Review: Pinball FX Is a Great Approximation, But Can’t Replace the Real Thing
I’m no pinball wizard, but I’ve always been fascinated by pinball machines. There’s something incredibly satisfying about all of the electro-mechanical sounds along with the tactile feeling of hitting a rolling metal ball with mechanical flippers. Unfortunately, that’s not something virtual pinball can reproduce, but Pinball FX comes the closest to live pinball of any other pinball video game I’ve played.
Pinball FX is a game that allows you to play many different pinball tables. It’s technically free to play, but if you want to play more than the starter table, you’ll have to pay. Pinball FX isn’t a substitute for the real thing, but it’s the closest we’ll be able to get in a video game. However, Pinball FX isn’t so much a game as it is a modular pinball engine where you can play a whole array of different tables.
Playing pinball in Pinball FX is fun. It obviously can’t recreate the tactile feeling of real pinball, but it’s as close as you can get in a video game. Of course, gameplay varies greatly from table to table, with every table containing its own goals and tricks. Each table has a gameplay guide, which is a bit of a cheat sheet that shows you how to play, and what all of the different parts of each table are called.
There was never a time that I thought I was cheated by wonky physics. However, the tables tilt a lot easier in their virtual forms than the ones I’ve played with in real life, making some of the high scoring tricks harder to pull off than you could with their real-world counterparts.
If you want extra realism, you can even use Pinball FX on a virtual pinball machine. As cool as this sounds, I don’t have the hardware to test it on, unfortunately.
Virtual pinball has never looked so good as it does in Pinball FX. On PC, with all of the graphics settings maxed and ray tracing set to high, the tables really look fantastic. From the original tables to those classic table recreations that look like they were painstakingly reproduced, not a single table is visually disappointing. There are even added extra animated characters on some of the older tables that bring them to life in a way that’s impossible outside of a virtual space.
As gorgeous as the tables are in Pinball FX, the rest of the virtual space is a bit disappointing. You can customize your game room, but it’s a little tedious in practice . Each table has unlockables and you can display them around your game room. But to display them, you’ll have to select the shelf you want to display a collectible on, and look for the list of those available. You can’t just select an object and place it where you want. I ended up spending little time on this aspect of Pinball FX.
I was given access to most of the tables that Pinball FX has to offer, and I played every single one of them. Out of the bunch there was not a single bad table, though there were a few mediocre ones buried in a few of the bundles I tried out. You can buy tables individually, or you can purchase the Pinball pass which gives you access to most of the available tables.
The Pinball Pass comes in two options: 30 days for 150 coins (about $15) or a 1 year pass for 1200 coins ($100). As pricey as these individual tables and table packs can be, getting the pinball pass can be a viable option. But to do so, you’ll need to purchase coins, and the smallest pack of coins is 100 that go for about $10. Tables themselves vary wildly in price, and can be purchased from $5 dollars to $10 dollars each. You can also buy packs of tables—which saves you a bit of money, with most of them going for around $10 dollars, up to $25 dollars or so. Pinball isn’t cheap, even virtually.
While Pinball FX still doesn’t replace real tables, it’s the best way you can play a wide array of pinball games in your home. But while it’s certainly cheaper than buying and maintaining a real pinball table, each of the virtual ones still come in at a pretty steep price. But if you’re crazy about pinball, Pinball FX is the best video game pinball I’ve ever played.
Pinball FX is out now on Epic Game Store for PC and for PlayStation 4 and 5 as well as Xbox Series S|X and Xbox One.
An Epic Game Store Key was given to us for the purpose of this review