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When pinball enthusiasts talk about the way a shot "feels," they're actually talking about tiny variables within the game, like how far the plunger can be drawn back, or how lanes line up with the flippers, or the size of the ball gutters. For short, they refer to this as "kinetics," and the reason that the original Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection caught everyone's attention was that developer FarSight and publisher Crave had so perfectly captured the kinetics of ten famous pinball machines from the manufacturer Williams which, until its departure from the pinball business in 1999, held nearly seventy percent of the market.
Already released on PS2, PSP and Wii, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection features a 3D virtual pinball arcade, complete with patrons and cheesy hair metal. This next-gen upgrade for the Xbox 360 and PS3 sports enhanced graphics, as well as three additional tables – Arabian Nights, Medieval Madness and No Good Gophers – on top of the original ten: Black Knight, Pinbot, Gorgar, Space Shuttle, Funhouse, Whirlwind, Taxi, Firepower, Jive Time and Sorceror. Plus, you now have online leaderboards and full Achievement support.
The new graphics are a marked improvement over the last-gen versions of the game. Running at high resolution, an HDTV smooths out the jaggies that marred otherwise perfect recreations of the real life tables. As for new additions, we can't give the developers enough credit for programming three of the most intricate tables in the entirety of pinball. Medieval Madness has a plastic destructible castle, pop-up goblins and a princess voiced by Tina Fey; Arabian Nights has a magnetized genie and a spinning lamp, and No Good Gophers uses retractable ramps and talking gophers for golf style rules. Three great tables to be sure, although we’re still hoping other popular licensed tables like The Addams Family or The Twilight Zone come to the game later via DLC.
We wish the game made better use of metadata in the online leader boards, so you could see who had more skill shots or had scored the most jackpots, but simply competing for global bragging rights works well. We do have a few holdover gripes from the previous games: there's no customizable control menu to switch flipper controls from, say, the 360 gamepad's analog triggers to its digital left and right bumpers. The free play unlockables are still punitive – forget trying to unlock Jive Time until you’ve mastered every other table. And as authentic as the sound effects and music are, the sampling rates sound just a bit low for our admittedly pin-geek tastes.
Still, if you're new to the series and have the most passing interest in pinball, or even none at all, we highly recommend Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. It's literally like having a pinball museum inside a DVD case. For anyone who purchased the game last generation, the hi-def version is definitely worth the worth the price of admission for Medieval Madness alone.
Oct 8, 2009