The company's latest game, PinOut, builds off the well-worn basis for its 2014 classic, Smash Hit, an endless runner of sorts that drew catharsis from satisfyingly slinging virtual balls into breakable surfaces of many forms. PinOut combines that endless runner approach and adds another satisfying element: pinball.
Progressing through stages as checkpoints, the pinball mechanics are fluid and responsive, and the game mixes a neon color palette with an 80s synth soundtrack that recalls Tron and, more recently, Stranger Things. While the game is free to play, a small in-app purchase allows you to resume playing from any checkpoint.
The game balances a regular game of pinball with an endless runner trope by using time as its main draw: you begin the level with a set amount of "life", and must maintain it by choosing a path through the course that yields the higher number of extended time bonus. Power-ups and mini games, all of which are drawn in a cute 80s throwback hand, can also extend the time on board.
Like all great games, PinOut starts easy and quickly becomes challenging. By the third checkpoint, the courses are varied and unpredictable, with puzzle elements that incorporate as much strategy as dextrous reflexes. It's easy to feel like you've begun to build momentum only to have the ball quickly drop a few stages, forcing you to spend three-quarters of your remaining life finding your way back to your starting point with nary a power-up in sight. PinOut is a very difficult game, but it is never frustrating.
The game is attractive but not garish, and unlike many games can be adapted to suit even least powerful Android phones out there. The three levels, Functional, Balanced and Extreme, are fairly self-explanatory, but while I noticed a few more jaggies on the former two, all three maintained a healthy frame rate on my Snapdragon 821-powered Google Pixel. The sound, too, is fantastic, from the thumping beat of the soundtrack to the pinging of each pinball bounce.
At a reasonable $2.99, the single in-app purchase is exactly the type of business model I think is best suited for Android. The game itself may be a bit short, and Mediocre isn't exactly known for keeping its games updated with new content, but even as it stands you're getting a lot of game for not a lot of money, and one that can easily be picked up and played for a minute or an hour at a time.
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Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.