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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (Wii)

Wii owners looking for authentic and dynamic classic arcade action will find plenty to like in Crave's Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. With authentic emulations of ten classic machines, there's plenty of variety to be seen. The game's physics are superb with impressive tables featuring several modes of play. An extended tutorial shows you the ins and outs of each board and each machine offers a unique challenge. Pinball Hall of Fame's controls take good advantage of the Wii's unique controls, using the nunchuck and wiimote as flippers while shaking the wiimote shakes the table around. This is an excellent collection with high replay value that should appeal to gamers looking for some quick action.

Featuring a large selection of ten classic pinball titles including such legendary tables as Gorgar, Pinbot, Whirlwind, Firepower, and Black Knight, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection offers a solid compilation of challenging machines. At the beginning of each round, you can travel through a virtual arcade and select which machine you want to play. Some machines are initially unlocked, though you can earn more by winning credits and unlocking their free-play mode. 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 selecting the background arcade noise ambience or turning it 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, it's time to go play and use their accumulated credits to begin. Each of the machines is expertly crafted and you'll find that the simulations deliver a remarkable degree of accuracy and realism, which extends to every element of the pinball simulation. There are ten unique boards included in the game, ranging from classic machines of the 60's and 70's, which were much simpler to more complex recent releases. Each table has been recreated in meticulous detail, which should please those who remember the arcade versions.

Each board has been emulated, with all the bumpers targets, sound effects and plunger positions accurately recreated and placed. The level of detail is impressive, and some of the more elaborate multi level play fields are 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. Hall of Fame's excellent 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 won't find very many problems in terms of presentation and interface. The game provides 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 doesn't 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 you've memorized each board, you'll 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 Fame's 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 don't have to worry about complex moves or combos.

The game's immediate appeal is also due in large part to its well-known tables, some of which like Black Knight are probably firmly imprinted on players' memories, along with the legendary PinBot, which was immortalized in a memorable NES release many years ago. 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 is good practice for the more complicated tables later one. These require more concentration and skill. Regardless of their difficulty, 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. While the Wii version doesn't differ substantially from other versions out there, it does take advantage of the console's unique controls with the nunchuck and wii mote used in tandem to act as flipper controls, with players pressing a button on each. This approach accurately mimics the feel of a real machine, since your hands are separated at a better approximate distance, to better capture the feel of real pinball. Using the shaking moves is done by shaking the wiimote around. Other versions seemed a bit oversensitive, but the subtle motions allowed by this motion-sensitive controller allow for more precise controls. Overall, Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection is a solid addition to the Wii library, offering a surprisingly good value for the money thanks to its extensive selection of tables, challenging gameplay and the timeless appeal of pinball itself.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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