Demon’s Tilt

Even in this day and age of million-dollar video games, it’s unlikely pinball will fade away anytime soon. Thanks to the popularity of Pinball FX3 and Farsight’s recreations of classic tables, pinball games for PC and consoles are unlikely to go the way of the dodo either.

There’s one thing that has fallen out of style, however – pinball games with a demonic twist. Devil’s Crush, Dragon’s Revenge, Crüe Ball, and Wizard Pinball were popular in the ‘90s, each with a satanic vibe. But as soon as the 32-bit era commenced they became a thing of the past, with publishers simply seeing pinball as an inexpensive way to scrape more worth from their TV/movie licenses.

Fondly remembering those days of dragons, demons, skulls and spectres, FLARB LLC has forged Demon’s Tilt, which features more than a few nods in the direction of Devil’s Crush (Devil Crash).

Set in a cathedral, this three-tiered table features missions entailing rituals, mostly performed via spelling words by aiming at targeted hot spots. The fantasy setting allows for a more nonsensical game – the realistic ball physics are present and correct, granted, but there are also teleports, mini-bosses, wandering enemies, and bullet-hell shooter waves of glowing projectiles to absorb.

It makes for a frantic, if initially confusing, experience. This is one of those rare games where every time you play, you’ll learn or see something new. This is not just due to the learning curve, but because the table is constantly altering, with each tier featuring a focal point that gradually evolves.

Occupying an entire screen, each tier has its own set of flippers. The top of the cathedral houses a colossal Manticore, the muzzle of which takes several powerful shots to remove. All the while his accompanying snake head strikes out, dishing out a jackpot bonus when damaged. The face of the high priestess Lilith is the centrepiece, surrounded by a wheel of fate. She becomes battered and bruised with every successful shot and is quick to cast your ball to another part of the table.

This leaves us with the cathedral’s gatekeeper, who’s able to summon a skeleton army. The purpled hued hermit inhabits the bottle of the table, which is also where the score multiplier bumper lies; you’re playing a dangerous game if you spend too long in this region. That said, the hermit is likely the first character you’ll defeat, giving a chance to take on the first mini-boss – a significant milestone. The next step? Probably mastering the tilt function, which has a meter to prevent abuse.

Scores in the millions aren’t too tricky to acquire. As for billions, well the achievement list suggests a seven-digit score is possible, giving something to aim for. Online leaderboards fuel competition.

Demon’s Tilt may only feature one table, but it’s easily the most impressive we’ve seen. Not just in terms of depth, being as multi-layered as it is, but also in presentation. The pixel art is superb, and the whole shebang is accompanied by a rousing synth-filled musical score.

Pause the action and you’ll find a bevvy of options, allowing for a degree of customisation. It’s worth altering the zoom to find a stance that suits – when zoomed out fully the flippers, which are small to begin with, are often dwarfed by the action. Adding to the options, there’s a choice of modes – the one ball ‘Hardcore mode’ gives a single shot of success while the ‘Ex mode’ has altered rules.

While the fact that there’s only one table may sound stingy (indeed, the £16-odd asking price is a tad difficult to swallow), the more you play, the more the developer’s vision comes to light. They’ve put immense thought and effort into this table; all their ideas in one satanic pot. Spreading them over two or three tables would have led to a more diluted experience. For something heavily caked in satanism, Demon’s Tilt is surprisingly pure.