The Pinball Chick aspires to be the premier source of digital pinball reviews and study. That’s why every table is rated by five different players of different experience, skill, and preferences. But, we also know that many players fall in-love with specific types of tables. We do it too! That’s why we’ve created a classification system to help players track down the digital tables that best suit their tastes. After putting thousands of hours into digital pinball in 2020, we’ve determined that there are five primary types of tables.
Sharpshooters are tables based around a wide-variety of traditional targets and narrow orbits. The primary table type from the 1970s through 1991, sharpshooters challenge players to slow the action down and take careful aim at specific targets, often with incentives to connect in a sequential order. Accuracy and the ability to shoot in rapid-succession are rewarded, while misfires come with a high risk. Sharpshooters typically have strict rules that test elite players with little flexibility for individual strategy.
Examples: Firepower, Space Shuttle, Gorgar, El Dorado.
The primary game type from 1992 through the modern age of pinball, finesse tables are typically driven by modes, multiballs, combos, and jackpots. While building your score requires a linear progression of modes, players have more flexibility to create their own strategies. Finesse tables are all about transitioning from orbital combos to target shooting and reward ball-handling skills. The majority of DMD tables fall into this category.
Examples: Medieval Madness, Funhouse, Theatre of Magic, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Twilight Zone.
Kinetic tables are defined by lightning-fast gameplay and bounciness. Kinetics often employ chaos elements (bumpers and slingshots) near primary targets to keep the ball in constant flux, making them the tables that require the most playtime to master. Gaining control of the ball will pose the greatest challenge. Anticipation will be a player’s greatest asset. Kinetic tables often incentivize high-risk bank shots or flat shots that return at high-risk angles, and are excellent to teach players angles and quick judgment.
Examples: Attack From Mars, White Water, Creature from the Black Lagoon
Pick ‘n Flick
Arguably the best table type to introduce newcomers to pinball, pick ‘n flick tables are slower, more deliberate games based simple shots. Players are at their leisure to pick a singular target, steady themselves, and flick the ball. Pick ‘N Flicks often allow for repetitive shooting of high-scoring targets or combos. Novelty tables based around eye-catching gimmicks often employ a pick ‘n flick design sense. Professional players often avoid, if not outright hate, the pick ‘n flick setup. But, rookies can use them to build muscle memory, as these tables often rely on common angles and simple mode advancement. When combined with some of the more fun concepts in the medium, pick ‘n flick layouts become the ideal training ground to hone basic pinball skills.
Examples: Hurricane, Junk Yard, The Party Zone
Boardwalk-style tables are the dinosaurs of pinball. For the majority of the sport’s existence, this style of design dominated the industry. In the days when pinball was thought to be completely random, boardwalk-style tables lived down to that reputation. Relying heavily on so many bumpers that high scores will come down to just plain dumb luck, it’s no wonder that the medium was banned in places New York City. In the golden age of electro-mechanical tables, pinball was associated primarily with the mafia and illegal gambling. It’s why we almost considered calling this style Speakeasy. But, the reputation was never fully justified, and it would be a disservice to say boardwalks have no value today. The best of this breed often rely on skillful use of a plunger and nudging more than flippers. In fact, they’re excellent at training for bank shots, subtle tilting, and simple target shooting. Plus, the iconic chimes and bells of the era will inevitably bewitch you with all the charm of a simpler time.
Examples: Central Park, Spanish Eyes.
The Exception: Hybrids
Sometimes, you can’t quite pigeonhole a table into a specific category. If so, The Pinball Chick will list the primary type hyphenated with the secondary type. For example, Monster Bash is a finesse-kinetic. The Getaway: High Speed II is a sharpshooter-kinetic. Because of the nature of design, a pick ‘n flick will never be a hybrid, and a kinetic will almost never be a primary-type in a hybrid.