Monday, July 22, 2013


Duo Pinball

In an arcade filled with giant machines that gave you a window into colorful worlds filled with bouncing plumbers and ravenous yellow circles, pinball seemed like kind of an antiquated notion.  It's just this little ball that bounces around -- so what?  But even in a world where my quarter could just as easily buy a round of Pac-Mania, pinball tables still held a certain kind of fascination for me.  They are machines, and so they tickle the part of your brain that wants to understand complicated devices and figure out how they work.  I love the way you can feel the weight of the ball, the sound it makes as it rolls down.  I love the snap of a flipper, the chunky clang of a bumper.  I love the complicated network of ramps and chutes that send your ball whizzing this way and that.

But it was an experience that you couldn't recreate at home.  If there was an arcade game that you particularly liked, you could usually find a reasonable facsimile on your home console, particularly if that home console was an NES.  But pinball?  Yes, there were desktop pinball toys, but when you shrink the experience down, you lose the physics.  A friend of mine had a particularly good one, and I was quite jealous of him for it, but even that one was a fairly simple table, just the flippers and a few bumpers.  There were video pinball games, but that wasn't the same either.

When I set out to create my home arcade, I knew that I would need amusements.  Of course, I don't exactly want to drop the hundreds of dollars for a bulky piece of equipment that I'll probably only use a couple times a month.  Luckily, the Apple App Store is a great place to find tiny amusements.

I've tried a few pinball apps since buying my iPad, and Pinball HD is the one that stuck.  A lot of pinball video games try to sexy the experience up with dynamic cameras, particularly when the tables are so complicated that you need a zoomed-in view to understand what's happening.  I like Pinball HD for keeping all of its tables on a single screen.  That's the pinball experience that I want.  It's just like having this single, fixed pinball table, just the right size to go in my hands.  At first, I was inclined to be a little sour about the idea of paying for this app and then to be expected to buy additional tables for it, but then one day I reached an epiphany.  This is The One.  This is the pinball app I want to spend the rest of my life with.  I love the look and feel of it, so why not buy new tables as they're developed which share that look and feel?

Considering that I have an iCade to give my iPad games that authentic look and control, I actually considered building a little wooden stand to sit my iPad in and make it look like a real table, maybe work out some sort of mechanical controls.  But luckily I didn't have to.  Luckily, there's the Duo Pinball.

The Duo Pinball isn't much.  It's a stand that you can clip your iPad into.  It connects wirelessly.  There are flipper buttons on the side and a plunger stick that you can pull back and snap.  It doesn't complete the look of the machine in the same way the iCade does, but it does a good job of creating the feel.  The plunger seems a bit laggy -- from time to time, the plunger in the game will hesitate briefly during the snap-back, resulting in a different shot than the one intended -- but the flipper buttons are spot on.  As an additional bonus, it's the perfect angle to use as a stand for my Skeeball HD app, though, of course, the controls aren't compatible.

It's hard to make a very high recommendation for the product.  It only works with one app, and that app works just fine without it.  But it fills a need I had, and I'm grateful for that, and I bought it at liquidation prices besides.  It's a cool toy.

Next time, I'll be taking a look at The New Arcade -- all the games that make a good arcade experience, though most of them were never found in an arcade.


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