Sunday 26 July 2015

Flipper Pinball / Spinball (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1983

Known as Flipper Pinball in Europe this game was also released as Spinball in North America.

As you start the game there's a very cool scaling effect as the table zooms in to view. There's one table on offer and it gives you access to two different sets of flippers, two at the bottom and two just above the midway point. Button 2 activates the left flipper, Button 3 the right flipper and the analog stick tilts the table once the ball is in play. To shoot you first need to pull back on the analog stick and then press Button 4 to launch the ball. The bottom-left of the screen displays your current point total as well as the Score Multiplier. It can be increased by either lighting up all four bumpers or by hitting the Ball Splitter icon which gives you double the number of balls on screen. Extra points can be gained if you hit one of the Drop Targets around the table or if the ball travels through the Centre Chute at the top. If a diamond is there once this happens you'll get 500 points and a bumper will be lit up; if it's not visible you'll get 1,500 points but no bumpers will light up. It's a very simple game of pinball but the action is extremely fast paced and plays well. The collision detection is decent too and the ball physics are pretty good for a 1983 game. My main issue is that the gap between your bottom set of flippers is huge and it's easy to lose all of your five balls. This leads to frustration as you can't really build up any rhythm or momentum. On top of causing lots of flicker the double ball bonus is usually over very quickly as they always have a tendency to head for the side gaps! The overlay works great though to distinguish the different table objects and there's some excellent arcade sound effects on offer.

Flipper Pinball is an enjoyable game for 10-15 minutes and it does a good job of showing how many things the Vectrex can display at one time. The only place I can fault it is the bottom flipper size but unfortunately it's a huge flaw that greatly hinders the gameplay experience.

Random trivia: This is one of only three Vectrex games to feature a pause button during gameplay. The other titles were Polar Rescue (1983) and Star Ship (1982).

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