We've always considered pinball to be more an endurance event than entertainment. Whilst we're suckers for the bright lights and shiny chrome, being stuck at one table repeating the same actions for hours in order to keep the ball in play and beat a high score seems as much a test of patience as it is of skill. Even in the wonderful world of video games, despite adding numerous bells, whistles and physically impossible stunts, you're still tied to 4 or 5 tables.
Mile High Pinball is quite literally a whole different ball game. Although the obstacles and controls (one button for each flipper) are familiar, the challenge is decidedly different as you test your mettle and flip your balls across no less than 80 interlinked tables. It achieves this by effectively stacking pinball tables one upon another so that when you fire the ball through the top of one screen you arrive at the bottom of the next to ensure that the challenge is constantly refreshed.
Naturally it's not quite as simple as just firing the ball right up the centre of the table. Most table-tops are initially blocked, requiring you to complete a specific challenge before you can proceed. These are, to begin with, relatively simple tasks such as hitting specific bumpers to illuminate a series of lights or destroying an on-screen enemy, but they become progressively more challenging as you progress. As do the enemy characters who inhabit the tables, hurling objects at your ball and generally getting in the way.
They key to success, as with any iteration of pinball, is to understand the basic logic and angles of the table to work out the best route through the various pins, spinners and other obstacles. If you can't quite figure it out there is considerable additional support on hand in the form of a vast range of collectable power-ups, from simple point and power multipliers to more outlandish options which transform your ball into a rocket or balloon to subvert the generally-solid ball physics. These power-ups can be picked up en route or bought and sold in the shop and activated as and when required using a simple scrolling menu.
There is a flip(per) side to the vertical stacking of course, namely that you can also slip through the jaws of one table and down onto the previous one. Indeed, it's apparently possible to fall all the way from the top table to the bottom, but you'd have to be literally deaf, dumb and blind to let this happen in reality. The game does it's best to help you from falling back, placing a stopper between your flippers when you first arrive on a table and mercifully not demanding that you beat each board's challenges again.
With so many tables to fill, you naturally need a good variety of styles and table structures to keep you interested and this has been achieved pretty well here. The table designs progress organically from natural wildernesses (think oak flippers, flower buttons) through different ages of human development (e.g. medieval castles, gothic labs) towards a futuristic techno world. There are also plenty of hidden tables and a few game homages en route (look out for the Pathway to Glory table early on.) If you're still not happy with the 80 on offer though, you can always create your own with a relatively rudimentary editor or download boards created by other players from the N-Gage Arena. Whilst you're in the Arena you might also want to check out your progress up the tower and overall ranking or download a few customisable extras (like your ball). Alternatively you can chose to take on a friend over Bluetooth.
Mile High Pinball doesn't escape all the problems of pinball; the action can still become repetitive, there are annoying bottlenecks and the visuals are decidedly functional rather than awe-inspiring. However, it most certainly does deliver on its lofty premise of adding genuine variation to the genre and delivering a genuinely fun game in the process.