23 December, 2015

Judge Dredd from FarSight

This is probably the last table of the year 2015 and most probably my last post before 2016. This means that this year I managed to post, on average, one post per week. Still, the total number of posts is slightly below that of 2014. 

FarSight's new table is Judge Dredd based on the well-known fictional character.

It's a nice game with several features, like the Deadworld planet and the Space Station Robotic Arm, that I did like a lot. But the thing that beats everything and makes the game worth buying beyond any doubt is the Super Game mode. The screenshot above shows such a five-ball frenzy, which, alas, does not last long since it is quite difficult to manage all five balls for longer than a few seconds. Still, even a two-ball multiball is really fun. The one nice feature is that FarSight is not charging extra for activating the Super Game mode (something, I believe, Williams was doing).

The white ball is the only one I found to be playable, and only marginally so. The playfield is too high in colours and this makes practically all balls invisible. Why, oh why, isn't FarSight producing a well contrasted silver ball?

18 December, 2015

Timeshock is finally out for the Mac

After the recent beta the first official release of Timeshock for the Mac is now available. As I was guessing when the beta appeared, it did not take long for the people at Barnstorm games to fix the few remaining bugs and provide us with a great, playable version of Timeshock,

and in the same time prove how un-Farsight-y they are. In my previous post on the beta version I reported the complaints of a user concerning the fact that the table is too bright and the light controls did not exist anymore (as they did in the alpha version). Well, these controls did make it to the 1.0 release and as you can see in the screenshot above they allow you to bring down the table brightness to a very comfortable level (OK, it is perhaps too dark. I should readjust this next time I play). This is a proof (but did we need one?) that the Barnstorm people are listening (and acting). 

The current version of the game does not support changing the default key assignments using the GUI. The Barnstorm team promises that they will be added soon. In the meantime, you can change the controls but you have to use the command line. (If somebody is interested I could post detailed instructions on how to do this, but one has to be familiar with the Terminal).

I did play a few games and, curiously, I found the gameplay smoother than in the beta version. This may be just an unwarranted impression, or just due to the comfort the full-screen mod is providing. Well, who knows? This might reconcile me with Timeshock (while we wait for BRUSA).

16 December, 2015

Zen's Eldorado

Zen Studios released one more table of what, following my fiend's Nick suggestion, I call Zen Pinball 1 collection. The new table, Eldorado, 

is one I really did like a lot. Curiously I don't think there is any Zen Pinball 1 table that I do not like, while the same does not apply (and by far) to their remaining pinballs. Mind you, Eldorado is not an easy game. The table is too bright and it is difficult to discern the details. Fortunately the contrail (which I normally hate) does help to follow the ball. If you watch out for Zen typical moving parts and animations (I do) rest assured: there is none. The game is a classical pinball and thus one gets to enjoy an undisturbed gameplay. The fact that the ball does not drain too easily does also help.

Eldorado is a game I would recommend without hesitation.

05 December, 2015

No Fear is here

Farsight's fifth season is advancing with clockwork regularity, the latest addition being the table No Fear : Dangerous Sports. 

The table layout with the various branching lanes reminded me of the Balls of Glory collection of Zen Studios. Well, given that No Fear is a 20 years old game and BoG a most recent one it is clear that, if inspiration there is, it has followed a most specific direction. 

I have mixed feelings about this table. There are things I do like a lot: the variety of the goals, the relatively easy multiball, the prolonged autosave (autofire!) to name but a few. On the other hand there are things that I hated. The drain lane looks like a highway. I have trouble reacting in time for the upper right flipper: it could be just myself but I feel that the visual clues are insufficient. Speaking of visual matters, it goes without saying that the game is unplayable with the standard ball (and even with the green one the situation is often touch-and-go).

Finally there are things where Farsight has once more shown how little care goes into crafting their games. On my iPad Air the launch button is situated at the upper right corner which means that you have to launch and then move your hand down to a more natural grip. At times I wonder whether they have tried the game on real iPads or just on on-screen simulators. 

Another "interesting" feature is the high-score table. Whatever you do it remains a tabula rasa. Well, not exactly, since you have those zeroes but for me it is a proof of amateurism if we were in need of one.

01 December, 2015

Gameprom's new table

The new addition to the Pinball HD line is here and I must say that I am underwhelmed. Much as I like (as a general rule) their pinballs and I appreciate the fact that they are keeping the pinball activity on iOS alive, I must say that I could not get to like their most recent table. Street Racing 

is the 20th table of Gameprom and although it has sound physics and nice graphics it is a bit of a let down. Why on earth did they have to cramp the table to (practically) two-thirds of the available surface just on order to have the racing lanes on top? What is this adding to the game? Perhaps the developpers have been trying to imitate Zen pinballs and their moving parts (a very bad idea in my book).

Well, to be fair, the game is not really bad. The reduced playfield requires higher precision in handling the ball and the latter does seem to avoid draining on its own. You can try the game for free in order to shape your own opinion. For me it is a game I will not be coming back to. There are so many better tables by Gameprom to choose from.

29 November, 2015

Timeshock beta

A year and a half after the alpha version the beta of Timeshock for the Mac is finally here. It is a perfectly playable version, not resource hungry and to my opinion very close to a golden master (once some minor bugs are squashed).

The release was accompanied by a list of missing features:

Cabinet mode, including offline installation
Multi monitor support for DMD/backbox
Joystick/pad support
New physics
Rolling ball display

Although the big improvement with respect to the 17-years old Timeshock was supposed to be the new physics engine I couldn't care less. The game is perfect as it stands and delaying a few more years in order to implement new physics means that we may never see another Pro Pinball resurrected. 

All is not perfect though. Among the criticisms voiced in the Pro Pinball forum is one I find quite justified. Here it is

Some lighting controls have disappearred, and we cannot make the table anywhere near as dark as before. I played the Alpha with very dark light settings, to fully appreciate the flashers, and that has gone which kills the game for me. Regular kickstarter supporters won't be happy as the kickstarter videos you posted (and my cabinet play video) showed super impressive light shows in an almost completely dark room (almost 2 years ago now). Surely the lighting sliders can be added back, plus the abilty to go much darker which is the biggest crowd puller for Pro Pinball Ultra? Taking this stuff away is the kind of thing Farsight would do!

My feelings exactly (and I did like particularly the lest sentence).

14 November, 2015

Earth Defense by Zen

Zen Studios are on a roll. After the nice Balls of Glory collection they have just released an oldie but goodie table: Earth Defense. I suspect the game to belong to the original, "Zen 1", series, as my fiend Doc pointed out in his comment. In any case it is part of the "classic" collection. Being an older table it is not plagued by the excessive animations of the most recent Zen ones and as a consequence I did enjoy quite a lot playing it. 

The robot is great: it even shoots back the ball when ball save is active. And, as you can see in the screen capture, the ball is then violet/purple coloured (but just for a second or two). The only thing that I found somewhat unnerving was the upper left flipper. It took me a while to realise that there was one there.

After having played (and liked) the game I am convinced that one day I must write a special post with a comparative review of all the classic pinballs. That would only be fair for these great Zen pinball simulations.

08 November, 2015

Frankenstein by FarSight

or rather, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as the complete title goes, is the new game in the fourth season of Pinball Arcade. It took a while to be released on iDevices, but here it is.

The game's theme is obvious, given its title, and it is a very interesting one, where it not for the accompanying graphics, which I disliked. This is rather rare: I usually like this kind of horror-movie-inspired themes. Be that as it may, the table is almost unplayable with the standard, silver, ball. So I opted for the ball I am using most of the time, a green one.

I did like the game a lot. The ball-throwing monster is a most original twist in the gameplay. The table is more or less uncluttered in its lower part and the ball does not drain too easily. Since there are portions of the upper part where one cannot follow the ball, it is rather difficult to keep track of what is going on in a multiball situation, but this is not really crucial. 

The one feature I do not understand is the knob to launch the ball situated at the upper right corner. Did the people at FarSight try it with an iPad? It is clear that you cannot launch the ball while keeping your hand at the position where you can control the flipper. I agree that one  must reproduce the layout of the original table but in this case it creates an unnecessary hassle and should have been avoided.

28 October, 2015

Zen's Balls of Glory collection

Zen Studios have just released their Balls of Glory collection based on animated TV series of Fox Digital Entertainment. Four tables have appeared both as part of Zen Pinball 2 and as standalone apps. They are: Family Guy

Bob's Burgers

American Dad 

and Archer

I must confess that I haven't been following any of these series (and after having watched three minutes of Archer on YouTube I decided that I should better forget about it). Still the games are not bad. Graphically they are really nice without too many moving parts (something I dislike in Zen pinballs). The gameplay of the other hand is not very interesting: you just have to keep sending the ball along the various lanes. Moreover the bright colours make at times the ball hard to follow.

The table I liked most was Archer. (That was in fact the reason I sought out a compilation of Archer's best of in YouTube, an, a posteriori, bad idea). The one I did not like was Bob's Burgers but you may disagree with me. Speaking of animated TV-series themed pinballs I enjoyed South Park much more than Balls of Glory. Still, the latter is a nice collection and since you can buy the various tables separately this new collection will add some variety to your pinballs.

01 October, 2015

F-14 Tomcat by Farsight

The new, season 5, pinball of Farsight is here. This time we are treated to a table from the 80s: F-14 Tomcat.

The first thing I noticed when I tried to play the game was that the ball looked somehow darker than before. Has Farsight tweaked the ball? If yes, the changes are for the worse. Judge for yourself: compare the visibility of the standard ball and the green one

still a far from perfect solution.

I did the terrible mistake of playing the game just after trying the latest Zaccaria one. After the sluggish ASK Homework simulation I found myself in a top-speed pinball and it took me some time to adapt. That was not my only mistake. For once I let the music on and I must say that the F-14 Tomcat's soundtrack is simply awful. As a result I did not like this pinball in the least. But perhaps this is a bit unfair. Had I tried the game under different circumstances I might have liked it better.

23 September, 2015

Writing about a non-existing pinball

I am not sure how I run across this pinball. Most probably I found a reference in Touch Arcade. Anyhow this is not the most important thing. What is funny is that this pinball does not exist and despite this I am going to write a post on it. We are talking about Chalkboard Pinball Creator. It’s a product of Pangea Software, a serious brand that has produced several successful games both for the Mac and iDevices. 

To put it in a nutshell it’s a new generation Pinball Construction Set. You draw the table frame and then position the various elements. The screen below is one example of what you get. 

There is even a video which shows the workings of the pinball on the Pangea site.

As I was saying the funny thing is that this game does not exist, neither in the french store, nor in the US or Canadian one (and I even searched for it in the greek store, to no avail). Perhaps the game is being updated for iOS 9, in which case it will resurface soon.  Having had a frustrating experience with Pinball Construction Set (never managed to play it) I am now jittery concerning this new pinball creator app. Most probably it will turn out to be an anticlimactic experience, but be that as it may, I would like to try it.

Red Show from Zaccaria Pinball

ASK Homework just released another table in the Zaccaria collection, Red Show.This brings the total of pinballs in the Zaccaria collection up to 42. There is some rumor that this will be the last Zaccaria table from ASK Homework, but one never knows. Anyhow, Red Show

is not among my preferred Zaccaria tables. It’s not that I do not like simple pinballs where you do not have that much to do apart from hitting the ball trying to aim at targets. It’s the physics of the ASK Homework simulations that make for a frustrating game. Even if you crank the flipper force to a maximum and tilt the table as much as possible, the game is sluggish. Having played with Red Show for a few minutes, and after having taken the mandatory screenshot for the blog, I decided that I had better go back to Addams Family.

13 September, 2015

A pinball we can just forget

Since no new pinballs have made their appearance these last weeks (and while we wait for Family Guy from Zen) I decided to give Pinball Planet a try. Well, it was a pure loss of my time. The game comes with three tables, Halloween


and Pirate

but you can play only one at the beginning: you must progress to some level for the remaining two to be unlocked. I found it faster, after having tried one table, to just reset the game and choose a different table starting afresh.

There is nothing positive I could say about this pinball. The graphics are cheesy, the gameplay uninteresting and the physics below par. The developers spiel goes like this: "it combines the best parts of old-school pinball games but adds original and fun digital additions that are not possible in real-life pinball games". By this last statement they mean animations "à la Zen" which, as you surely know, I cannot stand. At least, when Zen Studios add all those moving parts in their games they do it with an excellent taste both graphically and animation-wise. Here the animations are just intrusive and disrupt the gameplay. So, even if the price of Pinball Planet is minimal I wouldn't recommend trying it. Just go back to your preferred pinball and spend your time having fun.

01 September, 2015

Season 5, Pinball Arcade première

The first pinball of season 5 of Pinball Arcade is here and it is beauty. The Getaway: High Speed II is a fast-car themed pinball with an nice design and an interesting gameplay. 

As is always the case with Farsight pinballs you have to choose an adequate ball. Given the basic colours of the table I found that a plain white ball was a good choice. I enjoyed the game right away and the Supercharger feature is really great. 

As you have certainly noticed I am a harsh critic of Farsight. But you have to give it to them. They have by now produced 62 (count them!) simulations of existing pinballs, among which you can find some masterpieces. Of course the price is quite steep, in particular when you wish to play both on your iPad and your Mac, since you have to buy the same table twice. But, had Farsight not existed, I don't know how we could have had all those classic pinballs at our disposal.

26 August, 2015

Another tribute to Pat Lawlor

I have already written a tribute to Pat lawlor but with the recent release of Red & Ted's Road Show and Safecracker I felt that I had to do another post on the person I consider as the greatest pinball designer.

Pat Lawlor (born 1951) started his career as a video game designer and then moved to pinballs. His first project, Banzai Run, was already a masterpiece. Imagine: the ball was moved by an elevator to the backglass and one could continue playing on a vertical playfield.

Banzai Run has not yet been released by Farsight (I hope it does) but (almost all) the remaining Williams pinballs, Earthshaker, Whirlwind, FunHouse, Red & Ted's Road Show and No Good Gofers do already exist as simulations. The only exception is Wizard Blocks which was never officially released but of which a prototype (part of the Pinball 2000 project) does exist. I could not resist the temptation to include the video on Wizard Blocks

An outstanding pinball which will most probably never make its way to the Pinball Arcade.

While working for the Williams pinball line, Lawlor designed three masterpieces for the Bally/Midway line (also owned by Williams): The Addams Family, The Twilight Zone and Safecracker. All of them have been released by Farsight and, as far as I am concerned, the Addams Family pinball is the best I have laid hands on. After Williams closed its pinball division Lawlor founded the Pat Lawlor Design company and, working with Stern, designed half a dozen more tables of which only Ripley's Believe it or Not! has been released by Farsight.

In 2007 Pat Lawlor, talking at the Pinball Expo in Chicago predicted the complete demise of pinball manufacturing within 5 years, a prediction amply justified by the fact that at the time Stern was the only pinball manufacturer in the world. I do not think that the situation has significantly improved since that time, despite the fact that a new player, Jersey Jack Pinball, has entered the arena and has announced that Lawlor will be designing their third pinball machine, to be released in 2016.

When Adrian Barritt, in 2012, announced the revival of the Pro Pinball series he did present a grandiose project where the four "classical" ProPinballs were to be accompanied by a brand new one designed by Pat Lawlor. 

However the project was too ambitious, the Kickstarter campaign did not manage to get it funded and thus the project of a Pat lawlor digital-only design was put on hold. Ade Barritt is optimistic that, once all four ProPInballs are revived, there will be a possibility to produce a Lawlor pinball. I do not share his optimism given the present rate of advance of the Timeshock. Pat Lawlor may well have definitely retired by the time The Web gets remastered (if it ever does). 

At times I wonder how much it would cost to Farsight to have a pinball designed specifically for their Pinball Arcade line by this greatest of all pinball designers. Probably something that could be covered by a Kickstarter campaign.

11 August, 2015

A Zen pinball table that I did like

Well, this is not the only Zen pinball that I do like but the list is really short. In the case of V12, as soon as I learned that it was released for IDevices I rushed to YouTube in order to get an idea of the gameplay and my next reaction was to buy the game.

The theme of the game is a V12 engine and has none of these useless and distracting animations that plague the recent Zen pinballs. With V12 one plays a more classical game, albeit a difficult one. Be prepared to spend quite some time on V12 before mastering it. One thing that I did like a lot was the fact that it is very easy to stop the ball on the flipper and launch it while taking a good aim. Since this is my preferred technique one can easily understand why I did like V12 at first sight. The one thing I do not like is when the ball crosses the lower part which shows in semi-transparency the engine working parts. With a silver ball over silver-grey metallic part visibility is seriously diminished and, what is more, at a point where it is of paramount importance. But this is a minor flaw in an overall well built and challenging game.

By the way I remarked that the new version of Zen pinball classifies the various tables into separate collections. South Park, the Walking Dead and Portal stand on their own, just as Football Super League. Star Wars and Marvell constitute two large multi-table collections and the Zen Studios regroups the more "classic" tables. It goes without saying that this last collection is my preferred one. It comprises 13 tables at this point: Epic Quest, Rome, Tesla, Mars, Wild West, Castle Storm, Secrets of the Deep, Biolab, Excalibur, Paranormal, Shaman, Pasha and V12. If you like the same pinball flavours as myself, this is the collection you should invest in.

09 August, 2015

Three(!) new tables of Zaccaria pinball

ASK Homework has just updated its Zaccaria pinball app, adding three new tables. This got me a little bit worried. With the recent release the total of Zaccaria tables simulations reaches 41, very close to the total of 47. Does this massive release mean that those are the last Zaccaria pinballs we are going to see? I am aware that some Zaccaria pinballs do have licencing problems, which might mean that ASK Homework may not be able to release them in digital form. Anyhow, let's wait and see.

The three tables are, Cine Star

Wood's Queen

and, Nautilus

Of the three the only one I did really appreciate is Wood's Queen. Of course, I find that the sluggish ASK Homework simulation settings are spoiling the gameplay. Still those low-lying right targets suffice in order to get you hooked. Don't take my word for this, try it.

08 August, 2015

The blog is three years old

Believe it or not, we have reached another milestone. Three years ago I started the blog in order to preserve the Mac-pinball history I have been writing for the Tower of Pin (now defunct). Along the way, having entered the post-PC era, the blog evolved into a site with news on digital pinballs mainly for the iPhone and the iPad. (I had a shock when, visiting the App store, I found a pinball app for the Apple Watch. Fortunately it is not a pinball simulation but just an app that helps discovering real pinball machines in a neighbourhood. I cross my fingers and hope that nobody tries to cram a pinball in the watch screen).

Three years later with 180 posts and more than 19000 page views I feel vindicated. Moving my Mac-pinball history to a blog-style, lighter, organisation, was the right choice. I can maintain the site quite easily and with a fast response, whenever new pinballs make their appearance. So let us celebrate this anniversary and look forward to more digital pinballs to come.

03 August, 2015

Safecracker by Farsight

Farsight completed their season 4 collection with another gem by Pat Lawlor. Safecracker is a very special pinball game. It is timer based rather than one with a fixed number of balls. 

In this game you play the role of a bank robber out to collect as much money as possible. You start by playing on the normal table in order to break into the bank (via the rooftop, the cellar, or the front door).

Once inside the game switches to an interactive board game on the backglass. There you have to roll dice and move around while being chased by the guard. If you manage to reach the safe you are rewarded by a magic token from the bank vault. Magic tokens allow one to activate a separate game mode: assault on the vault (a four-ball multiball game). 

In the historical notes one learns that this machine was smaller in size than a normal pinball. However on the digital version one does not feel this. The pinball is a typical Lawlor masterpiece: original, interesting and amusing. Do not hesitate a single instant before grabbing the game.

With Safecracker, Farsight has released their 61 pinball table. (When you visit their site Safecracker is numbered as Table 40 but this is pure sloppiness: they are counting the season 1 & 2 packs as one and they do not count the launch titles at all). It is an impressive collection and now we can look forward to season 5. 

28 July, 2015

Two new Tables by Gameprom

The recent update of Pinball HD brought two new tables. Unlike Red Planet which had been advertised for months before his release the new tables were (to me at least) a surprise. The first table is Fantasy

it has a medieval theme, with, unmistakeable a tribute to Game of Thrones, a dragon. I cannot say that I did particularly like the game. And I find that it has some unnecessarily moving parts (a little bit like the Zen pinballs).

The second table is Zombie Attack

(I guess, I do not have to explain what the theme of the game is about). This is a table that I did love a lot. It is funny, there are plenty of things to do, and since the ball does not drain too easily, you can enjoy gameplay for a long time. 

Moreover, since, provided you accept to watch some ads, you can try both tables for free, I suggest that you give these new tables a try.