There’s no doubt that this version of the digital pinball series performs more smoothly than its predecessor, but it paid a clear visual price
This is one of those more unusual situations where you have a new version of a title that’s being forced to compete with itself, and I’d wager many people who are fans of the Pinball FX series will stick with what they had before. For those that don’t know, Pinball FX (the last version being Pinball FX3… this new one represents a new code approach, so they went back to the core name) has become the dominant digital pinball option on the market. Between their own original tables, tables tied to licensed properties including Star Wars, Marvel, Universal, video games like Doom, and then the license to convert classic physical tables from Bally/Williams they’ve got pretty well anything you could want in their wheelhouse. The previous version absolutely would show signs of slowdown at times, so its performance was never really flawless (the degree of issues varied per table), so let’s be clear that this isn’t the case of perfection being ruined somehow. However, loading up this new version, it’s absolutely clear that in order to achieve the much more consistently smooth performance on the Switch that visually some serious compromises have been made. Many screen elements are now quite visibly pixelated or lacking in the degree of detail fans of the previous version have come to expect, so in some critical areas this feels like a step backwards rather than forwards. Since tables purchased for Pinball FX3 would also need to be purchased once more in the new version that really adds insult to injury for people who made an investment in that iteration of the series. That makes giving this new engine a recommendation tricky. For newcomers it’s possible the smoother performance and some new visual effects in presentation may be satisfactory, but for people who didn’t mind the occasional performance issues in the previous version you may want to stick with that version. To be clear, for people who are disappointed, at some point the developers who worked to make a better engine can’t be faulted for the fact that it’s having troubles running on such now clearly limited and dated hardware. The fact that it runs and was ported at all is a small miracle, and I have no doubt when the Switch has a successor people will be better able to appreciate the improvements that were made when the hardware isn’t such a clear stumbling block.
Justin Nation, Score: