss the ball and it flies down between the flippers, prepare to hear a sad voice announcing that you “lost the ball.”

As you get the hang of it you can start trying to go for the jackpots by lighting up “XMAS” or “TREE” but always keep your eye on the ball because that thing can move.

The app keeps track of your high scores, so once you feel you’re good enough, you can challenge others to have a go.

When we played

It really only took us about five minutes to realise we were thoroughly hooked by this app. As we pounded away at the flippers with our fingers and the world surrounding us seemed to drop away, we were very glad we didn’t have to pay a quarter a go like in the olden days [“olden days” = the 90s].

After playing for half an hour, it became apparent that skills we might have had when we were younger had completely deserted us, but we were getting better with every try. The despondent voice informing us that we had lost a ball was in fact coming from the Santa head that we had to hit when it was laughing. We got our ball in his mouth once which locked it. Apparently you have to get three in there for things to start happening.

We also found the hidden box in the back which brought promises of winning a video game, but when nothing materialised, we reckoned it was just all in fun. Tartar sauce.

Our friend Lynne, who had been something of a pinball wizard in her time, took over for a while and dazzled us with her prowess. While we had endured the frustration of missed jackpots thanks to “Game Over” with only “XMA” and “TRE” spelled out, she managed to hit the sweet spots all over the place. All we needed to do was stick her in a black leather biker jacket and the look would have been complete.

She mentioned that it’s hard to replace the physical thrill of playing the full-size original, but as we don’t have $3000 to spare, or a room we can dedicate to video games, we’re happy to accept this as a substitute.

Final thoughts

Pinball fans will certainly enjoy this, and even if you’ve never played on a machine before, it won’t take you long to get the hang of it. It’s also nice and inexpensive; always a bonus if you want to try something out without committing a lot of money to it. One piece of advice: you might want to see how you play in private before you take your methods public. If you jerk around as much as we did, this may be an app to be played behind closed doors.

Xmas Pinball
Cost: $0.99
Seller: Nena Innovation
Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android
Rating: E for Everyone

Inexpensive. Do not have to be connected to the Internet. Very easy to learn.

Might be a little difficult to play on the smaller screen devices. Looking nuts when you play.

One of the only differences between this app and the real thing is that it’s not advisable to hit your iPad so hard that it tilts.

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