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The most fun I had all weekend: Pinball Arcade

Remember Gorgar? Firepower? Twilight Zone? These and loads of other classic tables await you in this amazing app for Android and iOS.

Pinball Arcade sure plays a mean pinball, with more than two dozen classic tables.
Pinball Arcade sure plays a mean pinball, with more than two dozen classic tables.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

True story: Attracted by the sounds of Star Wars, my kids wandered over to where I was playing a game on my iPad. "What's that?" they asked. "Star Wars Pinball," I said. "What's pinball?" they replied.

I told them pinball was a game people used to play at the arcade, before video games came along. They said, "Whats an arcade?"

I said an arcade is where kids used to go after school when they got tired of listening to records. All together, now: "What's a record?"

OK, not all the story is true, but the first part is. I'd been playing Star Wars Pinball, which I'd previewed a couple weeks earlier, and finding it surprisingly enjoyable. (I'm not the only one; see CNET's review.)

So much so, in fact, that I started checking out other pinball apps -- and that's when I discovered Pinball Arcade. Available for Android and iOS (as well as Macs and all major game consoles), it lets you play beautifully recreated vintage pinball tables. And it's like going back in time.

Indeed, as I scrolled through the app's selection, I saw tables I'd forgotten even existed. Gorgar. Firepower. Big Shot. Taxi. Pinball Arcade currently has some 25 tables, and the developers continue to add more.

Although the tables aren't free (some cost as much as $4.99 apiece), you can download and demo each of them, playing to the first high score before getting kicked off. What I especially love is the bit of historical info included with each table: date of origin, number produced, development background, and unique or special traits. The whole thing lends the feel of visiting a pinball museum.

And the tables themselves look fantastic -- some of them seem almost photorealistic. I'd say these are as close as you can get to the originals without actually owning them, and while pinball purists might take issue with the physics, to me every table I tried played just like I remember. All the sights, sounds, and actions have been faithfully -- dare I say lovingly? -- recreated.

Maybe it was just the nostalgia, but I had a blast playing Pinball Arcade. I lost the better part of the weekend to it. So what if my kids couldn't see the appeal? For anyone who owns an Android tablet or iPad (pinball is just too small on a phone), it's a wonderful trip down memory lane -- and a heck of a lot of fun to boot. (That's why it made CNET's list of the 30 top iPad games.)

If you really want the best experience, play on an Archos Family Pad, which sports a comparatively mammoth 13.3-inch screen.

What are your thoughts on pinball without the table? Have you found another app you like even better, perhaps one offering a more modern twist on the game?