Ghost Trick Review (iOS)

When it debuted on the Nintendo DS last year, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective didn’t get as big an audience as Capcom was hoping, though the devotees who did pick up on it were more than pleased with how it turned out. Now the company is looking to introduce it to a whole new audience, with a better touch screen interface and a much more affordable price. Despite a few flaws, it’s a shift for the better.

Ghost Trick iOS

In Ghost Trick, you portray Sissel, a smarmy detective who starts off the game in the lowest possible form possible – as a corpse. He’s just been freshly murdered by a hitman, though he isn’t entirely ready to shift into the afterlife. Instead, he’s capable of interacting with the real world by means of a secondary “ghost world," shifting around into objects just within reach of his soul and even re-enacting moments within the last four minutes of their occurrence. There’s actually quite a bit of importance in doing this, especially when it comes to saving the life of a fellow detective, a red-headed female who can help you get to the bottom of your own demise.

So here’s how the gist of Ghost Trick’s gameplay works. You’re able to execute “Tricks” by picking a select item within the spectral realm and executing its main purpose, whether it’s unfolding a table or causing a random guitar to strum and spook out a member of the living. The rest of your transition is handled through moving from object to object, and occasionally shifting between worlds in order to keep moving ahead. How you get from point A to point B helps the story move forward, and even if you make a mistake, the game will give you a chance to try again, until the right solution is found.

There’s some genuine interest when it comes to the mystery at hand here, and it’s told with humorous dialogue, along the same level of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games. (That’s because they were both created by game director Shu Takumi.) The only real downside to this game is that there’s only one real solution to each problem, and once you complete the game as a whole, there’s no real reason to come back — no extra challenges to take on while you’re still in spectral form.

Oh well, it’s the journey, not the destination, right? The gameplay in Ghost Trick certainly holds some fascination, and executing things in a certain way definitely has its moments, especially later in the game, when you learn what’s truly up with your lead character. What’s more, there are plenty of interesting characters here. Even the dog, Missile, has a story of its own.

Capcom has also set up a reasonably fair pricing model with Ghost Trick. The first two chapters of the story are available free of charge, and you can buy either pertaining cases for $4.99 apiece, or the game as a whole for $9.99. That’s a very reasonable price, especially when compared to the $30 Nintendo DS price tag.

Ghost Trick iOS

The game has also made a superb transition to the iPad front. All of the fluid animations are kept in check here, along with great backgrounds and terrific transition between both worlds. The sound could use a few more samples, but for the most part it retains its jazzy, detective-style tone.

Ghost Trick may be a, pardon the pun, one trick pony, but this mystery is well worth solving if you need something new to play on your Apple device. The fact that it’s one-third of the DS’ price isn’t too shabby either. For some of you with a tight budget, it just might do the Trick.

By Robert Workman

Review: Funky Smugglers is an enjoyable & quirky take on airport security

If I had to guess what 11bit Studios' next game would have been (the team behind the amazing Anomaly: Warzone Earth) it most definitely wouldn't involve anything to do with airport security, funk music and wacky characters. Turns out, that's exactly what were getting. Funky Smugglers has enough quirk and charm, coupled with some addicting endless play that will undoubtedly have you scanning passengers for hours.

The premise of Funky Smugglers is fairly simple. Passengers are boarding plane after plane, and it's up to you to make sure nothing dangerous or deadly gets brough on with them. As they walk through the giant X-ray machine, you'll see items highlighted in red that are a threat to everyone's safety, such a spiders, saws, uzis, hammers etc. However, you'll have to make sure to avoid any green items, which are airplane safe such as teddy bears, rubber ducks and coffee mugs.

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The aim of the game isn't just to weed out these potential threats, but to go for the high score. Each time you place a finger on one of the hazardous items, you can leave it on the screen and continue swiping any other dangerous items along with it. This will build your combo multiplier. However this multiplier doesn't last forever, so you have limited amount of time each swipe to get the most amount of red items, all while avoiding the green.

The various power-ups serve to boost your high score even further, such as slowing or speeding up time, allowing for high combos, or giving you the magnetic powers which automatically draw every red item toward your finger, just watch out not to hit any of the green ones.

You can also take part of massive team battles, which has you aligning with a team of your choice, which in my case was Funk vs. Gangnam. Of course, I absolutely had to join Gangnam, even though we're currently losing. After you align yourself with a certain team, you earn points for them as you play. It's a neat multiplayer element which doesn't directly involve playing with other people simultaneously, but rather as a community.

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It's almost become somewhat of a standard these days to include ongoing missions that require you to complete secondary tasks while playing each level. These include missions like grabbing extra two lives while at full health, toss items 20 times or throw 30 items without making a combo, just to name a few. These will undoubtedly keep you busy for a while, as once you complete one, a new one takes its place.

yesI also can't deny the amount of humor present in Funky Smugglers. The premise alone is already ridiculous enough to induce a chuckle, but from the caricatured characters, down to the description of travelers (Peaceful mermaid hunters to Atlantis or rough gamblers from Guatemala) you're sure to have a smirk on your face the entire time. The music also deserves a mention since it'll have your head bobbing from the very second you'll start your game.

Funky Smugglers is a mere $0.99 which for the amount of fun you'll be having, is an indredibly low asking price.

By Mike Splechta

Spirits review

At first glance, Spirits looks a little like Botanicula, a game that independent developer Amanita Design released earlier this year. Both are point-and-click puzzle games, and both feature fragile creatures plucked straight out of nature. But the similarities end there. While Botanicula was prone to its problems, Spirits is a total mess — a primitive take on the classic Lemmings.

The 1991 original Lemmings was full of traps and obstacles that the critters could bypass by assuming different roles. Spirits, which looks a lot nicer than the game it’s inspired by, basically follows the same concept: You guide a predetermined number of spirits through a hazardous environment while avoiding spikes and manipulating air currents, which can whisk you away to undesirable places. When a spirit uses a certain function (only select ones are available at any given time) — either digging, blowing gusts of air, building a leafy ladder, or blocking wind — it sacrifices itself to help the rest to safety. As long as the minimum quota of spirits enter the vortex at the end, you’ll successfully finish the level. Of course, completionists are welcome to find new ways around to obtain a perfect score, which involves illuminating out-of-reach plants and losing as few spirits as possible, but you may not care to.

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The core problem with the game comes down to its main mechanic: controlling the spirits. Pausing the game allows you to assess your environment and plan out your actions, but most of the time the spirits won’t react the way you expect them to — through no fault of your own, but rather the finicky programming. Sometimes you’ll know exactly how you need to approach a situation, but getting the spirits to do what you want them to is another matter entirely. Sometimes they’ll even stray from the course the others will follow, throwing your chances of success askew. A puzzle game shouldn’t force players to resort to blind trial and error, but that’s what Spirit does — and far too often.

Spirits could have been an enjoyable game if it managed to innovate a little, but even Lemmings seems to offer more personality and fun. The gameplay doesn’t appropriately challenge the player to learn new techniques or adapt to existing ones, but rather to use them at random depending on what nook or crevice they get themselves stuck in. Solutions feel contrived and are difficult to carry out even when you know what you’re doing, and the music and environments largely remain the same.

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At least there isn’t a time limit (the spirits will usually kill themselves off if you fail to act accordingly), and you can assign tasks to any of the spirits while the game is paused, allowing for simultaneous execution. The game is generous with how many spirits you need to pass per level, and although the bar is sometimes set agonizingly high, you’ll probably fret over directing the spirits more than you will saving them.

The game is available on other platforms, including mobile, so it’s possible that PC (this version was tested on Steam) simply isn’t the right home for Spirits. Regardless, this isn’t a game you’ll want to pay $10 for.

Follow @wita on Twitter for tales of superheroes, plumbers in overalls, and literary adventures.

By Stephanie Carmichael

Dariusburst SP Review (iPad/iOS)

Gamezone Review Rating
8.0
Great

Japanese game development can be weird sometimes. For instance, I don’t know where Taito came up with the idea, but they decided to make a space shooter series where you take on an armada of robotic fish, including gigantic bosses with silly names. That series is Darius, and despite its strange premise, it has grown a bit of a following with the hardcore “shmup” crowd, especially with its unique power-up system. After lingering on consoles for the last few years, it’s finally hit the mobile front with Dariusburst SP.

The premise is still the same. You choose your ship and fly through a series of zones, using a variety of power-ups to send robotic fish enemies to meet their maker. The more fleets you shoot down, the more points you earn. Along the way, you can pick up orbs that give your ship incentives, including a power shield, improved shots and bombs, and a gold orb that destroys everything on the screen temporarily. You can also chase after silver orbs for points or hunt down hidden 1ups.

Dariusburst’s power-ups work very well, and you can see the effects on-screen as you pick up each orb. And unlike most unfair shooters, if you die, you don’t automatically start back from square one – unless you’re on a higher difficulty, that is. As you proceed, you’ll also unlock new ships, each with their own attack abilities.

This game has three modes to choose from – SP, which is the main remix mode; Original, which is based on the main arcade code; and Mission, which is divided into mission objectives. All three games are about the same, but it’s cool to see the minor differences with each one, mostly with soundtracks. In addition, you can unlock Achievements through Game Center, always nice to have.

As for gameplay, you control your ship using on-screen drags. Your ship can either fire automatically or manually, though we prefer automatic. In addition, you also have a special Burst tool that can give you an edge with bigger boss enemies, as it fires a huge pulsating laser that can do major damage to whatever it touches. These are accessible through buttons on the corner of the screen. It would’ve helped to have a D-pad, but it’s not completely necessary to get around.

Dariusburst is a visual delight. It’s definitely leagues ahead of Taito’s previously released Rayforce, with the kind of graphics that you’d find in a downloadable Xbox Live/SEN game. The frame rate is smooth, the enemy design is pretty cool (despite all the fish) and the backgrounds are damn good, 3D settings instead of the usual 2D scrolling fare. The bosses take up a good portion of the screen too.

The music, on the other hand, is a bit…weird. Some of it is right up Zuntana’s composing alley, while other selections sound like strange-ass opera pieces that are likely to make you reach for the volume switch.

So what's the negative? Well, that would be Dariusburst’s inflated price. Like Rayforce, it’s set at $11.99, and Taito probably won’t knock it down anytime soon. The difference, though, is that this game validates its price a bit better, especially in the graphics. Do yourself a favor and buy an HDMI adapter and play it on a big screen. You just might like it.

While we would’ve preferred Darius’ return as a downloadable game for consoles, we’ll take what we can get. Dariusburst SP retains all the goofy shooting goodness from previous chapters of the series, and puts on the kind of technical show that makes the most out of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. Lock and load and let those fishies have it.

By Robert Workman

Flight! (iPhone) Review

Flight! Is an iOS game about throwing a paper airplane the furthest in your quest to beat your high scores and other scores around the world. While this may not sound like fun at all (and it isn’t before you start unlocking upgrades) sticking with the game through the semi slow beginning is advised.

As I mentioned above, the beginning of the game had me rolling my eyes in boredom. Luckily your paper airplane can be equipped with such power-ups as steering, boost, and sturdier paper in order to fly the furthest and to collect the most money and stars. The game gets really addicting when you’re close to the next upgrade you’ve been trying to get, and will keep players busy when they want to game on their iPhones.

After you’ve acquired a few of the many upgrades for your plane, it’s time to fly. Simply swipe your finger forward to launch the paper plane in the air. If you have the steering upgrade, you can tilt the iPhone forward and backward to try to collect money and stars. If you have boost enabled, you can hold the screen down with a finger to pick up speed, just be cautious of your boost meter.

Flight

It is a very rewarding experience to see your plane start from being terrible, to upgrading it and shattering your previous records. It’s not rewarding if you spend actual money and buy all the upgrades via micro transactions, which I would not advise for this particular title.

For 99 cents, the value is certainly there for this game. I had a good time playing Flight! but I would like to see more power-ups and longevity in future patches. Some new challenges would do wonders for the game, as I seemed to move through it pretty quickly

Simply put, Flight! Is a fun game that will last you for a few hours. It’s not in the same category as some top iOS games, but it is definitely worth your time and your dollar.

Are you planning to buyFlight!? Let me know in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter at @AlexEqualsWin and Gamezone at @Gamezoneonline

By Alex Rhoades

Batman: Arkham City Lockdown Review

Batman: Arkham Cityroared onto the console scene last year, taking the industry by storm with outstanding gameplay and a thrilling narrative. Months later, Warner Bros. and NeverRealm announced an iOS Batman adventure titledBatman: Arkham City Lockdown.Flash forward to today, some folks have finished the entireArkham Cityexperience and are looking for something new to feed their hunger. Does Lockdown answer fans' calls, or prove to be a Batman poser?

Batman: Arkham City Lockdownis simple game at heart: a melee fighter that features swiping motions, like EPIC'sInfinity Blade II, and is set in Arkham City. Your job, as Batman, is to rid the streets of thugs and Batman's greatest villains. Players will direct Batman in a linear path across the city, taking down several different types of these bad guys. Every area you clear features a boss battle with foes like Two-Faced and Penguin. While on your journey, players will be able to upgrade Batman with new gadgets and abilities.

From a presentation standpoint, players want to see Arkham City — the same city they fell in love with last year. NeverRealm captures these locations quite well — back alleys and smoke-filled streets have that eerie, Arkham City feel. What made the console versions so brilliant, though, was the ability to soar across the city. Sadly, Lockdown limits you to a linear story and strangles you to similar locations. Nevertheless, enemies within these environments respond like you'd expect, and boss battles open and close with epic voice-overs.

Lockdown features the notorious Unreal Engine, and ironically features the same fighting mechanics asInfinity Blade.Combat is smooth and enjoyable at first, but after a handful of fights, it becomes tiresome and "noobish." Enemies attack in exact patterns, and countering their moves is as easy as a tap on the screen. Like presentation, Lockdown's mechanics struggle with variety. Luckily, the game flaunts impressive graphics; it's notInfinity Blade IIworthy, but still pretty.

Overall,Batman: Arkham City Lockdownstruggles to grab your attention. At first glance, you'll find it to be tasteful, detailed, and filled with content (i.e. Wayne Tech upgrades), but after you spend some time with it, you'll most likely grow bored. As an iOS game, Lockdown is definitely an above average title, but in terms of the Batman name, it's nothing to brag about. If you're a fan of Batman and have $5.99, give this one a shot, but for most of you, either wait until the price drops or steer clear of this one.

By Tate Steinlage

Review: iControlPad is mobile gaming’s messiah

If you're anything like me, you've been consistently disappointed by the state of mobile gaming. Though the average simpleton may be entertained for hours by time-wasters like Angry Birds, these bite-sized experiences obviously pale in comparison to the portable gems of yesteryear. The problem seems to be that most smartphones rely entirely on touchscreen functionality, and without an assortment of tactile nubs with which to control our avatars, games much choose between being simple one-button distractions or implementing awkward on-screen controls. It seems then that what the mobile gaming world needs is a standard gamepad, one which developers will come together to embrace, ushering in a true era of mobile gaming.

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Only now, after spending several weeks with my new iControlPad, can I confidently declare that we have found our mobile messiah.

The iControlPad is a brilliant piece of technology, one which turns just about any smartphone into a fully fledged gaming device. The small, all-black device connects to your iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth, letting gamers enjoy a variety of iControlPad-supported games and apps. There are similar devices on the market (the ION iCade mobile for instance), though these devices seem more like a novelty, whereas the iControlPad is fine tuned for true gamers. The buttons are wonderfully responsive, with the d-pad offering a precise level of control needed for even twitch shooters (one of the the iCade Mobile's biggest flaws). This is also one of the only devices I've seen that sports a pair of analog sticks, opening up a wide variety of gaming possibilities. Not to mention that the device is easily charged by a standard mini-USB cord, this use of an internal battery making the iControlPad much lighter than competing gamepads.

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The one concern some might have is whether enough apps support the iControlPad to make it worth a purchase. Truthfully, the selection of iControlPad-specific games is small, though the device seems most loved by fans of classic game emulation. Though the morality of pirating game ROMs you don't own is questionable (I'm lucky enough to own most of the original releases…), the iControlPad allows gamers to enjoy the many emulators available for Android (and jailbroken iPhone) the way they were meant to be played. I personally loaded my phone up with a variety of Gameboy Advance classics, and got so deep into Castlevania: Circle of the Moon I honestly forgot I was playing it on a phone! Not to mention that newer cell phone models are capable of even running PSone titles like Final Fantasy VII, and being able to enjoy that caliber of game without bothering with a horrible on-screen analog stick is a godsend.

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To be fair, there are more than a few issues with the iControlPad. Upon first setting up the device, I discovered that certain HTC phones don't play nice with Bluetooth, which meant installing a special app to force my system to recognize the device as a keyboard. Though this wasn't too troublesome, it did mean that I was unable to test the iControlPad's full functionality (namely the analog stick controls). Meanwhile, though the device ships with a so-called "Universal Holder," what you really get is a piece of bent metal which extends out from the back of the device. Unfortunately this is a far from ideal solution, and the foam pads included to help add some additional support didn't prove much help in getting my HTZ Rezound to fit comfortably. After bending the holder a bit I actually did manage to achieve a rather snug fit (to the point where I could violently shake the device without my phone flying out), though I still would've preferred something more easily adjustable. Also, the holder really only accommodates slim devices, so if you have any sort of extended battery pack on your phone, good luck.

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Even despite these flaws however, the iControlPad is still the best gamepad I've even seen for mobile devices, and a must buy product for any fan of classic game emulation. However, you may want to hold out for the iControlPad2, a redesigned device which is currently making the rounds on Kickstarter (just three days left!). I'm especially excited about how the new resdesign not only includes a full keyboard, but will actually rotate behind your device, making it much easier to slip into a pocket. If you were on the fence about making a donation, trust me, the folks making the iControlPad know what they're doing. Throwdown the minimum $69 and get on the list ASAP!

-Vito Gesualdi is pleased that his phone can run the original Wild Arms. Follow him on Twitter @vitogesualdi

By Vito Gesualdi

SoulCalibur Review (iOS)

When SoulCalibur came out for the Dreamcast over a decade ago, it defined what a next generation fighter should be, between its amazing presentation, slick gameplay and stacked modes. Looking back on it now, it really hasn’t aged that badly, though we have to wonder why Namco Bandai would cut corners bringing the game to new platforms. That’s what it did with the Xbox Live Arcade version, and now the same thing has occurred with the iPad/iPhone 4 versions that hit the App Store last week. Worse yet, a new problem has surfaced…but more on that later on.

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For now, let’s talk about the merits that SoulCalibur still brings to the table. All 19 combatants from the original make a return here, from the big-boobied vixen Ivy to the traditional Mitsirugi, and every one in between. You’ll need to unlock a few of them by playing through the game’s main Arcade Mode, but gaining new access to this content, along with other accessories, prolongs the replay value. In addition, you can also try your hand at other modes, including Survival, Extra Survival, Time Attack and Practice. (For those who “like to watch”, Museum Mode and Exhibition also make a return.)

Now, being that the game’s on a touch-screen device, the controls have changed up quite a bit. Character movement, attacks, and guarding are all performed using an on-screen digital pad and buttons. While it’s hardly the same as gripping the old school Dreamcast controller, they still work pretty well, especially when it comes to executing Soul Charges and pulling off nifty, little combos. As a bonus, you can also move buttons around in case you prefer your own layout.

In terms of presentation, Namco has done an adequate job translating the game to the mobile front. Yeah, it isn’t as fluid as the 60-frames-per-second Dreamcast version, and some of the milder details are missing, but the stage layouts are still fantastic (especially the lit-up indoor caves and temples) and the animations are killer (Voldo is still a trip to watch as he bends his body in ridiculous ways). The excellent soundtrack is still intact, though the announcer’s timing is off by a few seconds – and he still says the same comments in that somewhat muffled tone.

So, the gameplay is good, and the presentation better than most App Store fighters, so why the low score? Two reasons. The first is the lack of particular pieces of content. Like the Xbox Live Arcade version, SoulCalibur on iOS is devoid of the outstanding Mission Modes that made the Dreamcast version such a joy to play. Worse yet, it’s strictly a solo tour. You can’t play against a friend locally, nor can you get online to challenge newcomers.

These would be easy to overlook had the game come with a budget price of, say, $2.99, like what Capcom’s Street Fighter IV Volt currently goes for. Sadly, it doesn’t. Namco has slapped a default price of $16.99 on this game — $7 more than the XBLA version – making this one of the highest priced software offerings in the App Store. Even with its limited time “sale” price of $11.99, that’s a lot of money to fork over for a condensed port. Like Square Enix has done with its software (namely the expensive Final Fantasy games and the $12-priced Rayforce), it’s completely unfair price gouging. Five bucks, maybe. But twelve? That’s hard to swallow. ESPECIALLY without a Lite version to convince buyers first.

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Namco’s got the technical know-how nailed down when it comes to its iPad library, and SoulCalibur continues to show this. The more-than-adequate presentation and solid gameplay make up for some of the missing content. However, with a hefty price tag attached to it, it’s likely to burn your wallet much worse than your soul. Proceed with caution.

By Robert Workman

Grand Theft Auto III Review (iOS)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since we were first introduced to the glorious open sandbox world of Grand Theft Auto III, a world brimming with criminal activity, over-the-top stunts and genuine bravado. It’s easily one of Rockstar Games’ greatest accomplishments, and now it’s revisiting the old stomping grounds of Liberty City for iOS devices, primarily the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. Is it a return trip well worth taking? Absolutely…though it helps to know what you’re getting into.

You know the story. A criminal is wronged in a robbery, left for dead and stuck in jail. After getting out, he immediately sets out for revenge, working for a series of ne’er-do-wells to gain access to money, weapons and just the right amount of goods to get even. Hours worth of gameplay awaits, whether you’re cruising around looking for trouble, completing missions or seeking out hidden goods.

Good news – the game as you remember it from the PS2 days is completely intact. That might spoil you a bit if you know the location of hidden packages and other missions, but on the other hand, it’s fun to revisit and go through everything again – for nostalgic purposes, if you will. The fact that Rockstar was able to cram the game in its entirety in 462 MB of space is a superb feat, even if this game isn’t nearly as big as most of today’s open world adventures. We’ll still take it for what it’s worth.

What’s more, Rockstar didn’t just make this a plain old PlayStation 2 port. It’s touched up the graphics, on some devices at least, to bring it roaring into the HD era. On the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, the textures look superb, with every character, car and building touched up. And those explosions? A real beauty. It’s hardly the kind of thing you’d confuse with, say, Infinity Blade II, but it’s a solid conversion.

However, if you’re using an older device, such as an iPhone or a lower generation iPod Touch, you may be in for slight disappointment. By comparison, the game doesn’t look as good on these devices, coming across as if it’s run through a fuzzy filter. It still runs fairly enough that you can play through it and have fun, but your best bet is to play it on a more modern tablet/iPhone device. The newer the better.

The audio remains untouched across the board, though. Every radio station is accounted for here, and just as varied as you remember, with lots of licensed tracks and atmospheric chatter amidst the deejays. You can change stations with the simple swipe of a finger, and listen to the variety offered. The sound effects are great, and the voicework, featuring the likes of Kyle McLachlan, Joe Pantoliano and others, is completely intact. You’ll love how this game sounds – particularly with headphones.

Now, let’s get to the gameplay. Obviously this is the biggest change to the package, because the game’s been translated from controller to touch-screen gameplay. For the most part, it’s good, as you can run around, throw punches (or swing a bat), steal cars and perform other actions with very little problem. The buttons are somewhat wide apart, so it takes getting used to, but all the functionality is intact. But there are hiccups, mainly with trying to keep a car from flipping over (the physics almost make them seem like toy models) and try to turn off the auto-lock when you’re shooting enemies. If you can overcome these obstacles, you’ll have fun. If not, um…you still have the PS2 version handy, right?

I won’t lie. This would’ve been the type of situation where Rockstar would’ve been better off re-releasing Grand Theft Auto III HD for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, rather than limiting it to the mobile front. But we’ll take what we can get, and this port, though not without its setbacks, is a fun return to Liberty City. Plus, it’ll only run you back about five bucks. That’s a small price to pay for a life of crime, isn’t it?

By Robert Workman

The Pinball Arcade Review (iOS/iPad)

Gamezone Review Rating
9.0
Amazing

There’s no shortage of great pinball games on the iPad and iPhone, between Zen Studios’ stellar Zen Pinball compilation and ooo Gameprom’s Pinball HD Collection. These guys are devoted to making games feel like real pinball again, rather than flawed digital creations that lack the proper tilting to feel authentic. And they’re not alone. Farsight Studios, the developer behind the Pinball Hall of Fame games for Crave, have joined the party with their superb The Pinball Arcade.

The title says it all. The package comes with one table included in the $.99 price tag, Williams’ Tales of the Arabian Knight. And for $9 more, you can add three other great tables from arcade yesteryear – Gottlieb’s Black Hole, Stern Pinball’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and Bally’s Theater of Magic. You could just get away with getting the one table and then trying out the other three, but something tells us that after you play them once, you’re going to want them to return.

These aren’t just second-rate recreations of these classic tables – they ARE the tables, from the placement of flippers to the way the bumpers react to the LED screens that keep track of your progress and offer cinematic displays when stuff occurs. Farsight actually keeps quite a few pinball tables in its development studios, and knows them inside and out. And it shows with every minute you play with these games, building up high scores and studying up on their history.

Along with the tables (which are unlocked through free play upon purchase), you also get slight historic facts, including notes that detail each one and flyers, which you can zoom in and take a closer look at. A making-of for the game would’ve been ideal, but perhaps Farsight is saving that for a DLC pack down the road. And yes, downloadable content is coming, including great tables like Attack From Mars, Medieval Madness and several others. A small price to pay for building your own virtual rec room.

The visual presentation of The Pinball Arcade is basic enough, consisting of the menus and the tables themselves. But you can actually pick from several view angles, to whatever suits your fancy. What’s more, the game runs at pitch perfect speed, with barely any slowdown to throw off your momentum as you shoot for ramps and bonus rounds. More detail would’ve been welcome in parts, like the spinning palette on the Black Hole table. But that’s just being nitpicky.

Likewise, I think the sound couldn’t be any better. The sounds of the silver ball coming off bumpers and skill shots is impressive, just like you’d find on the actual machines. The voicework is good too, from the talking tiki head in Ripley’s (“That’s so weird, mon!”) to the taunting Genie in Tales (“Care to do that again?!”)

It also plays quite realistically, a huge factor in Farsight’s development favor. If there’s any slight flaw to this package, it’s that the leaderboards aren’t quite 100 percent yet, as sometimes certain scores don’t upload. But Farsight is working on that, and the game will soon have Game Center support, for those who like tracking what goals they accomplished.

If you’re a true pinball enthusiast – like me – or are just curious what used to entertain us before home consoles took off like they did, The Pinball Arcade is an essential purchase. Ten bucks may be a high price for a quartet of pinball emulations, but you’ll truly get your money’s worth. Can’t wait for the next round of tables.

By Robert Workman