If there’s one thing you really need to nail down in a pinball game in 2023, it’s the physics of the ball moving around the table. If there’s a second thing you really need to nail down in a pinball game in 2023, it’s that there is no lag when it comes to those twitch reflexes required to get a highscore.
Anyways, here is Touchdown Pinball.
Game releases have evolved over recent years where it would no longer be acceptable to release a single table at full price. Touchdown Pinball is just that, where it has nothing extra to show-off, but is priced accordingly. It is a standalone release for £2.49.
As such, you shouldn’t expect all the bells and whistles of say Pinball FX or anything like that. There is no multiplayer either; the only way to compete against friends is in the online leaderboards.
Pressing start on the main menu instantly puts you at the Touchdown Pinball table. It follows standard pinball rules: three balls to get as big a score as possible. No difficulty settings or modifiers are available. Simply get on and get playing.
The table itself resembles an American Football pitch with the gridiron displayed on the base. A helmet sits about halfway up the table, representing the only real toy on the table. There are the traditional bumpers at the back left, along with three ramps. There is also a dot-matrix style screen to show your score; this remains in the top left of the screen as you are playing. A picture at the back of the screen shows another American Football pitch with lots of players dotted about and dual flippers at the bottom. This has a use too.
Hitting various ramps and targets will allow you to ‘perform’ various American Football plays. Run, pass, kick and defend are all assigned to various targets. There isn’t a story or mission structure per se, just rather you trying to run as many plays as possible.
The main middle ramp will start off with four footballers positioned on it. Every time you hit the ramp one will disappear. There isn’t a noise or a notification to inform you of this, they just disappear off the screen. Remove all of them on this ramp and then shoot it again to access the bonus mode on the picture at the back.
This bit is a little bit like Space Invaders, as you need to wipe off all the footballs from the screen using the ball as you progress towards the endzone. There are two sets of players, and it doesn’t matter who is on what team, you are trying to wipe them all out. Successfully manage to do that without the ball draining down the dual flippers and you will unlock an extra ball.
It all sounds simple in theory, but Touchdown Pinball is anything but. Before we get to the fundamental issues, the middle ramp is also the drain shot, and going straight back down almost guarantees the end of a go if you try and defend it with the left flipper.
Then once you get onto the second screen, the ball has a nasty tendency of fixing itself to one side of the screen. If the ball doesn’t get stuck, it will sometimes just bounce over the flippers altogether, also meaning your turn is over. Wiping out a full team will take multiple goes already, if the ball does this too you may as well give that go up.
And then we get to the larger issues with Touchdown Pinball in general. Firstly, the physics aren’t very good for a pinball game, but they can be worked around if you get used to them. It’s a compromise, but it’s as good as you’re going to get.
Secondly though, is the input delay. It is slight, but enough that I instantly noticed it, hating it from there on out. You could argue that you could work around that as well, but normally there would be an option in the menu to mitigate it. However, there isn’t. There is however an option to turn on vertical mode which rotates the screen by 90° anti-clockwise. I guess this has more use on PC and Nintendo Switch. However, not so on my static TV.
The sound design is also very poor. There is one piece of music that will continuously play yet it doesn’t sound anything like what you would associate with an American Football game. Likewise to the two sound effects that play out. One is an upbeat sound for when you complete a play, the other decidedly less so upbeat. The issue being that rather than being a simple chime or one note, they each last about three seconds each. Each and every time. The first time I heard the negative sound effect I genuinely wondered what it was; it is far too long and intense for what I had done wrong; missed my skillshot.
You can’t argue with the price of Touchdown Pinball, but it very much feels like a case of getting what you pay for. There is no multiplayer, there are no bells nor whistles, and even the basics of a pinball game don’t feel right. There is very little to recommend here, aside from some easy Xbox Gamerscore. Even then, the full 1000G will be a real test of exercise and patience as you go about trying to deal with a janky pinball game.
Can you go all the way in Touchdown Pinball from the Xbox Store?
- Some easy Xbox Gamerscore to be had
- Cannot get the fundamentals of pinball right
- Dodgy physics and input delay add to frustrations
- Poor sound design
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 10 February 2023
- Launch price from - £2.49