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Monster Pinball

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Form, function and fantastic flippers

Product: Monster Pinball (a.k.a. Monster Pinball HD) | Developer: Matmi | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Pub Sports | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Monster Pinball (a.k.a. Monster Pinball HD) iPhone, thumbnail 1
The purpose of a pinball video game is to recreate the mechanics of a ball bearing, electronic bumpers and fast-firing flippers. At least, that’s what I always assumed. And I don’t think I’m alone, since almost every pinball game for computer, console and mobile has been all about building a realistic interpretation of the mechanical game.

Until Monster Pinball, that is.

It took the ultra-stylistic mind of web developer and graphic design studio Matmi to realise that a pinball video game needn’t necessarily be constrained by the laws of virtual physics. Why must all the mechanics of a pretend table work as if they were limited by gears, sensors, solenoids, electronics and the imagined physical size of the table itself?

That’s the real genius behind Monster Pinball: it’s an inspired break from tradition. From a purely superficial perspective this is a still very much a pinball simulator, with a realistically reacting ball and all the bumpers, trimmings and scoreboards you’d expect. But it sets itself free through a creative approach to design that, quite frankly, hadn’t occurred to any other pinball video game designers.

There are six tables in Monster Pinball, but the twist in the tale is that you’re playing across all of them in each and every game. Rather than choosing a table to play at the beginning of each game, Monster Pinball always kicks off on the same layout.

The other five tables are accessed by hitting the ball through holes at the top and sides of the table, at which point the screen switches to follow the ball onto the next theme.

Because of the geography of the Monster Pinball tables, a ball falling straight through the middle of the flippers on certain tables doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost - it simply rolls down onto the table below it. This also means that there’s less need to pack features into single screens, and the table designs have more scope for individuality.

And Matmi really takes advantage of this extra canvas. The table designs are stunning, with subtle scratches worn into the veneer of the paintwork, which are so real you can almost touch them.

Neither is the game restrained by mechanics, and although it never deviates from realistic pinball physics, many of the features take full advantage of the virtual platform and create what’s essentially Pinball 2.0.

Running at 60 frames per second and with some inspired spatial sound effects, Monster Pinball manages to live and breathe despite the fact that these tables could never exist in real life. That said, a real pinball machine with this kind of futuristic, off the wall style would be a thing of beauty, even if you’d be restricted to playing on a single table.

Above all else, the epic design work at the core of Monster Pinball exudes a strong sense of fun. Racking up the immensely high scores on a pinball table can often become a serious and tense affair, and while this game does push you to achieve, the cheeky personality radiating from its style gives each table its own character, and makes you thoroughly believe that the developer had a great time putting Monster Pinball together.

Monster Pinball is an outstanding success of design that doesn’t sacrifice the technicalities or physics that a pinball game demands, proving that the iPhone is a platform the creative developer can use to blend art, function and form.
Monster Pinball
Reviewer photo
Spanner Spencer | 25 June 2009
The imagination used to conceive Monster Pinball is tangible in each and every beautifully designed pixel, and still manages to pack in a great virtual pinball experience
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