Review: Xbox Live Arcade: Pinball Arcade

It’s Pinball Arcade Time!

It’s been a while since I picked up something in my own time, just browsing the Xbox Live market place I came across something that caught my eye as I’ve seen it launched on many platforms and that’s Pinball Arcade.

It’s available on PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, iphone, ipad, Mac and Android devices. That’s a serious amount of platforms to launch just one game onto but you can see a Pinball game is one of those games that fits the bill to make it instantly compatible for all of these platforms and because of this it also reaches out to an amazing assortment of gamers new to old. This is what actually took my interest, it must already by incredibly well established.

It’s time to get flipper happy!

Pinball tables attract allsorts of different people if you think about it. They’re normally placed in corners of pubs or in various establishments who also have Arcade machines and other similar machines. They’ve been around for a while in physical form but sadly have disappeared from view in various places, however like many well timed balances in this world when one thing goes down another comes up. There’s now an increase in virtual items online such as Pinball tables making an appearance! Pinball Arcade has also attracted some of the biggest names in the history of Pinball tables like Williams, Bally and Stern Pinball and you get to play these real tables on your console or portable device.

Pinball Arcade does an amazing job of capturing the lights, noises and challenges you associate with pinball tables so well and brings you some brilliant and sometimes complex challenges to boot. It whips your attention span right into the game as soon as you pick it up as it’s a game that requires straight-line thought and focus to play. The gameplay can get rather speedy too once you start timing you shots right and you need to be ready to return the ball at a moments notice. That’s the basic way you play Pinball, it’s remembering the different angles you hit the ball to with the flippers that gets you those high-scores and also a bit of luck too! That’s what keeps pinball games interesting and the element of random occurrence or when you don’t exactly know what your next objective is. You’ll will quite happily play Pinball Arcade for hours simply because of these well developed elements making it a time gobbler and a good one at that.

One of the hardest tables you’ll get to try… Concentrate!!

There’s several tables to choose from and each curbing your tactics by introducing a different table layout. Each table has it’s own history there for you to read too and they have a some cool themes like ‘Tales Of The Arabian Nights’. This makes the tables quite rich compared to say the Windows Pinball game where you have a lot of the same features but with no creativity or care unlike the original creators of these tables and Pinball Arcades developers, FarSight Studios. The challenges for the tables are relative to the theme too; like there’s a lamp in ‘Tales Of The Arabian Nights’ that you can hit to increase multipliers or to keep hitting until you obtain a certain level of spin to finish the challenge, it’s not too hard to wrap you head around but hard to accomplish. Simply, you can see what you need to do just not always how you do it.

There’s also Goals to achieve while you play, Standard and then Wizard after you have cracked the Standard. These are another fun way to challenge yourself in Pinball Arcade, you get into all the tables secret areas and learn how to hit some serious high-scores and these then end up on the Online Leaderboard along with everyone else’s scores across the world. So it’s like playing in a giant amusement arcade or pub with all these tables and scores that build up! You can also grab a look at the Flyers for the tables which sit in the Extras menu section along with the History of the table. They have some information on the challenges, this really just adds more detail to the history of the table itself. You’ll be able to see why these Pinball Tables where the best back when they where released too, they’re really quite the marvel when you see these pieces come together. I felt lucky that I could still see the history of the Pinball Table movement, I was also surprised that it would have that effect on me but then I realised myself these where all the pieces offline and on coming together while I played it.

Beautiful looking tables.

There’s ten tables altogether on Xbox Live, six of those you will have to buy from the Marketplace but luckily they come in packs of two. Considering that this is a lifetime purchase, not one or two goes in the street but for life, 800msp is a fairly reasonable price to pay for something that has disappeared under other interesting ways and means of spending our time with machines. This is why I like virtual items along with the physical, you can freely move the virtual and bring life into the physical which is exactly what I see happening in Pinball Arcade. FarSight Studios have captured what we love about these machines to an incredible standard that it shows instantly, especially through the sounds of the ball hitting various aspects of the table, it just perks your ears up but isn’t over amplified either. This is what you want from a game that simulates something you’ve already come across and Pinball Arcade also gives you plenty to do in the way of challenges, goals and Leaderboards to drive your mates crazy with!

Go pick it up today if your an Arcade game fan, you’ll simply enjoy it as it’s very well made. If you like your Pinball you’ll just love it (and its noises!) and if you generally like your memorabilia I reckon if you gave Pinball Arcade some time you’d also see all of it’s history it has woven into it!

Episode Six: Crysis 3 and Halo 4 Spartan Ops!

Even more Halo news incoming! This time I take a look at the Spartan Ops CG videos which are rammed with those juicy details and extras we all crave! The CG effects on the videos are incredible and you’ll get to see Sarah Palmer amongst others making an appearance, these videos come tied in with the Spartan Ops missions you can find on the Halo 4 disk. They’re also released periodically every week by 343 Industry’s so don’t panic if you don’t have a copy of Halo 4! Crysis 3 is making a big techy return with its mammoth list of requirements to run… Will you be building or upgrading your PC to play this beauty? Maybe you already have? Let me know in the comments box below!

Episode Five: Bioshock Infinite and Skyrim DLC!

The third instalment in the Boishock series ‘Infinite’ is heading to our living rooms soon with a brand new setting and a new shiny storyline! It’s looking to be one of the best Bioshocks we could have the pleasure of playing thanks to its beautiful air-city setting and new combat options as well! There’s also the new Skyrim DLC on the horizon… With the amazing chance to ride and control dragons I get super excited by this news! There’s also 20+ hours of extra quest time along with awesome additions to your Dragon Shouts, weaponry and armor! What are you most excited about? Skyrim or Bioshock? Comment below!


Review: Android: Angry Birds Star Wars

Aaaaaaand they’re back again! Sporting the Star Wars theme this time around those Angry Birds are flocking to our itchy little fingers once again to test our patience with a brand new set of birdy powers that mimic some of the most loved aspects from the Star Wars universe.

The Angry Birds themselves are fashioned in the image of the main characters from the books and films; Chewie, Princess Lea, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and many more of the characters you’ll know. These characters also have a set of powers and have upgrades too, meaning the game goes that little bit further and is ultimately set-up to be more of a challenge, Which it is. The chapters are set across five locations one of them being a bonus chapter. Tatooine, Death Star, Hoth and Path of the Jedi are the four chapters you’ll play through trying to nail those three star ratings. There’s new elements to consider too like gravitational pulls, moving stages and objects that are placed to create timed throws. These elements all combine to keep this new spacey instalment of Angry Birds as challenging and fun as it could be but you also steadily unlock other powers and super tricky bonus levels which gives it a better life span.

It’s a very testing game once you get stuck on that level that just simply defeats you every time. Angry Birds often requires a good eye for physics and trajectory to get the best out of it and these new level designs will test those aspects even further than before. I’ve invested over five hours into it and that all whizzed by very quickly, it’s a very good game and continues to offer a worthwhile experience again thanks to the Star Wars universe additions.

While playing it, the noises that you get from the birds, pigs and random objects are very amusing and helps create a childlike atmosphere while you play especially if you have ear phones in for whatever reason. These details really sets the game off well as soon as you pick it up, making it one of my favourite additions to the Angry Birds series. You can immerse yourself rather easily into it and there’s 80 force filled levels to get stuck into and challenge your friends on. Rovio Games seems to have their birdy niche perfected once again, so why not get involved? There’s a free version and a HD version for around £1.99 so there’s no arguments just those ones between the you and the those pigs!

Score: 4.5 / 5

Requires Android  2.2 and up

Angry Birds Star Wars Google Play Link

I also recorded a short video about Angry Birds Star Wars on The Frag Mentality YouTube Channel, You can check that out here!

Review: Android: Jetpack Joyride

Looking for a another good time gobbler for tube journeys or the odd 10 minutes of quiet in the office? Jetpack Joyride fits that gap effortlessly with its fast paced rhythm and quirky science theme.

The aim of the game is to get the little fella you see on screen as far as you can by dodging electric type obstacles, highfiving scientists and riding robotic fire breathing dragons!… Yes, you did just read obstacles, scientists and fire breathing dragon in one awesome sentence. You collect coins, pick up spin tokens and jump in some wicked vehicles as you progress, these are used to unlock extra equipment, earn end of level bonus’s and get even more distance for your current run. With this perfect balance of rewards and in game objects to use/interact with Jetpack Joyride gets addictive super quick and will have you investing a good healthy number of runs until you’ve bought some extras with those coins!

As you get through the early stages of this arcade game it opens you up to its collectibles and tactics as you progress, not lose it like some other repetitive games can do on the Android platform. There are better missions and more pricey equipment you actually want further into the game and even some funny zombie costumes and amusing jetpacks to collect. There’s even a set of gadgets to spice things up a little, Gravity Belts can create faster paced game play by enabling you to sink faster after a burst from your jetpack. The vehicles are designed well and fit in with the games design which just adds more freedom to get that little bit further! Gathering distance is the key to cracking your addiction when the game grips you good, you’ll find yourself desperately trying to skid an extra few inches or blast yourself another 300m further using a spin token to beat your previous score. The spin tokens always give you a glint of hope too after you’ve destroyed that poor little guy across the floor again, at the end of your run a slot machine pops up with coin bonuses, utilities and maybe if you’re lucky… A extra life!

The game has such a great mix of features and unlockables it just simply plays great casually and would be a great addition to pick up and down regularly. On the flip side if you do like your challenges, Jetpack Joyride will push and push you just to hit crazy distances. It also just screams complete me to a 100% which many of you out there will love due to its lovely set of equipment, utilities and gadgets.

The fact that Jetpack Joyride is free is just the cherry on top for this speedy little side-scrolled… So give it a go and knock yourself out!

Score: 4.5/5

JetPack Joyride Google Play Link

Review: Xbox 360: Halo 4

So it has landed and with a massive retail entourage in the form of that trusty steed, the Warthog and even the chief himself turning up to impress the eagerly awaiting crowds… But does the game itself pull through and offer anything worth dying for? Let me run through just a couple of its amazing attributes!

Well, 343 Industries, I can safely say, has delivered a fine and solid Halo experience for fans and newcomers to enjoy, and that’s what I really like about Halo. It’s always had its proverbial arms open to the public just like most big hitter titles but Halo sets up this atmosphere of bravery, commitment and community really well in the fourth installment to the main series.

You’re looking at a healthy campaign, not too short, not too overly long or drawn out either. Cinematics which move you due to the new emotion being portrayed through the characters you may or may not know and love, that never mattered as you do really fall in love with the two; Cortana and John. There’s also the new weapons, new vehicles and new enemies as you’d expect but most of all it offers a more intense ride through the Halo universe and brings you to an amazing close you won’t forget… One I cannot give away either! (Over my dead body!). You can co-op in the campaign and up to four players (all play as chief) to take on Halo’s infamous Legendary difficulty where one misplaced tactical move can cost you your little spartan life. Co-op is always great fun really, Halo 4 is no different but the whole four player split-screen in the campaign mode can get a bit hard to focus on, one would propose linking over Xbox Live to be a much better idea.

There are secrets to look for in the campaign, I guess 343 Industry’s picked up on the whole Skull collecting phase from Halo 3 and carried it a little bit further (Try to find all the Terminals, they’ll hold some juicy knowledge!). There’s also the fact that you can add your long (Or short) running spartan career to Halo 4 using the Halo Waypoint feature which also coughs up some extra rewards for Halo fans and users. This will push you to polish off the campaign, it usually does! Then it’s onto the Multilplayer and 343’s new shiny offering in the form of Spartan Ops!

Halo Multiplayer… A place where many of us grew up, fighting each other with Plasma Swords and sticking grenades to each other… Those were the days! And they’re back and packing some interesting additions like the new Perks addition. This pops up in campaign but truly comes optimizable in the multiplayer elements of Halo. They really can liven things up on the battlefield a bit… Spray and pray is right out the window when you deploy a Hologram, tactics are shaken up and brought together because of the perks. I think this is a fifty fifty feature for previous fans, it brings the dimension further forward which creates better combat but not all will agree… Until you find YOUR favourite that is, then you’re laughing!

There are the new Multiplayer modes and some oldies to get stuck right into and you also level up your spartan using the Multiplayer element and the Spartan Ops modes. There’s a pile of armor to unlock which just looks so bad-ass when you equip it, you can colour your spartan too and create a flashy logo for yourself. The customisation is superb this time around and the different sets of armor can give you a little sense of individualism to top it all off with. Overall I really enjoyed the Multiplayer, you can get some crazy set-ups and insane fights… You can also record all of the fun and upload it thanks to the fantastic Theatre feature Halo has built in. Theatre mode lets you upload your favourite spartan fuelled moments to the internet, where you can then share them with internet goers. There’s a ton of great films and screenshots so if you’re browsing… Take a look at someone else’s moment of glory or in fact, failure (Both are just as hilarious as each other!).

Right, Spartan Ops! This is a new element that has been added to the overall Halo experience and has been referred to being a little like CoD’s Special Ops missions. These are paced differently from the other two elements, and it shows. Though this pace isn’t a bad thing, I’m just not sure how to evaluate it apart from it being right smack bang in the middle of the other two elements which brings them together rather well! You get an objective, you then complete said objective… Sounds simple right? Well I’d kick the difficulty up a bit and invite some friends… It goes from quiet small time mission to knees up spartan bash! It really flexes well like that and can fill some gaps if you’re feeling weary of the other players or the campaign itself.

Overall it really is well polished off with the faster mechanics and combat speed along with the crisp new look it’s sporting. It’s energised with new perks and filled with maps, weapons and more than one element to explore multiplayer-wise which was a massive fear of mine and probably to other fans. It offers you everything you’d want plus a couple of surprises and even gives you the option to record your experiences and cut them, giving everyone a chance to share the best moments to go on to make more.

I am a Halo fan, I do favour this installment above the third but not because of the flashy advertising that came before its launch but because it does deliver and it does deliver all of the above well. I just wish the story never had to end… Till next time I guess!