05 December, 2019

The end of a morose year

Who could imagine that the pinball landscape would become an utter desolation in the space of one year. Of course the writing was on the wall. When Littlewing called it quits 7 years ago it was clear that the days of glory of digital pinball were over. The close-to-zero prices of the AppStore were incompatible with the development of decent pinball tables. So over the years we witnessed the disappearance of all but one of the major players in the digital pinball business.

Gameprom, who gave us such great tables like RedPlanet and Arcade Pinball disappeared last year. Ditto for Ask Homework, aka Magic Pixel, of Zaccaria line fame. The Pro Pinball revival turned out to be a farce (but did leave all of us ProPinball fans with a bad taste in the mouth). FarSight lost their Williams/Bally license and since then they have gone in radio silence.

Right now our only hope is the Zen Studio line of Williams/bally pinballs. They are doing an excellent job with this but will they manage to make enough money so as to survive? In any case their attempt to monetise their iOS line with the Williams Pinball application has led to a monster which I prefer to forget. 

And just to add to the depression, there are the bad news of Catalina. With the new MacOS the wrappers of ProPinball will stop working. Will somebody provide new and Catalina-compatible ones? I wouldn't hold my breath. 

In 2019 I tried to publish a post per month just to let you know that the blog is alive. I am afraid that this is totally futile. The plan for 2020 will be to publish something whenever Zen Studios present new tables. At least I will write in order to say something positive. 

01 November, 2019

Two new pinballs by Zen

This time there were only two new tables instead of the usual pack of three. I don't like the idea that Zen may be slowing down. But then they probably tried to get these two pinballs out before Halloween, so let's not be too pessimistic (yet).

The two new tables are monster themed. Monster Bash is a collection of all the famous monsters (Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy etc.) against a backdrop of rock concert. 

It's a funny table and the various monsters which become activated as the game progresses add a variety to the gameplay.

The second table is the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Here the backdrop is a drive-in cinema.  While the gameplay is slightly less interesting than the one of the Monsters the graphics are superb.

In this case the Zen animations are absolutely great. One sees the creature swim in the lagoon and it even comes out when a ball drains to inspect the vicinity. Just look at the screenshot below.

There has been also a price hike on the tables but given their quality I do not regret at all the 11 euros I had to pay for them.

01 October, 2019

Epic Quest and a friend's suggestion

I had already written about Epic Quest in my post on eSports Zen pinballs. At that time I had discarded the table saying that it was hard to follow the ball.  Suffering from the invisible FarSight balls I was particularly sensitive to tables where the ball visibility was not perfect.

But then when I wrote the previous ball on Adventure Pinball (which is a pinball only in name) my friend Marco chimed in and reminded me that he had already pointed out that Epic Quest was worth some attention on my behalf. And thus I decided to give it a second chance.

My surprise was that the game did not make it to the Mac version of Zen pinballs collection. This is somewhat intriguing since the other table of the eSports collection, Mars, does indeed appear among the tables one can play on the Mac. At least Epic Quest was available on the iPad and thus I could try it again.  Since this time I was motivated I took the time to accustom myself to the highly coloured tabletop and was rewarded with a nice gameplay and the typical Zen table layout which makes the ball difficult to drain. (Unfortunately this is not the case for the Zen-Williams collection where the layout must respect the original pinball's one).

If you haven't tried Epic Quest, now is the time to give it a try.

08 September, 2019

Is this a pinball?

One more of those pinball-based games made its appearance. It is even has pinball in the name (it's called Adventure Pinball) The game is announced as combining pinball, adventure and role playing and comes in old-school graphics and colour:

I watched the short video of the gameplay and I immediately decided not to spend the 2.29 euros: it is not a pinball. If you are interested in role playing you could perhaps find it appealing but if, like myself, you are a pinball fan, you can simply forget about it.

10 August, 2019

Comparing Zen and FarSight

The title is somewhat misleading. I am not going to compare neither the two companies nor their whole product lines. I am going to focus on just one table I have been playing for the past week: Attack from Mars.

But first a statement. There is no comparison between the physics of Zen pinballs and that of the FarSight ones. Compared to the former the latter give an impression of clunkiness which, for the table in question is aggravated by the angle of the flippers that makes the control of the ball particularly unnerving.

The Zen table

As I said I have been playing the two versions of the same table and I have the impression that the point system is not the same for the two implementations. How would that be possible?  Aren't the two versions supposed to simulate the behaviour of the real table? Still, I am obtaining systematically higher scores on the FarSight table. My personal bests are at around 8 billion for the Zen version and 12 billion for the FarSight one. 

The FarSight table

One thing that I do appreciate in the FarSight layout is the possibility to adjust the table view. I like vertical tables (I was a big fan of the LIttleWing tables) and FarSight offers an angle of view which, while not being a view from above, is much better than the Zen fixed, "perspective", view.

Which table do I prefer? I haven't decided yet. For the time being, I am playing both, trying to improve my scores in both simulations. 

17 July, 2019

FarSight vs Zen

I would have never believed that I was going to write a post where FarSight would have the upper hand in a comparison to Zen. Well, here it is.

Some background is necessary though. Three weeks ago I underwent surgery in order to repair a shoulder tendon (the supraspinatus, if you are interested in details). As a consequence my left arm was immobilised, with a very clever belt (it still is and will be for ten more days) and I could not play pinball. I was somewhat frustrated but then I remembered Safe Cracker. In this game you only lose the ball after the area shut-down when you are in sudden death. So I started playing SC with just the right flipper. It's not as funny as when you play with both flippers but it's better than nothing.

Now, Safe Cracker exists both in the Pinball Arcade and the Zen Pinball collections. I tried both, with, initially, a preference for Zen. However, as I kept playing I found that the FarSight version had definite advantages, in particular for someone who was losing the ball all too easily. For instance in the Pinball Arcade simulator the launch of the ball is always the same so that it always lights the same lane. One can thus rack up 5 minutes time extensions much more easily. 

Also I like the angle of the PA pinball (in position 3). It gives you more of a bird's eye view and less of a perspective one. I prefer it by far. So this time FarSight is one-upping Zen (and, I know, this is totally subjective).

21 June, 2019

I wrote to FarSight

The idea is not mine. It was in fact a suggestion of my friend Nick. Now that FarSight has lost the Williams/Bally tables they could try to revive the two great digital pinball lines which have disappeared after trying the adventure of the AppStore:  Littlewing and ProPinball. So I decided to write to them with the suggestion. 

Here  is the moil I sent them.

I am pinball fan and a Pinball Arcade player. Since the non-renewal of the Williams-Bally contract I understand that times may be difficult for FarSight. However I think that there many occasions out there in particular two excellent collections of digital pinballs the rights of which could probably be purchased. I am thinking about Littlewing and ProPinball. Both have now disappeared but could be revived thanks to your experience and offer a new line of income for your company.

I hope you'like this idea of mine.

Let's see if they respond.

30 May, 2019

The 4th batch of Zen-Williams tables

I was convinced that May would go by without a single new entry for the blog. Well, I was wrong. Just before the bell, Zen did produce the fourth batch of Williams-Bally tables. I purchased them immediately and took them for a test drive. 

Red and Ted's Road show 

is a Pat Lawlor table and, coming after Funhouse, it was inspired from the latter: we have now two talking heads, Ted the bulldozer driver and Red, his female boss. Road Show is a difficult game with a complex set of rules and I feel that I have to spend quite some time on it before mastering all its subtleties.

White Water 

is a table I did not manage to play at all in the FarSight version. It was just impossible to find a "visible" ball. Here there is not visibility problem but after a few games I concluded that I was not particularly attracted to it. 

The third tale is Hurricane

One would not have guessed, just by the title, that the game is an amusement park themed one, with Roller coasters, Ferris wheels, shooting galleries and so on. Unfortunately the Zen version does not include the revolving, back-glass, wheel, which I liked so much in the FarSight version. 

However another surprise was in store. When you loose a ball the clown is throwing a pie at you. It's one of those Zen animations I am grumbling about but in this case, since it comes at a moment when one is not playing, it is a welcome one, adding a touch of humour to the game.

01 April, 2019

Here comes the third batch of Zen-Williams tables

I am not keeping a precise track but I have the impression that Zen is releasing one batch of three Williams-Bally tables every two-three months. This amounts to one new table per month which is not that bad. As long as this goes on we should not complain. Right now with most pinball developers having gone out of business and FarSight moribund (perhaps I am a tad too pessimistic there) having Zen resuscitating the old classics is a real consolation. Of course those are tables that already existed in the Pinball Arcade collection (and which we had paid for) but, who cares, they are there and hopefully will not disappear like the ones from FarSight. Three new table were offered this time:

Theatre of Magic,

Champion Pub,

and Safe Cracker

I played all three in the Zen-enhanced version. Purists can opt for the classic one, which is devoid of any Zen-specific animations. But in the case of Zen-Williams pinballs the animations are unobtrusive and do not spoil the gameplay. One can even argue that they add a "je ne sais quoi" to it. Anyhow the three tables are excellent and definitely worth the 10 or so euros one must pay in order to acquire them. 

01 March, 2019

They lost their mind

I am talking about FarSight. I have been complaining about the ball which manages due to the reflections they have added to it to make it almost invisible thanks to a chameleon effect. I was hoping that one daythey were going to fix this. Well, I was deluding myself.

The recent update of the iOS Pinball Arcade made things even worse. You can judge for yourself. Here is the ball I selected.

I chose one that was very dark, perhaps not one with the ideal contrast with the table (I usually play with a blue one in this table) but one that suffices in order to illustrate my point. 

And here is what you get. Where did the deep red colour go? It just disappeared  from the mirror-like surface. 

Previously (and I am talking about the times before the Williams divorce) there was a solid black ball without reflections. It was ideal when the table was a light-coloured one. It just disappeared together with the special Wiliams-inspired balls. Why? Does a solid black ball fall under the Williams copyright?

I wonder if the people who are programming in FarSight ever play pinball themselves.

01 February, 2019

Zen-Williams pinballs for iOS

When Zen Studios released the first batch of their Williams-Bally pinball tables the bad news was that there was no iOS version. In fact my friend Nick was pessimistic even concerning their release on the Mac since the tables were supposed to be FX3 (which does not run on the Mac) only. Well, the tables did get released for the Mac and I could play them and comment

Fortunately the iOS-version absence was only temporary. A few days ago my friend Marco let me know that the Williams pinballs were available through a separate application  named, quite predictably, Williams Pinball.

I downloaded the app and installed it on my iPad. Unfortunately it's a bummer. I am not talking about physics or graphics. Those are excellent as is always the case for Zen pinballs. The problem in the case of the Williams app is that it came overburdened with all kind of customisation stuff, which are in fact a not-so-subtle way to push in-app purchases. I would have preferred, and by far, a situation identical to the one on the Mac: you buy each table and that's it. I would even have been read to purchase the same tables a second time. As things stand now, I seriously doubt I'm going to do this. 

01 January, 2019

Zen Pinball: the second Williams batch

Some two months after the first batch of four (well, one free and three paying) tables from the Williams colllection newly licenced to Zen Studios, the second batch is here. The three tables are:

Black Rose,

Attack from Mars,

and Party Zone.

I tested them both in the classic and the new, "enhanced", version. As in the case of the first batch, the remastered version is (slightly) better. Again, Zen has applied self-restrain and did not overburden the tables with unnecessary animations.

Black Rose is the table I preferred among the three, Party Zzone being the one I will not be playing much. Given the quite reasonable price of the tables you can purchase all three and decide after you have tried them out.

My one regret is that the tables are Mac-only and I do not know if there is some plan to port them to iOS devices in a near future. But then, we would, most probably, have to buy them again, so ...