By Barbara Mae

Pinball HD 4 iPhone is not just a great pinball game for the iPhone, it’s great when compared to pinball games on any platform– even the real thing. This is in large part because, more than any other pinball game for the iPhone, it replicates the experience of standing at a vintage pinball table. Or, more precisely, three pinball tables.

Pinball HD comes stocked with three basic tables that will feel familiar to any pinball fan: Wild West, The Deep, and Jungle Style. The attention to detail on these tables is nothing short of remarkable. On the Wild West table, the player can spot the grain of the wood; in The Deep, the blue lighting really looks like LEDs you’d find in an arcade. All three tables have the grid-of-lights scoreboard that is as functional as it is nostalgic. It’s no wonder Pinball HD won a 2010 Apple Design Award.

The three tables are in order of ascending difficulty. Wild West is the most basic, with only two paddles and a modest assortment of bonuses. Jungle Style has at least four separate paddles and more bonus levels and challenges than I could count. The game design helps the player cope with this complexity by not displaying the whole table at one time. Instead, the camera zooms up and down, following the ball in play. This not only helps the player keep track of the action, but helps show off the fine details of the table at close range. Moreover, the animation of the camera movements is smooth and cinematic, enhancing the gameplay more than one might expect.


While this description might make the game sound complicated, it isn’t at all hard to pick up. The controls are standard for any iPhone pinball game: tap the left hand side of the screen to activate the left paddle or paddles, and the right side for the right ones. That’s pretty much it. The player can shake the iPhone in order to dislodge a stuck ball– just like the real thing– but shaking too much will shut down the machine and return a “TILT” message. Again, this is just like the real thing.

If the player ever wants to see the entire table at once, pinching the screen will place the camera in “fixed” mode, but this can make the gameplay a little hard to see, especially if the player is using a 3GS or an iPod Touch that doesn’t feature the higher-resolution Retina display. It’s worth noting that the graphics are too processor-intensive for the iPhone 3G or for older iPod Touch models, so the buyer is advised to make sure the game is compatible before a purchase is made.

If, however, your iDevice is up to it, Pinball HD has some pretty showy tricks up its sleeve. If the crisp images of the Retina display aren’t enough, there is also a 3D gameplay mode, that is adjustable depending on the type of 3D glasses the player has access to. Pinball HD 4 iPhone also comes equipped with a multiplayer version, and a full-featured score-sharing network, so you can see how you compare to other pinball addicts.

Pinball HD 4 iPhone is an instant classic, recommended for players of all ages and all skill levels.

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