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Powershot Pinball Constructor (DS) artwork

Powershot Pinball Constructor (DS) review


"As much as the concept of creating your own tables sounds really appealing, the editor is so lacklustre and limiting that it may as well have not existed. And if I’m judging Powershot Pinball Constructor as an ordinary pinball title, its completely uninspiring and sleep-inducing gameplay makes it impossible to recommend."



The idea sounded awesome--make your own pinball tables and play them to your heart’s content. Play it. Create it. Share it. That was the tagline of Powershot Pinball Constructor. But, alas, upon dissecting it, we find that everything's horribly wrong.

“Play it.”

Any ordinary pinball game lives or dies by its tables. So the signs weren’t promising when the game couldn’t get the fundamentals right. With a total of three tables--only one of which is unlocked from the outset--you’ll realise within five minutes of playing each one that the best word to describe them is “bland”.

The tables, in a nutshell, are basic. You have your usual few bumpers and score multipliers along with a couple of holes and tunnels, but with a startling lack of innovation or interesting ideas, these are tables you would expect to see two decades ago. The adrenaline-pumping soundtrack is sorely missing, the frame rate occasionally dips (which is both surprising and inexcusable), and the pinball itself is a tad too ‘light’ that one soft flip sends it shooting to the top of the table with no effort whatsoever. Why would you want to spend hours trying to best your scores when the pinball games feel so lifeless?

Powershot Pinball Constructor also includes three different modes. Score Mode is exactly what the name implies: play until you lose all your lives. It’s your standard pinball game. Time Attack is a slightly intriguing, if derivative, twist, in which you have a set time limit to earn the highest score you can, and would be worthy of playing through multiple times if the core of the game was even half decent. The third, however, is the most redundant feature in the entire game. While you usually control your flippers--intuitively, may I add--with the DS’ shoulder buttons in the former two modes, Stylus Mode implements a new control scheme that is a pain to use. Even if the touch screen controls weren’t completely unreliable, poking the flippers is much more than a hassle for several reasons. Your hand blocks part of the bottom screen. It’s tougher to time your flips accurately. The learning curve is steep and not worth getting over. It’s impossible to have control over your two flippers at the same time. Did I mention that it feels forced and completely unnatural?

“Create it.”

But that’s okay, right? Isn’t the main appeal the Constructor part of the game?

Unfortunately, it’s a case of ‘sounds great in theory, but falters in execution’. It’s baffling that the table editor doesn’t let you edit much, given that this is the game’s selling point. You can add a maximum of three bumpers and a few tiny score multipliers. That’s it. No ramps or tunnels, no holes or saucers, no switches or magnets; that’s literally it. Only three bumpers! And even worse, you’re stuck with the same preset tables. You can’t alter their size or shape, which means you’re inevitably going to end up with almost no variety of tables to play with. I understand that it must be a little tricky trying to implement a fully-fledged editor completely bug-free, but I can’t comprehend why something as simple as walls, holes, or more bumpers couldn't be included.

“Share it.”

And why should I want to share my lame-ass tables with someone else when each table that I make is shamefully empty and dull, and when they can recreate them in a matter of seconds? Had the table editor been more robust and full of possibilities, this particular feature wouldn’t have been so pointless.

You’re presumably reading this review because you’re looking for a good pinball game on the DS, and as much as the concept of creating your own tables sounds really appealing, the editor is so lacklustre and limiting that it may as well have not existed. And if I’m judging Powershot Pinball Constructor as an ordinary pinball title, its completely uninspiring gameplay makes it impossible to recommend, especially when Metroid Prime Pinball is a far better alternative.

Even 3D Space Cadet Pinball packaged free with Microsoft Windows is superior, and that only has one (surprisingly enjoyable) table. Then again, you’re a space cadet in that, so it’s really no contest.

Rating: 2/10

Ben's avatar
Freelance review by Ben Lee (May 05, 2008)

Ben used to freelance for HonestGamers. Now he spends his spare time dying repeatedly on Spelunky.

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