February 18 2011
They will never be quite like the old arcade pinball machines with roll digits, but online pinball simulations are getting incredibly realistic and there are no quarters required. Free pinball has become a way for companies to promote their brand and encourage people to visit their Web sites. While most of these games use Flash and they're not as responsive or precise as stand-alone pinball games, they are convenient and free.
Disney makes several good free pinball games as a way to promote their films. The Rat'N'Roll table is themed on Ratatouille with nice ball action, solid flippers, and some neat ramps to shoot for. It's also a good size for today's large screens.
Pinbrawl offers several challenging and fast tables with good high score lists. The games use Shockwave with impressive graphics and physics, as well as some cool sounds. Along with the original Pinbrawl, you can now play Footbrawl and Ice House Pinbrawl, although they're lower resolution than some of the other games on this list.
Power Pinball features a large table that scrolls with the ball and has several different sections, one of which acts like a second table. There's a lot going on in this game, with all kinds of fruits and vegetables to aim for, as well as the possibility of unleashing multiple balls. It's a neat layout, but the flippers tend to stick and they feel too soft even when they're working.
The movie wasn't all that memorable, but this pinball game on the official Starsky & Hutch site is a lot of fun. It's large enough most LCDs, ball movement can get blistering fast but the flippers are more responsive than most which makes up for it a little. While it's one of the few Flash pinball games that will let you set up you own controls, it doesn't seem to save high scores properly.
This unusual adaptation of pinball uses a small round table that generates a variety of targets as the game progresses. True to it's name, the action in RapidMotion is lightening fast, and there can be multiple balls in action at the same time. It's a high speed diversion from more traditional pinball games.
Pinball Blizzard is a unique, Christmas-themed Flash game with a table split into 3 play areas, each with their own set of flippers. They run an annual high-score competition, but the game is freely available year-round for pinball fans.
Another fine pinball game from Disney, this one takes its theme from the WALL-E movie. This table is relatively large and it has some great ramps that trigger unusual effects. The physics are well done and the flippers pack enough punch to get the ball where you need it to go.
These 2D tables on the official Hotwheels site are nicely rendered and they vary depending on which car you select at the beginning of the game. If you get tired of one table, start over with a different car and you'll have new set of targets and ramps.
High Gear Pinball
The flippers in High Gear Pinball are a bit small and they don't angle up much, making it hard to catch the ball, but it has cool sounds, neat graphics, and good ball movement, with some unusual targets to shoot for.
WildSnake Software has created a 3D simulation of soccer pinball using Java. This is a head-to-head variation of pinball which you play against a computer opponent. Although quite different from traditional pinball, it's a nice size, it has sharp graphics and nudge controls, but the ball motion seems a little off at times.