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.