Authentic pinball almost to a fault. Not the best video game version of pinball, but it is consistent at providing a realistic simulacrum of pinball. This won’t be for everyone, but you won’t find a purer digital pinball experience elsewhere.
A great pinball experience. If you do not play pinball in real life then this game is not for you, but if you do then do not avoid owning this. There was a lot of negative comments about this title, but as a pinball player in real life I thought I had to give it a go, and am I pleased that I have done so. The fun is in playing it and trying to improve - learning the table. I cannot fault the ball movement or the fact that it, at times, may appear difficult - similar to the real deal.
I hope we see a Williams release similar to this. The Adams Family was the biggest selling pinball table of all time and it would be great to play it on the Switch.
I have always loved pinball. I've found it captivating since I was really little. It's how this tiny, metal ball becomes infused with kinetic energy and rips through its own physics playground packed to the brim with the unexpected. It's the invisible underbelly; how the electronics can tie one plunger into countless flow charts. It's the way a consciousness can inhabit the ball itself just like any other vehicle, giving the player a whole new perspective of the physical world. It's the experience of using that perspective to explore every nook and cranny of a contained ecosystem wrought by unimaginable time and human effort. Pinball, man. Love.
I've always had a love-hate relationship with digital pinball. Part of me has always been excited at the idea of being able to play pinball any time. And, unless you have considerable money to burn, either to buy a table or play at a bar, digital pinball is really the only way to do that. When I was a pre-teen, I loved Full Tilt! for Windows 3.1. When I was a teenager, I had Pinball Fantasies, Epic Pinball, and Sonic Spinball. These were all great games, and I really enjoyed them. For a time. Eventually, the allure of digital pinball wore off. I got bored of all of them, and newer digital pinball games weren't doing it for me either. Every time I picked up a pinball videogame, I would stop playing within 15 minutes. And, every time that happened, I would remember that I'm just tired of pinball.
Days or months later, I would find myself putting money into a pinball table at some bar or arcade, and part of me would wake up. Oh yeah, THIS is pinball. I will never be tired of pinball. It's just the videogames. They don't do it. They can't do it right.
Recently, Stern showed up on the Nintendo store for free. It's the lesser-known, more-generic looking game compared to PBFX3, but I gave it a shot (free? okay.). What I didn't realize before I started playing was that this videogame is a licensed product, specifically designed to reproduce real, physical tables. After navigating a minimal menu system and surprisingly long loading screen to get a game started, I was shocked and amazed at how realistic it looks and feels. It runs at 60fps solid. It has an interesting writeup on the history of the table. It has its original sales brochure that you can peruse. It has intensity sliders for ambient and table light. It has a 350+ slide walkthrough on all of the table's nuances and features. It is exactly what I had no idea I wanted. It is simply wonderful. I played it for an hour, totally engrossed.
A couple days later, after playing a few more hours of Stern, I was ready to drop some coin on more tables. They offer a six-table pack and a four-table pack; both of which are $20. I figured I'd go with the obvious choice: the six-table pack. It comes with Ghostbusters, Mustang, Harley-Davidson 3rd Ed., Last Action Hero, High Roller Casino, and Phantom of the Opera. I'd played all of those at some point in my life, and returning to them has been an absolute joy. I am still amazed at just how much attention has been poured into every detail of these tables.
After that experience, I became curious what critics thought of it. No scores; not enough ratings. There are two Critic ratings: A 60/100 from Nintendo Life, complaining the game is too 'simplistic;' and a 40/100 from Digitall Downloaded, complaining about a lack of features and online play, also saying it can't compete with PBFX3 for these reasons. There's one User review giving it a 9/10, which poetically describes exactly why physical pinball is so superior to digital. It's an inspired review.
I'm trying to understand how someone can criticize a faithful recreation of an entire physical pinball machine as "simplistic." I'm struggling to empathize with the opinion that the presence of online leaderboards makes [a reasonably compelling pinball game that practically gives the finger to everything physically compelling about pinball] better than [aforementioned faithful recreations of tables that were painstakingly designed and masterfully manufactured]. I'm not a purist about many things, but I cannot disagree more with the critics on this one.
Stern Pinball Arcade is an amazing piece of software. I offer my strongest recommendation to anyone who loves physical pinball machines. And, if you're even remotely curious, the Phantom of the Opera table is free. Go, get it now (and, while you're at it, I recommend a Table Lights setting of 75, with an Ambient Lights setting of 35). More discerning fans of modern gaming may feel the lack of features is off-putting, but for me I'd rather the dev team put their time into getting all of the fine details right, like the nuanced punchiness of the flippers and bumpers, and the springy feeling of the ball launcher. And they nailed it. After I've made sure to give the deserved attention to the tables I have, I'm definitely picking up the other table pack.
As someone who has every intention on buying his own pinball table at some point (or, hopefully, more than one), the appeal of having real pinball experiences is such that I’ll buy all of the tables in Stern Pinball Arcade, but it’s lacking the features and robustness to allow it to properly compete with Pinball FX 3, and the lack of leaderboard features just kills its long term appeal.
In my opinion, I think Stern is a far superior game to Pinball FX for one simple reason: the table designs are far superior. Real pinball tables are made by master craftsmen who spend countless hours designing each table. There can be no mistakes in it's creation. You can't just rewrite software to fix errors and problems, everything has to be meticulous and perfect in it's design. Because each stern table is a digital representation of real world tables, that element of master craftsmanship carries over; and it shows. The feel of the table, the weight of the ball, the skill required to play, and the table objects are all so so so much better than pinball FX.
Pinball FX is a solid game to be sure, but all you have to do is compare the table rules of a Pinball FX table to any Stern table to see the difference in design efforts. Stern tables have many goals and objectives which makes mastering these tables a real challenge. This also makes each stern table feel more valuable than FX tables as there is a lot more to explore and learn with each table.
However, what I consider to be Stern's greatest asset, may be a detriment to others. Stern will be more for the true pinball enthusiasts whereas casual players will gravitate more toward pinabll fx. Stern pinball's interface is clunky and there are no bells or whistles. All there is a blissful pure pinball experience that will be more difficult and more rewarding than anything Pinball FX has to offer. However, For those that don't want to climb the difficult hill that is a real pinball table, then FX is the better way to go. For me, there is no comparison. I love real pinball and therefore Stern is the way to go. Anything else feels like a lesser experience.
While I appreciate the attempt to recreate actual tables, I feel the gameplay in this game is lacking. Only two view options that are nearly identical, neither of which make it easy to follow the action. I played the free table for almost an hour and it felt so clunky it made me want to play the table in real life so I could get the real experience. I didn't choose to buy any additional tables.
So badly done. Pinball FX3 smashes this. Stern copied the tables completely, including bloody awful sound.
Staying true to the table does not translate well to video game. I just couldn't recommend playing this. The Pinball FX3 DLC all goes on sale if you keep an eye on it. It is a way better option, I bough all FX3 tables and got loads of play, spent over £100 getting 60-70 tables and well worth it. Stern I get bored after one play, don't waste your money.