Sony Ericsson Lands in the Gutter With Emusicon Pinball on Facebook

Though Sony as a whole has long been involved in social games with applications like The Agency: Covert Ops, a new segment of the media company is getting involved: the communication’s branch of Sony Corporation, Sony Ericsson. Its new Facebook app is called Emusicon Pinball, a title reminiscent of its classic predecessor and not unlike the type of app you might find on the Ericsson mobile device.

Though pinball itself is one of the oldest modern games, it has survived the test of time, evolving into new translations along with new technology and platforms. Moreover, as a game style that was always centered around high scores in the first place, it marries well to competitive social gaming. Ericsson hasn’t fiddled much with the basic formula; its creation is not unlike a digital pinball game one might play on any mobile device, using a mere three keys to control the flippers and launcher.

The start in a level, called “Spread Good Vibes,” is rather simple, with basic bumpers that do light up and make all the nostalgic sounds, but really come off as a bit uninspired. One of the draws of the analog game was flashing lights and the constant din of sounds and music, but while there is some of that here, coupled with a view vocals, it’s not all that exciting.

Socially, the game does have a more unique element in that it imports all of your friends’ profile pictures into the game board as obstacles. If the player hits them, the image spins wildly and displays an “Emusicon” of the player’s choosing, before turning back into another random friend.

For those unfamiliar with Emusicons, they are basically stylized emoticons that represent various music genres such as samba, pop, rock, country, and so on. They are cool to look at, but they’re also a source of disappointment as the player gets to choose which style represents them. One would expect this to influence the design of the level itself or at the very least, tailor a soundtrack to the player’s tastes. Sadly, neither possibility is met.

In the end, Emusicon Pinball feels like it’s just a catalyst to promote Sony Ericsson devices. Of course, this isn’t the first time Sony has used that trick; Covert Ops, in fact, is merely a precursor to the upcoming massively multiplayer online game. That said, Covert Ops has done decently well due to its high quality with 214,000 monthly active users.

Emusicon Pinball, on the other hand, while clean and technically sound, is rather dull by modern social gaming standards, failing to do anything that is going to interest the average Facebook user. With one level, no real point to the Emusicons themselves, and a very dated social mechanic of high scores, it’s a one time experience. Moreover, with a concept as old as pinball, the design is going to have to work twice as hard to be interesting. Emusicon Pinball — or, for that matter, any pinball game on Facebook — needs to discover a flair of its own.