Being a geek on Father’s Day has its rewards. Every year, I can look forward to several items from my favorite site, ThinkGeek.com, and this year was no exception. Along with a nice Warcraft Deathwing shirt to proclaim my addiction loud and clear, and a secret prank device that’s sure to make me the scourge of the office this week, I was excited to open up the iPhone Pinball Magic from New Potato Technologies, an iPhone accessory that turns my device into a miniature pinball table, complete with start button, ball plunger, side flippers, and flashing lights on the top.
The accessory itself is simple enough, the iPhone slides in the back, and it’s crafted in a way that will accomidate both the flat glass iPhone 4 and the earlier model curved-back iPhones and iPod touch. There is a dock connector in the bottom that is used to communicate the controller signals, and the LED lights on the top section get their power from the iPhone through that connector so there are no batteries to have to worry about. There are two speaker ports on the top as well so the sound coming from the phone gets projected well from inside the case. It’s lightweight and the legs fold down, making for easy transport in my laptop bag.
The app is a free download off the App Store, and I was little worried initially about the overall low ratings for the app. After reading some of the reviews, though, it seems that people downrated it since you needed to have the accessory to actually play the game, not exactly a fair reason to give a free app a one star rating if you ask me. One quick and easy download later, I put my iPhone 4 into the table and fired up the app. While it was a load of fun, there were a few drawbacks that I hope they can address in future software updates.
The table, understandably, is pretty small since it has to fit on the iPhone screen. Unfortunately, this aging geek was having a little trouble making out the labels on some of the targets so I wasn’t exactly sure which targets I needed to hit at which times to get the bonuses. There really aren’t any instructions on the particular table, so it’s hard to understand the goals you need to achieve to get to multiball play and such. There appear to be additional tables, but on my app they are currently locked and I’m not really sure how to go about getting them. The “help” screen doesn’t give any direction, just points you towards the user forums for the various New Potato products where there is a simple FAQ about the Pinball Magic product.
The table has enough ramps and objects to hit, but unfortunately could be laid out a little better on the screen as currently it doesn’t show your score while you’re playing a ball – kind of a major thing as any good pinball wizard worth his . . . well, balls . . . needs to know where he/she stands. The physics could be a little more realistic as well, I witnessed some pretty unrealistic ball movement from time to time and had a really tough time judging the angles for some shots. Adding vibration to the game would be a welcome addition as well, giving a little feedback to hitting some targets or achieving various goals through the game.
However, even with those concerns, playing the game on the miniature table was a blast, even if it was a gimmicky one. I absolutely loved being able to use the buttons on the sides for flipper control. Granted, there wasn’t a lot of finesse with those buttons but it was still pretty cool. Add the “Tilt” functionality (turned off by default, but easy enough to turn on in the game settings) and you’ll be bumping the table like a pro. The LED lights were a nice touch, including the “siren”-looking light at the top which goes off when you hit the special targets. All in all, it’s a pretty fun diversion for a work break, and makes me proud to be a Geek Dad this Father’s Day.
Via ThinkGeek, my 3 little Geek-lets, and my wonderful and geek-culture accepting wife 🙂