The iPad was built to play pinball on. That being said, when Discovery Bay Games asked us if we would like to check out the new Pinball Duo Controller for the device, I was ecstatic. Being able to have a plunger and solid flipper buttons would simulate the experience better than anything else I could imagine.
The Duo Pinball Controller is a Bluetooth-enabled device that houses the iPad and simulates the experience of having a dedicated plunger and flipper buttons. The casing is plastic and has two tabs that lock the device into place. It is worth noting that you cannot have any case of any kind on your iPad before it will lock. At first I was a little skeptical as the locks felt a little tight, but once I figured it out, it keeps the device nice and firm in place.
Like the Duo Gamer, the Pinball add-on connects via Bluetooth and shows up as soon as you power it on. It doesn’t have an off switch, but instead goes into sleep mode after a set amount of time. Once connected to your iPad it also unlocks a series of five tables for the Pinball HD Collection by Gameprom, which is also the only set of pinball tables this device works with. Like the Duo Gamer, software support is minimal right now, making this a hard recommendation for anyone outside of truly hardcore pinball fans.
The collection on the app store is free, and the tables you unlock are The Deep, Wild West, Snow, Da Vinci and Jungle Style. All of them are well-designed and fun to play, and you can trial the other tables for 60 seconds, or buy them outright for $1-$3 each. It isn’t to say that these particular tables are not enjoyable with the device, but support for, say, Zen’s recent collection would really make this add-on more appealing to most consumers.
The unit itself is designed well. The buttons are responsive and the plunger feels good. I did have some lag issues with the plunger, causing it to get hung up during various shots, but nothing that ever affected my actual game play. The case sits at an angle to allow you to play it on a flat surface such as a table. It is angled just right, and the rubber feet keep it from sliding around as you play, although shaking it becomes a learning experience as it sometimes sticks to the surface too well.
Pinball Duo is a solid device that has limited appeal thanks to its lack of support. Only having one set of tables is definitely a disappointment, even if the games are relatively good. Diehard pinball fans will likely enjoy it, but at $50 it is hard to swallow. I recommend waiting on a price drop or more support down the line. I would love to see the device thrive as it was a blast playing with it. For now, though, you can get by with just your iPad for these games, unless you really have lots of extra dough.
Works with: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Compatible games: Pinball HD Collection (Includes 5 free tables when synced – Wild West, The Deep, Snow, Da Vinci and Jungle)
Review copy of controller provided by publisher.