Not going to be on a lot this weekend, but after some people suggesting it, I set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page for my gaming blog. Currently, I plan to link posts from the blog to those sites but hope to eventually start to use all three a bit more for things like quick comments or article links of particular interest to me.
If you're interested (and I'm hoping that if you read this you are):
I've had a lot of these downloaded games I've been playing recently, and I thought Pinball FX would be a good one to touch on next. My last review was for Peggle - a somewhat pinball-like gaming experience and one that appealed to much of my family. With my dad up and visiting however, I thought that now might be a good time to score this game. Why? Well for starters, he's been playing it some and seems to enjoy it. I've always enjoyed pinball, but my father? Even more so.
When I was a kid, my dad would take me out during the warmer months to 'make a day of it'. We'd start with breakfast, go fishing, usually swim, then do something like mini golf or tennis or basketball and then finish up with a trip to the local arcade (there were a few to choose from, but we always went to the now-defunct DC Action). While I would inevitably spend my quarters on video game cabinets (usually some combination of Solar Warrior, Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, Elevator Action... you get the idea) he would spend his time playing pinball tables and we'd usually finish up with a round or two of air hockey.
I would almost always blow through my quarters faster (we'd start with an even split and inevitably he would wind up giving me a good share of his quarters too since my dad's pinball matches usually went on for much longer - he was pretty good at them). I would eventually wind up playing a few rounds of pinball when it was said and done, but my dad played a lot more.
Why am I sharing all of this? Well, in part because with my dad visiting from Florida I was already feeling somewhat nostalgic, but more so when we were playing FX Pinball the other night. Also, I wanted my dad's input on the games - he's played a LOT more pinball over the years, and I figured he could offer a better perspective to the authenticity of the video games.
Graphics - 7:
The overall aesthetics can vary quite a bit by table. Each one is themed a bit differently and have their own look and feel. The basic engine used is pretty good. You can view the table from a variety of angles, things light up and flash like you would expect. There are really not a ton of animated pieces at any given time - primarily the ball, the flippers and any of the environmental objects being interacted with. It looks good for the most part, and recreates the feel of a pinball table.
Sound & Music - 6:
Again, the idea is to try and emulate a pinball table. The thing is, these tables generally lacked the processing power of an actual video game. As a result, you are usually getting limited clips of music and electronic sound effects that can get a bit repetitive. Still, there are some nice subtle sounds to experience, depending on the table. I noticed on a few tables we could actually hear the ball rolling faintly or bumping into objects that on other tables you could not discern because of the blast of music and sound.
Gameplay - 7:
The experience is pretty authentic in my opinion, and my dad seemed to agree. Most, but not all, tables allow you to apply a certain amount of varied pressure to your shot. You have at least two flippers at the bottom of the table, but in some tables there are additional ones higher up that can be used for certain kinds of skill shots. A lot of what you see though is the ball rolling about of its own accord as you wait for your next opportunity to interact with one. One neat feature is that by shaking or tilting your PS3 controller, the Sixaxis kicks in and tilts/jostles the table a bit, though the effect is usually pretty minimal on the actual path the ball takes. You can also make modifications to the tables to change your play experience, though using anything but the defaults makes you ineligible for online scoreboards. This is reasonable - expected even - since you want everyone on a level playing field. One big gripe - it seems to take the tables an awfully long time to load.
Intangibles - 8:
The more tables you purchase, the better your mileage here. They're basically $2.50 apiece. Not too bad, and there are a wide variety of themes. There's a tesla coil one featuring lots of electricity and zapping sounds. There's one with a car theme. Another tables sports a medieval theme. There's even Street Fighter 2 and Ninja Gaiden tables. I picked them all up and probably spent about $20 on them at the time. The online leader boards definitely help since it is fun to compare stats to others as well.
Overall - 7:
Some of the tables are better than others, so that is a factor. The thing is, everyone may have certain things they like about one table, that someone else really dislikes. My dad seemed to enjoy though, though his hands were a bit sore after the first half an hour or so. He doesn't play a lot of games and the button scheme was one that was not comfortable for him, but did not bother me as well. There's definitely a niche group these tables are aimed at. If you have fond memories of arcade pinball tables, this is one of the better versions I've had the pleasure of playing and my father enjoyed it as well. My son's played most of the table a few times now, but usually only when I play. None of my girls have shown even the slightest interest.
As predicted, my posting has been down a bit over the last week, and I am hoping to get a few more reviews and articles out over the next week, but we have more company next weekend, events going on the following, and then a week long camping trip. While I was pondering what to write about today, it came to me over the weekend - Peggle & Peggle Nights. Why? Because I saw a lot of this game over the weekend. Quick background:
Last summer my son went to stay with my dad down in Florida. My dad picked up a PS3 on my recommendation since a) Chris would wind up playing it a lot and b) my dad was interested in Blu-ray movies. While getting it all set up, I was trying to show my dad some games he might be interested in. He's never been a core gamer. He played some TI Invaders, Munchman, Hunt the Wumpus and more on my TI99/4a years ago, but when the NES came out, the only games he ever put much time into were Tetris and some Dr. Mario.
Keeping the puzzler theme in mind, I introduced him to Peggle last year, and he loves it. While he was up this last weekend, my dad and I spent hours playing Peggle and the Peggle Nights expansion. My wife loves this game too - we both went through the various modes after purchasing it. Popcap games is great at creating games that appeal to the broad casual game market (as evidenced by the Bejeweled series and Plants vs. Zombies) and Peggle is another demonstration of that ability.
Graphics - 7:
The art style is nice. The backgrounds are pleasant to look at. Everything moves well. It's really hard to rank this one any higher, despite the pleasant aesthetics though, because there is really very little happening on the screen, which is made up of lots of little dots/pegs.
Music & Sound - 8:
The music is nice - almost calming really. The end song when you complete a map is great... though after a few hundred times it does get a bit old. The sound effects are not amazing, but they work to keep the experience from being too bland. It helps set the tone for the entire experience with the steady, pleasant music in the background, emphasized by the occasional sound effect like a spaceblast 'explosion'.
Gameplay - 9:
Menus are easy to get around, and the mechanics are very, very simple. You have a small gun/cannon at the top/center of the screen. You have a ton of small pegs (hence, Peggle) in various patterns across the bottom. The primary objective is to clear the stage by hitting each of the orange pegs before you run out of balls to shoot. There are small twists like a purple peg that moves around every turn and gives you substantial point bonuses if you connect with it. There are green pegs that give you a 'super power' - and these vary by the character you are using (in some modes you are restricted to a specific character, in others you can choose from any of those you have unlocked). These powers vary in usefulness, often by map, from creating multiple balls at once, to shooting lightning across the screen to 'score' multiple pegs. The maps themselves are quite varied as well, sometimes with moving parts, other times with portals - there is a good deal of variety here for how simple the game is. In essence, it is sort of like pinball without the flippers (except, there is actually a powerup that creates flippers as well).
Intangibles - 10:
There are a lot of characters. There are a ton of maps. There are a variety of game modes, including online. There are leaderboards. You can do local player vs. player. You can pick this game up and do a map in 3 or 4 minutes, or you can be like my father and I and spend the better part of 4 hours on Saturday night just talking and taking turns playing. Peggle Nights is an expansion that you have to buy to play, but it adds a new character and a bunch of new maps and some new trophies to earn. If you enjoy the Peggle formula - you'll be getting more of the same, which is a good thing.
Overall - 8.5:
This is a fun game, and you can spend hours and hours on it. It may not appeal to people who are really into heavy action or story-rich games. Then again, I'm into those kinds of games as well, but have no problem spending a couple of hours at a time playing Peggle. The fact that my kids, my dad and my wife all enjoy it also speaks volumes about the game's broad appeal. Obviously mileage will vary. My son doesn't play it much, he'd rather play Black Ops. I've gotten through most of the modes and don't play it regularly now (I've had the game over a year now), but will still play a few rounds here and there. My dad has taken to trying to rank online on every map in some capacity, and has also done a 100% clear of the pegs (not just the orange ones, but all pegs) on a good number of maps and still after a year can easily sink 3 or 4 hours into the game - and he's had the game over a year himself.
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