10 December, 2018

FarSight tables

In a previous post I was wondering why the FarSight site did not include the Stern tables among those available. My guess is that that was due to the fact that the Stern pinball arcade existed independently from the rest. Now that the whole FarSight collection is present in Pinball Arcade the artificial separation between Stern and non-Stern tables has disappeared and one can find the complete list of tables on the same page.

While the offer is not comparable to one before the loss of the Williams-Bally licence it is still a quite decent one, with 39 tables. Will this offer suffice in order to save the bacon of FarSight? Time will tell.

01 December, 2018

Stern Starship Troopers pinball

Full disclosure: I am a Heinlein fan. R. Heinlein was a hard traditionalist and his, Hugo winning, novel reflects his ideas, but I do love military science fiction and I adored Starship Troopers. So, I was naturally attracted to the eponymous pinball table.

Of course, the table can only vaguely reflect by the novel and since it lacks moving graphical elements (Zen, I am looking at you) one has to content oneself with just a few dispersed 2D and 3D Arachnids (the alien race that the troopers are battling).

It's not a very sophisticated table and I did enjoy playing it. The extra right flipper must be activated by a special button which is not comfortable at all, but when one masters it (I don't) this can add to the players efficiency. As always the FarSight ball is next to invisible and since in the standalone Stern collection one cannot customise it the gameplay suffers. 

Anyhow, the Stern pinballs have now been incorporated into the main FarSight line but I will continue commenting on the ones that were initially present in the, now defunct, Stern Pinball app.

04 November, 2018

FarSight Stern Star Trek pinball

By now all the Stern tables have been incorporated into the Pinball Arcade but since I have never reported on them, for good measure, I am going back and playing them. And while I am at this, I am playing the same tables on the Pinball Arcade just to see if there are differences. In fact, FarSight has always had different teams working on the various platforms, which explains the differences between the MacOS and iOS versions of the same table. 

Today I am writing about the Stern Star Trek table. The full title is Star Trek: Vengeance Premium, so as to avoid any confusion with the Williams Star Trek: The Next Generation one. Here is the Stern Arcade screenshot

and here is the Pinball Arcade one 

No big differences but the more sober Pinball Arcade background makes for better visibility. And, what is more, Pinball Arcade offers a choice of balls, something absent from the Stern Arcade. However, to be fair, given the table graphics, even the usually invisible standard ball manages to stay visible on this table.

I did like the game: it is rather unsophisticated, but since the ball does not drain too easily one can really enjoy playing it. It's one of the few games remaining in the Pinball Arcade collection and if you haven't acquired it before the debacle you could give it a try.

20 October, 2018

Zen Pinball: the first Williams batch is here

Since last month, we have been waiting for the arrival of the Williams collection to Zen. Well, they are here. It took me some time to sit down to write my report but, you can believe me when I say that I got them the very first day they became available. Mind you, there is no iOS version of these tables: you have to play them on the Mac (which is not a bad choice, in particular when, like myself, you have a big screen). The four tables are 
Fish Tales (a free table)

Medieval Madness

The Getaway

and Junk yard

They exist in two versions, a classic one and "remastered" which includes the usual Zen effects: 3D interactive characters, ball trailer effects, particle effects etc. I played both and I must admit that this time Zen got it right. The remastered version is more fun than the classical one.

The price of the non-free tables is also very light: just 3.5 euros. This means that there is no extra charge for the Williams license (but then I suppose that Zen had to pay a license for all the previous, movie-themed, tables and they were offered at the same price as well).

Just for curiosity, I compared the FarSight JunkYard table to that of Zen. Here is the screenshot of the Pinball Arcade table. 

There is no big difference graphically but then there is the ball thing. Frankly when I first looked at the FarSight version I thought that I had missed the ball in my screenshot. Even if that were the only reason, I would still favour the Zen version over that of FarSight. 

07 October, 2018

Farsight's new tables

Pinball Arcade is alive and well. After having lost the major part of their table library they continue producing new tables based on Stern and Gottlieb pinballs. Of course the "season" structure is now irretrievably lost and a visit to the Pinball Aracde table page reveals the follwoing:

(One wonders where are the Stern tables). 

Anyhow, version 8.0 of PA is here and it's a bad surprise, since it does require iOS 10. I cannot fathom why the FarSight programmers are doing this (ny guess: pure laziness). For myself this means that I can run the new version only on my most recent iPad.

Now to the new tables. The first one is Big Buck Hunter

The graphics are good and the ball is visible at all times (provide one chooses the appropriate colour) but I find the gameplay uninteresting.  On the other hand, the second table Whoa Nellie 

is a beauty. As you have by now noticed, I am a fan of oldies and Whoa Nellie, although a 2015 creation, is an oldie-looking pinball. It's a watermelon themed table with great graphics. I would have preferred a whole-black ball instead of the 8-ball one but you cannot have everything. In any case I greatly enjoyed playing it (with only one regret: you do not get a bonus at the end of each ball; once a ball drains that's it).

So, while we wait for the Zen release it is not a bad idea to give a try to the new FarSight pinballs.

01 October, 2018

Williams pinballs are coming to Zen

It's a fact: Williams pinballs are coming to the Mac, remastered by Zen Studios. A first pack will be available on October 9th. For the time being no iOS version is announced so we'll have to content ourselves with the Mac version. 

The first pack will include Medieval Madness, Junk Yard, The Getaway and Fish Tales (the last being a free table). The price is a quite reasonable 10 €, so there is no reason to hold back. 

According to the initial Zen announcement there will be two versions of the tables. A classic one and one with the geegaws of Zen: interactive characters, side wall art, ball trailer effects, particle effects etc. I'll certainly give the latter a try but I will, most probably, focus on the classic versions. 

It goes without saying that I will report on these tables as soon as I get my hands on them.

23 September, 2018

While we wait for Williams/Bally pinballs

Zen Studios released one more Star Wars themed table collection.  Is this infatuation with Star Wars real? Am I missing something?. Anyhow three new Zen pinball tables are here and as always they look great. They are Solo

Carlissian Chronicles

and Battle of Mimban

I have tried all three tables and, as always, I do appreciate the Zen pinballs' physics. The ball does not drain too easily and moreover, although silver coloured, it remains visible at all times. Fortunately there are no excessive animations disrupting the game. Did I like the three tables? Well not really. Solo is not bad but all in all the gameplay is not exciting. I did not like Carlissian at all. On second thought if I had to choose one table that would be Mimban: I did like the graphics of a devastated battlefield. It's the game I did spent the most time on. 

As always, if you are a Star Wars fan, go for them. If you aren't, just wait for the first Williams batch by Zen.

05 September, 2018

And now for some really good news

I heard about this from my friend Marco. He is one of the faithful followrs of my blog and he chimed in with the good news. The Williams-Bally collection is coming to Zen Pinball. In fact, there is an announcement on the Zen Studios page.

So, now we know why FarSight lost the contract with Williams-Bally. A collaboration of the latter with Zen Studios was in the works.

I have, for years, been criticizing FarSight, essentially on points which had more to do with presentation and esthetics. But these are the points where Zen Studios excel. So we can expect tables of very high quality based on the classics.

On the other hand this change means that we'll have to buy the tables once more. But, hey, when one loves pinball this is but a small sacrifice.

01 September, 2018

Thank God, we can forget about Stern Arcade

The date of the deluge came and went. And my pinballs are still safely stored in my machines. I just hope all of you did the same and can continue enjoying all the great pinball tables FarSight produced over the years. 

The (very) bad news was of course the disappearance of the  Williams/Bally pinballs form the FarSight store. But there was at least one good news. FarSight apparently does not care anymore about the Stern Arcade. When the latter was introduced I did not have a device running iOS 10 and I could not test it. But a few months back I bought a new iPad running iOS 11 and I did give Stern Arcade a try. It was awful. I have on several occasions complained about the interface of Pinball Arcade but when one compares it to that of Stern Arcade PA look like a multiple prize winner. Fortunately it seems that FarSight decided to include the Stern pinballs in the mainstream Arcade. Otherwise they would have had two different apps with a handful of pinballs each (which would have been a not very clever move).

In a future post I will give my impressions about the new, Stern, additions to Pinball Arcade: StarTrek, ACDC and Mustang. But for the time being I will continue enjoying the old classics carefullly preserving them in all my machines. 

08 August, 2018

The blog is six years old

The downturn continues. Last year (and the one before) I was disappointed because the blog had only 6500 visits. This year we reached a total of 38000 which means that we are down to 6000 views per year. 

Is there any hope for the things to improve? None at all. Digital pinball is moribund and the few remaining hardcore fans do not bother to visit the blog for non-existent news. With the recent FarSight debacle no optimism is allowed for the next year. So, as I was writing last year, the blog is on life-support and will be occasionally updated, when there is something to write about. On the other hand I am not taking it down and it will continue to exist, be it only for its historical value.

01 August, 2018

Just before the KO

We all know what happened to the FarSight table collection: on July 1st 2/3 of the collection  namely all Williams/Bally tables, disappeared. Fortunately FarSight did alert us well in advance and so people had some time in order to complete their collections. While this was true for the iOS version which was regularly updated, things were more complicated for the Mac. There hadn't been any update for more than a year and thus it seemed like the Mac collection would remain amputated, missing the very last tables.

Fortunately FarSight reacted in time and version 7 did make its appearance just in time for people to buy the Williams/Bally tables while still available. I just hope that all of you did manage to do so. For me, I find it really great to be able to play Banzai Run on the Mac (although, as I have already written, the iPad Pro is great for playing pinball and for some tables I obtain better scores compared to the Mac).

07 July, 2018

The desolation of the digital pinball landscape

There have been months in the past when I was writing several posts on pinball, be it on the Mac or iDevices. But gradually things started deteriorating. 

First one of the oldest digital pinball developers, Littlewing disappeared. (Not the developer himself. Fujita-san is alive and well, working for Google in the US. But his twitter posts are now mainly about food). Still, I must point out that Fujita-san does does care about his work and did produce an update to both Tristan and Crystal Caliburn so as to comply with the 64-bit directives of Apple.

Then we had the major deception of ProPinball "revival". After a huge delay, compared to the initial announcement, the team of Adrian Barritt managed just barely to produce a version of Timeshock running on the Mac and the iPad with the old physics engine. Then they folded before making good on any of their promises. That was really a disappointment for all of us ProPinball fans. 

ASK Homework did produce several pinballs including the Zaccaria line which was indeed of great quality (but then, I am a sucker for oldies). However, once the Zaccaria collection was complete, two years ago, they disappeared. I am not very optimistic about their possible return.

But the major blow for the digital pinball community was FarSight losing the rights to the Bally/Williams pinballs. Two thirds of their pinball library disappeared on July 1st and I am not quite sure that FarSight will be able to weather this. Will they be able to find a sufficient source of revenue with just the Stern pinballs? Only time will tell (and we are talking here about short-term).

So what does remain? One pinball developer who is probably still alive is Gameprom. However their last creation is more than a year old so the situation is iffy. The only solid presence in the digital pinball world is that of Zen Pinball. They have a steady production of interesting tables. (There are around 80 of them). Sometimes I do not like them (for reasons I have abundantly explained) but all in all they are great pinballs and, in the long run, the last hope for the survival of digital pinball. Once Zen Studios stop producing pinballs we'll have to look for another pastime.

01 June, 2018

The sky is falling

The sky is falling, or winter is coming or any other cliché you happen to favour. If you are following my blog (well, even if you are not following it but you are interested in digital pinball) you are certainly aware of the major disaster awaiting us: Pinball Arcade is going to lose two thirds of its tables (and, to my eyes, the really interesting ones) after the licensing contract with Bally/Williams expires. 

I have been following people's reactions on the web. Most interesting were the ones I read in the comments to the podcast linked to by my friend Marco in the previous post of mine. People started talking about pirating. This is easier said than done. Most probably the ones who are big mouthing do not know much about pirating apps. Perhaps this is easier on Windows but as far as the Mac is concerned pirating is barely an option. I looked around and it seems that there is a cracked version of Pinball Arcade although it does nor even contain all of season 6. Pirating on iOS is a no-no thing, unless you have a jailbroken device. Unfortunately for potential pirates, jailbreaking is moribund and there is no much hope in this direction. (I happen to have a friend of mine with an old iPad, jailbroken in iOS8. I convinced him to load Pinball Arcade and some tables. Well, it turns out that if one uses iFunBox one can have access to the folder where the tables are stored and make a backup of them. This would be OK for one's peace of mind but not for much else).

So, what can one do waiting for the cataclysm? I think that the only way to do this is to download all the tables one owns before June 30th. Then refrain from any further updates which may erase the tables. In fact FarSight should offer a new version of Pinball Arcade  which would not interfere with the previous one after the deadline. But, given their previous record, one can only dream. 

10 May, 2018

The end of the World

It's not yet the end of the World but it's definitely the end of digital pinball. While visiting the Ars Technica page (a site I follow regularly) I stumbled upon the awful news: FarSight is losing their license for the Williams-Bally pinball tables. After June 30th 61 tables will disappear from the FarSight catalogue. We are talking here about the main bulk of Pinball Arcade and a collection of the best games out there (including the Pat Lawlor ones).

I don't know if FarSight will be able to weather this out. Of course they are are already talking about Season 8, on track to launch this summer, based on Stern tables, but I am not very optimistic. Just look at what will disappear

The Addams Family
Attack from Mars
Banzai Run
Black Knight
Black Knight 2000
Black Rose
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Cactus Canyon
The Champion Pub
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Doctor Who
Dr. Dude & HIs Excellent Ray
Eight Ball Deluxe
Elvira and the Party Monsters
F-14 Tomcat
Firepower II
Fish Tales
Fun House
The Getaway: High Speed 2
High Speed
Indianapolis 500
Jack Bot
Judge Dredd
Junk Yard
The Machine: Bride of Pin•Bot
Medieval Madness
Monster Bash
No Fear: Dangerous Sports
No Good Gofers
The Party Zone
Red and Ted's Road Show
Safe Cracker
Scared Stiff
Space Shuttle
Spanish Eyes
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Swords Of Fury
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Theatre of Magic
Twilight Zone
White Water
WHO Dunnit
Wild Card
World Champion Soccer

The list is depressing. Hell, Eight Ball Deluxe will disappear for the second time. 

What can one do? Well, I for one downloaded all the tables I own and will not update Pinball Arcade on my iPad anymore. I suggest you do the same. Moreover if there are tables you would like to have now is the time to buy them. Still I am afraid digital pinball is going the way of the dodo and in a few years this blog will become one of palaeontology.

20 April, 2018

Two nice Star Wars tables by Zen

Let me state it right away: I am totally impervious to the Star Wars lore. A Star Wars themed pinball has no extra attraction for me. On the contrary, I am always wondering why the developers decided to disrupt the gameplay in order to insert some movie-inspired scene. So, when I saw that two new Zen tables were available I was somewhat sceptical. Still, my blogger's conscience dictated that I be fair-minded and give them a try. I did so, and I was pleasantly surprised. The two new tables are The Last Jedi

and the Ach-to Island. 

I enjoyed playing both of them. Perhaps the fact that I was on a plane with nothing much to do did influence my perception of the games. However revisiting them just before sitting down to write this review did not alter my first impressions. Both tables are nice. The graphics are as always superb, and while heavily ornamented they manage to keep the ball visible at all times. (Perhaps the contrails do help a little although, as a purist, I do not favour such artefacts). The ball does not drain too easily, and given the accurate physics, the most frequent way to lose a ball is when it goes into the outlanes.

If you are interested in more details concerning these tables I suggest you read the interview of D. Szűcs, who designed the Star Wars tables. He is also talking about the new FX3 engine. And, of course if you would like to have more details on FX3, there's always the blog of Zen Studios.

11 March, 2018

I couldn't believe my eyes

I have already written about one of the first Pat Lawlor pinballs, the famous Banzai Run. In my tribute to Lawlor I even included a photo of the playfield and of the backglass. When I presented the new Dialed In! pinball by Lawlor I wrote that I was crossing my fingers for FarSight to offer us a Banzai Run simulation one day.

Well, that day has arrived. When the monthly newsletter of FarSight appeared in my inbox I  could not believe my eyes. Banzai Run was here. I fired my iPad and a few minutes later I was playing this mythical pinball. 

What can I say? It's a fabulous game. I am an unconditional Lawlor fan, so I love everything signed by him. But Banzai Run is really special because of the vertical playfield. Every reflex you have developed over the years is useless when you are experiencing full gravity. (I remember that when the first ProPinball, The Web, came out there was a possibility to increase gravity and that made for a very, very tough game. But as we all know there is no hope to see a modern version of The Web in any foreseeable future, the ProPinball revival having gone awry). 

Banzai Run is an oldie and so the playfield is uncluttered. On the other hand the table graphics make it impossible to find a clearly visible ball. I ended up playing with blue but there are moments when one has to guess the ball's position.

Getting access to the vertical playfield is not particularly difficult (but things do get harder once you get there). I did enjoy greatly playing Banzai Run and I am sure you will also. So, do not hesitate. Go and grab it asap. 

01 March, 2018

Zen Pinballs do it again

Zen Studios just released a pinball trilogy inspired from the iconic Jurassic Park film franchise. Let me make it clear from the outset. I haven't watched any "Jurassic" film and do not intend to do so. I simply do not find them interesting. So, there is no nostalgia effect whatsoever when it comes to appraising this new Zen release. It consists of three tables:
Jurassic World,

Jurassic Park

and Jurassic Park mayhem

As always the tables are superbly drawn. And as always there are moving sprites (usually dinosaurs) which I find always eminently distracting. I am perfectly aware that this is a matter of personal taste, but their presence makes the game less attractive for me. One can argue that this is a new generation of pinball games taking full advantage of their digital nature. But somehow I prefer to stick to more classical tables. In this direction FarSight's Pinball Arcade does really excel (although I always find something to criticise). 

The game physics are, as always, OK and the ball does not drain exceedingly easily. After the first few seconds I turned the sound off, and unless you are a fan of dinosaur roars, I suggest that you do the same.

03 February, 2018

Another FarSight pinball

I realise that a whole month has passed without any pinball news. Well, this is the sad state of digital pinball. Where it not for FarSight I would be an unemployed pinball-blogger. On the other hand as I wrote some time ago I am not going to try to pad the blog with articles on uninteresting stuff. So, I write whenever there is something worth writing about. This time it's the new Pinball Arcade table, Sorcerer.

It's a game from the mid 80s and it has the simple structure of the tables of that period.  The playfield is particularly uncluttered and the rather dark colours make the choice of a visible ball rather easy. The game play is medium interesting but one has to be extra careful is one wishes to reach a high score since the ball has the tendency to drain rather easily. I must admit that I have rather mixed feelings about this game and all in all I don't think I will come back to this game after the novelty has worn out.

One thing that i liked particularly about Sorcerer was the artwork of the backglass. You can judge for yourselves.

If the tabs I keep are correct, Sorcerer may be the last table of Season 7. It will then be a particularly small one, with just 10 tables, like seasons 3 and 4. But then I may be wrong.

01 January, 2018

A FarSight pinball for the new year

Just before Christmas FarSight released a new table. Having been caught up with the holidays I have not been able to report on this before the end of 2017 and thus I will begin the 2018 posts with it. 

Pistol Poker is a table from the 90s: 

Curiously, it corresponds to one of the smallest sales of physical tables with only 200 unit produced. Having played it I can understand the lack of interest. There are games that I like at first sight and others which I come to appreciate after having played a few games. However, I could not relate to Pistol Poker even after having tried it on two different iPads. I do not find the gameplay sufficiently interesting and the ball that drains all too easily is making things worse. It's not the best pinball to start the year with but on the other hand we should not be too picky: if FarSight stops producing new pinballs we will be left with zilch.