29 November, 2014

Timeshock on iOS: first (or, rather, second) impressions

I have been playing Timeshock on iDevices for one week now, mainly on my iPad Air. The game is great. It is really fluid even in multiball and the music goes on playing without a single hitch. 

Usually I turn the music off but this time, for I kept it on for testing.
In most pinballs I even turn the sounds off but I never do this in the case of ProPinballs: they are really great. I found out that the glass-off mode is implemented in the beta version. Here is a photo (taken with an iPhone under dubious lighting conditions):

The one thing that I do not like is the ball visibility. Still, while playing on the iPad, it is not too hard to follow the ball. Where the things get ugly is with the iPhone. To put it in a nutshell, the game is, if not unplayable, certainly not much fun playing. Perhaps the situation will improve when we’ll be able to adjust the lighting, but right now, with the harsh, blinking, lights and a silver ball I start having Farsight reminiscences.

20 November, 2014

Timeshock iOS beta is available

The long awaited Timeshock beta has arrived on the iPad (and iPhone too). What started as an alpha version became finally a beta and I must admit that the Barnstorm team did not exaggerate at all when they started calling this version a beta. It is true that there are several features missing but having tried the game (only on the iPad and just for a few exploratory games) I must admit  that it is perfectly stable. There is no comparison with the alpha version on my iMac.

The game looks gorgeous on my iPad Air retina screen. It plays really fluidly even for multiballs. The one thing I could not tell is whether the physics engine is new or just the port of the old one to ARM processors. Be it as it may I am bound to agree with my friend Marco: sometimes it is better to wait a little bit longer in order to have a great product.

17 November, 2014

Zaccaria’s slimming diet

The Zaccaria pinball line, by ASK Homework has been updated to version 2.9. The most impressive change is that instead of taking a whopping 800 MB of storage the new version manages to cramm everything into 200 MB only. This was obtained, according to their announcement thanks to removing some unnecessary files and features as well as compressing some textures. In fact every time I was inspecting the state of my iPad I was hesitating about dumping Zaccaria altogether (but relenting each time).

The update came with a new table, the bowling themed Star’s Phoenix.

I did not like this table at all. In fact this is the first time that I see a ball drain right after launch. The problem is that the Zaccaria pinballs are old and since, in my case, there is no nostalgia I, as a general rule, cannot appreciate them.

16 November, 2014

Party Zone is out

The new, season 4, table of Farsight has arrived: Party Zone. Just a look at the table has sufficed to make me realise that I was not going to like this game much.

Please do not get me wrong. There are plenty of interesting things in this game. However under the Farsight implementation I find it hardly playable. Clearly, there is a problem with the ball. I had reminiscences of White Water when I tried to find a single ball that had satisfactory contrast with the table … and failed. The blue ball is probably the best one can do but still not quite OK. Moreover the ball moves really rapidly which makes it even harder to follow. To top it all the ball drains too easily be it from the centre or the sides.

Still, I do like the graphics of the table and I find the long semi-transparent serpentine ramps particularly nice. The lower part of the table is uncluttered which to my eyes is always a plus. I may come back to this game from time to time, just as I do with White Water, but it will definitely not become part of my top list.

15 November, 2014

Timeshock on iOS has almost landed

I know, I know. At the time I am writing these lines it has not arrived yet but yesterday the Barnstorm team announced that the first iOS beta of Timeshock was submitted to the iTunes store. The alpha/beta testers will have access to it shortly. It goes without saying that I will report on it asap.

You have noticed that they are labelling it a “beta” test. According to their announcement the beta has almost all of the content they expect to have in the first public release, with the exception of nudging, online leaderboards, ambient light level control and a few other little things.

Beta’s for other platforms are under preparation. Ade (Adrian Barritt who is heading the Barnstorm team) is ending the announcement acknowledging that the development “… is taking longer than any of us would've liked, but we're doing all we can to get it to you as soon as we can”.

The announcement included some interesting screen captures.

They came with an added note:
“In case you are wondering what 'Deluxe only' means; the plan is to offer a standard version without Glass Off Mode and the Operator's Menu, and a Deluxe version that includes them”.
Well, I guess this is a reasonable choice. But on the other hand, being a backer I will be getting this feature automatically (not that I haven’t payed for it already). 

14 November, 2014

Zen to the fourth

The last update of the Zen Pinball reserved a nice surprise for all pinball fans. Four new tables were ported to iDevices. All four existed previously on other platforms and their adaptation to iOS was a matter of time. They are graphically superb as you can judge for yourself. We have, 

Secrets of the Deep



and Pasha

I was waiting for this last one since I have seen the table on the Zen Studios website and I purchased it right away. The game is nice, the graphics rather unobtrusive (not like the graphics of some other Zen pinballs). I would have liked some more heavily oriental-accented voices and, to tell the truth, the musical background is pretty lame. But all in all the game stood up to my expectations.

I did not purchase any other table and, since there is no demo, I cannot give a precise opinion. You have to find out for yourself. But they are not that expensive and you could let yourself be tempted.

13 November, 2014

Tanks by Gameprom

A new pinball table accompanied the update of Pinball HD, Tanks. As a rule I do like the pinballs of Gameprom but this time I must draw the line. This game is nothing but a slight modification of their Navy Seals table. You can judge for yourself. Here is Tanks

And here is the 2013 Navy Seals table

Yes, the Tanks table is really nice graphically but as far as gameplay is concerned it is not worth its price.

You don’t have to take my word. Since you can play the game for free for over a minute you can try it and shape your own opinion. 

01 November, 2014

Mensis Mirabilis

I cannot think of another magical month for digital pinball, like the one just over. It started with the Zaccaria pinball series new addition: Spooky. 

I did not report on that table. I did try it and it has the usual qualities and imperfections of the ASK-Homework/Zaccaria line: a not bad pinball, without many bells and whistles but one which shows its age. Anyway, the month was on a good start. 

The very same day Gameprom published two tables: the long-awaited Red Planet and Pirates. I did like both tables (although my friend Marco was of a different opinion). 

Soon afterwards the Kickstarter for the Addams family table was successfully funded, which means that in a few months we'll get to play this classic of classics.

Just after this successful kickstarter, Farsight launched the fourth season of tables with Phantom of the Opera. 

Zen Studios followed suit with two South Park inspired tables, which I purchased for the Mac (and never regretted).

Since Halloween is approaching, Farsight published a table independent from the Pinball Arcade line, inspired by the movie Ghostbusters.

Count them: we have 7 new tables and a quasi-certainty for a big classic to come in a near future. When have we seen an activity even remotely comparable? Yes, October 2014 was indeed a mensis mirabilis for digital pinball.

Ah! If only Littlewing had not folded ...

I was hoping that on the very last day of the month, Timeshock alpha would arrive on iOS. People at Barnstorm games have been hinting about this alpha being almost ready and I was counting the days hoping that they would indeed release it before the end of October. Alas, there has been another delay. The wait is getting longer and longer.