Having covered several pinball games this year, I have to say, I have
not been impressed with pinball titles, especially for the PC. So when
it comes to PDAs, I try to keep an open mind but will undoubtedly be
fazed by the fact that so many high profile pinball licenses in the past
have resulted in what are truly mediocre titles. Obviously a title with
a license as wacky as Austin Powers, you know a lot could go wrong if
the developers drop the ball. To my surprise, Austin Powers Pinball
comes off as a fun and well-conceived pinball game.
Probably the first thing that strikes you most about this pinball game
is the visual flare. It definitely uses its licensing power copiously.
There's no screen or design that isn't somehow influenced by the movie.
Of course, I have to confess, I myself am not a fan of the Austin Powers
franchise (and I'm prepared now to answer all the flaming e-mail that
will land in my inbox) since the humour isn't exactly my taste. Yet, I
wasn't offended and indeed, was charmed by the wacky plans of Dr. Evil
to take over the world. There is even a small plot to drive the pinball
game and in the end, you have to navigate through nine unique pinball
tables. Nine tables are a lot although detractors will argue the Palm's
limited screen means each table is probably about half the size of a
full-sized table. Indeed, the tables are adapted to the PDA format but
that's still a hefty amount of gameplay. There is a wide assortment of
design in the tables as well. Some have double sets of flippers while
others have multi-ball and various multipliers.
None of these are groundbreaking in the pinball genre and there isn't a
huge emphasis to adapt this to some sort of mini-game fest. In the
past, developers have conceded that pinball's interest is fast becoming
a niche product. They tried to incorporate overarching motifs and a
plethora of digital LED minigames to rejuvenate the pinball game. In
retrospect, many of these minigames and overall goals actually got in
the way of the actual pinball play. In fact, pinball became a secondary
matter to the whole title. Austin Powers Pinball is not a pinball game
for pinball purists. What you get is a fun pinball game presented with
some slick visual flare, uncluttered by any unnecessary complexities.
Palm OS titles are never known for their audio prowess. However, that
isn't to say that the developers here haven't tried their hearts out to
make it into something respectable. You actually get a persistent
soundtrack with this title and a variety of obligatory sound effects.
The sound effects are not faithful to what happens in a real pinball
board but at least they are plentiful enough to give some feedback. The
soundtrack can actually obscure the effects and luckily you can toggle
between effects and the music.
Austin Powers Pinball also supports hotseat play for up to four people.
The nine boards carry quite a hefty weight on the PDA. It weighs at
little over one and a half megabytes, which is pretty significant in the
Palm OS world. It supports both monochrome and colour PDAs. The
visuals are sharp in the colour version but the visual flare retains
itself in the monochrome perspective as well. To control the memory
usage, the developers have included a PC application for you to choose
how many pinball boards you want to include on the PDA. I've had some
bad experiences with these "conduit" types of software but I am happy to
report that the one here works flawlessly.
The only caveat emptor I can offer for this title is it’s pricing. It's
not a terribly expensive title, as set out by the publisher, but for some
reason it lists for quite a lot more with some online vendors.
Ultimately, Austin Powers Pinball packs much in the way of fun gameplay.
Perhaps that's what really matters in the end. Along the way, it was
also able to put in a good dose of visual style that is faithful to the
Austin Powers franchise. Even a person like me, who is normally not a
fan of the movies' subject matter, came to appreciate its charm.
[07/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer