26 February, 2015

Addams Family review on Toucharcade

Toucharcade published yesterday a review on the Addams Family pinball. It is a knowledgeable piece written by Shaun Musgrave who is apparently the in-house pinball specialist. If you would like to make your own idea on the matter, you can head over to Toucharcade and read the article. (Spoiler alert! Do not read the comments. Most of them are written by people who do not get pinball).

However there are a couple of things that I did not like. First, the Farsight pinball got much more coverage, graphically speaking, than the Barnstorm/Silverball one, with a partial table capture

compared to the spartan presentation of Timeshock

Second, the latter got only four stars while the Addams Family maxed out at five. The main argument was that Timeshock is an old pinball and that this shows. Well, if Timeshock is old, how about Addams Family? 

I gave above my idea on the readers’ comments. To be fair there was one comment, in the case of Timeshock, which I found to be spot-on. It has to do with the physics engine. While the developers have promised a new engine, the released version still uses the old one. This is perfectly true and I look forward to the new engine. Still, even the old one runs circles around the Farsight engine so I do not think this is something one should complain about.

25 February, 2015

Addams family pinball

It is perhaps the best pinball ever and, in any case, it is the most successful. After a long wait it is finally available (among others) on the Mac and iDevices thanks to Farsight and a Kickstarter campaign.

Although I am a Pat Lawlor fan and I was sure that I would love this pinball I did not rush to right a positive report before having sufficiently tested the game. Today after a few dozen games I feel that I can give an unbiased account of my experience.

The game is a masterpiece that even the Farsight implementation does not manage to belittle. It has great variety with a revolving bookcase, an electric chair, magnets under the playfield, and, of course the Thing. (Mind you, I am not an Addams Family TV series or movie fan). Reaching a high score is not very difficult but progressing beyond the lowest echelon is highly non-trivial. In case it is not clear from the above I did enjoy playing the Addams Family pinball quite a lot.

It goes without saying that the usual misgivings of the Farsight pinballs apply here as well. It is almost impossible to find a ball that is visible in this multicoloured playfield: the green one I finally opted for is the best compromise but, still, far from satisfactory. Be that as it may, do not hesitate, to invest in this pinball. Only ProPinballs can be better than this one.

17 February, 2015

Toucharcade has an article on Timeshock

Toucharcade is a site on iOS gaming with news on released or to appear games and great reviews. I read it daily and I was particularly happy when I found an extended article on Timeshock

I suggest that you hop over to toucharcade and read the article for yourselves. It is mainly positive and stresses the fact that it is most probably the best pinball simulation ever. 

Still there are a few valid points that the author of the article is making and I would like to comment on them. The first is the unique camera angle and the fact that you have to play the game in portrait mode. Frankly, I do not understand why anybody would choose to play in landscape mode (to be fair, the article's author makes clear that he, himself, prefers the portrait orientation). 

A most annoying point where I agree 100 % with him is that there is no possibility to upgrade from the standard version to the deluxe one. I you make the mistake of buying the standard one you have later to pay the full price for the deluxe. This has to be fixed the soonest possible.

But the most important point raised by the article is the question of timetable. Here I quote the original article:

All of these problems will probably be fixed eventually, but I'm a bit concerned about the potential timetable. This game was the result of a Kickstarter campaign, and with the iOS version released, the developers are likely moving on to the other versions to fulfill their obligations. I'm not sure how big their team is, but I worry that we're going to have to deal with these issues at least until the other ports are finished. There's nothing game-breaking here, but Pro Pinball does come up short in certain options that iOS gamers tend to expect as standard. 

Those are points on which I do really worry myself. We have seen the deadline slip by more than a year and we aren't finished yet. By the time all the promised versions of Timeshock are out the delay will be substantial. I only hope that the Nomisian/Barnstorm/Silverball team will have the (financial) stamina to keep working on the ProPinball series and keep my fingers crossed for Big Race USA (you know by now that this is the one I prefer).

PS. The ProPinball team is really great. The point I was mentioning above concerning the upgrade from standard to deluxe has already been corrected. An update did fix this (along with other bugs). 

12 February, 2015

Addams Family is getting closer

A message was sent to Kickstarter backers of the soon to be released Farsight digital version of one of the greatest pinballs of all times, the Addams Family, announcing an article at Forbes. Here’s the link to it, if you wish to read it in its entirety.

It contains some very interesting information, like, for instance, that just the rights to the pinball totalled 100 k$. But for me the most important thing was the link to the video of an actual Addams Family simulation. I do not feel like embedding the video here (I do not know who has the rights to it) so I just give the link.

Spoiler: the table looks great and the gameplay is what you expect from a Pat Lawlor pinball (curiously, he is not mentioned at all in the Forbes article).

In any case, one thing is sure. Addams Family is arriving.

08 February, 2015

On the devastating damage of freemium

While researching for the post on customers’ reactions to Timeshock I was shocked (I know, I know, bad pun) when I found several one-star ratings in the french iTunes store. These ratings were, in almost all cases, due to the fact that the game was not totally free. Somebody was even admitting that the game’s realisation was superb but, since after 5 min or so you had to pay if you wished to continue playing, he ended up giving an abysmal rating.

This started me thinking on the change of attitude that followed the creation of the App Store(s). Not so many years ago we were paying upwards of 30 € for a pinball game. Have a look at the screen capture of the LittleWing store page

(by the way, one has to use the Wayback machine since LittleWing has ceased activities and the store is not active any more). Their last game, outside of the App Store, was Mad Daedalus (a great pinball) produced in 2010. Then the App Stores became a must (for iOS first, with the store created in 2008, and then the one for the Mac, created in 2011). LittleWing had to adapt to the super-low prices of the Stores. As of today Tristan, produced in 2011, is sold for 1.99 € and Crystal Caliburn II (2012) for 3.99. (The result of this price drop was catastrophic for LittleWing who could not pursue their activities, but I have already written about all this).

This tendency for prices to melt did not stop there. It gave birth to two monstrosities. The first is crapware. And by this I do not refer to apps with zero (or worse) quality but to apps which are pure scams. They are there just to grab your money, betting on the fact that you may not pursue the matter for just a few euros. I have had an experience of the sort with an app which was supposed to produce TeX documents. (It did not. I asked and got a refund). Even today there is an app in the french store supposed to produce LaTeX code and which does nothing. One wonders what the people at Apple’s app validation centre are doing. The second monstrosity is freemium. The fashion now is for apps to cost nothing and then make you pay through in-app purchases. When you read about top grossing apps you find “classics” like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans but also, most amazingly, Slots Machines (!). I found out that none of the top-grossing free apps were of my taste, the highest ranking one that I do like being Plants vs. Zombies 2 (which I like to play without in-app helps just for the challenge it presents). However I had a run-in with an app designed to siphon money: twodots.

It is a well built app with nice, simple, graphics and not uninteresting game-play. However as soon as the game progresses you get stuck and, if you make the mistake to use in-apps, you soon may find yourself spending substantial sums just to finish a single level. I deleted the game but I can understand that other people may be tempted by just one more small expenditure in order to finish the level at hand. 

However the absolutely perverse effect of free apps is that some people expect all of them to be free. The quality does not matter, just the price, something I have trouble understanding the logic thereof. It is because of this that we arrived at the one-star ratings for Timeshock. Instead of lauding the choice of the Barnstorm/Silverball people to provide a pinball you could try for free before purchasing, some shortsighted people decided that a fabulous game, that necessitated a year and a half of development, should be totally free. Frankly, I pity these people. They are condemned to play either crappy free games or in-app loaded ones and thus, provided they resist the temptation, get stuck at some early stage. In any case they will never experience the thrill of Timeshock. But, if they dare write the reviews they did, one thing is certain: they are not pinball fans.

07 February, 2015

Zaccaria pinball Circus

ASK Homework just published a new table of the Zaccaria line: Circus. It has the same vintage touch as the previous tables of the same series: simple layout and old-style graphics

Unfortunately (and despite the fact that I do like old pinball tables) I find Circus too simple for my taste. The game becomes easily repetitive and the task of lighting the letters of CIRCUS not very interesting (despite the fact that final S does present a certain challenge). 

Still the new physics engine of ASK Homework pinballs is a definite improvement over the old one and, if you are into vintage pinballs, you could consider giving Circus a try.

01 February, 2015

Customer reviews of Timeshock

I was reading the customer reviews on Timeshock and I felt that I should share some of them together with my own opinion with you. I hope that the people who wrote the reviews do not mind myself reproducing them verbatim here. So, here we go (from the US store)

Pro-Pinball the best since early 90’s  by Larryyy

I have every Pro-Pinball game and play them on old computers and emulate them on the new computers. I played BRUSA about an hour last night on a 2003 Mac. I am maybe more excited than anyone that this series is out for the iPhone and iPad. My iPhone is a 4s and I just downloaded it and it works great. I can’t wait till I can afford to upgrade to the 6plus as I use my bifocals for my 4s. My favorite in the series is Big Race USA (BRUSA) but I love all of them. Not sure when this came out but I saw it on FaceBook today since I liked the Pro_Pinball site. I had to buy it today and I am so glad their project is going forward. I hope iTunes ranks it better on their site. It may be that they rank based on sales, I don’t know but though there are many good pinball games on iTunes and I own all of the best ones, this one deserves to be at the top of the list. (I own at least 30 iPhone pinball games).

The king of pinball sims is BACK, baybee!  by WaitWHATwho

Timeshock set the standard for how a computer-based pinball sim should look and feel nearly 2 decades ago. To date, no one, and I mean NO ONE, has met the challenge to meet, much less beat this game for how incredibly accurate the physics are and just how much it feels and plays like a real machine. No one, that is, until now. These guys have topped themselves with this updated version of Timeshock that sets a whole new benchmark and makes every other pinball sim for iOS (or any other platform, really) look like amateur work. It looks and plays just like the old Timeshock, but with higher-res graphics and a couple other enhancements that just knock this out of the park.

Best pinball game for iOS hands down  by rattlhed 

I've been a fan of the pro pinball series for years. I have timeshock, Big Race USA and my favorite Fantastic Journey. All 3 are easily the best pinball simulations ever brought to video games. No other pinball game can touch their physics engine. So realistic it really feels like real pinball. This iOS version continues that trend. After just a few minutes playing Timeshock I could tell they hit this one out of the park. I have several other iOS pinball games but I've never found one that truly feels like Pro Pinball. So glad they ported this game over. My only wishes would be to put more table controls such as table tilt to slow down or speed up the ball speed. The PC version had that and it was a great tweak. Also I wish you could change the table angles like the PC version but that might be too much to ask for a mobile version. All in all I couldn't be happier. Now just do the same for Big Race and Fantastic Journey!

Not every review is 100 % positive. There are reviews quite constructive like the next one (from the french store, unedited except for the translation of the title and a minimal formatting)

De├žu(=disappointed)  by pixluser

I'm a very big fan of this game, but I lost the main heart of it : 
-The angle view, why only one? I miss a lot the horizontal mode. It was fantastic. 
-The retina, it's not retina on the retina iPad, it's very smooth! Please add some pixels or precision.... It's a lot too soft..., even for the retro effect. The lines inside the cristal arent clear, and some other spots are very visible... A bit shocked by this one, at the first sight. 
-The game is unplayable, because of sensitive tilt touch, it'll be good to have a dead zone at the bottom without any possible tilt... 
-The graphics over the lights, are too burnt by the light, please add some more shadows inside. 

Thanks, anyway the feeling is very nice, butmaybe a little bit too 'vintage' feeling, too old, too much yellow lights also. But's just a little bit too much, I think. It’s a very nice work, but please correct at least the too sensitive-touch-tilt problem !

However there exist reviews by … 

Stop right there! I was on the verge of using the term Comcast uses for customers who wish to cancel their subscription but I thought better about this. I do not wish to appear in front of a french court of justice for slander. The Bodganoff affair has taught me one should be particularly prudent and avoid terms that may hurt other people’s susceptibility. 

So back to the reviews. I was really, deeply shocked when I saw on the french iTunes store one or two star reviews based exclusively on the game’s price. One guy qualifies even the game as “arnaque” (=scam). Others are qualifying the game as “trop cher’ (=too expensive).

I wonder what these people are thinking. Do they expect a top-notch simulation to be 100 % free? Are the measly 2.99 € for the standard version, or even the 6.99 € for the deluxe one, really something one cannot afford? Anyhow, these unwarranted criticisms got me all worked up and I intend, in a future post, present my ideas on freemium.