A bag of metal balls, a rockabilly soundtrack, exploding pegs: Rockchinko is the pachinko machine from hell.
Harking back to the old American parlor game Corinthian Bagatelle, pachinko has captured the imagination, and yen, of Japan. While the game may not have invaded Western casinos, there’s a steady stream of pachinko apps arriving for the iPhone.
Rockchinko gives pachinko an injection of rock ‘n’ roll, featuring physics-defying tilting, plectrum powerups and tons of guitars across more than 40 levels.
Breaking away from the seedy glitz and smokey fog of traditional pachinko parlors, Rockchinko restyles pachinko’s dated look for the rock generation — installing a twisted metal board coated in a neon glow.
The design can be a little inconsistent at times though, one moment shiny metal, the next pixellated skulls — it’s a messy milieu that floats between edgy and geeky.
Of course, there’s a rocking soundtrack too: Each stage is based on a different sub-genre, including blues, rockabilly and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. Although none of the music seems to be directly licensed from well-known bands, à la Tap Tap Revenge, the music certainly captures the theme of the game.
Scales and Modes
There are three main game modes, two of which are initially locked and unavailable. To unlock the two game modes, you’ll have to complete Normal Mode — a feat that’ll only take a couple of hours at most for a new player.
Once Normal Mode has been beaten, Randomizer and Rock Mode are unlocked. Randomizer allows you to play through the array of stages on offer in Normal mode in a random order — it’s simple and effective, and revisiting even the early levels can still present a challenge to seasoned players.
The third game mode, Rockstar, contains a set list of brand-new stages to launch, tilt and turn through. The Rockstar stages blend together all the previous features and gameplay twists discovered in Normal Mode.
Everyone Can Play Guitar
The aim of each level is to destroy all the red pegs by bouncing your metal ball around the stage. The balls are fired from the funnel at the top of the screen, which can be adjusted by dragging side to side.
Tapping anywhere on the screen launches your shot and, once the ball is in play, the iPhone can be tilted, affecting the ball’s direction. With enough practice it’s possible to move the ball around the playing field, squeezing out each shot’s destructive potential.
There are obstacles, too, unlocked as you progress through Normal Mode. Windmills, moving platforms, and warp holes can prove formidable hindrances or useful tools, depending on your perspective. Also enhancing the puzzle aspect of the game is a range of effective powerups, from the tame Triple Ball to the impressive Flame Thrower and bombastic Mega Ball.
Destroying all but one red peg instantly throws the game into “Matrix”-esque slow-motion. The camera dramatically crash zooms on your ball and you’re given full control, even the ability to turn the iPhone upside down, sending your ball plummeting upwards and defying the laws of physics.
As your metal ball speeds across the screen, combusting any pegs it collides with, you’re thrown in to slow-mo for your coup de grâce. Oddly, this destructive slow-mo finale reminds me of Burn Out (the hyper-destructive crash and burn driving game) as it’s so exciting, needlessly dramatic, and satisfying.
Even with the levels I couldn’t beat on first try, I knew I could adjust my strategy, come back and keep advancing through the game. And that’s where Rockchinko introduces depth. You’ll need to be strategic, planning out your shots and tilts before hand, for each stage.
There’s still work that needs to be done, though. It needs more stages, online scoring, and some kind of competitive element. Plus the load times are abominable. However, the main game is executed almost perfectly. It’s incredibly satisfying, so much fun, and has consistently left me wanting more after every session.