Version Reviewed: 1.0
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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Digital pinball has always been a tricky thing for me. Pinball, by nature, is a game of feel, providing you with an experience that no other game can provide. Sure, you can shoot aliens all day in Duke Nukem or eat goonies in Pac Man, but there is no other arcade experience that puts you, and only you (and maybe a magnet) in control. Taking the feel of the table away from such a touchy feely game is always tricky, but it has been done quite well in the past.
My favorite two digital pinball games of all time are Space Cadet Pinball on the PC (the free one that comes with the computer) and Kirby's Pinball on Game Boy. Kirby was exciting because it had multiple tables, bosses, and units, but really didn't provide a real pinball experience. The Deep Pinball is trying to be much more realistic, like Space Cadet so gloriously was. Space Cadet Pinball gave you a big table, a few paddles, and amazing control over the table. It was possible (and highly probable) to spend many many hours trying to beat your friends high score that he got in a possessed session of glory. It was the first digital pinball game that made me feel like a real pinball wizard.
In a similar mold, The Deep Pinball is a traditional pinball game with little frills. You get one table, two flippers, a few things to hit, and a bunch of missions to complete. Being as such, the quality of the game boils down to just a few things: how good the physics are, how good the graphics are, how fun the game is, and if the game really makes you want to come back for more and more (and possibly more).
One thing that usually gets me about digital pinball games is the physics of the ball. At the very least, the ball should roll like a ball... on Earth. I've seen so many games with floaty balls that I feel like the pinball development world is based on the moon. Fortunately, The Deep Pinball delivers the goods when it comes to physics. They aren't entirely perfect, but they are darn close. The ball rolls around in a realistic trajectory, even spinning like a ball normally would when it goes down the in game funnel. Score one for The Deep in the physics department.
The graphics of The Deep are really quite nice. The game revolves around you, as the captain(?) of a submarine, trying to find things in the ocean. Being an underwater ocean adventure, the graphics are quite... what's the word... watery. Everything on the board is quite blue with some yellow lettering and bumpers. There aren't any amazing effects going on in the game or anything, just normal pinball action. In my playtime, there was no slowdown in the game at all.
All is not well though in our seemingly underwater paradise. As good as the graphics are, and they are admittedly quite nice, the camera is insanely annoying. You'd think that with all of the cool physics and graphics, the game would be Space Cadet, but better... and portable, but it's not meant to be. The realism, and the strategy for that matter, all goes away as soon as the camera starts following and zooming in on the ball. This becomes really annoying at times because you are never quite sure where the ball is going to land on the table, or where on the paddle the ball is about to land. The roaming camera really promotes reactionary gameplay, eliminating the basic desire to precisely aim at different points on the table.
And here we begin the spiral downward. I could go into the different aspects of the games story, but all that really matters is that the game is fun. Once you get past the camera following the ball (you do become sort of used to it), you can settle into the game to enjoy its intricacies. The problem with The Deep, or at least the problem that I have with it, is that there isn't much to do. There are different missions to achieve, but all of them seem about the same. There are a few side missions, like finding treasure, hunting the big, bad shark, and searching through the sunken ship, but these things get old pretty fast. After discovering the same treasure five times a turn, you start to wonder if we can all just retire.
To me, there are some basic things that The Deep is missing. For one, it is missing a top paddle. On a digital game like this, there really isn't an excuse to not have at least one top paddle. The game is also missing any sort of special stage, such as a multiball panic inducing shootout or a blackout stage where you can't see anything. Nothing pops up in the table at any time and there are really no surprises. There is also, and to me this is a glaring flaw, no way to control the multiplier lights at the top. I love flipping the three lights at the top of the board to try to get multipliers... something that I used to really love about Space Cadet.
Because of the lack of fun and excitement, I really don't see any good reason to keep on playing The Deep. The game is pretty enough, and has a great physics engine, but there is just not enough creativity. The joy of having a pinball game on a digital device is that you don't have to deal with tangible issues. If you want something to pop up on the table, just have it pop up! Also, because of the insane camera issues, there is no sense of calm, creating a hectic, un-fun experience.
The Deep Pinball isn't a bad performer, especially at its price point, but it is a bit uninspired. Nothing about it will excite you, even during ball #2 of your first go. Nothing exciting is going to happen on the screen and you will absolutely wonder where all the cool stuff is. I do like the physics engine and the graphics, but it is just missing the core things that make pinball cool. I want to see lights! I want to see things popping up everywhere! I need to play some Space Cadet Pinball!