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Pinball M review — Cabinet of horrors

From the developers of the Pinball FX series comes a haunting new addition, Pinball M. Reimagined for horror, these tables utilize Zen Studios’ pinball simulation for an immersive arcade experience. Pull the plunger, if you dare.

Pinball is a generally straightforward game: pull the plunger to launch the ball, and then use the flippers at the bottom of the table to keep the ball in play. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can begin to explore the side modes and optional targets to drive up your high score. Pinball M of course offers this classic mode of play, but also features a campaign of challenges to take on for each table as well. 

The campaigns are essentially a group of challenges that test your mettle against the terrors present in each table. These include high-score challenges, time trials, multi-ball mayhem, and other modifiers that change up the classic formula.  There’s also a helpful guide that details scoring events and modes for each table, complete with short video tutorials that show you exactly how to execute the functions available on the table. As you progress through challenges, campaigns, and normal play you’ll rack up points that you can spend on various customization options for both your tables and your player card. My favorites of these options have to be the different flippers and ball options, as they are often what you’ll spend the most time engaging with. These provide something to grind for and keep you invested, but I’d be hard pressed to say that this is something that will keep my attention long term.

If you’re playing the free version, you’ll only have access to one table, Wrath of the Elder Gods: Director’s Cut. This is an eldritch board, featuring oozing flesh, blinking eyes, thrashing tentacles and soiree-bound specters as you fight to hold onto your sanity. This is the only unlicensed table made specially for Pinball M, and while not anything too wild, it’s still an engaging table. The effects and modes are fun to play around with, and the difficulty isn’t too high either, making for a solid starting place to explore Pinball M.

On release, there are four DLC boards to expand your cabinet collection, all of which are licensed horror classics. Each table can be purchased separately, or as a pack for a slight discount. While they are generally the same as far as pinball mechanics go, they all sport unique visuals, sounds, challenges and mini-games to set them apart from one another. Below is a quick break-down of my thoughts on each, and how they compare to one another.

Duke Nukem’s Big Shot Pinball

If I had a checklist of everything I would expect to see on a Duke Nukem pinball table, all the boxes would be ticked. You’ve got baddies, you’ve got babes, and you’ve got no bubblegum. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Duke Nukem, I found this table to be my favorite of the bunch. It’s flashy, and over the top, even sporting a mini-Duke that engages with you during the side modes. There’s also first person mini-games where you’ll need to blast aliens, which while incredibly easy, is still an interesting diversion from the normal pinball gameplay. If you had to pick only one of the four, I would certainly recommend this table for most players, especially so if you’re a Duke Nukem fan.

Dead By Daylight Pinball

Offering different game modes for both Killer and Survivor, this table plays quite differently from the others. Adapting the gameplay of DBD into pinball format of course wouldn’t be 1-1, but they’ve certainly done a decent job at translating over the essentials. You shoot lit lanes to either chase survivors or repair generators, and aim for targets and objectives to complete hook sacrifices or perform altruistic actions depending on which team you’re on. There are four survivors to pick from, each with their own perks to shake up gameplay, but unfortunately there is only one killer. 

Another issue with this table is the announcer, which feels really out of place for this table. I recognize that Dead By Daylight doesn’t necessarily have a voice actor associated with the game, but the one used here just feels off. This is a small complaint all things considered, but one worth mentioning. Ultimately, this is a unique board that offers something much different from the other tables, but one that may only be appreciated by Dead By Daylight diehards.

The Thing Pinball

A creature lurks through the snow in the U.S. Outpost #31, and it could be anywhere, and anyone. The side modes of this board draw directly from the film, lighting up different sections of the board to reenact various different scenes. One mode for example is the Blood Test, where you’ll be challenged to shoot the ball through lit lanes to check which members of your crew are still human. This table was a bit more difficult than the others, with a large centerfield and challenging ramps, but still mostly enjoyable. I do wish that some areas on the table were easier to see though, with the back corners obscuring where my ball was. Whether you’re fighting off the monstrous Dog-Thing or racking up score in the Rec Room, there’s a lot of novelty fun to be had on this table if you’ve got a soft spot for the 1982 shape-shifting horror film.

Chucky’s Killer Pinball

Playtime turns sinister when Chucky is around, and this table is no exception. The Good Guy doesn’t hog the spotlight though, as the table also features plenty of references to Tiffany and their son as well. You’ll spend most of your time causing mischief and mayhem as you bounce around the board, either assisting Chucky in his reign of terror or thwarting his evil plans through the side modes. This was the most challenging of the four in my experience, with many of the modes being quite difficult to pull off correctly, long-shot ramps and the table itself being fairly dim with some awkward angles. Ball-outs also feel very easy to fall into on this table, and while this issue is present within most tables in Pinball M, it felt especially notable here. The effects are still interesting to engage with, but unless you’re quite adept at pinball this table might not be very accessible.

While Pinball M is fun in short sessions, the arcade-nature of pinball means that you might not stick around very long after finishing a table’s challenges. Rolling around blasting aliens with Duke or bouncing bumpers with Bennings is a treat, but the feeling only lasts so long once you’ve cleared the campaigns. This fatigue could be alleviated by the addition of more tables in the future, but this of course means that you would need to keep buying them as they release. This isn’t inherently an issue if this is what you’re looking for, but outside of diehard pinball fans, there may not be a long shelf life.

Editor | Website

Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.

70

Good

Pinball M

Review Guidelines

For pinball fans, this is a home run, for everyone else though, it’s a mostly-fun arcade experience even if a little short-lived. The five tables at launch are each engaging in their own ways, and provide creative uses of classic horror licenses. The flashing lights and thrilling modes however can unfortunately be dulled at times by seemingly helpless ball-outs and odd camera angles. Despite finding itself deep within a niche, there’s still fun to be had in spite of the drawbacks, whether you're a pinball enthusiast or casual arcade-goer.

Corvo Rohwer

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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