Matt McIrvin (mmcirvin) wrote,

More fun and annoyance with Pinball Arcade

Having gotten the cash to license Twilight Zone for their pinball-emulation game The Pinball Arcade, Farsight has almost fully funded their second Kickstarter to fund the license for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It's gone a little slower than the first one, I think in part because it's held in slightly less reverence by pinball fans (though it's my personal favorite), and in part because people have gotten frustrated with Farsight over bugs and delays in their existing DLC, which makes them less likely to believe that the company's actually going to deliver on Twilight Zone, let alone Star Trek: TNG. Particularly the XBox 360 and PS3 users, for whom content has been very slow in coming.

Still, what they have released is a lot of fun, because of the inherent appeal of the games. After very long delays, the first three DLC packs finally got released for the consoles, which, in addition to the four tables distributed with the game (Theatre of Magic, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Black Hole, Ripley's Believe It Or Not!), gives them Medieval Madness, The Machine: Bride of Pinbot, Cirqus Voltaire, Funhouse, Monster Bash, and Gorgar.

The pattern seems to be to bundle a retread of a table from Pinball Hall of Fame with a new one, so that PHoF fans have to re-buy the old tables. To be fair, the new implementations do have the newer physics engine, and Funhouse is now running with an emulation of the genuine ROM, though Gorgar isn't. And Medieval Madness is new to me, since it wasn't in the Wii version of PHoF.

It's hard to pick a favorite, but of these six DLC tables, I think Funhouse and Monster Bash are the ones I've enjoyed playing the most. Funhouse was probably Pat Lawlor's best-known pre-Addams Family table, with a creepy animatronic dummy head named Rudy whose eyes follow the ball around the board while he distracts you with comments. As with most of Lawlor's designs, some of the important shots involve whacking the ball horizontally across the playfield with a small, vertically-mounted third flipper. For some reason the TPA version grabs me more than the PHoF version did, maybe just because my skills have developed a little.

Monster Bash was apparently the result of a failed attempt to license Bobby "Boris" Pickett's song "Monster Mash", so, as you'd expect, it has a goofy Universal-Monsters-in-a-rock-band theme, in which you're trying to collect all the monsters like Pokemon to form the band and go to concert. It makes much use of mode-stacking, in which you can get special advantages by activating two or more special modes at once. The emulation on XBox 360 has a bug that breaks leaderboards, since you can get arbitrary numbers of jackpots by going into Frankenstein Multiball and nudging the table to the left. But if you don't care about that, it's great.

On Android (where you can buy all the tables either in packs or a la carte), there are four more tables available: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Black Knight, Taxi, and the Stern Harley Davidson.

Creature has an unusual fourth-wall-breaking theme. The conceit is that you're at a Fifties drive-in watching the movie, and the game has a rough storyline in which you do various wacky drive-in-movie-related things to "start the film" (the two-ball multiball mode), in which you're in the movie trying to Rescue The Girl from the Creature. The interesting thing about this one from a Pinball Arcade perspective is that they seemed to have greatly improved the flipper physics from the previous tables, making it easy to do such things as post passes. Initially it did have the problem that it was a little too easy to trap a ball when it was just coming down the inlane (the latest update fixes this, and therefore makes the table considerably harder).

Black Knight, unfortunately, seems much buggier than the PHoF version, probably the buggiest table released so far; it really needs work. The latest revision does at least move the virtual Magna-Save buttons to reachable positions. Taxi is an old favorite of mine, and the TPA version seems fine so far. I haven't formulated much of an opinion about Harley-Davidson yet except that it seems very easy, in the sense that you can activate lots of flashy modes just by haphazardly knocking the ball around.

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