Along with the Duo Gamer controller we reviewed yesterday, Discovery Bay Games seems intent to usher in a new era of iOS gaming accessories. The Duo Pinball is an iPad-sized, Bluetooth-enabled controller that provides two flipper buttons and a spring-loaded launcher for a realistic pinball feel. But unlike iOS first-person shooters, we can’t recall anyone ever asking for a better way to control iOS pinball games.
The Duo Pinball controller works with games from just one company, Gameprom, the makers of the best pinball games on the App Store. We’ve reviewed many of their individual tables and collections, and every one of them is a lot of fun. We never felt that these games needed a physical controller, so it’s hard to justify paying $60 for a Duo Pinball unless you’re absolutely addicted to Gameprom’s games.
Duo Pinball, like the Duo Gamer, is easy to connect to your iOS device via Bluetooth. But unlike the Duo Gamer, we had some occasional connection problems, and a few times, the connection would give out in the middle of a game. Removing the batteries seemed to fix the problem when our device stopped recognizing the controller.
When you sync the device, you’ll automatically unlock five tables in Pinball HD Collection, a free download that brings all of Gameprom’s tables together in one app. The five included pinball tables are Wild West, The Deep, Snow, DaVinci, and Jungle Style, and each has a complex ruleset that will take a lot of studying to decipher. If you don’t want to try to uncover every mission or lit-up route, you can just keep your paddles flapping and have an equally good time. Additional movie and music-themed tables are available for an extra $1 to $3 each through in-app purchases.
The controller feels very comfortable, even more so than the Duo Gamer, and it has clips on the side that will lock your iPad into place. Though the buttons responded quickly and consistently, we had issues with the spring-loaded plunger, which would occasionally glitch out onscreen.
It’s hard to recommend the Duo Pinball controller to anyone but the most die-hard Gameprom and pinball enthusiasts. There was nothing wrong with playing these Gameprom games on just your iPad, and we’re not convinced that the Duo Pinball provides $60 worth of comfort or realism. The connection issues are certainly not something you’ll want to have to deal with for an immersive pinball experience.
We expect that Gameprom will continue to make amazing virtual pinball tables that will support this device, but the iPad can do so much more than just play Gameprom pinball games. Like Alton Brown says with kitchen accessories, steer clear of “unitaskers”. If you’re a diehard pinball wizard, wait until the price drops on the Duo Pinball, because we’re unconvinced this unitasker accessory is $60 worth of fun.
Score: 2 out of 4
Pros: Great feel; easy to connect; compatible with Gameprom tables, the best pinball games on the App Store
Cons: Gameprom exclusive; connection issues; high price; not exactly versatile
Bottom Line: The Duo Pinball is a novel concept with a sturdy execution, but since it only works with Gameprom pinball tables, you’d have to be a Gameprom groupie to pay the full $60.