Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/18/01 | Updated: 11/29/02
The journey to rolling the score
I grew up on the Atari 2600 and Video Pinball has always been one of my favorites. I started playing video games real early (I was about 3 or 4, if that old), so I don't remember what the first video game I ever played was, but Video Pinball is definitely one of them. Even after I started buying a few Atari 2600 games on my own, I still played Video Pinball just as much as almost all of my new games. Let's just say that I have a lot of memories and nostalgia for this game.
In Video Pinball, you won't see any of the fancy stuff you normally see in other pinball games such as holes that generate bonuses, extra flippers, ramps and slides to travel through, or anything like that.
Nope, the fanciest thing you will see in Video Pinball is a diamond-shaped icon that appears in the bottom/middle part of the screen from time to time. If you hit this icon, it makes the screen flash, which might remind you of lightning. For a video game made in 1981, it was real cool to see any effects like that.
First of all, like most pinball games, there is a line (the knob with springs) at the right that you can pull back and then use to shoot the pinball and get the show on the road. From there, you can pretty much see all the fun targets that are in the game, because they're all on the same screen. There is no scrolling involved, or extra screens to explore; all the action takes place on the same screen. Each game, you'll be the proud owner of three pinballs, to begin with.
On each side of the screen, there is a powerful spinning fan. The rotating fans, or spinners, can slow the seemingly weightless pinball down by catching it, make it change direction, or propel it across the screen. At the top-middle part of the screen are three diamonds that you can make disappear. Knock down all three of those diamond targets and the number inside each of the bumpers will increase by one, which increases the bumpers' point totals by 100 points each time they're hit. Also at the top of the screen are two different chutes that have an open space down the middle of them. One of the chutes contains a number that will count up each time you hit it (the numbers will count down as a bonus when you lose your current ball), and the other has an Atari symbol inside it (hit this one enough and you could get some extra balls). At the top-middle of the screen between the two chutes that I just mentioned is a bumper with a number inside it.
At the bottom of the screen, there are a few more targets that are begging to be bruised. Right below the two chutes that have the numbers or Atari symbols inside them, are two more square-shaped bumpers that have a number inside them. These numbers mean something. Each time you hit any of the three bumpers, you will get that number of thousand points. For instance, bump into a bumper while a 2 is enclosed in it, and you will get 2,000 points. Finally, as I mentioned before, there is a diamond that pops up at the bottom-middle of the screen between the two bumpers for about four seconds. It is worth a certain number of points each time the pinball glides through it, and it will make the screen flash, much like lightning does to the cloudy skies in real life.
Of course, at the bottom of the screen you have two flippers, which will be what you hit the ball with. On the left side of the screen, there is a towering, slender hole that spells death. If you fall down that hole or the tiny gap between the two flippers, you will lose a ball faster than you can say bounce. Finally, there is a flight of stairs on each side of the screen at the bottom. Depending on where the ball bounces off of these stairs at, the stairs make the ball go in a certain direction. I don’t know what stairs are doing in a pinball game, but for some reason or another, they always reminded me of a basement, and I like them a lot.
Well, that's a complete description of Video Pinball's layout in words, but there's a certain feature that really sticks out. I thought for awhile that is was a secret, but I later learned that the instruction manual speaks tons about the ''nudging factor'' in the game. At any time during a game, you can press and/or hold the button on your joystick and nudge the pinball slightly in any direction, mainly left and right. It's literally having some manual control over the pinball. This can be very helpful for racking up extra lives and bonus points in the chutes, for knocking down the targets at the top of the screen, and even for avoiding the loss of a ball.
But it's not all cake and icing. If you get too trigger happy and nudge the ball too much at once, the game will actually tilt! This will make it where you can't score any more points with your current turn and you'll pretty much have to commit suicide pinball style to get to the next turn in which you can actually score points.
I don't see any major flaws in Video Pinball. I grew up with this classic and I can tell you that even though its gameplay and content are simplistic, it is still a fun and extremely addicting game to play. I'll go so far as to saying that it's easily one of the most addicting games for the Atari 2600, if not the most addicting. Any pinball or Atari 2600 fan should pick it up right away if they don't own it already!
If a normal game of Video Pinball is too easy for your taste, you can always use the difficulty switch to bring up two more holes, or traps. You can enjoy playing Video Pinball by yourself in a one-player game, or with a friend or counterpart in a two-player game. There are not any computer players.
There’s just something fun about using a metal ball to hit as many bumpers and targets as you can in order to see how high of a score you can obtain, especially when it comes to this engaging title. With all the ways to score points and get closer to my goal of rolling the score, Video Pinball never ceases to be a game that has me playing it like an obsessive maniac every single time I play it. What more can you ask for from a game?
GRAPHICS - The graphics in Video Pinball are pretty basic, but I always liked them. My favorite color is blue and that's what color most of the game is, so it gets some extra points for that. The flippers, bumpers, and the ball look simple and don't have much detail, but they get the job done. I always thought the spinning fans were impressive. And of course, I've always liked the way the screen lights up like lightning if you do the right thing.
SOUND - Video Pinball’s sounds aren't bad either. Thought they might not sound like sounds you'd expect to hear in a pinball title, the sounds are full of life and they are great for this game. From the sound it makes when the ball hits one of the bumpers to the classic ''BOING'' sound of bouncing off a flight of stairs, the sounds in Video Pinball are classic and are great for a game made in the early 80’s. The only downside in this category is that there's not any music in the whole game.
CONTROL - Like in all Atari 2600 games, the controls are real basic since you don't have to memorize any complex moves or controls. In this one, all you have to do is move the joystick left to flap up the left flipper, right for the right one, or up to make both of them move up. Press the button and move the controller at the same time to nudge the ball. The controls are responsive and not hasty or slow at all, so you shouldn’t have any problems with them.
REPLAY VALUE - Since there are no extra levels or anything innovative in Video Pinball, it may not appeal to certain people, but to those who grew up playing the game or for those that can overlook its age and just concentrate on the fun it offers, Video Pinball will probably be a favorite. Every time I play the game, I want to challenge myself to see how high of a score I can get, and ultimately to see if i can roll the score. This is one of the most addicting games I've ever played for any console!!
OVERALL - Video Pinball is a surefire classic in my book. Even though it's real simple in most ways, it is just as fun as any other pinball video game I've ever played, and I've played a good number of them. It's one of my favorite Atari 2600 games, and even though I'm not big on listing favorite games of all time, I'll go ahead and state that Video Pinball is one of those too. Play it and you'll see why.
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