Apple Arcade: The Pinball Wizard is yet more proof that pinball makes everything better
It's the indirectness of control that makes pinball so uniquely rage-inducing, isn't it? I love pinball, but it also makes me angrier to play than almost anything. And that's because while the ball is my avatar, so to speak, my only means of controlling it are the flippers. I've tried thinking of the flippers as my avatar, but I quickly get that woozy spectral aura that means a migraine is approaching. So I fire and then hope for the best. There goes my little guy, carrying all my hopes, and there's almost nothing I can do to help them.
This makes pinball a brilliant means of putting a twist on other genres. We've had pinball Metroidvanias and pinball RPGs. Now The Pinball Wizard is a pinball roguelite, if you'll allow the term. It's a dungeon crawler. Up you go through a tower, one floor at a time. Each floor sees your ball-like hero fired into the playing area by two wooden flippers that guard the well. Once they're in there, it's pinball but with a dungeon-crawling twist. Bounce off baddies to hurt them. Pick up coins and keep an eye on your health. Grab the key to open the door to the next floor and then make it through before the counter reaches zero.
After that, do it again but with variations, the greatest of which is that you can level up between failures and earn new skills. These skills mean you can finally have a little more control over the ball once it's left the flippers, but by the time you've got a bunch of skills to pick between, chances are you'll have developed a feel for the Pinball Wizard's flippers anyway and are able to conduct yourself with great accuracy and style.
I say that. When you fall through the well, as I often do, you don't just lose a bit of health, you also have to witness the indignity of your hero climbing back upstairs again. The Pinball Wizard is full of stuff like this: it has been conjured with wit and charm.