Regulation pinball machines are big, bulky, and quite expensive, all of which make them a hard sell for personal use in a home game room. That's where Arcade1Up's new virtual pinball machines come in. Much like it did with arcade machines, Arcade1Up has designed a digital pinball table that's both size-appropriate and much cheaper than standard pinball machines. Three models are available--Star Wars, Marvel, and Attack from Mars--each of which is loaded with a bunch of different digital pinball boards in place of a traditional pinball playfields. For the purpose of this review, I tested Star Wars Pinball. While it doesn't offer a wholly authentic pinball experience, it's still a well-designed machine with lots of variety and a great addition to your home arcade.
Close to the real deal
As a digital pinball table, you're not actually using the plunger to shoot a real ball onto the game board, nor are you moving real flippers with the press of the side buttons. Arcade1Up's Star Wars Pinball is fitted with a 24-inch LCD screen that displays the game boards in 720p resolution. That said, Arcade1Up did an admirable job of making it feel like you're actually playing real pinball thanks to haptic feedback and sounds that provide a similar sensation. Solenoid modules create accurate ball feedback all across the board. Overall, the moment-to-moment pinball gameplay is very impressive.
Unlike Arcade1Up's cabinets, Star Wars Pinball doesn't replicate games from an actual machine released in arcades. The machine is loaded with 10 game boards from Zen Studios' popular Pinball FX3 game, which you can also play on traditional consoles and PC:
- A New Hope
- The Force Awakens
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Ahch-To island
- Battle of Mimban
- Darth Vader
- Star Wars: Rebels
- Han Solo
- Boba Fett
- Masters of the Force
Each of the 10 games features its own theme, sounds, and general layout, which truly does make the gameplay experience of every single board unique. In this respect, Arcade1Up's pinball machines have an advantage over conventional tables in terms of variety. I've put in a couple of hours of game time on each board, and all of them are exciting in their own way.
The 7.5-inch LCD score screen reacts like a dot matrix display, adding points and multipliers to your score in furious fashion as the ball clangs around the board. Up to four players can take turns competing on each board to see who can rack up the most points.
Though each of the 10 games works great without a hitch, there is a fairly sizable issue with each of the boards. All of this leads back to the 720p display, which muddies the on-screen text and dulls the colors. There tends to be a lot of text on each game board, so this does hurt the overall presentation. Characters and obstacles are still easily discernible, but it did take a bit for my eyes to adjust to the image quality. The screen is actually capable of running in 1080p, but apparently Arcade1Up locked the games at 720p to keep the frame rate steady. It's a trade-off that's probably worth it considering the overall performance is so smooth.
Great build quality
While the picture quality is a bummer here, the build itself is quite impressive. Everything about it feels sturdier than the average Arcade1Up cabinet. All of the buttons have a solid feel, the plunger doesn't feel cheap, and the metal edges that surround the top of the machine give it a premium look. The dual speakers produce impactful audio that sounds significantly more crisp than the regular Arcade1Up cabinets I own. The scoreboard lights up, similar to the marquees on some of Arcade1Up's other machines. Though the display is plexiglass, it seems thicker than that of Arcade1Up's game cabinets. It's also a very simple process to replace it with a real glass panel, should you wish to do so.
The build process is pretty simple as well. While I put it together myself in under an hour, it would be much easier with two people. This is in large part because the table itself comes in one (heavy) piece. You only have to build and connect the scoreboard, attach the adjustable metal legs, and then you're good to go.
At 59.5 inches tall (measured from the top of the scoreboard to the floor), it's taller than other Arcade1Up machines with risers attached. The table is 35 inches from the floor, so if you have other Arcade1Up stools, you can use them with Star Wars Pinball. It's only 36 inches long, which helps it fit against walls without sticking out excessively. While a 3/4 scale pinball table does look somewhat odd at first, I quickly got used to the constrained dimensions. The Star Wars art on the sides and scoreboard looks great and features many of the most iconic heroes and villains from the franchise.
Price and value
Arcade1Up's Star Wars Pinball machine has a list price of $600, but Walmart is currently selling it for $549. This price range is becoming more of the norm for Arcade1Up. With 10 included boards and an impressive build quality, Star Wars Pinball offers good value for a home pinball machine. There are home pinball machines that feature even more boards, though. For instance, AtGames' Legends Pinball has 22 licensed games. That said, Zen Studios' pinball games are exclusive to Arcade1Up.
The bottom line
Arcade1Up Star Wars Pinball cleverly replicates the feel of pinball on a digital table. Though it's slightly disappointing that all of the boards hail from Zen Studios' video game, each of the boards offers a distinct experience that celebrates different movies and moments in Star Wars history. While 720p resolution hurts the overall look of each game, Star Wars Pinball still makes you feel like you're playing real pinball for a fraction of the cost. The compact build size takes a little while to get used to, but the components have a premium look and feel.
- Haptic feedback admirably recreates real pinball on a digital screen
- Lots of variety thanks to 10 game boards
- Great build quality
- Compact size
- Much cheaper than real pinball tables
- 720p display makes text hard to read and muddies colors
About the author: Steven Petite tested Arcade1Up's Star Wars Pinball for about a month, racking up dozens of hours of play. Arcade1Up provided Star Wars Pinball for review.
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