Stern Pinball Arcade
Top Critic Average
Stern Pinball Arcade is a great-looking, authentic-sounding, highly realistic simulation that features an impressive roster of ten fun-to-play tables. If you're a pinball fan, you should definitely download the free one-table demo to see just how great an experience it delivers.
The limited content in Stern Pinball is nonetheless well-crafted and certainly accurate when compared to real pinball. The issue is it's a rather simplistic game. The simulation aspects and overall realism does not make up for the severe lack of modern features within this title. Its primary competitor excels at offering a connected online experience with cross-platform play, global leaderboards and tournaments. Not to mention a large collection of prominent licenses. Stern Pinball has none of this and a limited selection of purchasable tables. It's by no means at the forefront of the digital pinball game market and in its current state is probably a good indication as to why pinball lost traction over the years. This is reminiscent of a title that would have been released at some point during the early '90s due to its limited content - so even as a video game, it's considerably behind the times. The classic design might appeal to certain generations of players, but unless you're seeking a dose of nostalgia, you're probably better off looking elsewhere to get your pinball fix. It's also worth noting the game is available in a boxed version in the UK, the US version is free-to-play on the eShop (with extra purchases, naturally).
Digital pinball can’t replace real pinball, but it does an excellent job of approximating it.
As someone who has every intention on buying his own pinball table at some point (or, hopefully, more than one), the appeal of having real pinball experiences is such that I'll buy all of the tables in Stern Pinball Arcade, but it's lacking the features and robustness to allow it to properly compete with Pinball FX 3, and the lack of leaderboard features just kills its long term appeal.
In the virtual pinball wars on Switch where it concerns the engine as a whole I’d say Pinball Arcade, at this time, comes up a but short. Thankfully, for true pinball fans everything is more likely to come down to individual tables they enjoy and in that respect the Stern Pinball Arcade collection is well-chosen and represents a number of distinct styles from over the decades. If you’re looking to satisfy your itch to play on tables from over the years it represents them well, though you may want to explore buying them individually or in their bundled packs rather than retail depending on what you’re most interested in.
All in all, Stern Pinball Arcade is a decent pinball package. While its presentation and visuals are quite lacklustre compared to Pinball FX3, the recreations themselves are decent enough to have fun with. There’s plenty of hours to kill depending on your approach to the format, and future plans to update some of the more important issues could eventually strengthen the overall experience. It’s definitely worth a download, even if it is just to take advantage of the free table. Whether you decide to dive into it further, is entirely up to you.