A million years ago, I talked about pinball. Specifically, the whole recreation of The Pinball Experience in the vidja game realm. I mentioned two ways to do it: Faithful Recreation vs. To Heck With Physics. Faithful recreation did the thing where they took your favorite machine from back in the day and did their best to give you that experience again. (This had a handful of problems, most notably the one where the games were expensive due to licensing issues. (Indeed, looks like the folks who made The Pinball Arcade have lost the licenses for the Williams and Bally tables. That’s a shame.))
Well, the other way to do it was the way that FX2 did it. “Hey, we’re in a virtual environment and we can do whatever we want… Let’s have catapults! And action figures pick up the ball and manipulate it before putting it back in the field! And we can have bumpers move around randomly! And let’s have ramps just appear virtually if certain conditions are met! And then disappear if the ball goes down the chute!” And so on and so forth until you had machines that were like the machines you dared never even dream about back in the old analog days.
Well, Pinball FX2 has moved into the VR world.
Now, it’s not perfect. There are only three tables in the base game. There is DLC available and you should definitely get Season One because you’ll get five more tables. (The last DLC is for a single table but it’s a branded one: The Walking Dead. You’re paying for the brand just as much as you are paying for the table.)
For Windows Mixed Reality users (like I’m), you’re stuck using a regular game controller. (Like the Xbox Controller that you have for your other games? That one.) So your hands don’t feel like they’re on the side of a pinball box.
On top of that, you’re looking down at the glass to play the game. Instead of playing with your head forward like when you look at a computer monitor, you’re looking down at your knees (assuming you’re sitting). So if you have a posture problem, this game won’t help with that.
With all that out of the way: Holy Cow. It’s pinball in VR. And in true Pinball FX2 fashion, they’re pulling off the impossible. When you play Biolab, little genetic creations crawl around on the side of the game (but only during moments when they wouldn’t be *TOO* distracting like when you’re trying to launch the skill shot or when you’re depressed that your ball went down the drain). When you play Earth Defense, there are little UFOs hovering off on your left next to the pinball case and little army helicopters floating off to the right (when your ball goes down the drain, one of the UFOs shoots one of the helicopters).
If you can get past some of the irritating design choices (why can’t I map the flippers to my VR controllers?!? Why can’t I play this sitting up and looking forward?!?), you’re going to find yourself delighted by how you’ve got what feels like a full-size pinball machine in your virtual basement.
And, this week, they’re on sale on Steam so those irritating design choices aren’t quite so irritating. (You can get all nine tables for less than $20. It’s worth it.)
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))