Stern Pinball Arcade Stealth-Launches Onto PC With All That Implies

Stern Pinball Arcade came out on PS4 and Xbox One a few weeks back and it was great.  While much of the table selection was reruns from The Pinball Arcade, there were some great new ones in the collection and the old machines had never looked better, so it was an easy recommendation.  The PC release was some undisclosed time in the future, and as it turns out the future was a couple days ago a day after the start of the Steam Holiday Sale on December 23.  Like the console release the game is “free to play”, but the PC version actually comes with two tables unlocked instead of one, and the second was my favorite from the review, Ford Mustang.  It doesn’t seem likely that those will remain the two freebies, seeing as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not only the other free table but also available for purchase, but for the grand total of $0 that’s a hard deal to resist.  As it turns out, however, there’s a good reason to pass on Stern Pinball Arcade for now, and it’s probably tied directly in to why the PC version just popped into existence without a single announcement.

Stern Pinball Arcade on PC is not the game it’s going to be, and definitely not on par with the console release.  While the tables themselves seem fine, everything involving the user interface is wrong.  Initially the game didn’t even ****-out your password on entry, leaving it in plaintext for anyone looking over your shoulder to read, but thankfully that was one of the fixes in the first patch.  Currently, though, the game doesn’t save your controller settings between each table, doesn’t save the settings at all between one play session and the next, it’s easy to crash the game on the table select screen by somehow highlighting two options at once, portrait mode is busted for those who want to rotate their monitors, light levels that are perfect on one table are garish on another, etc.  Personally I’m most disappointed that the VR support doesn’t exist yet, but having a functioning interface is fairly important as well.

This is a bad, ugly situation, but on the plus side it’s not one that involves spending a single cent.  You can download the game and wrangle with its front end for no cash down, and the game seamlessly integrates any tables you own from the regular Pinball Arcade into this version.  Still, maybe releasing an unfinished Stern Pinball Arcade into the Early Access category would have been a better idea than calling it a full release.  Early Access is the developer saying “We know, we’re working on it” while this, for a finished game, is just not something that should happen.