Ragdoll physics meets classic pinball gameplay in a giant pinball machine where your Avatar is the ball!
It's really good to see the avatar games picking up in quality of late, because Mike Oliphant's Avatar Pinball is a solid if threadbare attempt to bring the ragdoll silliness of falling avatars which made Avatar Drop an inexplicable hit and pairing it up with actual, worthwhile gameplay. Avatar Pinball is just what it says, a pinball game with avatars used for the balls. The table's backglass is converted here into a screen which magnifies the avatar and surroundings so that all of the wacky ragdoll poses are easily seen as the avatar smashes into the bumpers and whatnot. I suppose these avatar shenanigans could appeal to young children and the mentally challenged -- ie., the typical audience avatar games are made for -- but I'm more interested in how Avatar Pinball plays.
Avatar Pinball loads straight to the backglass title screen and then pans out to the sole pinball machine resting on a beach. The game supports five modes of play which include three avatar styles, one where the avatars are replaced with "sock puppets," and finally the more traditional ball game. The default mode has players launching their avatars into the table with the digital plunger and knocking them around via the flippers at the bottom of the screen. At any point the player can control the avatar's general position with the left analog stick and spin with the right one; this makes the game extraordinarily simple as the avatar can be pushed up along the slopes leading to the bumpers and flippers indefinitely. While the game's ball and avatar physics are fine, the default movable avatar mode makes the game way too easy. Thankfully, the other modes are more true to pinball, removing the direct hand of god avatar control and forcing the player to use the nudge shoulder buttons to shift the ball or character around the board.
With only one rather simplistic table is present here with no rounds of which to speak, scoring in Avatar Pinball relies solely on knocking down drop and bulls-eye targets, striking bumpers, and triggering rollovers. When all of the targets are struck or the ball passes over the rollovers to spell out A-V-A-T-A-R, a small bonus can be netted by launching up a ramp or landing a saucer. Multiball is available as well for knocking out the Tiki drop targets, adding one additional avatar to the field (sadly, one not drawn from one's friends list). The game has a local score for each of the five game modes, but I suspect it is made inactive during the demo as my score was not retained despite Avatar Pinball leaving behind a save file to record my data. All in all, Avatar Pinball appears to be simple fun, and while the table design would not appeal to a real pinball fan nor compete with the likes of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, it makes for a fine casual experience at a very low price.
NoStatic Software has a nice game in Avatar Pinball. The presentation is good, the graphics are solid if lacking much detail, and the pinball physics are serviceable. Bland table graphics aside, the pinball machine here is constructed well enough to accommodate the crashing and colliding avatars, and at no point did the ragdoll physics and awkward shape of the avatar bodies impede my playing or get stuck somewhere as I expected going in. Avatar Pinball makes for a nice recommendation for those interested in an avatar compatible game that manages to also be playable and half decent at the same time, a rare feat Avatar Pinball somehow manages to achieve while so many cannot.