I love pinball; I always have and always will. I've owned my very own machine for eight years now and even after I paid thousands for it I still play it to this day (as do most people who visit me). I love video pinball games as well (games like Alien Crush), but no matter how good a video pinball game is its never quite the same as playing using a mechanical machine your standing in front of to play.
Mile High Pinball for the N-Gage manages to find a pretty brilliant solution of sorts to the problem. Instead of replicating the arcade pinball experience, the game takes the mechanics of pinball (flippers, silver balls, bumpers, etc.), but transports them to a design that could not be done with a real-world pinball machine. You, the pinball player, must reach the top of a mile-high pinball table, stretched across more than 80 individual screens, each with different obstacles set-ups, background images, and in-board goals.
Nintendo attempted an adventure-style pinball game with Mario Pinball Land, but I thought the game ultimately failed from overly difficult board design. The horizontal nature of the GBA screen didn't help matters much, either. However, the vertically oriented N-Gage screen recreates a small pinball table nicely. With flippers usually placed on the bottom of the screen, you have ample room to bounce the ball around and satisfy board-specific goals, like hitting specific objects or rolling over on-screen enemies.
When you meet the goals for a board, you move up to the next one. If you fail, however, you're dropped back down one or two screens and must play your way back up. The idea of multiple tables strung together keeps things fresh, which also alleviates another problem with a lot of video game pinball titles. They usually only include two or three boards, and after a while, it can get old. However, there is something to be said about the irritation of finally clearing a tough board, only to drop back down to it after a dumb mistake. On a few occasions, I got somewhat disgusted with the game in this regard, but the curiosity to see higher screens kept me going.
Even though this game is more goal-oriented, Mile High doesn't completely abandon some of the scoring conventions of regular pinball. The game is soaked with multipliers that can send your score into the stratosphere. There are also a few whammy power-ups that you want to avoid. One particularly annoying one turns your ball invisible, leaving you to pound on the flippers in vain. Inevitably, I always lost a screen or two when this happened. You are also able to collect coins, which will allow you to buy goods in a shop.
The perceived ball physics have great effect on a pinball game, and in Mile High you don't really get an approximation of real-world sensitivity. Things feel a little mechanical/mathematical, instead of organic. But considering that Mile High is more about completing challenges than going for giant multipliers and rolling up ramps, the need for slightly predictable ball arcs and trajectories does seem to somewhat counter this.
Mile High Pinball does feature multiplayer where you compete with a friend to get to the highest point of the Mile High tower. The Arena is set-up to let players create their own unique tables and upload them as a challenge to other players. Both are very solid additions that add to an already entertaining game.
Mile High pinball is another solid N-Gage game that capitalizes on the strengths of the system (even though N-Gage detractors may beg to differ), but will woefully not get the exposure it deserves. Mile High's take on video pinball is smart and playable, flanked by good graphics and a decent soundtrack. This is a smart mobile game and deserves to be played by anyone who owns an N-Gage or loves pinball