Thursday, December 14

Review: Pinball FX3 [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

I’m not sure how many people really think about it but technically pinball has been around now for at least 60 years. Obviously a lot has changed over time but one thing I doubt anyone in the earlier days, or even 20 years ago, could have imagined where things are now with virtual pinball. Whether based on actual physical tables (that’s left to the folks behind Pinball Arcade) or imaginative designs that have elements and features that can only exist digitally we’re pretty well now in the golden age of digital pinball and Pinball FX3 has tried to take everything that it had already been doing well and add some extra bits of polish to it.

Starting with the core engine everything from the lighting effects to animated characters to perfectly coordinated sound make the tables come to life. The ball movement is fluid, the colors are vibrant, and the HD rumble really helps to add some immersion to the experience. As always you’re able to adjust the view while in horizontal mode to your liking, and from table to table or whether in docked or undocked mode you may find your preference changes. A great added feature of this version on Switch is that you can play it handheld in vertical mode, and this works out brilliantly, giving you a great view of the entire table and helping get a better shot at those lanes typically at the top of the table for bonus.

As with pretty well every iteration of Pinball FX3 you’ll be able to download the core engine for free along with a single table to try out: Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Though it isn’t a licensed table it is themed very well, and as a whole demonstrates great table design while showing off multiple features found in other tables. The Wizard and tree are both animated and respond to in-game activity, elements of the table move and/or rise, there are multiple special modes, and there’s even a mini table you can get to for bonus scoring. Overall it does a great job of showing the engine’s possibilities and what you can expect from other tables that are offered.

From the infrastructure standpoint the game is also well implemented, sporting global leaderboards as well as an opportunity to keep tabs with the scores any of your friends may have to help maintain some friendly competition. In order to help you have more fun and achieve higher scores you’ll also have opportunities to enhance aspects of your play per-table, boosting your bonus on skill shots or multiball, or even extending your timer on combos or ball save among others. You’ll also, over time, accumulate experience on your profile that will allow you to change the border on your picture or the theme of your personal score card to your liking, which is a nice touch.

Considering it is a free download, and comes with a feature-complete, fully-playable table that has no time or play limit, there shouldn’t be much holding you back from checking Pinball FX3 out. With a multitude of available tables to purchase that will appeal to a wide variety of tastes, both in terms of table style and theming (including many popular licenses), you’ll then be able to add to your collection as you choose. As a lifelong pinball fan who has played through the many generations of digital pinball games from the beginning it has been a fascinating evolution to watch. Zen has really hit its stride now both in terms of the quality of its engine and the diversity of the tables it offers to own the crown for the best overall digital pinball option out there on any platform.

Score: 9

  • A free download with an excellent and representative table to enjoy without time or play limits
  • A diverse available library of tables
  • Well adapted to Switch, making excellent use of HD Rumble and it is wonderful to take advantage of handheld mode to play it vertically

  • By design Pinball FX tables have always been imaginative virtual tables, not based on actual physical ones if you’re a physical table fan
  • From table to table the quality of the playfields and overall experience can vary

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