Version Reviewed: 1.1
Graphics / Sound [rating:5/5]
Game Controls [rating:3.5/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:4/5]
User Interface [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4/5]
The folks at IUGO hit success with the Toy Bot Diaries series on the iPhone, and now they're venturing into the classic territory of pinball. With four tables (each with a hidden stage or two) and lush graphics, their newest title—Freeballin'—is a new and noteworthy contender in the choked arena of pinball clones. The game is held back by a lack of bumping ability and relatively simple tables; still, on the whole, Freeballin' is a great pinball incarnation.
The controls for Freeballin' are simple and intuitive, enough so that the help screens are entirely redundant. Tapping on the left side triggers the left flipper; tapping the right side triggers the right flipper. If you've ever played pinball before, you'll be able to jump right in. There are a few different modes (score attack, time attack, and adventure). Adventure mode is by far the most interesting, as you try to accomplish different tasks in your quest for "artifacts" scattered around the table.
The tables are populated by a colorful cast of obstacles. Monsteropolis, for example, takes place in an urban landscape with a giant squid perched on a skyscraper, while Tiki Trouble is set in a grassy expanse with tiki masks and a hidden volcano. The other two tables (Dreams & Nightmares and Neometric) also have their own unique styles. No matter the theme, you'll find bumpers, extra flipper sets, missions, and other mainstays. Each table has some hidden areas, too. (The volcano area in Tiki Trouble, for example.)
Still, I was a bit disappointed with the complexity of the tables. Initially, each table feels far too simple. Any pinball machine in a real-life arcade is a riot of tracks and hidden bumpers and other goodies, crowded together in a tight mesh of flashing lights. While such complexity usually isn't present in virtual representations, I've still come to expect something a bit more involved than what we have here. The basic fields in Freeballin' have a lot more empty space, and the missions get repetitive. Even the hidden areas aren't breathtaking in their scope.
In some ways, the relatively simple layouts might work to Freeballin's advantage. I never noticed a lag in performance, and the tables' graphics are all very detailed, perhaps thanks to the simpler approach to the layout. And, man, the graphics are incredible. They're top-notch; each and every 3-D figurine is rendered with colorful, smooth lines. Each prop reacts to the ball, and just watching the game unfold is fun in and of itself.
There's a lot of attention to detail here, too. The game supports multiple save states (each mode has its own save slot), adventure mode is a fun twist, the leaderboards work great, and the devs are working on improvements. I mentioned in the beginning that Freeballin' doesn't support bumping or tilting the table, but according the iTunes page, that functionality is coming in the next update, along with memory fixes. (It's worth noting that the game has yet to crash on me.) A new table is even in the works, a "Toy Bot Diaries fantasy table," featuring bosses from the Toy Bot Diaries. Weaving the two games together sounds like a pretty neat idea, in my opinion!
All in all, I thought that Freeballin' was a great game, even if the tables are simple; others have complained about weird physics issues, but I was fine. While I wish that IUGO would have focused more on the table designs and less on the (gorgeous) graphics, it's still a good buy if you like pinball, or even if you're just searching for a casual game. There's a lite version available if you'd like a taste of the gameplay, too. Despite the game's handful of flaws, I still recommend it.
Be sure to check out the developer's video!