The Pinball Arcade has been out for over a year on PS4, and the Season Two Bundle is now available. Containing tables that have been out on other platforms for a while now, Season Two features 19 recreations of real pinball tables. From Gottlieb’s Central Park (1966) to Bally’s Cactus Canyon (1998), the included content covers a large variety of themes and eras. There’s even a licensed table themed after Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
The ball physics are still second to none, and The Pinball Arcade is still your best option for coming as close to real pinball as video pinball can get, but not all is as worthy of praise. Much like I wrote in my original review, the largest issues with The Pinball Arcade come from its interface and the feature set surrounding its gameplay. That said, it’s been another year, and Farsight didn’t waste the extra time, so consider this a second look at the game.
We’ll get to the tables themselves soon enough, but first let’s take a look at what’s new.
As far as improvements go, there have been several. While there are still some serious omissions that I’d love to see included sometime down the road, I’m happy to say that the table lighting options no longer reset to their default setting each time you turn off the game, and it’s now possible to play the game using either the L1 and R1 buttons or the L2 and R2 triggers. Additionally, there was also an issue with the table nudge feature not working on some tables, but that has also been rectified.
Still, the most notable addition would have to be the game’s new challenge mode.
After selecting a challenge, you play on a series of tables and make it as far along the challenge as possible. You’re given three tries at each table, and you can only advance to the next table if you beat that table’s challenge score. Thankfully, you can pause the challenge after each table, so you don’t necessarily have to play several hours of pinball to finish the mode. It’s a nice addition, and it’s handled quite well.
It’s especially entertaining to challenge a friend and compare your pinball skills against one another. That would surely be true online as well, but perhaps the biggest fault of The Pinball Arcade‘s feature set still prevents that from happening. In a completely baffling omission, there are still no friend leaderboards to speak of, with developer Farsight apparently putting priority on comparing console users with PC and mobile users. And, while that’s a nice feature, it’s still inexcusable to not support friends leaderboards in a pinball game, or any score-focused game for that matter.
Aside from that, I also continue to want to see a simple option to turn off each table’s music. This is even more important now that the PS4 finally supports playing your own music from a flash drive. Alongside racing, puzzle, and other genres that don’t really focus on story, pinball is a great game to play while listening to music, and it’s a shame that The Pinball Arcade works against you in this respect.
I also still feel that the user interface leaves much to be desired, and apparently the developers agree with me. Around Christmas of 2013, Farsight announced that a new menu system would be coming to The Pinball Arcade sometime in 2014, and even teased some early mockup images. Unfortunately, it’s 2015 and we’re still waiting for those improvements. As such, players must still scroll through all purchased tables to find the one that they’re looking for, and it’s not even possible to sort tables by season. Thankfully, the tables are alphabetized, which does help a little.
Two other little issues worth mentioning are how table previews seem to currently be broken (you can’t try a table before you buy it, as you once could) and how the previously-mentioned challenge mode doesn’t support any tables that weren’t a part of Season One. Hopefully those two minor issues will be addressed in a future update.
But that’s enough about added and missing features for now. Let’s talk Season 2.
As always, each table in Season 2 features The Pinball Arcade‘s great system of basic goals and wizard goals, and the same excellent in-game tutorials. Their inclusion does a good job of giving you objectives to aim for, and explaining how to play each table. My Season 2 download consisted of 19 tables, although for some reason the download itself only mentions 17 of them. Class of 1812 and Victory were both included, but not listed.
The tables themselves are mostly solid, although some of them are from a point in pinball history that’s a bit too early for my taste. I mean, tables that go back to the 60s and 70s were obviously a little more basic than their 80s, 90s, and even 2000s counterparts. And while a part of me does appreciate their inclusion as a part of pinball history, I still can’t help but wish all of the tables were “good” tables. Of course, what makes a table “good” is quite subjective, but the six outlanes and no inlanes of Central Park aren’t my idea of a fun time.
Naturally, I have my favorites, and the western-themed Cactus Canyon is definitely one of them. It has a fun duelling feature that felt especially rewarding. Going further, the water park-themed White Water is another standout, with its design playfully turning ramps into water slides. And Championship Pub is centered around a boxing theme, which is pretty much the pinball equivalent of Nintendo’s Punch-Out!!! series, with the player going up against various fighters from around the world.
Continuing on, Whirlwind has a fun storm chaser theme and I was surprised to learn that the table actually predates the similarly-themed movie, Twister. Space Shuttle also does an excellent job of reminding me of my childhood space fascination, largely due to it being a space-themed table that was made during that time period. And lastly, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a great licensed table that does a solid job of incorporating its theme and voice samples.
Other than including several tables that I didn’t care for, the worst thing I can say about Season Two of The Pinball Arcade is that it’s arguably not as good as Season One. However, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that the developers included many of the most acclaimed pinball tables right from the get-go.
Because of this, I’d recommend players who are new to The Pinball Arcade start with the first season. The retail version can be found for around $19.99, which is a good deal, and if you’re even slightly interested in pinball, you should at least download the free Tales of the Arabian Nights table, which can be played without any sort of purchase and is a great introduction to the game. But if you already have the first season of The Pinball Arcade, and would like to add to your table count, Season Two is a solid investment that will offer many more hours of pinball enjoyment.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us.
Not every table found in The Pinball Arcade: Season 2 is a winner, but there's enough here to make it an easy recommendation for fans who are looking for more.