Reviewed: February 16, 2006
Released: December 7, 2005
Younger gamers probably won’t have the nostalgic appreciation required to enjoy a retro game like Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection. To be honest, even with my advanced years I came in on the tail end of the pinball craze. The first time I went to an arcade (around 1980) the ratio of pinball machines versus arcade machines was about 50-50 and within 3-4 years pinball machines had all but vanished from the arcades. Now you might find one in a bar or bowling alley but they are nothing like the antiques you will experience in Crave’s latest trip down memory lane.
Pinball Hall of Fame originally released for the PS2 and Xbox in 2004 and it's finally gotten around to the PSP with some new tables, improved graphics, and pick-up and play gameplay that is perfectly suited to the handheld lifestyle.
Spanning more than 50 years of pinball history, Pinball Hall of Fame features eleven of Gottlieb’s greatest pinball tables from the 50’s all the way to their ultimate demise in the 90’s. Save those quarters for the laundry room, as older gamers can now relive a very special moment from gaming history and younger gamers can get a taste of what gaming was like back when their dad was a kid.
Pinball Hall of Fame is packaged much like the recent Midway and Atari retro collections. You get a virtual arcade stuffed with machines that you can scroll through and either play or view legacy material, original art, and promotional materials. In some ways this game is more geared to pinball historians than pinball players. And if you don’t feel like reading the manual you can actually zoom in on the tables and read the original instructions printed on the table labels.
The eleven tables represent some of pinball’s greatest moments over a 50-year time frame, and as you go back in time the gameplay definitely shows its primitive roots. The 1957 Ace High table is very basic, especially compared to anything you might find in active service today. Even the 1993 Tee’d Off is a bit of a cultural shock.
Surprising enough, the best table of the bunch (in my opinion) is the 1987 Black Hole, not only because it has one of the best designs, but because I actually played the real table back in the day and it all came back to me. For those who never played Black Hole, there is actually a mini-pinball table under the main board that slopes the opposite way. If you drop the ball into this lower table you then have to keep it “alive” with flippers at the other end as you hit the ball back toward you.
The 1979 Genie is another great table featuring no less than five flippers and some challenging gameplay that requires a lot of precision shot making. All of the tables have their own unique challenges and level of difficulty. You’ll quickly learn to appreciate some of the wonderful designs when you graduate from a table consisting primarily of bumpers and targets to the more sophisticated tables with spiraling rails and multiple arrays of flippers.
FarSight Studios have already proven they can handle “ball physics” with Mojo! and if nothing else, Pinball Hall of Fame features some of the most realistic ball movement and reactions in any pinball game to date on the PC or a console. The flippers react very well with the tap of the right and left shoulder buttons and the analog pad gives you variable control over the launch plunger for those skill shots and nudging the table.
FarSight has really done their homework in researching the original materials for these tables. All of the bonus material is totally authentic but nothing compares to the stunning artwork of the tables themselves. The colors are rich and vibrant and there is a polished sheen to the glass top that reflects the unseen vertical score section of the machine. Even the cool silver metallic ball reflects its surroundings.
One of my only complaints with the console version of Pinball Hall of Fame was playing a traditionally vertical game on a horizontal screen. The PSP solves this problem with ultimate style by allowing you to pivot the screen 90-degrees with the tap of the circle button. You now have a vertical table on a vertical screen and it all makes perfect sense and looks fantastic. Even the controls rotate with the screen.
I have to admit the sound isn’t going to win any awards for technical achievement but it is 100% authentic to the original tables, which is all you really can ask for in a retro collection like this. Keep in mind that back in the 50’s and 60’s pinball games didn’t have much more than bells and buzzers, and even when you get into the 80’s and 90’s tables the synthesized music, voices and other effects are still quite primitive by today’s standards.
Eleven tables, each with a rich historic legacy, four player support, unlockable bonuses, and challenging gameplay will keep both young and old entertained for countless hours. And at only $29 this is the perfect impulse buy. They even throw in some classic bar room legends like the Test Your Love machine.
There is also multiplayer support for up to four players and two-player wireless gaming with game sharing and one disc. This is a great way to share the pinball experience and possibly talk a few friends into picking up their own copy.
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection was a wonderful trip down memory lane; at least for the tables I actually remembered playing. Some of the older ones actually predated my arcade days and gave me a unique insight into the evolution of the pinball franchise.
If you are remotely interested in pinball, especially from an historical standpoint, or you are just looking for some good wholesome family entertainment without visiting a smoky bar or bowling alley and dropping a few dozen quarters into a slot then this is the game for you. And the PSP is the perfect system to play it on.