Ben Kuchera

$60 turns your iPad into a (small) pinball machine

$60 turns your iPad into a (small) pinball machine

Pinball is a tactile activity. You get to pull the plunger back, hit the buttons to control the flippers, and you can feel each interaction with the ball through the entire table. You have to throw your hip into the machine to move the ball, without triggering the tilt penalty. The iPad may be a device that’s suited to recreating the visuals of pinball, but using the touch screen will never come close to recreating the feel of actually playing the game.

The Duo Pinball accessory tries to fix that, and in some ways it’s successful. The lightweight base gives you a button on either side of the system to control the flippers, and you can even pull down the plunger to launch the ball. I’ve embedded a video of the plunger in action so you can see how it works; the control is able to track how far back you’re pulling so you can control the launched ball with some accuracy. There is a little bit of lag, but it’s a neat trick, and the flippers work just fine.

This is a fun little toy for your desk or home office, and I’ve spent the past few hours going through the tables in the Pinball HD collection app. That’s the only game the accessory will work with, as the base connects to your iPad via Bluetooth and needs to be supported in the software.

I did run into a few problems, including the lag on the plunger and the fact the whole thing feels so slight. It’s sort of an odd complaint, but it’s better when this sort of thing sits solidly on whatever surface you put it on; since there are so few actual electronics inside the base it feels light and almost flimsy. It’s not an issue once you have everything set up and you’re playing at a comfortable angle, but it would have been nicer to feel like you’re buying something a little more substantial with your $60.

Which brings us to our last issue. The base works with one pinball game, it’s made up of some poured plastic, two buttons, one plunger, and a Bluetooth controller. It can’t cost much of anything to make these things, and a fun $30 toy would be much easier to justify than a $60 accessory, especially due to the off-brand buttons included in the hardware. For that price they could have at least thrown in some Sanwas.

This isn’t a bad product, but for the price I’d like higher quality or better software support. At $30 this would be a killer product, and a fun way to pass the time. If you’re interested in buying something for the pinball enthusiast who has everything… well, they’re going to complain about the lack of table selection and the lag on the plunger. If you’re buying for a more casual fan they’re going to think you paid too much.