30 August, 2014

Zaccaria pinballs update

ASK Homework have just updated their Zaccaria pinball line and released the 23rd table simulation, Mystic Star getting closer to the 27-table collection (out of a total of 46 Zaccaria machines which are known to have existed over the years). 

This update, according to the developers announcement, boasts a new physics engine with more realistic bal movement, bounce and bumper effects as well as flipper handling. I tried it on various tables and I must admit that there is some improvement compared to the previous engine. Moreover the new physics engine is highly customisable which can help things a bit. 

The only downside is the in order to be able to tweak the game’s physics you must fork out money for an in-app purchase. And that’s not all. In-app purchases are proposed also for ball size, used table look, light/dark environment, additional balls (2), ball pack, flipper pack, premium camera editor and graphics tweaks. Moreover, given the default colour and light settings, you must purchase the graphics tweaks pack if you wish to have something visually acceptable. I understand that developers must make a living and I could justify almost all in-apps. After all if you wish to have a table looking old and used, well, a small expense is not unjustified. But to have to pay in order to get rid of dazzling lights on an almost black table, this is where I would draw the line.

28 August, 2014

Walking Dead pinball by Zen Studios

Zen Studios, in collaboration with Telltale Games, have just published a table based on the Walking Dead game, itself based on the homonymous comic book series. This time I decided to splurge and I purchased the table on the Mac rather than the iOS version. (In fact I have trouble understanding why the Mac version is more expensive than the iOS one). That was a good choice since the table is graphically superb. Playing full-screen on a 27” monitor is an incomparable experience. I must admit the Zen Studios are doing an excellent job with their full-screen graphics.

For once the moving parts are mainly confined to the periphery of the table and do not spoil the game. I am not a fan of either the game or the series so the fact that the locations and characters in the table are close to the game/comics ones does not mean much to me. To tell the truth I was hoping that the game would be as funny as the Plants vs. Zombies one but that was not the case. I found the gameplay rather uninteresting and, since the ball was not draining too easily, somewhat boring after some time.

If you are a Walking Dead fan do not hesitate a single instant: go and buy the game. If you are not, well, the table is still cheaper than those of Farsight, so you decide. 

15 August, 2014

This is serendipity

Two days ago I published a post on what I consider acceptable pinballs where I was saying, among others, that an electromechanical pinball could indeed be built based on the template of the pinballs of the ProPinball collection.

And just yesterday the people at Barnstorm Games, who are preparing the Ultra edition of Timeshock, sent an email announcing that a Dutch company, Silver Castle Pinball
is building a true, electromechanical, Timeshock pinball. 

I couldn’t believe my eyes! There’s a long article in Pinball News with plenty of details. This is not a vague project. A whitewood with functional flippers, bumpers and ramps does exist and the various technical problems are being solved one after the other. These guys are serious. They are really building a Timeshock pinball.

But wait! They have plans beyond Timeshock. In fact they have started thinking at their next game which will be another ProPinball.

So what we can do is cross our fingers and hope that the project is successful. This synergy between electromechanical pinballs and digital ones would strengthen the Barnstorm Games position and with a little bit of luck we’ll have the full collection of ProPinballs running on modern machines.

13 August, 2014

What is an acceptable digital pinball?

I know that many readers will not agree with my sayings, but, given that I am constantly commenting on pinballs it seems fair to state clearly, once and for all, what I consider an acceptable digital pinball.

For me a digital pinball is acceptable if a) it is a simulation of an existing real pinball or b) an electromechanical pinball could be really built from the template of the digital one. Everything else, to my eyes, are either pinball-based games or, even, just games with flippers.

Notice that I am talking only about acceptability. I am not saying anything on the pinball’s quality. A pinball may well be acceptable but pure junk. On the other hand pinballs that I do not consider acceptable may have quite decent physics and an enjoyable gameplay.

In the first category we have all the Farsight pinballs, the Zaccaria family of ASK Homework (available only on iDevices), 8-ball Deluxe and Royal Flush by Littlewing (yes, I am convinced that it’s them who developed the second one), even Bronco pinball on iDevices. This is also true for many, many tables developed for Visual and/or Future pinball, which, unfortunately, do not play on the Mac, unless one install Bootcamp and launches Windows.

In the second category I would place all Littlewing pinballs, and most of the early Gameprom ones. But the pinballs which par excellence could be built based on the digital template are the ProPinballs. Just have a look at the details entering in the construction of Timeshock:

Here is another one:

Zen pinballs are not acceptable for me. Even the one pinball that I enjoy most, Plants vs. Zombies. I do like it but I am aware that it is not really a pinball. 

Does the classification above mean that all unacceptable pinballs are to be outright rejected. Not at all! The PvZ pinball is a good example of the contrary. However every pinball that does not look a priori acceptable to me will have a hard time getting a positive review. I know I am biased but after all, in this blog, I am supposed to give my personal opinion and not something sugary and politically correct. 

12 August, 2014

Diner by Farsight

I had started worrying because I did like the three last pinballs produced by Farsight. Was that a sign that my standards were going down the drain? Fortunately this month’s table managed to reassure me. Farsight, keeping up with the one table per month cadence just presented Diner

and I did not like it. The gameplay is not very interesting, the ball drains too easily and, although the table is relatively uncluttered, the playfield makes the ball very hard to follow. I had to experiment with various balls before settling on the green one. 

Now I am looking forward to the next Farsight pinball. Somehow it was really nice when they were producing pinballs that I did like.

08 August, 2014

The blog is two years old

Last year I celebrated the first anniversay of the blog with a single candle cake. Now it’s tme for two candles.

The blog that started as an effort to preserve the history of pinballs on the Mac, has evolved into a blog dominated by news of pinballs for the iPhone and the iPad. In fact most new pinballs come first on iDevices before being ported (if at all) to the Mac. 

Perhaps it is this shift in perspective of the blog which explains the increase in visibility. While at last year’s anniversary the blog had 3000 page views, we are crossing now the 10000 view milestone. 

My friends Nick an Marco are still with me and from time to time I hear from somebody else which means that I have more than two readers. (By the way, I have a non-negligible amount of views from Moldova and Turkey. I would greatly appreciate a comment from these meighbours).

Once more I must state that I am very happy with the blog format. In fact, having learned how to manage a blog with this one, I was able to embark upon the more ambitious project of 

Rethinking Athletics

If you are interested in athletics or just curious, I invite you to visit this other blog of mine by clicking at the link above.

And now I must start looking for a three-candle cake.

06 August, 2014

A new Mac pinball and an old acquaintance

Finding information on Mac pinballs is not an easy task. Somehow, pinballs on iDevices manage to be in the limelight to the detriment of their Mac siblings. The only reliable method I have found in order to ferret out new Mac pinballs is to connect to the App Store with the keyword “pinball” and look for something new. 

This time I stumbled upon MagicShow.

A look at the layout of the table sufficed in order to convince me that it was nothing but  the Alpha pinball which figured prominently in the post “On freeware and crapware

with just somewhat revamped graphics (which look always amateurish). From the layout of the table I do not think the gameplay will be interesting in the least, despite the presence of the magic bunny. I for one am not going to fork out 3.99 $ for this game.

Our old acquaintance Retro Pinball: Tropical Splash  has been revamped, according to its developer, with new enhanced visuals and a core game code completely re-written from the ground up. It is true that the graphics have been improved:

However the gameplay is always not very interesting to say nothing of the physics which I find bizarre, to say the least. There is a combination of gravity with friction which makes the ball motion if not unphysical at least annoying. I simply cannot fathom why my friend Nick likes this game.

02 August, 2014

Zen Studios’ new table

Zen Studios released a new table in the Marvel series, Guardians of the Galaxy

As I have already stated I am not buying Zen Studios tables anymore, so this report is based solely on the video I watched on AppAdvice. My critique on this pinball is the same as for most Zen pinballs: superb graphics but the game does not feel like a pinball. At times one has the feeling that it is a cross between a pinball and a first person shooter.

I do not care about such pinballs at all (hence my decision not to buy Zen tables anymore) but if you like this kind of pinballs, keep in mind that each table costs half as much as a Farsight season-three table.