Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection

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Developer: Farsight Studios

Publisher: Crave Entertainment

Release Date: Sept. 22, 2009

System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Wii, PS3, PSP

ESRB Rating: E10+

Official Web site

0:00 After my piece on the Pinball World Championships, I've joined a local league to rekindle my love for the game. A lot of people there have been talking excitedly about this one, so I was happy to get a review copy.

0:01 A cheesy, early-'90s-era 3-D model of a pinball parlor. The camera zooms through the big glass doors and pans languorously around the sparsely attended grounds. Some lovingly detailed close-up shots of the tables are paired with incredibly awful electric-guitar twanging. Hey, there's Dark Knight! I just played Dark Knight 2000 in the league! And there's Pinbot! I had the NES version of that one. Beautiful HD art.

0:02 After the intro movie, we're back to the outside of the parlor, complete with flashing neon sign. Ambient horns from the street fade away as I enter.

0:03 Four of the music tracks in the options menu are set to "off" by default. Kind of odd ... is that music so bad they don't really want it in the game?

0:05 Navigating the arcade with the analog stick. Each time I got to a machine, an overwrought announcer announces the name in a booming voice: "Medieval Madness! Gorgar!" etc. I pass by some faux classic arcade cabinets like "Comet" and "Egg Invader." and fake pinball machines like "Inferno" and "Space Colony" (at least, I think they're fake). For what amounts to a simple menu, there's a lot of attention to detail -- fake wood paneling, purple carpet, a neo restrooms sign ... I'm mildly impressed.

Pinball Hall of Fame

0:07 I start with old fave Pinbot. The "table goals" involve scoring 100,000 points on the plunger skill shot, advancing the bonus multiplier to its maximum, etc. An "Instructions" options leads me through the game's major scoring options and goals with a nice, simple spoken voice. There's also an HD version of the promotional flier ... they really put some care into this! Nice to see. For now, I'm skipping all that stuff and I'm just gonna hit stuff.

0:11 And my first ball is done. The game is a lot like the NES game I remember, only now it's all in lovingly rendered 3-D, with a gently swooping dynamic camera. The sounds and lights all seem relatively true to life, but the physics seem just slightly off. The ball moves a little too smoothly and too fast; the flippers are a little too loose. It's not awful, just not "real," y'know?

0:12 I open Pinbot's massive visor on ball 2, and lock a ball in one of his eye sockets, but my replacement launch goes straight down the outlane after bouncing on the slingshots. Wow, I sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?

0:14 Ball 3 goes down the outlane after a bad ramp shot. 583,980 is my final score. I can do better than that.

0:15 The second game starts with a ball going straight down the left outlane before I even get a chance to hit it with a flipper. Again.

0:16 Oh my god, that's the third time I've lost a ball to an outlane without even flipping a flipper. Screw. This. Table.

0:17 Finally, a ball that I can play. I get a few saves by gently nudging the table with the left analog stick, a movement that seems a little too forgiving to me. Oh well. Time for a new table.

0:18 I head upstairs in the pinball parlor to play a Black Knight table in the corner. I have 25 credits. I can use one to play a single game, or buy "free play" for 100 credits. So if I run out of credits, is it game over? Does the disc become unusable? Do I have to put quarters in the disc drive?

0:19 The game says something as I put in my credit, but it's so garbled and tinny I can't understand it. "I am starving to free"?

0:20 I'm having real trouble dealing with this fast, split table. My first ball drops quickly past the first set of flippers to the bottom section. I hit a ramp to get it back up to the top, but it falls down again and drains almost immediately.

0:21 I focus this time and learn how to manage the weird angles on the top flippers. I even manage to activate a multiball after locking three separate balls in a U-turn, but I have trouble keeping track of them all between two levels and they drain in quick succession. Hey, I'm still learning.

0:22 On my third ball I lock one for multiball, hit a few drop targets, then the ball drops down the top and straight through the drain at the bottom. Sigh. "Will you challenge me to a game?" says the knight as I lose (I think). "I can beat you by three." (Maybe?)

0:25 Now that's more like it. On my second game, I immediately get multiball and keep it for a while. My 351,590 points on ball 1 beats my total score from last game. *flex*

0:29 Ball 2 straight down after a bad drop target bounce. But ball 3 is a massive winner. I have to struggle to keep it alive a few times, but I'm getting much better with timing my shots to hit the ramp back up to the top section. My multiball helps me get up to 918,660 points total.

0:32 I skim through the instructions and learn all the different ways to get multiballs, outlane-guarding magna saves, extra balls, mystery scores and bonus multipliers. Apparently during multiballs my score is multiplied by the number of balls in play. No wonder my score went up so fast last game.

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0:33 I'm up to 28 credits somehow. Did I earn that many replays with my score last game?

0:35 My best ball yet gets me 783,900 points. I've figured out a relatively easy way to manage the ball up top and set up multiball easily. I miss some easy ramp shots at the bottom, though, and end the ball earlier than I had to.

0:39 The second ball bonus pushes me past the 1,000,000-point goal, and a quick multiball on ball 3 leads to an extra ball that quickly drains away. My 2,000,000+-point score is enough for No. 4 on the high score table, just 13,000 points behind "JLT." I enter my initials of "ACE" and earn an extra credit with a match! Yay!

0:41 Back downstairs ... let's try the old-school-looking Space Shuttle.

Pinball Hall of Fame

0:45 An absolutely epic first ball. I seem preternaturally good at hitting a specific ramp that leads back to the pops. It also opens an airlock blocker for a timed shot at a space shuttle ramp, which I miss the first time but hit the second time. I managed to get 391,740, and somehow got an extra ball.

0:46 My second ball is saved from mediocrity by a huge bonus multiplier. On ball 3, I lock two balls practically accidentally, then spend the rest of the ball trying and failing to activate multiball. I get lucky with the pops, though, and a 7x multiplier carries me to 1,125,630.

0:53 Manage to activate TWO multiballs on my extra fourth ball. They're both very short, despite the big, red heat shield that blocks the drain. I get past the game's goal score of 1.2 million and up to 2.2 million! Plus I scored another extra ball somehow! I'm liking this table a lot, and it's only partially because I'm pretty good at it, it seems.

0:55 Skimming through the table instructions teaches me that lighting up the letters of S-H-U-T-T-L-E on the table is important. Who knew?!

1:00 A few multiballs, a few large multipliers, and one set of SHUTTLE letters lit, but my second game of Space Shuttle is slightly less impressive than the first. Suddenly I hate this table.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes

Why? It doesn't compare to the physicality of the real thing, but it seems like a good way to learn a lot of tables for a pretty cheap price. Plus it'll make me look like less of an ignorant jackass at league meetings.

This column is based on a gold master copy of the game provided by the publisher.



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