Review: Pinball Heroes (PSP)November 25th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
It’s always interesting hearing what is probably a small pocket of gamers rave about pinball games, whether they’re collections of real tables in digital form or games with new tables that don’t have to worry about that pesky thing called reality when they’re designed. Pinball Heroes is an interesting idea that Sony’s come up with to make a series of pinball tables for PSN on the PSP based on their own games and allow you to buy the tables that interest you to populate the game itself. The launch includes just four tables that cover two PSN titles and two PS3 games and they may be better than you’d expect from reading the concept for the game.
Rather than just making generic pinball tables and slapping a bunch of game-related art on it, Pinball Heroes features four tables that actual take into account what the games they’re representing are all about and feature an interesting design to take advantage of that. The IP’s in the initial offering is Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Pain, High Velocity Bowling, and Hot Shots Golf, which costs $3.99 for each table and comes with a front end menu that these tables fit into when purchased so it’s just one game that can grow as large as Sony can fill it. The main controls are as simple as you’d expect and the game can switch to a vertical mode to use the face buttons for the flippers. Pinball Heroes has a nice amount of features for each table that includes local and online leaderboards and trophies that can offers a good amount of replayability. They also include some handy instructions that will help you understand how things work on the board.
The Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune table in Pinball Heroes is probably the most contemporary board of the bunch, though there is an interesting mission mechanic when you hit the ball into the Start Adventure cave. These missions range from hitting bad guy targets that pop up in the middle of the table to hitting the ball through paths to succeed and it helps add some variety since there are nearly ten missions you can take on that are picked at random. It’s a bit too easy to just hit the ball into the river and plane areas if you aren’t that good at accuracy when aiming for the Stat Adventure area. There are idols that can be collected on the board in certain spots and there are D-R-A-K-E buttons you can hit to collect treasures, too.
What may be the best table in Pinball Heroes, in terms of interesting design, is the Hot Shots Golf board, which tries to rework playing a quick nine holes to work on a pinball with a lot of success. For each hole, you try to hit these yardage targets to get closer to the green until you can finally get on and use the green’s own flipper to putt the ball into the hole to move on to the next hole, which is a lot easier to understand once you see it in action yourself. There are sand traps, pars, and shots to worry about that really captures all of the golf parts of the table. They do a really cool thing to account for wind, which can be seen in all of the arrows in the middle of the table that will turn blue when on and affects the ball’s movement when it rolls over it to add a neat twist or challenge to what can already be a challenging table. There are the requisite Hot Shots additions like an odd loyalty and ladybug meters on the top left corner of the table and power meters on the right side of the board that can help you hit the ball further in the golf portion of the table.
The High Velocity Bowling table is like the Hot Shots Golf table as the highlights of Pinball Heroes’ initial offerings. You can probably guess that there’s a form of bowling in this table and you would be right about that. To open up the lane for bowling, you just hit the sweeper three times and you’re free to hit the ball at the lit up pins, which is uses a simple system to determine how many pins you knock down depending on which pin you hit. You can enable a hook handicap by hitting the ball to the left of the lane that can help you get a strike or spare if you’re having issues. There are also some other distractions on the table that can add bonuses and multipliers to help you get an even higher score on top of your bowling.
The Pain table is easily the worst of the bunch in Pinball Heroes as it seems to rejoice its own randomness and ends up being a table that just isn’t all that fun. There’s not much interactivity here or much of anything that you’re really trying to build up other than just hitting ramps or the H-O-L-E and P-A-I-N targets to help your chances of getting a higher score. It seemed to be easy enough to just hit a certain ramp over and over again to rack up a lot of points without much skilled that’s required for the other tables. It even seemed like a table where trying to hold the ball with the flippers and slow things down would fly in your face as the ball would just go between the flippers much more easily than in the other tables. Unless you’re really into Pain and this kind of simple set-up, there’s no reason to ever consider buying this table.
Pinball Heroes doesn’t try to do too much with its tables, as everything here has a simple look that keeps the game running at a smooth framerate with a lot of good, clear artwork on each table. The developers did a good job of packing in enough fanservice that is both functional for the table and fits well on the table as artwork. There are a good amount of sound effects from each game along with the familiar pings that you will remember from any pinball tables you’ve played in real life, though custom soundtrack support would’ve been a great addition. Playing the table vertically works well if you prefer a view of the entire table, though it will probably feel very awkward on a PSP Go with the way the controls are situated. Multiballs are the only time that the camera is in any way bad since it zooms out while in horizontal mode when it really just makes it harder to see the incoming balls and still use them well.
Though there are some good, older pinball on the PSP now, Pinball Heroes provides a good opportunity to get some fresh blood into the genre and try out some tables that use their source material well in their design. Three of the four initial tables are good enough to be worth the $3.99 that they each cost depending on how much you’re willing to spend, though the Hot Shots Golf and High Velocity Bowling tables stand out as the best of the bunch while Pain is definitely the worst here. It seems like unless you nearly vomit at the thought of seeing a particular game here, there’s no real reason why you couldn’t play any of these without being a huge fan of their respective game or series. We do hope to see more IP’s get the pinball treatment, especially the PixelJunk, Patapon, and some of the other interesting games that Sony has put out on PSN, PSP, and the PS3.
Final Score: 7.9 | Recommendation: Buy It