Ever since I was a young man, I played the silver ball. There were definite stretches where I found myself preferring pinball machines to video games. The biggest ones that we played back in the early 90’s were The Black Knight 2000 (which had the best soundtrack *EVER*… jump ahead to 0:44), The Party Zone (featuring the supersonic robotic comic), and (my favorite) The Machine: Bride of Pinbot.
The advent of the home console meant that arcades pretty much disappeared. Much of this had to do with the “goal” of a game on a home console, of course, compared to the goal of an upright (that is, a home game really ought to give you hours and hours and hours of gameplay for your 40-50-60 bucks, while arcade games ideally have you play for 2-5 minutes before giving you a “continue?” screen). This resulted in pinball machines pretty much getting short shrift on both fronts. Even as pinball technology jumped forward by leaps and bounds, arcades were disappearing and home consoles weren’t doing a good job with pinball just yet… I honestly don’t think it was until this particular console generation that pinball actually succeeded… which brings us to the point:
They’ve succeeded. Finally.
Now, there are two kinds of pinball available for your home console: the FX2 Zen Pinball games and, now, The Pinball Arcade(both of these are available via XBox Live or the PS3 Network). Despite both of them doing “pinball” they’re doing very, very different things.
Zen Pinball comes out and says “we’re not limited by what is physically possible” and, from there, comes up with some seriously wacky animations and interactive possibilities. For example: the Spider-Man pinball game has a possibility for you to play with one of the Green Goblin’s bombs as one of the balls on the field (you can use it to do damage to the bad guys you’re fighting) while Biolab allows you to play a marble maze after making a particular shot and Rome shows waterfalls coming down the various ramps on the table (they’re aquaducts, you see). Making shots allows for different animations on the table or going to different tables entirely.
At the other end of the spectrum is The Pinball Arcade that comes out and, seriously, recreates tables that are downright identical to the tables you played in the arcade. At this point, there’s only Tales of the Arabian Nights, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Black Hole, and Theatre of Magic (but there’s an expansion in the works that includes, yes, The Machine: Bride of Pinbot). If you remember playing these tables, you will remember pretty much everything the second you start playing. Arabian Night’s snake charmer skill shot, Black Hole’s upside-down second level, Theater of Magic’s magic box, and Ripley’s shrunken head… they’re all there.
If you miss playing pinball and have been disappointed in the past by attempts to do pinball on a console? You should definitely give these guys a shot. (There are free trials available for download.) You’ll be amazed.
So that’s my recommendation for you this week.