Developer: Cowboy Rodeo Ltd
Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Pinball Fantasies is a brand that holds a very influential place in the history of digital pinball. Originally created back in 1992 for the Amiga, the game helped define what it was to be a virtual pinball simulator. Unfortunately time hasn’t been kind to the genre, as the wealth of technology now available make titles of this era not age as elegantly. Can the classic survive the jump to high definition, or is this a relic that should have been left on floppy disk?

Unlike most games that are twenty years old, Pinball Fantasies HD has been cleaned up to look awesome on the iPad’s retina display… or at least as awesome as a pinball game with cartoon-like aesthetics can look, when upscaled to the iOS platform. The problem is that while the visuals had at least been afforded the excuse of two decades of visual design, the mechanics and physics underpinnings haven’t received the same attention.

Playing on any of the title’s four tables is akin to whacking a crochet ball around a parking lot with a mallet. While it feels like the ball has weight, it doesn’t seem to make natural bounces, or properly maintain momentum like a real steel bearing would. Yes, the game engine may be old as the hills, but if it is going to play like it is using tech from twenty years ago, why bother upgrading it visually? There is already a perfectly acceptable retro version of the game available on the platform, which at least makes no bones about being a shameless port.

Making matters worse, the mediocre camera does very little to help the presentation. For example, when used in traditional vertical position, the entire table is seen on screen from the top down, with very little, if any angle. However, when the screen is turned to widescreen, instead of zooming in on the table to make it fit the full screen and scrolling to follow the motion of the ball, it is instead scrunched in the middle of the screen, with almost the full table still in view, and letterboxing the right and left sides of the screen. This unacceptable waste of half of the screen essentially negates any benefit of the high definition upgrade, because the table is barely large enough to make out any discernible details.

Players looking for the full retro experience might be better off purchasing the original Pinball Fantasies, instead of this retro regurgitation, hiding behind a slight visual upgrade. Pinball Fantasies HD seems like the decision of someone who doesn’t comprehend why people play classic games.  There are far better ways to spend $3.99 on the App Store.

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