Video Pinball
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  • Atari
  • Atari
  • Action - General, Other
  • 1981
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8  |  Video Pinball Review (Atari 2600)
larsoncc , 8/11/2003 5:11:20 AM
Video Pinball Game Play

The game screen for Video Pinball.  Witness the graphical POWER of the 2600.

There is no justice in the world.  Atari's Video Pinball is rarely recognized as one of the 2600's top games, and yet it packs innovation by the boatload into a tiny package.  Amazingly enough, I'd never played Video Pinball until last night.  My intention was to make sure that I played at least five or ten Atari 2600 games; I really wanted to get into the 2600 groove again.  I was going to start with one of my favorite games for the system, Berserk, when I saw Video Pinball out of the corner of my eye.  Slowly, I picked up Video Pinball and put down Berserk.  Since I moved, I hadn't had a chance to play this gift - a friend of mine (Joe the Peacock) gave me an Atari 2600 - with a game selection that must've cost an absolute fortune when he was a child.  So here I was, with a 2600 cart I'd never played - horray!   

ad for PinballOf course, now you can pick up games like Video Pinball for next to nothing.  As I was about to find out, Video Pinball was and IS an absolute classic.  If, by the end of this review, I haven't convinced you to run out and get this small wonder by Atari, I haven't done my job.  Just as a point of reference, I never did pick up Berserk.  In fact, I played Video Pinball most of the night.

Graphically, Video Pinball looks about like you'd expect.  You'll spend most of your time on a playfield that looks just like the picture.  Given the graphical capabilities (or lack thereof) of the Atari 2600, this game is downright pretty.  Video Pinball does have some flash and some motion, but I appreciate a rather sedated look, if it means that there are no blinking graphics, disappearing balls, or lame pass-through walls (or other such nonsense).  It's hard to recommend a game like Video Pinball on graphics alone, because it's really the controls that make this game.

When I popped the Pinball cart into my now well used (thanks Joe!) 2600, I was really concerned about how this puppy would play.  Frankly, I was expecting that when you pressed the button, both flippers would move, and that'd be about it.  I had written off the game before ever playing it.  It's a mistake that I don't make often, and Video Pinball is a great reminder that it's a bad mistake to make.  Rather than relying on the single button for the controls, Atari used the Joystick Controller to maximum effect in Video Pinball.  Moving the stick right causes the right flipper to move, and moving the stick left causes the left flipper to move.  If you hold up, you'll bring both flippers to attention, useful for when you think you'll lose that ball.  Since the Atari joysticks were (naturally) analog, there is some of "play" in the flipper controls.  In other words, you can have a little finesse when playing Pinball.  Stalls, slow ball moves, waiting for the right angle - it's all there.  I am simply amazed at how realistic this version of pinball is.

Yes, I just said that an Atari 2600 game is realistic.  Don't shoot.

When you've got virtually no graphics, and the sounds that you have don't amount to squat, you'd better have a good game.  You'd better have a unique concept, and you'd better bring some damn fine controls to the table.  In the early 80's, Video Pinball had good game play and unique concept pegged. 

On the other hand, Video Pinball isn't perfect.  You'll be doing a lot of screen watching as the ball bounces around the screen.  You'll get frustrated at the ball traps that you're powerless to defend against (like the ones to the left and right of the flippers).  It can be a bit difficult to get that ball to shoot exactly where you want it.  And yes, the game doesn't change all that much.  Still, this is Video Pinball - it does a very good job of bringing the real life frustrations with pinball to the small screen.

Gone are the days of the $35 Atari cart.  And that is a good thing.  Since Video Pinball is a relatively common cart, you can pick it up for a song, and I recommend you do just that.  This game makes for a great way to waste a Sunday afternoon.  It's not perfect, but - give it a try anyway.  I give Video Pinball an 8/10.  Pick this one up, folks.

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