Freeballin’ in Review – Take it Easy

Remember when pinball arcades were king? You’d go to the local arcade and the moment you stepped inside you were transported to another world. Nothing before you but rows and rows of long shafted gaming nirvanas being pushed, pulled, and thrust into by young adolescent teens, all the while calling to you with the afterglow of their lights and the sweet purring sound of balls bouncing of flippers going for the score.

No? Me either. Sadly when I was growing up pinball machines in arcades had been reduced to just a handful stuck in the back corner, being ignored by the gaming masses for the new hotness like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Was this the dying breath for the once mighty mistresses that brought so many gamers pleasure, or would she rise up from the ashes like the great phoenix to once again quench the desires of those good times gone by?

freeballin2The good news is the game of pinball is alive and well and living on your iPhone. Thanks to the developers at IUGO Mobile Entertainment we have a pinball game that our generation can take into our hands and spend many a pleasant hours playing until the early morning hours.

Freeballin’ (a name chosen by the community) is four pinball tables in one. First you have Tiki Trouble, an islanders table that comes complete with totem masks, waterfalls, pyramid, and volcano. Next is Monsteropolis, this one may cause you to think about the graphic novel, “Watchman”, and the film, “Jurassic Park”. You are in an urban location that has not only had an octopus dropped on top of a large building, but you also have a Tyrannosaurs Rex rampaging the main street not to mention a tank boss located in an additional location on the board. Dreams & Nightmares is the third board. You start out the board in a dream state, a panda is riding a unicorn, penguins are rocking out on a guitar and a large pair of fingers look as though they are reaching up from underneath to pull you out of the clouds. Play well and you may see what nightmares are made of. The final board is Neometric, this one gives you a Tron or Geometry Wars feel in its color and design choice.

freeballin6You have three modes of play to choose from on the four tables. Score Attack gives you three orbs (what the game calls their balls) and sends you out into the gaming world to get as high a score as you possibly can. Your next option is Time Attack; the goal is to reach one million as fast as you can with an unlimited amount of balls. This one is perfect for those with a competitive streak in them. You are able to save your scores locally so you can compete with friends in the same room or online where you can compete against the best Freeballin’ players in the world. The final mode of play is Adventure Challenge. In this mode you play across your choice of three tables. You are given 5 orbs to start with on each board. You must complete a series of mission objectives in order to advance to the end of the board and collect an artifact. When you complete a mission objective, you earn, “tokens.” These tokens are then used towards power-ups that can be purchased in the store. Power-ups can give you the ability to extend the life of your orb savers, give you a longer length of time to complete missions or even give you an additional orb to start with. Once the artifact is collected on one table, you move onto the next board and the next until you have collected all three. Now your adventure is complete.

freeballin3The controls have been well implemented. They are sharp and responsive and you never feel them fighting you. The moment you put your thumb down on the left or right side of the screen, the corresponding flipper works its magic. For advanced players who plan to hunker down and spend some serious time with Freeballin’, you will notice that a lot of love and care was taken when designing the aim, hold, bounce pass and hold pass mechanics. Want to catch and hold the ball perfectly still, than release it down your flipper to hit it at the exact right spot to send it straight up the ramp and crush that line of cars? No problem, with enough hours spent playing the game you will hit that exact shot 10 out of 10 times. One glaring omission from the controls is the lack of ability to nudge your table. There is no description of it in the controls and when I shook the iPhone, nothing happened. Anyone who knows pinball knows this is a stratgey to the game.

On most of the tables the graphics are bright, colorful, and really jump of the screen. You get to watch cars buckle under the weight of your orb, watch a river flow into a waterfall, see the wind blow tree from side to side, and watch the clouds move through. On the Neometric board, 95% of the board is one color, blue. I understand this is to give it that Tron type early era simple basic look, but when you only include four game tables in your pinball product, it really does stand out as a bit bare. There are very little additions to this table outside of bumpers.

freeballin4Music was chosen wisely for each table. Tiki Trouble gives you that Hawaii type feel. You almost expect to see some little characters dressed in hula skirts performing a beautiful little dance. Monsteropolis features a bit of a rocking beat, Dreams & Nightmares is tranquil, and Neometric has a little of that futuristic techno feel to it. Sounds feel like they were lifted from actually real life pinball tables. When a ball connects with the flipper, you truly believe it. You can tap away on the flippers and they sound just like you remember them all those years ago.

The game is polished. IUGO could have rushed this into the App Store and probably made a good amount of money from those individuals who love pinball machines and wish for the good old days. It is easy enough for the casual gamer to pick up and play, spend five minutes with it, put it down and look forward to the next opportunity they will have to pick it up. Yet has enough depth to it that an enthusiast could sit down and spend hours playing it and still be discovering little nuances they hadn’t picked up in the first hours of play.

freeballin5It isn’t absolutely perfect. There are only four boards and one of them is on the simple side when it comes to its design. If a couple more tables are added in future updates, it will go a long way to making this game the cream of the crop for pinball fans. The lack of ability to nudge your table is huge, this should be the first thing that is added in a future update. One last item of note, in all of the game modes with the exception of Time Attack, you have an orb saver for some duration of play that sits directly behind your flippers. Which I found comes in handy when playing on boards that give you a limited amount of balls. But on Time Attack it isn’t there and you really see how much you miss the orb saver when you continually watch your ball bounce unfavorably and go straight down the middle. Something you might have been able to avoid with a nudge option. Of course you do have an unlimited amount of orbs, so that makes the medicine go down a little easier.

My recommendation for Freeballin’, “Grab it,” a great pinball game for old and new fans alike. Of course with future updates that include more tables and the inclusion of nudge, this baby might just move up to a sweet sweet, “kiss” from that once mighty mistress in the pinball days of yore.


App Summary
Title: Freeballin’ (v1.0) Developer: IUGO
Price: $1.99 App Size: 25.5 MB
  • Tight precise controls, with depth for experienced players.
  • Bright and colorful graphics on 3 out of the four tables.
  • Sound effects that feel as though
    they were lifted directly from an
    Original pinball machine.
  • Only includes four tables and one of those is largely bare and bland.
  • No ability to nudge your table to save a ball from dropping between your flippers.


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