"Aliens come to Earth, they create a giant pinball tower, the usual stuff." Dennis Roy laughs off the plot line of an N-Gage game with a knowing wink, and while that might surprise some commentators ("The thing is, our N-Gage Game has a story!" - (c) random Nokia PR), Dennis’ passion for "the giant pinball tower" game is boiling over as All About N-Gage meet up with him to catch a look at the latest build.
The title is Mile High Pinball, and if you’re looking for a sleeper hit during the Christmas 2005 season, this is it. And while the story is a bit fanciful, it gets over the principle of Mile High Pinball. "You’ve a number of pinball boards and as you ‘solve’ each one, a gate opens to the board above, so you can climb up the tower and get to the top."
"You start off with boards at ground level that have a soft, organic and green look. The music has a Mayan feel. And as you climb up, solving the puzzle on each board, or defeating an enemy, or scoring a points goal, the boards change and you get taken up through the mile, through these great themed boards." All the above is pretty much said in one breath, as Dennis waves at the N-Gage being projected onto a massive screen with one arm, and handing out N-Gage QD’s with the other so we can see just what he’s raving about.
You know what, he’s got a point. It takes about ten seconds to work out how to control the game (left flipper and right flipper) and you’re away. The physics feel spot on to me, you can trap a ball on a flipper, and hitting targets needs some practice, but it’s pretty accurate when you get your eye in. And then I stumble onto a hidden board... "There’s a fair few of these, and five of these are based on other N-Games," points out Dennis. One of the five, for example, is Pathway to Glory, where you need to take out a tank with your pinball.
"But a mobile device is different to anything else. Because it’s connected." Dennis leans in, and it’s obvious this is where the innovation lies. "Obviously the basis is the N-Gage Arena – and what you need to realise here is that the game tracks every possible stat for your pinball. How high has it been? Where is it just now? How far has it travelled? How much money has been earned? You can upload the data to the N-Gage Arena, search for your friends, or see how you’re getting on compared to others."
How big is that upload? "About 10-15K for the first upload, and it gets progressively smaller as you go along."
All of this is at www.milehighpinball.com, along with one of the greatest customisation options around. "You can design your own boards on the N-Gage," demonstrates Dennis, "and then upload them to the Mile High Pinball website [via the Arena] and anyone can download and play them. You can view the gallery on your PC and then download them onto your N-Gage. Talk about extending the playlife of a title…"
Nokia also seem to have worked out that demo versions of their MMC games are a really neat idea. Hopefully Mile High Pinball is no exception. "There’s an eight board demo that's going to be available. It’s single player only, no Bluetooth or Arena multiplayer unfortunately, but it’s gonna be a blast in any case for single players." And something has to be left to make people buy the game. I can’t help but feel that Nokia have missed a trick though. Early coverage of the game talked about the full version being able to send a "client only" version via Bluetooth to people without the game so they could have the demo… and try a multiplayer game as long as they connected to a full version of the game.
"It would have been nice," explains Dennis, " but we’ve not implemented it." Awwww… "But the eight level demo will allow itself to be distributed virally and sent via Bluetooth in exactly the same way as Snakes was."
Although the realities and timescales of the programming world mean this isn’t a huge surprise to us here at All About N-Gage, I’m personally disappointed – this is something the Gameboy Advance multiplayer games have been able to handle since the launch of that device.
To finish up, it's time for some rapid fire questions. How long does it take Dennis to climb the tower from the bottom. "I can do the first 40 boards in 90 minutes, but then I do know all the secrets!" Favourite pinball machine in the world? "I liked ‘Addams Family’ when I was at college." Favourite gaming platform? "I destroyed three Intellivisions, does that count?" (For those of you who missed the golden years, go look up Intellivision on Wikipedia).
Mile High Pinball. It’s gonna be big, just you watch. Thanks for your time Dennis.