STAFF REVIEW of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection Box art The premise behind pinball is very simplistic; essentially you score points by keeping your metal ball in play inside a glass covered case. Since the first pinball machine was invented many machines have come and gone in the arcades of the past all trying to better the previous machine. First you had flippers, then bumpers, then ramps, and pinball machines of this era are extremely elaborate and some even have a mini pinball game inside its own game.

The Williams Collection brings 13 different tables than hail from different eras as well. Every machine has had every meticulous detail converted for our digital pinball loving ways and each machine that I?ve played before in real life is exactly how I remember it; even down to each crackly bip and bong sound.

Games don?t really have a simpler control scheme than they do with pinball machines; you have two buttons for the left and right flippers and usually a plunger to set the ball in motion. Those are essentially the same controls in the game as well. Your triggers or bumpers are your flippers, the Right stick is your plunger (which can be pulled back half way for half power), and the Left stick is to nudge the Machine when you know it?s about to go straight down the middle.

There are a few different modes that can be chosen from the main menu; the first being the Williams Challenge. This will have you starting at a table with a set score needed to be achieved before you are able to move onto the next.

Tournament Mode is an option that is actually the standard for actual Pinball tournaments (which I wasn?t aware of). Basically the replay score value is divided by 10 and when a player reaches that set score, they receive a point. The player with the most points at the end wins the match. This mode is also playable with up to 4 people, so it makes it a little more interesting to compete with friends.

Lastly is the Practice Arcade where you will probably spend the majority of your time playing. What makes this mode different is that it sets you inside of an arcade and from there you can move the camera from machine to machine to choose what you want to play. It seems clunky and if you don?t know where a machine is (upstairs, main floor, or the backroom), it can be a little frustrating to even find the pinball machine you want to start. It seems a little unnecessary to recreate the old arcade atmosphere and I wish there was a simple menu system.

What stands out like a sore thumb though is that when you are in the lobby selecting the machine you want to play; the visuals for the machines are extremely low resolution and it can make it difficult to see what is on the machines playfield just by looking (if you don?t know the machine off by heart). It really doesn?t make sense as once you are playing the machine, the resolution is extremely high and crisp, but in the lobby it?s the complete opposite.

As you play more and more you will earn tokens that can then be used to unlock more machines and you gain bonus? for getting set achievements per table. Should you complete all the achievements on tables, you unlock freeplay on tables that require coins; so there is always something to work towards on every machine which keeps the variety ongoing., The best feature about this is that every table has support for 4 player multiplayer; even the old machines that did not support this! Every machine runs perfectly at a solid 60 frames a second with no slowdown even when you get multiball going furiously.

Starting from the oldest machine to new you have Jive Time from 1970, Gorgar (1979), Firepower (1980), Black Knight (1980), Space Shuttle (1984), Sorcerer (1980), Pinbot (1986 and also my favorite machine ever), Taxi (1988), Whirlwind (1990), Funhouse (1990 and one of the most famous tables), Medieval Madness (1997), Tales of the Arabian Nights (1996), and finally; No Good Gophers (1997).

You may or may not recognize these names, but I?ll bet that if you ever stepped into an arcade in the 80?s or 90?s, you?ve seen or pumped many quarters into at least one of these machines. I was quite surprised how many I actually remembered playing when I was younger.

As mentioned above, each machine I?ve actually player in real life looks and sounds exactly how I remember it. The sound is what surprised me the most because it still sounds as crackly and authentic as it did coming out of the speakers at the loud arcade. Each bounce of a bumper or two balls hitting each other is very realistic.

This also coincides with the absolutely realism of the physics of the game as well, as it reacts just as it would in real pinball. You can stall your ball with the flipper or even ?bump pass? to the other should you know how in real pinball. Everything about every machine is authentic and recreated to pey, the only issue I really had was the camera at certain points. On some machines when you are near the top of the play field, it sometimes zooms in close so you can see what the ball is doing and once it comes out of that area, it zooms back out to the over view very quickly. You are able to change the camera, but it feels unnecessary. The only other issue I had was the fact that you can?t pause the game and see the set list of objectives (for achievements and unlocks) for each of the machines. Basically you have to know your objectives before starting your game.

Essentially, this is pinball in digital form and it?s authentic as it?s going to get without having to find a machine in some bar. Sadly, the heyday of Pinball arcades are gone, but you are able to see what you remember or missed out on with this fantastic collection of some of the more famous machines ever made. With the cheaper price point, it?s hard to resist this if you are a pinball lover or want to relive some authentic pinball action.

Overall: 8.1 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10


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