Cleaning up my desktop today I came across this half-completed review I did for the 3DS version of Williams Pinball Hall of Fame. I'd always intended to polish this up and post it here on Negative World, but I just ran out of time in my personal life to put the effort in.
So I'm faced with a choice: Post what I've got or just junk it. I say, "What the heck?" Here it is for anyone who's interested.
I freely admit my thoughts are incomplete here. The jokes are a little half-baked, too. But I think you can get an overall idea of my opinion of the game, for whatever it's worth to yez.
Ah, The Williams Collection on 3DS. What a perfect test of that old critics' philosophy: "Review the game you played and not the game you wish you'd played."
The game I wish I'd played always turns out to be T&C Surf Designs.
Here you've got a piece of software that offers a lot of solid pinball goodness… and yet I can't help but feel disappointed, thinking about what could have been. Strike that - what should have been.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Are you familiar with the Pinball Hall of Fame series? So far, budget developer FarSight Studios (of Action 52 notoriety) has produced a line of venerable, low-priced pinball simulations based on classic pinball tables from the glory days of smokey bars and noisy arcades. These games haven't exactly been under-the-radar, but no one's mistaking them for AAA titles, either. FarSight has gotten a lot of credit for the Pinball Hall of Fame series -- Credit they mostly deserve, too. For a series of modest games aimed at a fairly niche market, they've done a good job. Personally I've played a number of pinball games over the years, from Atari Pinball to PinMAME, and the Xbox 360 version of the Williams Collection is probably my very favorite. It's probably the best at bringing an authentic pinball experience to home consoles.
Always a bridesmaid, NES Pin*Bot.
Unfortunately, the Pinball Hall of Fame series stumbles a bit on the 3DS, mostly because so much content from the 360 version has been stripped out. And these aren't minor changes, either - the number of tables is cut nearly in half, from 13 to 7, which leaves the 3DS version with fewer tables than all but the original Playstation 2 version of the game. Yes, it even has fewer than the PSP version, which came out in 2008. The hit is not only to quantity, but quality.Some of the most compelling tables (Medieval Madness, No Good Gofers, Tales of the Arabian Nights) are among the missing.
So why are the best tables cut from this iteration of the game? Well, word on the street is that Williams upped their licensing fees on some of the tables. I'm not sure if that's true, though it's certainly plausible. I imagine FarSight understands how important it is to include every table they could, so I'm willing to believe they're offering as much content as they can afford. (Williams is famously out of the pinball business, so maybe they just aren't interested in their pinball legacy at this point.)
Hey, guys. It's current me, again. The Ghost of Kris's Present. Anyway, now we know that Farsight has a new round of DLC pinball tables coming in the Spring, something that wasn't known at the time that this was written. That's worth keeping in mind if you're reading this today and are considering picking the current package up. In reality, hanging on for the new package is probably the safer bet. Still, I stand by my original evaluation, since I wrote all this before that news broke.
Also, I don't want to rewrite this whole thing because I'm a lazy writer who just doesn't care.
To prove that point, the original review breaks off here into individual reviews of the tables included in this package. I'd intended to write some kind of tasty transition here but I can't be bothered to do it now. Do me a favor and pretend there's a clever/witty transition that made you laugh.
Ha ha ha! Best joke I ever made. Anyway, each table is rated on a 4-Star scale.
Funhouse - A classic, well-loved pinball table that's probably the standout in this collection. Features a deliciously complicated playfield based on old carnivals and sideshows. Your goal is to advance the Funhouse clock to midnight and, through a series of specific shots, unlock a special multiball to score big points. But the thing you'll remember most about Funhouse is Rudy, a creepy ventriloquist's dummy who lords over the middle of the board. He's an asshole, antagonizing you with wisecracks, childish name-calling and passive-aggressive whining. Whether you love him or hate him, it's always satisfying to pop him in the face with a pinball. A truly great villain who adds a lot of personality to an already well-designed game - one that you'll likely come back to more than any other on the Williams Collection. ****
Pin*Bot - One of the best-remembered pinball machines of the 80s, but also one of the most frustrating drain monsters around. If I may take you back to the horse-and-buggy of internet memes for a moment: Pin*Bot is going to eat your balls.
You can never go home anymore.
This is not the fault of the Williams Collection, though, as it's a flaw in the original table, which they've merely emulated. I've gotten to the point where I consider Pin*Bot a one ball game. Sure, you technically get three, but chances are at least two of those are going to go straight down that heinous left outlane within the first few seconds. It's just the way Pin*Bot rolls. Still, if you can keep the ball going long enough, it's got some great features. A worthy pin, if a little frustrating. ***
Gorgar - The ol' speaking demon with the pre-school vocabulary makes a return (to haunt Anand's nightmares, I hope). This is the oldest table in the collection and, if you feel like playing a slower, simpler table, this is a good one to go to. Still, Gorgar shows its age and I suspect some modern players won't like it. But as a representative of 70s-era electro-mechanical pinball, it's a good addition. (There's also a pretty high kitsch value in all that cod Satanic imagery. 70s pinball was so metal, man. Nothing says "I'm in league with the devil" more than a pinball demon coughing "Me Got You" through cobwebby circuits, while an analog heartbeat farts along at 120 decibels.) ***
Taxi - I favor Funhouse, but Taxi's certainly in the running for best table in the collection. You play as a taxi driver who has to pick up a rag-tag group of passengers, including Gorbachev, Dracula, Santa Claus, Marilyn Monroe (a redhead here, to hide her identity from any pinball-hating lawyers) and Pin*Bot, himself (who, true to character, hangs out by an outlane and is the freaking hardest passenger to pick up.) This one's full of good features, including a unique spin-out skillshot and a jackpot system that builds up with each game, until someone collects it. This was a staple of 80's and 90s arcades and it translates pretty well to handheld form. A highlight. ****
Black Knight - Another much beloved Williams pin. Black Knight is famous for its upper and lower playfields and for being one of the faster-paced pins out there. Actually, the speed is part of my problem with this version. With the smaller screen, it's sometimes hard to keep up with the action - and not in a fun chaotic way, like in the original pin. More like a "where the heck is the ball?" way. Your mileage may vary, but I think this is one that's just better played in the wild. ***
Space Shuttle - Not one of my favorites, I gotta say. The placement of the ramp, as well as the inclusion of a drop target "shield" means you're going to spend most of your game watching the pinball bounce around in the left jet bumpers. It probably rewards more careful play, if you can be bothered. A pretty satisfying multiball and a great multiplier system makes Space Shuttle a solid, workmanlike table. Good for a few plays every now and then, but not a standout. **
Whirlwind - A 90's pin themed around storm-chasing. It's loaded with features, including ramps and cellars that are reminiscent of Funhouse. Spinning discs on the playfield, representing tornados, switch up the trajectory of the ball and add an extra element of randomness to the gameplay. I can easily imagine this being someone's favorite table in the collection, but it never truly grabs me. The playfield is bit of a hot, ugly mess, to be frank, and I miss the gimmick from the original table, where a fan blows air on you when a storm's a-coming. If they could have included that with the 3DS, I'd give it four stars. I guess you could get a friend to blow air on you through a straw, but you leave yourself open to misunderstandings. Still, not a bad one. You might like it more than I do. **
And your lazy writer left out a transition here, too. Miss me yet?
But do I recommend the 3DS iteration of the game? Well, that depends. There's little question that the Xbox 360 version is the best one available. It has more, better tables and the triggers on the controller are shockingly good at simulating pinball buttons. It's also been out for a few years, so you can find a used copy for half the price.
Still, that doesn't mean the 3DS version is a total failure. If you do most of your gaming on-the-go, it might appeal to you. Granted, there are battery usage issues if you're playing at full brightness, but if you're playing in small bursts on the bus, that might not be an issue.
And, finally, I'll add this: Had I known that a new version of the game was coming with possibly a larger and better variety of tables, I would have considered knocking it down a point simply because I think it probably makes sense for casual pin-heads to hold off buying this version to see what's included in the new game. You certainly don't NEED this game in your 3DS collection. But that doesn't mean you won't have fun with it if you're just looking for a little uncomplicated pinball action.
So I'll go with my original score, though I freely admit that, if I was going to revise it, it'd certainly be downward.
Don't worry, my first review here was a very, very stripped down Metroid Prime review. I almost feel like taking it down because of how little attention is paid to what is one of my all time favorite games, but whatevers.
Anyway, I have the Williams collection on Wii (got it for free, forget how?) and that taught me that I'm mildly interested in pinball... but not enough to play it very often. I might buy a cheap downloadable pinball game but I don't need a cartridge pinball game.
Thanks, ever'body. My affection for everyone here at Negative World hasn't dimmed. I know this is a pretty crummy Christmas gift - sort of the internet equivalent of the cheap dollar store present you get from that one uncle your parents never let you see - but it's still probably the most I can contribute for awhile. Hope to talk to ya'll soon, though.
@Zero I guess I just know what I left out and what areas would have been better if I'd done some editing. This definitely reads like a first draft to me. Some of the meat-and-potatoes writing could be tighter (repeating words here and there, blah blah blah). And, you know, I'm making jokes about T&C Surf Designs and Pin*Bot eating your balls. I dunno. Not sure that's exactly my best material, there. Wakka wakka wakka.
Beyond that, I know that I wanted to have a very serious discussion about the 3D effect, how it looks on low brightness settings (not very good) versus high brightness settings (pretty great) and how there's a very real trade-off between the quality of the experience and the 3DS's quick battery drain - and how that affects one of the key features of this game, which is having the Pinball Hall of Fame on-the-go (in 3D!). That would have been more tedious stuff to write and I just didn't get around to it. So, yeah, I guess I look at this and think, with a couple of hours I could make it really good.
Still, it's not bad. It was worth sharing. Not trying to run it down too hard. Better to post it than keep the ball jokes to myself, right?
No, that's very healthy, Gui. That's why you can post here on Negative World without it interrupting other parts of your life that need attention. I get to the point where I forget I'm not writing an article for Vanity Fair and the prose doesn't have to sing like a castrato to get my point across. I'd hate to think how many times I edited that crap about Boogerman.
Man, I wish whoever owns the rights to the Haunted House pinball game would release that one along with some others for either the 3DS or Wii. I loved that pinball game. I still remember skipping my afternoon high school classes and go downtown, which was like 10 mins away to our arcade which was called Spaceport.
Man, great memories of that place. It was open for years. Sucks how times have to change.
I do remember playing the Space Shuttle pinball game. Usually on friday night myself and a couple of good friends would travel to a couple different arcades. One of my friends favorite was Space Shuttle. I liked it, it was a good pinball game. Though I dont feel like forking out $40 to play it.
Are these pinball games available for the Wii? If so, maybe there would be cheaper. Plus I would rather play pinball on a bigger screen.
Hey, that Boogerman review was gold! So was your top ten about White Knuckle Scorin' (still probably the most-viewed front-page article, and even got a GN referral). We miss you around here...hope you can get more regular again soon!
Actually, I realize that sounded like you have a GI problem. More regular...there I go with the Boogerman jokes...
Kris, regardless of whether you think this review was not of 'high standards,' I found it quite thorough and appreciate both the humor and the mini-reviews of the individual pinball tables. Thanks for sharing, and like @ludist210 said: Stay regular! Alwaysss..
Best news I noticed in the new video? They seem to be pursuing the licensing issues pretty seriously, including licensing movies and actor likenesses. That could mean, cross your fingers, we'll get tables like Addams Family. Here's hoping, anyway.
Also, at the end of the video, they show some of the tables they have in their studio including unannounced tables like Creature from the Black Lagoon (great table!), Bride of Pinbot (Another great one!) and Harley Davison (never played it, but yeah!).
Hahaha. All the pinball nerds have flooded Farsight's Facebook profile for Pinball Arcade, and they've responded in a cool way: Slamming us with new information. Here are some excerpts, straight from them:
"Each month, The Pinball Arcade will feature one game as The Table of the Month. At launch, this table will be Tales of the Arabian Nights. The Table of the Month on most platforms will cost 99 cents. [We’d prefer to offer it for 99 cents on all platforms, but there are some console restrictions we may have to abide by that would restrict this pricing model]. After each month is over, the Table of the Month will go back to it's regular price which will typically range between $1.99 and $2.99 (with $3.99 currently planned for tables with expensive ancillary licenses)." (Kris - Pretty good news as far as I'm concerned. Yes, a $20 collection would be cheaper in the long run, but this will probably get more attention for the project over time. You guys are probably going to be more likely to check out a few tables with that pricing, right?)
"Our PC version will support the most recent version of Windows. While we can't officially announce a Wii-U version, I can say that we're big fans of Nintendo and their upcoming system. :)"
"The gameplay of the updated versions have been improved significantly (especially Black Hole - it's so much better now than when we first released it) and they will be part of a whole new product with more online features."
"Here's a little known fact - we picked Space Station for the original Williams Collection but replaced it with Firepower midway through development. Unfortunately, it's going to be tough to fit SS into our current table plan for quite some time."
"It's funny that you mention Jive Time because that's the only table that we've talked about NOT re-releasing at some point. But unless we're allowed to swap it out for another table (contractually we're currently stuck with it), it's quite possible that we'll release it at some point." (Kris - That's f'n hilarious if you've played Jive Time.)
"Every table can be bought individually or in packs. Also (and we haven't mentioned this yet) during online/cross platform tournaments, you'll be able to play tables you haven't bought in the Pinball Arcade. We'll be releasing over 50 tables over at least the next two years, so this is going to be quite bigger than our previous games and anything out there."
"The Simpsons table is more likely [than Star Wars] and we've spoken to Fox, but unfortunately we can't promise it."
"[A user-controlled camera] probably won't make it in for launch, but it's on our list of most requested features and something we'd like to add."
"On phones, tablets, and Vita; we'll certainly support both orientations. On PS3 and 360, we can display the game in portrait technically, but fully implementing it is on the back burner as prepare for launch. There are many UI issues to overcome and first party permission is needed." (Kris - Bummer. Thousands of pinball-emulator fans hearts just broke.)
"Yes, we plan to eventually release Ace High and Central Park - probably together in a value pack." (Kris - Good news, as they're probably to two best tables from the Gottlieb Collection)
"Starting tomorrow, we're going to celebrate the Twelve Days of a Pinball Arcade Christmas by releasing more information, new videos, or new screenshots about our game each day for 12 days. We'll start by uploading the HD version of the making of video to our youtube channel that is currently available on IGN.com. We hope you enjoy! Have a happy holiday season, everyone!!!"