By the hairs of your pinny, pin, pin.
Do you remember Air Hockey? It’s a tabletop game you playe with one other person. You’ve got paddles, and a puck, and the aim is to get the puck into your opponent’s goal. It was all the rage when I was a kid, and it’s kinda sorta found its way onto our mobile devices, like most things that were popular in the 80’s. Except denim jackets, and mullets. There’s no need for those on our iPhones, or anywhere else for that matter. Ever.
PinWar is a face-to-face, real time two player pinball game. In Battle Mode, the screen is divided in two in portrait, and each player takes control of their flippers on each side with the aim being to launch your balls through to your opponent’s side. Painful if we’re talking about real life, pretty fun otherwise.
Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘A face-to-face two player iPhone title played in portrait mode? Impossible!’ Well no actually, it’s not. I tested this with my wife (my only friend), and came to the conclusion that an iPhone, with a screen of only 4 inches max, it’s pretty fiddly, but certainly not impossible. If we’re being honest, playing games in portrait mode with two hands is uncomfortable at the best of times. With two players? Hope you have small hands.
But there’s also a one player Mission Mode where people without wives can engage in some pinball action in a plethora of levels with sci-fi names like The Ramp, Maze and Ballrain. Each level has a set of objectives such as shooting targets, breaking through walls, and manoeuvring through mazes. The level designs are feindish, challenging and will have you hooked trying to work out the best way to beat them. You can also take them on with a buddy in two player versions where you have to work together (and you really do, there’s no other way). It’s a blast, but remember: small hands.
Medals which fill up a bar are rewarded for successful missions; get enough and you go into ‘Overdrive’, a timed level filled with lightning – the game’s currency which allows you to unlock new and funky tables– where you basically grab as much as you can till the clock runs down. A cool bit of carrot and stick.
At times playing against the AI (mainly in Battle Mode) can be quite a chore. It’s mostly reactionary; the CPU shooting balls straight past you with nothing you can do about it. Slightly unfair to say the least, your eyes are glued to the bottom of the screen to prevent it from happening, and you often don’t even know you’ve won until the game stops because you have no idea if you’ve managed to breach the computer’s defences. You get the feeling that the best strategy is to simply button bash, surely not what the developers intended.
The Mission modes are far less frustrating though, and PinWar is handily presented with luminescent, glow-in-the-dark graphics – kind of pinball meets Tron – and slick transition animations between menus, as well as a brilliantly moody electro soundtrack which could be the music for the fifth Terminator movie. You know, the one where Arnie pops down to the local arcade for two and a half hours.
The Table Editor is the icing on the cake…or the table editor in a pinball game, if you want to put it that way. Choose level layout, flipper frequency, one or two player set up, colours and ball firing rate. A great addition.
PinWar is a great game in one player, and a pretty good one with two. It’s a bit like renting a one bedroom flat with four friends – a little cramped, but great fun. Remember though – friends with small hands work best.
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