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Mini-Review: Pinball Heroes: Complete

Pinball Heroes: CompleteSony's PlayStation Vita has become the home of a large library of indie darlings and fighting brawlers, but it's also starting to build up quite the collection of pinball titles.  Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball Arcade are a natural fit for the platform, and now Sony itself is getting into the action with a repackaged collection of its Pinball Heroes tables.  Originally released for the PlayStation Portable in 2009 as a series of standalone downloadable tables, Pinball Heroes showcases a series of tables based on familiar PlayStation brands from that time period including Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Fat Princess, Pain, High Velocity Bowling, Hot Shots Golf, Wipeout HD, Motorstorm, and ModNation Racers.  Eight tables were released for the PSP as downloadable offerings, but now they're back and bundled together for the Vita as Pinball Heroes: Complete.  This is no mere port though; the Vita version includes new social features such as leaderboards, tournaments, and Facebook/Twitter integration; optional touch controls; PSN trophies; and a friendly $5.99 price tag.  While Pinball Heroes doesn't run as deep as Zen Pinball or Pinball Arcade, it's an enjoyable title loaded with personality in places as well as plenty of objectives and missions that'll keep you pursuing high scores if your expectations are grounded.

What stands out right away in Pinball Heroes: Complete is how the ball handles compared to other Vita pinball games.  I've logged a lot of hours with Zen and Arcade, so I'm used to the natural feeling and detailed physics of both of those titles.  Heroes goes in the other direction, offering up an experience that feels like older video pinball games before we had fancy physics simulations.  The Heroes pinball feels floaty by comparison and moves at a slower velocity than its more detailed cousins.  Moreover, the tables are simpler in design than the competition.  They still retain a certain charm though; the High Velocity Bowling table features missions based around bowling, but also bonuses about buying burgers and french fries at the snack bar.  The Fat Princess table allows players to level up their troops as in the original PS3 game on which the table is based.  Other tables aren't so lucky; for instance, the Uncharted table seems to get by on name recognition alone with nothing evocative of Nathan Drake's adventures included in the table's design beyond a crashed airplane (and it's mostly set dressing). 

I'm not a supreme pinball pro, but I like to think that I do pretty well for myself on the Zen and Arcade tables with scores in the tens of millions on most leaderboards.  That's really not possible in Heroes, as point inflation hasn't caught up with these tables yet.  These are tables in which a few hundred thousand points is a solid score. I'm fine with that, but those looking to roll the counter over may have a difficult time.  It's almost as if the Heroes tables come from a simpler era of pinball when designs weren't over the top and looking to turn heads in a dying marketplace.  The High Velocity Bowling table especially conjures up images of tables from the 1970s with its wood grain stylings.  These tables aren't in Zen's league, but I don't believe that they're trying to complete in that space.  Pinball Heroes: Complete is from a different era of pinball video games before Zen and Arcade raised the bar on what a digital pinball game could be, but it's still a fun way to spend some time and hone your skills.  At $6 for eight tables, it's easy to recommend to casual pinball fans, but core players may not find their needs met.  See you on the leaderboards!

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