Handheld gaming console only plays pinball, comes with a retro analog twist

Gaming handhelds are quite the hot item in tech these days, with the likes of the Nintendo Switch still selling strong and handheld PCs becoming more common. Of course, gaming devices you can hold in your hands are nothing new, even discounting how smartphones or even old “dumb” phones have been offering such an experience for years now. During the age of the “Game & Watch,” each handheld offered a single game and only a single game, making each one a collectible item as well as a toy. That might sound wasteful and impractical today, but such a dedicated device can spark a bit of nostalgia, especially if it’s a classic game that everyone knows and perhaps loves. Even better if it plays almost exactly like the original pinball, complete with a physical lever.

Designer: Giacomo Carlini

Almost everyone is familiar with pinball, even if only in concept or through movies. Just like arcades, the game is like a relic of the past, which makes it even better suited for a retro makeover. FlipOnGo is a concept that capitalizes on the nostalgia potential of the game but puts in a design that mixes the old and the new in interesting and unconventional ways. Yes, it’s a digital gaming handheld, and yes, you still need to pull that lever to start playing.

The device, which is only a little larger than a deck of cards, offers a classic game of pinball with the bells and whistles of a digital version. There are no real balls involved, and no mechanical paddles to flip. It has a large display, which shows a playing field and digital versions of flippers and bumpers. It also has a smaller display that shows the score, how many balls you have left, and the remaining battery.

To play the game, however, you will have to really give your fingers and hand an exercise. There’s a real lever hanging down the bottom of the console, and you have to pull the spring-loaded mechanism to “launch” the ball into play. Buttons near the top on each side of the device act as your paddle controls, though it’s uncertain how comfortable it will be to play the game this way.

The design of FlipOnGo is definitely intriguing, though it won’t be able to shake off doubts about the feasibility of such a device, especially with a lever that could become a source of mechanical failure after some time. It does, however, bring back a little of that joy and excitement when playing a classic pinball game, complete with that iconic lever, just miniaturized for portability.