Pinball videogames have often escaped the dreary physical bounds of the arcade amusements they are based on, adding impossible geometry to the playfields, blending in elements of other game genres, et cetera. PinOut!, released on iOS and Android last week, takes that concept one step further. Infinity steps further, actually.
Although it may look like your typical pinball game, with a heavy infusion of heated noble gases and a dance-club soundtrack, PinOut! reveals its twist the second you give the ball a good smack with the flipper—it sails up and out of the board you’re playing on, onto another board with another set of flippers. And so on, and so forth. The goal isn’t to keep the ball in play as long as you can and rack up a high score; it’s to move up, up, up as far as you can before time runs out.
At first, this just means making smart skill shots instead of just slapping the ball the second it hits the flippers. Arrows on the board show you the shots you can make if you want to keep moving. Then again, you’re also likely to run out of time if you don’t collect the Pac-Man-like bonus dots that line the playfield and ramps, usually in the hardest-to-hit spots.
Getting the ball into some tighter places might also reward you with a fun power-up. The obvious one freezes time for a few moments, and there’s one that warps you a few boards ahead. But there are other more subtle advantages that get you playing more skillfully. One power-up stops the timer for 10 flips, which encourages you to lay off the flippers as long as you possibly can. Another, called “Motion Link,” only ticks the timer down when the ball is in motion, encouraging you to hold the ball on the flippers and line up the perfect shot.
In other words, some good thinking about the design and play of pinball went into this. I wouldn’t say it fully explores all of the angles of pinball design, mostly because its relentless forward pace and aggressive timer doesn’t leave it much room to play with any one board for longer than a few seconds. But what it does is pretty smart.
You can download PinOut! for free and play the whole thing—if you’re amazing at it. The single in-app purchase lets you continue from any of the game’s 10 checkpoints. This makes it much less of an endurance marathon (that can be sabotaged by a single mistake) and more of a progressive challenge. You may find you really need to be able to continue to have any chance of progressing. Once you hit the end of the main boards, you keep playing in “Overtime” until you lose all your remaining seconds.
(Psst—want a secret tip? If you need more seconds on the clock, restart the nearest checkpoint and purposefully drop your ball down the drain. The rows of bonus dots leading up to the checkpoint will have regenerated, and you can grab them again for more time. Once you hit the checkpoint again, restart and repeat for as many seconds as you’d like. This will work until the developers read this article and patch it out.)
You may find that you race through PinOut! real fast, especially if you put up for those sweet, sweet two-buck continues. But if you’re like me, you’ll look back on your neon-soaked journey with fondness.