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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Review


Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (PS2 & PSP)

This compilation will transport players back to the golden age of flippers and bumpers, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection is a solid offering that delivers an authentic experience. Featuring realistic recreations of several classic machines, the gameís physics and actions are superb with multiple tables featuring several modes of play. An extended tutorial shows you the ins and outs of each board and each machine can be seen as a game in itself. Both the PS2 and PSP editions share a similar approach and interface, and the differences are minor. Pinball offers an engaging exciting experience with very high replay value.


Featuring eight or ten (depending on the version) classic pinball titles including such legendary tables as Gorgar, Pinbot and Black Knight, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection offers a solid selection of highly playable, challenging boards. Both the PSP and PS2 versions allow players to wander through a virtual arcade and select which machine you want to play. Once selected, you can choose from several options including number of players, balls and overall difficulty. As you gain high scores, other options, such as reverse fields are unlocked as well. Players can also make so cosmetic changes such as turning on the glass reflections on or off and changing the background arcade noise from ambient to off. Each of the pinball tables in this collection offers a bevy of different strategies and layouts with different targets and objectives for each. Before you begin playing, you can view a quick tutorial which shows you the key locations of big points targets and explains how to unlock secrets such as multi-ball modes for each table. When the player has completed this introductory sequence, itís time to go play and use their accumulated credits to start each game. Once you begin, youíll find that the simulations deliver a remarkable degree of accuracy and realism, which extends to every element of the pinball simulation. There are eight unique boards included in the game, and each one has been recreated in meticulous detail, which should please those who grew up on these games.

Each board has been emulated, with all the bumpers targets, sound effects and plunger positions accurately recreated. The level of detail is impressive, and the multitiered boards remain impressive in the ingenuity and style. You can especially appreciate the level of detail in the imaginative designs of machines like Pin Bot, with their hidden targets and secret compartments that you can uncover. The artwork and visuals look fantastic in the package, and each machine has been recreated down to the backglass artwork, sound effects and sampled speech. The atmospheric sound effects and arcade ambience enhance the mood which makes you feel like you are playing an actual pinball machine on a long-ago Saturday night, which is really cool. The ball physics and responsiveness allows players to use classic techniques such as use of body-english and flipper maneuvering to keep the balls in play. Players need to be careful not to tilt the machines, since these indicators are quite sensitive, at least using an analog stick. This makes it bit annoying at times, but other than this minor issue, the translations feel almost flawless. You wonít find very many problems and the multiple view points allow you to play with either a full view of the table, a close-up angle or a smart cam where the action zooms in and out depending on ball position. Playing with the full-view mode doesnít allow for as much detail, but compensates for this by allowing you to judge the ball position, while the zoom angles give you a better chance at hitting targets. Once youíve memorized each board, youíll find that things are much easier. The zoom mode is very effective, and brings an excitement to the gameplay that sucks you right into the action. However, Pinball Hall of Fameís AI is smart enough to revert to a wide angle when you activate multi-ball bonuses. This makes playing the game a breeze, allowing for a quick pick up and play mechanics where you donít have to worry about complex moves or combos.

The gameís immediate appeal is also due in large part to its well-known tables, some of which like Black Knight are probably firmly imprinted on playersí memories, along with the legendary PinBot, which was immortalized in a stellar NES cartridge several years back. The lesser known tables also provide plenty of play action, with the simple play of early titles like Firepower and Sorceror contrasting with the more complicated, mutli-tiered tables such as Fun House and or Space Shuttle. Playing the simpler games like Gorgar makes for good practice for the more complicated tables. These require more concentration and skill. Regardless of their difficultity, each of the included table play just as brilliantly as you remember and there plenty of goals, such as points earned or specific targets to hit, that add to the challenge. Oddly, the PSP version includes two extra tables not found on the PS2 version, Jive Time, which is a real 60ís style trip and a more modern multi-level machine Whirlwind - both are solid additions. The PSP version allows players to play horizontally holding the system in standard position or vertically, which is a nice effect that allows the table to fill out the screen nicely. With tables encompassing another legendary name from the pinball era, this makes the perfect compliment to the earlier Gottlieb collection. There are some similarities in style and presentation, and while it doesnít have too much in the way of extra features, Pinball Hall of Fame - The Williams Collection offers a solid package of instantly accessible gameplay and action that should please flipper fans out there.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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