Bally Good: The Pinball Arcade Released

By Adam Smith on November 7th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

Earlier this week, the Pinball Arcade finally landed on my PC, via the medium of Steam. Pinball tables were among the games that made me and the Arcade contains some of my favourites, so I’ll write more about this soon. The free download contains one table, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and there are two season packs available for purchase, with more to come. Tables can also be bought in packs of two. I’ve tried every table and while there are some camera issues, where I’ve also played the physical counterpart, I’ve found the actual recreations hugely impressive. It’s like owning a lovely digital museum. However, I do have some quibbles and they are below.

Quibble #1: Tables can only be purchased in-game, using Steam Wallet credit. As far as I can tell, that wasn’t Farsight’s choice and they’d prepared the content to sell as DLC through the Steam Store, where it would be plainly visible and available to purchase as gifts, but the Powers That Be thought that the quantity of DLC, released all at once, would clog up the front of the store page. There is an option to make DLC invisible though, right? This qualifies as a quibble because it’s impossible to see prices from the front page of Steam and probably means Pinball Arcade paid content can’t be included in Steam sales. Boo.

Quibble #2: Those camera angles. They’re decent enough and the viewpoint can be fixed into position, but there are times when features at the top of certain tables are obscured.

Quibble #3: Tales of the Arabian Nights is a great table but it can seem unreasonably harsh, with near misses often resulting in a lost ball. One of Brian Eddy’s mid-nineties spectacles might have been a better demo machine. Medieval Madness and Attack From Mars are both available to buy, and they’re the tables I’d used to introduce somebody to pinball. They’re simple, have strong themes and allow for enormous scores, with almost every flip of the ball hitting something that lights up or makes a noise.

Quibble #4: No Addams Family table. Yet.

Quibble #5: Pro versions of tables cost extra. For selected tables, these allow access to the operator’s menu, pro tips and full table exploration. The table packs aren’t cheap and I’d prefer for all the available functions to be included in a single purchase.

They’re all relatively minor complaints given how strong the package is. Unlocking every table cost me I’ve spent hours playing already, mostly trying to crack the secrets of enormously high Twilight Zone scores and wondering how long it’d take for Black Knight’s sound effects to murder my ears.

It’s free to download, with Tales included, and every other table can be played on a trial basis, shutting down as soon as a certain score threshold is reached. If you have any problems with flipper lag, try this fix.

Some people will always prefer the likes of Pro Pinball, which feature unique fictional tables, but I love the simulation of actual machines that I’ll probably never have a chance to play, which is why Visual Pinball has been a permanent fixture on my desktop for the last few years. The Pinball Arcade can sit alongside it for now because it doesn’t cover everything yet, but the few tables that I already had a Visual version of are improved in the Arcade, and besides, I prefer to pay for the use of the license where I can.

Farsight have been delivering a couple of new tables a month, using Kickstarter to buy some licenses, and they’ve just secured Terminator 2 rights. It’s a wonderful archive already, with a great deal of variety, and hopefully it’ll continue to grow for years.

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48 Comments »

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  1. almostDead says:

    Let’s get this party started:

    Ever since I was a young boy
    I’ve played the silver ball…..

    • GernauMorat says:

      But I ain’t seen nothing like him
      In any amusement hall
      That deaf, dumb, and blind kid
      Sure plays a mean pinball

    • DuneTiger says:

      From Soho down to Brighton,
      I used to play them all.

      • Saarlaender39 says:

        I’m from Germany, so I might be wrong…but I would have bet my ass, that it goes:

        From Soho down to Brighton,
        I must’ve played them all.

        • wodin says:

          He stands like a statue,
          Becomes part of the machine.
          Feeling all the bumpers
          Always playing clean.
          plays by intuition,
          The digit counters fall
          That deaf, dumb and blind kid
          Sure plays a mean pinball!

          He’s a pinball wizard
          There has to be a twist.
          A pin ball wizard,
          S’got such a supple wrist.

        • DuneTiger says:

          I believe I owe you an ass.

  2. BTAxis says:

    I was excited to finally see this appear for PC, but then I gave it a try on Medieval Madness. It’s rubbish. The physics are completely shot, to the point where even Future Pinball is better.

    Fortunately there’s still Pinball FX 2.

    • DuneTiger says:

      I despise the physics in Pinball FX/Zen. Although the ones in the Pinball Arcade/Midway Classics/Bally Classics, etc aren’t perfect, they perform much more realistically than anything in FX. FX plays as if the table is tilted 45-degrees and each flipper is a railgun.

      Either way, I think it’s kinda crappy that these guys are using this model given that the Wii and 360 versions contain a buttload of tables for around $20 or so when it came out.

      That being said, Medieval Madness is worth any amount of money.

      • ulix says:

        “FX plays as if the table is tilted 45-degrees and each flipper is a railgun.”

        Haha. Yes. This is very true.

        I still like Pinball FX 2 (or in my case Zen Pinball 2) better. It’s incredibly fast, granted. But the tables themselves are also much more forgiving, at leat most of them. So while it’s a lot faster, you aren’t cronfronted with “cheap deaths” nearly as often.

        Obviously the designers of the real tables in Pinball Arcade had to put them in. They were ment to gooble up your pocket money. Zens tables are not designed that way, because they never existed in a real arcade.

      • donmilliken says:

        “Either way, I think it’s kinda crappy that these guys are using this model given that the Wii and 360 versions contain a buttload of tables for around $20 or so when it came out.”

        You’re thinking of Pinball Hall of Fame, the precursor to The Pinball Arcade. The Wii version had 10 tables, the 360 version 13, for $20. The first season pack for Pinball Arcade nets you 21 tables for $30. That seems fair to me. The second season pack is a bit pricier at $40, but that’s still not bad for what you’re getting.

    • Syphus says:

      I have not played the PC version, just the Android version. But, while the Physics are not perfect, they are far more realistic than Pinball FX and virtually any other computer Pinball I’ve played.

      • DuneTiger says:

        I would recommend you try and track down Big Race USA from the un-toppled Pro Pinball series. It’s unfortunate those guys aren’t around anymore, but that was by far the best virtual pinball machine I’ve ever played.

        • Premium User Badge

          Colonel J says:

          Pro Pinball are still kicking – they had a failed Kickstarter for a new table and remasters of all their old releases, but came back a couple of months ago with a successful KS for a HD update of Timeshock!, it’s due out before the end of the year. If that sell a bit then could be that you’ll see their other tables getting a re-release. My own favourite was The Web. Agreed, still the best PC pinball tables I’ve played too.

          Edit: Linkage http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/500643708/pro-pinball-timeshock-the-ultra-edition-0

          • Syphus says:

            It looks like it passed, or am I reading it wrong?

            Anyway, it looks like Pro Pinball Big Race USA is on GOG.

          • udat says:

            I liked the Web the best as well. I used to play that obsessively when I was at university. I bought Timeshock and Big Race later, but none of them grabbed me the way The Web did. I was disappointed when I saw that the others are on GOG but the Web isn’t available. I think I might still have the CD somewhere…

        • spectone says:

          You can get Time Shock and Big Race on GoG.

  3. Jason Moyer says:

    Tales of the Arabian Nights, to be fair, was a pretty harsh game when it came to punishing small mistakes. It was one of those tables where you’d regularly get into a groove with a single ball lasting 15-20 minutes, then the other balls would be gone before you did anything.

    Edit: Oh my gosh, I just looked at the table list. Gottlieb games were always kind of crap, but it has nearly every great Williams and/or Bally table from the mid 90’s in it.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Edit: Oh my gosh, I just looked at the table list. Gottlieb games were always kind of crap, but it has nearly every great Williams and/or Bally table from the mid 90′s in it.

      If it had Indiana Jones everything on my wishlist would have been done. Sadly the rights for that table are probably too much.

      • Syphus says:

        They used Kickstarter or some kind of funding for the T2 Pinball machine, and raised more than enough. But it is a lot, you have to license from the pinball company, or whoever has their rights these days, then the movie studio, then the actor for their voice, and probably someone for the music. It is really ridiculous.

        Plus they also buy each machine and take it apart so that’s another bit of change.

        • ulix says:

          Yes. They’ve also funded the licenses for Twilight Zone and Star Trek through Kickstarter. These tables are more expensive for anyone buying them regularly though. Normal tables cost 2,50$/€ I believe, while the licenced tables cost 5,00$/€.

  4. Ginger Yellow says:

    I already have this on two platforms and I’m still tempted to pick it up on PC.

  5. Syphus says:

    I haven’t tried this on the PC yet, but I love the Android version and have bought quite a few of the machines. Arabian Nights is also way easier than playing Black Hole, but I would’ve loved if t hey went with Theater of Magic (one of the other original tables).

    • CoolgyFurlough says:

      For some reason I’m insanely good at Black Hole, and I’m not sure why. The table looks hard and it’s very unforgiving, but for some reason I’m better at it than any other table, (I can barely get a replay on any other table), but for some reason I can play for an hour on just one ball with on Black Hole…

      I think I know why they picked Arabian Nights though. It’s flashy for one, with two electromagnets and a mechanical spinning lamp, it has some amazing features. The goal system alleviates the normal player’s problems of “What do I do!?” The table really does just make you keep wanting to play over and over again. And the final battle with the genie is one of the most fun and amazing feelings that exists in pinball.

  6. Guvornator says:

    “Unlocking every table cost me I’ve spent hours playing already”

    What does this mean?

    • jon_hill987 says:

      It means someone has not had their coffee.

    • RogueJello says:

      Add a comma: “Unlocking every table _,_ cost me I’ve spent hours playing already”

      • Guvornator says:

        I’m not sure that helps…Anyways, what Adam was possibly trying to say is that unlocking every table costs £22.99 (I think, I’m not starting up the game just to check the price).

  7. mrmalodor says:

    CENTARRR. DESTROY. CENTARRR.

  8. Jerppa says:

    Man, I used to love pinball machines, but haven’t seen one in ages. I feel old :(

  9. Nate says:

    “–he’s the black knight!”

    “Give me your money!”

    I can’t remember my own phone number, but I can remember the sounds that pinball machine made. Not that I ever played it. It was just a few machines down from SFII.

  10. Baines says:

    Worth noting that people noticed what appears to be keys for a future Humble Bundle for Pinball FX on SteamDB.

    There is a “Pinball FX2 Humble Basic Key” entry with the Core Pack, Zen Classics Pack, Paranormal Table, Earth Defense Table, and Epic Quest Table. There is a “Pinball FX2 Humble Bonus Key” entry with Star Wars Pack, Marvel Pinball Original Pack, and Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles pack.

    Mind, this could still be a false entry, or a “just in case” that never happens. Even if it does happen, it could be weeks or even months away, and could also be changed in the meantime.

  11. godzillasushi says:

    I’ve read on the Pinball Arcade forum that at least the two season packs will be released on the steam store in the near future…
    (so you can still get them cheap in a future sale :P)

  12. Danda says:

    Adam, you are blaming Steam but I think it’s their fault, because they follow that model also for PS3 and Android: you get the basic free-to-play game for free and then your purchases are registered in your FarSight account.

    I don’t like that because as a small developer they may easily go out of business, and that would be it, no more access to what you purchased. I’d probably pay for a few tables if this was a Steamworks release, but now I’d rather not.

    EDIT (12/11/2013): They fixed this! :)

    http://store.steampowered.com/news/11849/?snr=1_4_4__109

    Now I’m off to buy one or both seasons! (if I have enough money)

    • CoolgyFurlough says:

      Purchases are actually (sadly) not registered to your FarSight account. I own tables on PS3 and Android, and nothing shows up when I log in.

      • Guvornator says:

        From their FAQ:

        Can I transfer my purchases to a different platform?

        Unfortunately the markets do not share purchase information, the tables are tied to the market of original purchase.

        • Mutak says:

          “The markets” are fucking database entries. It should be trivial for them to cross-pollinate purchases. They don’t do it because they know that fans of a niche genre like this will buy their faves again and again and casual players don’t care.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    Tables I’d love to see:

    Indiana Jones, SF2, Star Trek, Judge Dredd and of course the best table ever…

    Doctor Who.

    • airmikee99 says:

      I used to play Judge Dredd, but my favorite was the Addams Family.

    • Mutak says:

      Yo Fitzmogwai, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Addams Family was the best pinball machine of all time…best machine of all time!

  14. Jason Moyer says:

    Just played a few games of TOTAN and tried some of the other Williams/Bally tables from the same era (Attack From Mars, Medieval Madness, Cirqus Voltaire, etc) and they need to polish this up before I consider dumping money on the season passes. The emulation of both the electronics and mechanicals of the tables seems great but the texture resolution is ATROCIOUS (the playfields, in particular, are a pixelated mess) and the flippers seem way too slow, it almost feels like you’re playing on a machine that hasn’t been well maintained with sluggish flippers.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Did you try the flipper fix that I linked? I didn’t have a problem but over on the Pinball Arcade forums, a lot of people reckon that worked for them.

    • Guvornator says:

      “the texture resolution is ATROCIOUS (the playfields, in particular, are a pixelated mess)”

      What view point are you playing it from? I’ve only played the free version, but I noticed that it looked pixelated the more zoomed out you were, for some reason. Zooming in made the gaming area look really sharp on my 1080 screen. However the non gaming area (behind the flippers and the table itself) looked pretty low res, and the launcher handle is noticably square

  15. Sic says:

    All the good tables are, fortunately, located about 50 meters away, at the local pub, so I’ll reserve my forays in digital pinball adventures to the likes of Pro Pinball — which cares about making the experience as close to reality as possible, and not churning out tables.

    Bringing me to what I was I was originally annoyed about:

    Why hasn’t RPS mentioned the recent Pro Pinball kickstarter (the new one, not the one from last year)? There is exactly one company serious about making OK digital pinball machines, and people ignore them. It’s a travesty.

  16. Gothnak says:

    I have owned two pinball machines in my life, and both have been ‘the Twilight Zone’… Moving into a small terrace and then my girlfriend moving in, means now i have none :(….

    However, at some point i shall own a Twilight Zone, Addams Family, Medieval Madness and Indiana Jones and then i will never leave my house again.

  17. ibrohajduk1977 says:

    anyone interested to have crack for all tables?