Iâ€™ve always had a soft spot for pinball. Not because I once managed to crack the glass on one machine and got hit on the head with the ball, but because theyâ€™re only ever limited by the creatorâ€™s imagination. Take a look at the themes used in this thirteen table strong collection – they vary from living the life of a taxi driver to playing a round of golf with gofers. Still not convinced? How about helping to get a space shuffle ready for launch and exploring a fun house guarded by a sinister plastic dummy? Not in the same table, obviously. That would have been beyond anybodyâ€™s imagination.
This package has clearly been a labour of love for developers Fairsight, rather than a quick side-project to keep the bailiffs away. The attention to detail on the tables is amazing – theyâ€™ve even rendered the screws on the flippers – while the ball physics are impeccable. It sounds incredibly authentic too; the older tables have purposely fuzzy speech samples and sound-effects akin to what youâ€™d expect to hear in an Atari 2600 game, helping to lend a deep nostalgic vibe.
Three newer tables – No Good Gofers, Tales of the Arabian Nights and Medieval Madness – have a replicated LED panel on screen showing nifty little pixel animations and offer a few mini-games to play via some well timed presses of the flippers. These three tables in particular are brilliant fun, offering an unexpected dose of twisted humour. Medieval Madness has a ‘plastic’ castle at the back of the table which you have to lower the drawbridge on before entering and itâ€™s possible to rally an angry mob to aid your cause by whacking the ball at targets several times in a row. â€œTheyâ€™ve stolen our shoes!â€ they yell. You can also fire cats out of a catapult at the castle. See what they did there?
The structure is different to what you may expect. A virtual arcade acts as a hub with the first few tables inside set on freeplay. The other tables require credits to play, gained by getting onto the leaderboards, achieving the goals set for each table and playing through the challenge mode which takes you on a whistle stop tour from one table to the next.
The achievements are also linked into the table goals and donâ€™t unlock until you beat all five goals, which range from beating certain scores to activating multi-ball modes. The nice thing about this is that you donâ€™t have to beat all the goals on one attempt. There are also full player’s guides for each table, narrated by a softly spoken America chap, and if the ball gets stuck somewhere thereâ€™s the option to ‘call an attendant’ to get the ball reset.
Not all of the tables are classics – Black Knight is a bit on the basic side and although Firepower has some obvious Defender references it too is a table hard to enjoy due to being light on features. Funhouse can be a pain as well; after a few goes it quickly comes apparent that this table was designed to eat peopleâ€™s money, with way too many ways to lose your balls in a flash. You do though have to admire the way that the tables are suitably different from one another.
This’ll be one you’ll find yourself returning to time and time again, long after the newest first person shooter is done and dusted. You can have a ten minute blast or a two hour session and walk away feeling satisfied either way.
What platform is this on?
I’m a bit of a pinball fan myself, my favourite bars even happen to be the ones with pinball tables. May pop into the hope & anchor tonight for a quick go after work…
It’s on 360, PS3 and Wii. Retailers show a 3DS and PSP version but these aren’t listed on publisher System 3’s site, oddly.
The Wii and PSP versions have less tables than the other versions but on PSP you can have the screen vertical which sounds pretty cool.
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