Transitions: The Launch Games/End Games Blog

Posted on Oct 3rd 2012 at 12:20:11 PM by (dsheinem)
Posted under Pinball, launch games

The following was written up early last summer for appearance on another site that ultimately didn't run it. So I'm posting it here...

When I was in my early teenage years, the arcades were experiencing what would be their final hurrah before entering into a sad and ongoing fifteen year decline of increasingly shuttered mall stores, vacated boardwalk buildings, and empty pizza parlors.  In many ways, however, the pinball arcade had already gone through this transition while the arcade itself was yet thriving.  When I was a kid, most arcade hideouts had long ago tossed Pin-Bot and Space Shuttle machines to make room for more Mortal Kombat, Tekken, or NBA Jam cabinets.  Pinball Wizard was not an anthem for my generation (I guess we had Guile's Theme, instead) and pinball was starting to be seen as a poor investment for arcade owners. As a kid, I didn't care.  Pinball was something that I'd play to bide my time if all the video game machines were already taken.  As an adult, however, I now lament the lost opportunity to spend more time with these masterful creations.

Pinball Arcade, published by FarSight Studios, offers a salve of sorts to my feelings of regret. FarSight previously published the excellent Pinball Hall of Fame titles which featured classic tables from pinball companies Gottlieb and Williams, each of which were painstakingly and lovingly recreated in video game form for a wide variety of consoles. Pinball Arcade takes that basic concept - detail-focused recreations of classic tables (complete with spot-on physics) - and offers it in the form of an PSN/XBLA/iOS title.  This entry represents not only their best work to date, but it is also perhaps the best pinball video game to ever grace a console.

On consoles, the game comes with four tables at an initial offering price of $10.  Those tables are Theater of Magic, Black Hole, Ripley's Believe it or Not!, and Tales of the Arabian Nights.  These are all heavy hitters in the pinball machine  market: Theater, Ripley's, and Tales regularly command $5,000+ to purchase a machine on eBay or at conventions, and Black Hole will likely cost you at least a couple of grand.  No video game can give you quite the same feeling as you would get playing the original, but I find it much easier to drop $10 for an excellent facsimile of that experience that to drop $20,000 for the real thing. Having played a wide variety of pinball video games in the past and having played three of the actual tables that are included in this collection, I can say that I've never played a title that feels closer to reality than Pinball Arcade.

There are a number of things that Pinball Arcade does right.  For one, it offers online leaderboards that allow you to compare your scores with those of your friends and with others from around the world.  I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed this feature of the game, as it really delivers a sense of mutual competition that is reminiscent of the actual arcade experience.  For another, it offers extremely easy to understand breakdowns of table goals, how to score, what spinners and lights mean what, etc.  It seems a small thing for a pinball game, but the writer for the brief tutorial paragraphs deserves a bonus: those short blurbs of explanation are extremely succinct and informative without being condescending.  The game offers a number of incentives for playing often and improving your skills: each table has a set of table goals and harder wizard goals which you can try and achieve (successful completion of which will net you trophies or achievements on PSN and XBLA, respectively), and finishing all of the goals will allow you to play tables with tilt turned off.  Each tables menu also has a section detailing the history of the table and offers scans of the original flyers for you to pour over.

Oh, and those who purchase the PS3 version get the Vita version for free, so that's a nice bonus as well. The Vita version, while taking a slight drop in the visuals, performs extremely well and is my preferred platform for the game. You can't go wrong with any version, though.

FarSight has indicated that more tables will be continue to be released as DLC at about $2.50 per table.  So far these tables have included "Monster Bash," "Bride of Pin-Bot", "Medieval Madness," "Funhouse," and "Cirqus Voltaire" with promises of "Attack from Mars, "Star Trek The Next Generation" and "Twilight Zone" coming soon (and, again, almost all of these are extremely expensive machines on the pinball market).  They have also built into their game the opportunity for tournament and challenge play with the addition of future tables, which should make leaderboard chasing even more exciting.

Whether you are a grizzled veteran of the pinball craze in arcades, a video gamer who has ever enjoyed any video pinball title in the past, or just a person who likes games that motivate you to improve your score, youll find a lot to love in Pinball Arcade. It might not give you the exact sensation of feeling all the bumpers and becoming part of the machine, but you can still work out those crazy flipper fingers (on shoulder buttons) while pursuing your own (virtual) pinball crown.

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Attack from Mars... I honestly regret not picking that game up when they auctioned off the pinball machines here at work for charity.
@Shadow Kisuragi: Yeah, especially now, since AFM has soared in price and can command up to $10k depending on condition.

As some of you know, I own a few pinball machines myself and even though pinball arcade isn't the real thing, it comes pretty close.  The physics are the best I have come across in a pinball game and the fact that they remake real pinball tables is great.  Pinball Arcade has had good results from using KickStarters to pay for expensive licenses such as Twilight Zone and Star Trek.  I have the app downloaded on my wife's iPhone and they recently just released Taxi, Harley Davidson, Elvira and the Party Monsters, and No Good Gophers.

Nice article, I also highly recommend it.

This game is also heading to Wii U as well.
Up to $10k? Holy was auctioned off for $1,000.
I followed the development on this for a long time, and snagged it as soon as it was released on XBLA. I loved the other two Pinball Hall of Fame titles, and the idea of grabbing more for a decent price made more sense than disc releases.

I own one pin, and while they are terrific to play in person, as everyone here has mentioned the prices are pretty crazy. I feel really fortunate to have purchased mine for what I did.

I grew up when pinball was still around, but on the down swing. I think it is great that it is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Grab this one for sure, and I personally can't wait for Attack from Mars!
Absolutely, take advantage of being able to play these classic pins at a super reduced price.  A two table pack is typically about $4.99.  The physics of these games are great, but my only critique might be the difficulty/poor response to nudging.

@Shadow Kisuragi:  Yeah man, prices have skyrocketed as of late.

@Duke.Togo:  I agree, the Williams and Gottlieb collections are a must for 360, PS3, PS2, and Wii owners.  What pin do you own Duke?
What happened to my title?!
@dsheinem:Good question...perhaps it was truncated between the original post and the review before I promoted it? Maybe the review field is too short...can you edit it?

EDIT: Personally went in and updated the title - took a shot on it based on the headline you had for it, though let me know if you want it changed. Did you have quotation marks in the original title? Maybe that's what broke it...
@singlebanana: It's an EM pin called Cinema from Chicago Coin. I wish these collections would put in a few more great EM pins.

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