Developer: Sony Music Entertainment
Price: Free
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

IMG_0492Looking back on the history of the steel ball, the likes of KISS, The Beatles and, of course, The Who (Pinball Wizard, anyone?) have each been immortalized behind the glass of a pinball table. Really, what could be more rock and roll than loud sound effects, a noisy music track and repetitively flashing lights? With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Sony has decided to channel their massive back library of musicians into a collection of digital pinball simulations. But can Pinball Rocks HD manage to live up to the gauntlet that has already been thrown down by the likes of Farsight and Zen Studios?

It seems like it has been forever since Gameprom released AC/DC Pinball Rocks as a standalone table on iOS. Back then, there were few contenders for pinball supremacy, and thusly it stood out as one of the better simulations on the platform. This same engine seems to have carried over into Pinball Rocks HD, and hasn’t aged quite as nicely as one might expect. Something about the physics model being used seems floaty, almost as if the ball was ever so slightly filled with helium. It is nothing overly egregious, but it also effects the flow and momentum of the ball, which will undoubtedly send drive enthusiasts up a wall.

The base game, which is a free download, consists of a single table, the aptly named, Pinball Rocks. The decidedly mediocre offering consists of several missions that offer very little variation in how to play the table. Just randomly hitting ramps and bumpers will undoubtedly complete these objectives, most of which aren’t even clearly laid out to the player to begin with. Each ball is accompanied by another track from a rock artist signed to Sony’s label, which is the one positive thing that makes the experience at least slightly worth repeating more than a couple of times.

IMG_0490As far as pinball hubs go, there are a handful of decent DLC tables available for purchase at launch. It would be nice to be able to provide more feedback on the new Alice in Chains and Bullet for My Valentine offerings, but the game offers no option to preview the content they are selling. How is the consumer supposed to know if the add-ons are worth buying if they can’t have a free taste? Frankly, if one were to base the decision to plunk down money purely based on the experiences of the base table, Sony probably wouldn’t be selling many downloadable packs. Plus, to rub a little salt in the wound, Sony is hoping to resell their previously released AC/DC and Slayer tables, which have also been available as DLC in Pinball Collection HD and their own stand-alone games.

Presenting a passable pinball experience is nothing that is overly offensive to the hardcore pinball audience. However, Pinball Rocks HD crosses the line of acceptability with the addition of the ability to purchase in-game cheats using real cash. It is so obvious about the seedy motivations that it even offers to sell players extra balls after the final is drained. The casual audience may find this type of shameless behavior acceptable, but it provides a disturbing glimpse into what the future holds for pinball simulations on iOS. Here is hoping that more developers don’t chose to follow their lead.

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