Publisher: Crave Entertainment
Developer: FarSight Studios
Release Date: November 16, 2004
Back before arcades and consoles, the main forms of entertainment were drinking, television, the circus, and gambling. Another entertainment source would be the pinball machines, which were really hot in their heyday but lately have been relegated to sitting around in the back of arcades and collecting dust. I remember trying these out because the machines looked pretty cool, but I am a prime example of suckage. Luckily, I've had the chance to watch someone really good play and I was speechless because he probably could have stayed there for days if the University Center didn’t have to close.
Crave Entertainment has brought this game onto the next-gen consoles in the form of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection. Some of the simplest games can actually be the most difficult, and this is the perfect example. Pinball should not be taken half-heartedly, and this is what makes the game either a hit or miss.
Similar to console games, each pinball machine has its own feel; one doesn’t always play the same as another, unless it’s of the same series. Within this game, there are a total of seven tables, and each plays slightly different from the next. The tables are from Gottlieb’s collection ranging from 1957-1993, and boy can you tell the difference between the old school and newer tables. The tables available for play are: Big Shot, Black Hole, Ace High, Genie, Central Park, Tee’d Off, and Victory. There are two more items which you can unlock, but they aren’t necessarily tables … more later.
The controls are simple: the right analog stick controls the plunger, L1 and R1 control the respective flippers, and the left analog stick is used to tilt. Tilting is when you try to lean the machine to one side so you won't lose a ball, which is a highly skillful move but also risky because if you tilt wrong, your flippers will stop working. The square button changes balls, circle changes the view, and lastly, triangle activates the menu. Now that we've got the controls down, let’s hit up the tables.
The tables run the gamut in terms of theme and bonus values. Big Shot is similar in style to a pool game; Black Hole has a space theme and a hidden playfield, and if you hit the letters to spell out "Black Hole," the G-force accelerators are lit, increasing lower-level scoring values; Ace High plays like a card game, and a procession of queens, kings or any ace awards special points; the setting of Genie should be self-explanatory; Central Park is reminiscent of a big top circus, and while the bonus opportunities are numerous, I found this to be the most difficult; Tee'd Off has a golf theme, with fun and intuitive bonus point opportunities; and finally, Victory is a racing environment, with the objective of passing through eight checkpoints in order.
You can play all of these tables in two different modes, arcade or tournament. In tournament mode, you play against a group of people to see who can score the highest out of your friends, achieving a standing at the end of each board. You can also unlock two more mini-games: Xolten and the Playboy board, which is more fun in payout mode. Xolten is a common machine you would find at circuses that try and predict your future, which adds in a little extra touch to the pinball atmosphere but doesn't serve much of a purpose. You can unlock the Playboy board for regular play, but it isn’t really a pinball board because this only has a plunger and several holes for the cards that you're trying to play.
First, you must choose what type of card game you wish to play, blackjack or poker. Once you’ve chosen, you then select how much you want to wager on your pinball skills. In the blackjack game, the typical rules apply: you try to beat the computer's score by hitting the necessary cards to come as close to 21 as possible In poker, you try to get the best combination of five cards in order to defeat the computer. These are nice little mini-games but really don’t match the pinball machines such as Tee’d Off and Victory. Other items you can unlock would be the Gottlieb tour and tournament mode. Gottlieb tour gives you a nice little slideshow of how some of these pinball boards were made, and tournament mode is explained in the previous paragraph.
The graphics for this game are mediocre at best, and the boards aren't as detailed as in some other games. It is nice to see some of these old boards re-mastered, but since I am not nearly old enough to have played the really old boards, I can’t say how closely these matched, but I do have to say the newer boards fit well but are far from spectacular.
The audio in the game is just downright horrid. It is nice that they tried to stay true to the pinball spirit and just provide pinball sounds, but after a few hours of play, the same sounds get tiresome. Some matching background music would have been more soothing than the repeated sound of the pinball hitting bumpers.
Overall, this game is far from perfect. It does have a good idea by placing together a collection of great pinball tables and staying true to its original nature, but the game still needs a lot of work. To make the game really enjoyable, the developers should have added a choice to re-spawn a pinball if it drops through the flippers within the first few seconds. That, in addition to fixing the sluggish flippers, would have made this a game a lot better. The audio is far from great, and the graphics are mediocre at best. For those with older PS2s, this is a CD game so you may have problems loading. I strongly suggest you try before you buy on this one.