Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon (Video Game Review)

Video Game Review
Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon
Nintendo DSi (DSiWare)
Developer: Fuse Games
Publisher: Nintendo

When they were really popular, there were only two opinions concerning pinball machines: you either liked the game or you hated the game. Despite there being differences to the setup of each table, the fundamentals did not change drastically between different machines. Video game consoles changed the idea of pinball (and subsequently helped kill pinball). Video games modified the nature of pinball that could not be reproduced with a physical table such as adding features like modification of the ball to do tricks or shoot weapons or offer multiple tables with branching paths and boss battles. Very rarely do we see a genuine type of arcade style pinball game on a video game system nowadays. However, Nintendo has released an arcade style pinball game through DSiWare called Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon. Those looking for a nostalgic arcade trip might be very interested in this game.

There is only one table in the game. It has an ancient Greek motif. If there is a story to the game, it’s inconsequential. Actually, it’s kind of weird to play a genuine-type pinball game with an instruction manual since they don’t provide you with one when you put a quarter in a real pinball machine. There are different types of activities that you can do on the board. Sending the ball around the table can produce gifts from the gods which give you points both when you get the gift and also as bonus points at the end of each round. You can also try your hand at six different quests which have you needing to complete different objectives (basically sending the ball into specific spots and through certain ramps) before a given time limit. There’s also a video game within the game where you have to fly a dragon around fire obstacles. There are also jackpot rounds which can be activated through various means for big point bonuses.

The game looks like a real pinball table. This is kind of surprising because usually Nintendo generally makes pinball games that are not realistic and contains one of their mascots. Everything you would see in a real pinball game is here right down to the LED screen. The sounds are pretty genuine too. From the blips to the dings to the ruffled speech from the gods talking back to you, it really brings out the 80s pinball experience. The only thing that would have been nice would have been some force feedback which has been in video game pinball games on all console, including the DS. However, due to the fact that the DSi does not have a GBA port which the DS rumble pak needs to work, there is probably no way that this could happen in any future pinball release exclusively for the DSi.

As stated at the beginning of the review, either you like pinball or you don’t. The reason for this is either you were really good at pinball or you are not. Pinball can be a tricky game for some and as people became accustomed to the modified physics of video games, trying out a real pinball table for the first time can be a source of frustration for Pinball Pulse. The physics of the game feel like a real pinball game which, at times, can be completely unforgiving. Control is really good with the left and right flippers being controlled with the L and R buttons, respectively. You can tilt the table by touching the touch screen although it’s not the easiest to do if you want to maintain good control on the trigger buttons and the screens are too small for your thumb to start obstructing the action. A neat feature though is that if you do tilt too much or too hard, the game will crash and you will lose your ball. It is kind of neat to have that risk/rewards system in there although you don’t need to fool around with trying to tilt the table to have fun with this game or get a high score.

While the game is fun and really brings out the old school pinball experience, this game is not without its faults. Some might complain that there is only one table in this package. However, with the relatively low price of this title (at the time of this writing it is only $5), more tables would feel more like an extra rather than required. The real oversight is the lack of wi-fi compatibility. There are no online leaderboards whatsoever. Basically, you’re playing against yourself or others who share the same system. It takes a bit of competitiveness out of the game.

Pinball Pulse is a solid DSiWare title. The price is right and it offers a great pinball experience. There isn’t much to the game other than one table but it’s a lot of fun. Fun, if you like pinball though. Those looking for games similar to Kirby’s Pinball Land or Pokemon Pinball, you might get confused and possibly frustrated within a couple of minutes. If you’re a pinball enthusiast, you’ll really get a kick out of this game.




  1. I wish. I’m not that good at pinball and I usually do a lot of my DS playing while travelling so my playing ability is further diminished. Although I’m happy to say I did get a couple of multi-million scores without any buy-ins and have come pretty close (the only thing I was missing was scoring a multi jackpot, according to the instruction manual). I’m hoping Nintendo plans to release more pinball tables.

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