Pinball Heroes feels like a strange snapshot of time, and we mean that in the best possible way. Originally released for the PSP in 2009 as eight digitally downloadable tables, it launched just prior to PlayStation rediscovering its mojo. The context is key here: the PS3 was getting its butt stomped by the Xbox 360, and PS Studios was nowhere near the powerhouse it is today. Franchises like MotorStorm, and not The Last of Us or Ghost of Tsushima, were genuinely the Japanese giant’s pillars.
Revisiting this collection of top-down pinball tables over ten years later is downright strange, then. The adaptation of short-lived series like High Velocity Bowling – a kind of 50s-themed arcade bowling game, which you played using the SIXAXIS motion controller – feels weird in a fascinating way; PAIN, a game which Sony used to test the waters of the PS Store, will elicit strong nostalgia among the hundreds who actually remember it.
As such, for those of you who lived through the PS3’s growing pains, there’s a je ne sais quoi here. The pinball itself isn’t great; it plays a little like a 16-bit pinball game, with some scruffy physics and a lack of depth to the designs. But there are some good ideas: for example, in the Everybody’s Golf table you’ll need to hit drives to reach the green, before entering a mini putting range in the middle to sink your shot. Get a par – or, even better, a birdie – and you’ll be richly rewarded with points.
Other tables include the likes of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, WipEout HD Fury, and ModNation Racers (the inferior PSP version, no less) – real time capsule stuff. Fat Princess is a bit of a doozy: it sees you collecting materials, upgrading minions, and stealing royalty from your rival – just like in the game. Not all of the mechanics work: we like scoring strikes in High Velocity Bowling, but MotorStorm’s route selection rails are a bit of head-scratcher. But there’s a thoughtfulness to all of the tables that’s easy to appreciate – especially if you’re fond of this very specific era of PlayStation’s first-party games.