Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection Review

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Ahhh, pinball.  Aside from some new releases by Stern Pinball (including a slick-looking Transformers game that I want for my rec room), we really don’t see these in arcades anymore, save for those “old timey” places that cherish the lost art of going out to play video games.  Leave it to Crave to bring that classic feeling coming back to our modern consoles with its impressive Pinball Hall of Fame releases.  Its latest one, The Williams Collection, has done significantly well, particularly on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, where both games have become rarities for their near-perfect translations and online leaderboards.

With a new platform on the plateau, Crave has decided to go a step further, commissioning the developers at Farsight Studios to make a version for the Nintendo 3DS that features seven of the most popular tables for play anywhere you go.  Is it a worthwhile collection, or do these machines tilt before you even get them started?

Well, there are limitations you have to understand.  First off, the game does only include seven tables, compared to the numerous selections in the other versions.  You won’t find Firepower, Tales of the Arabian Knights, or Medieval Madness at all here, which is a shame, but considering their complex table designs, maybe it was for the better.

The seven games that did get included are Gorgar, Black Knight, Pinbot, Space Shuttle, Taxi, Funhouse, and Whirlwind.  There’s some decent variety here, though two of the tables – Taxi and Gorgar – don’t exactly have the greatest design to them.  They’re both too easy to lose the ball, and neither one comes with a “ball save”, thus dooming your score somewhere into the thousands if you’re not careful.

However, the other five games definitely hold merit.  Funhouse in particular is a classic, as you deal with shooting the ball at various goals on the table while a talking dummy head yells at you and prompts you to shoot at bonuses.  He becomes agitated over the course of the match, to the point that you have to put him to sleep and shoot the ball into his mouth.  Subtle.

The other four tables are fun too, particularly Black Knight with its dual-layer table design and Space Shuttle with its cool sound effects and bonus rounds.  You’ll have a good time going through these games, unlocking additional credits by completing both Table and Wizard Goals.  These are separated accomplishments that will really test your pinball mettle, and your high scores are automatically recorded onto the cartridge, so you can challenge others locally.

Again, this is where Pinball Hall of Fame’s limitations come into play.  There are no StreetPass supported features for this game, nor are there any online leaderboards.  Considering Zen Studios’ upcoming Zen Pinball 3DS will have both of these intact, this feels like a missed opportunity for Crave.  On the other hand, the tables themselves will keep you busy, and the Williams Challenge and Tournament mode should help you pass the time considerably.

Pinball Hall of Fame’s presentation isn’t perfect, and in some cases it’s a little unpolished, but the 3D effect it provides is pretty moderate.  The tables look great in the third dimension, though the frame rate does stutter at times, forcing you to misjudge where a ball ends up – and maybe even losing it as a result.  Fortunately, you can turn off the slider and play normally, if it becomes too much for you.  The sound effects remain authentic, though there are times they can be delayed, again due to the slowdown.  If you can put up with these hiccups, you’ll like how it comes across.  If not…well, it’s not too late to hunt down the PS3 or 360 version.

No, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection for 3DS isn’t an elite retro collection, as it’s sorely lacking in leaderboard and extra table support.  However, the genuine fun of pinball remains, provided you can put up with a few quirks in the experience.  Long-time fans should find something to like here, and the game also makes a serviceable history lesson for those who have never touched a pinball machine.  Plus, the $30 price tag isn’t half bad, though $20 would’ve been a real jackpot.  Maybe it’ll reach that point soon…

Good

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Robert Workman
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