Game Review

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Top of the high score table or tilt?

When was the last time you played a really great pinball table? Not a digital approximation but an actual whiz-bangin', light-flashin', chaos table? Sadly, the agonising death of the arcade has put a damper on the availability of pinball tables, and unless you're one of the lucky few who live nearby a well-stocked arcade or frequent a bar bold enough to keep one in the corner it's probably safe to say that "too long ago" is the answer.

Even though the glory days of finicky plungers and paddles have passed, pinball lives on in video games. Whereas developers like Zen Studios work to create new tables that would be impossible in real life through titles like Zen Pinball 3D, FarSight Studios and Crave Entertainment are more concerned with preserving the past in Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection and its seven seasoned tables from Williams' history. This compilation has already seen release on numerous platforms and with more tables since it first hit in 2008, but portability and neat stereoscopic 3D keep the 3DS adaptation from tilting.

The classic tables on offer are Black Knight, Funhouse, Gorgar, Pin*Bot, Space Shuttle, Taxi and Whirlwind. Each table is a very faithful recreation in both visuals and audio and all have their own challenge: Black Knight's multiple flippers require a different approach than Whirlwind's rotating platters or Taxi's numerous ramps. No two tables play quite the same, which lends a good sense of diversity to the package despite the relatively small table count. Instructions accompany each as well to show you how to get the most out of the table — as well as your score — and prove a great help when tackling the assorted individual challenges for each. Granted, many challenges can be accomplished by simply keeping the ball in play for a long enough period to hit enough bumpers or shoot up ramps, but knowing how to prep and trigger a multi-ball is better than leaving it up to guesswork. Physics behave the same as other versions of the collection, which is to say good, with the occasional float.

Tables come in two types: "locked" and free play. "Locked" tables can still be played but require tokens, which you're given a healthy handful of off the bat. Tokens can be earned by accomplishing table goals, and once you clear all five standard goals at a table you're able to unlock any one table for free play. Conversely, you can buy a table for 100 tokens. Unless you splurge on tables, you'll never be short on tokens as long as you do somewhat OK, and you start off with such a generous amount that even if you couldn't replenish them you'd have unlocked all the tables by accomplishing goals around the time they depleted anyway. It's a system meant to provide incentive and reward, but feels trivial in the long run.

While the 3DS version is technically the most feature-sparse yet on account of missing a handful of tables from its console cousins, those are the only things cut. Still sorely missing are mid-game saves, which puts a downer on extended play modes like Challenge. Hotseat multiplayer and tournaments as well as other unlockables are still present, in addition to a handful of 3DS-tailored features. Quickly moving the 3DS acts as slamming a real pinball table would and lets you give the ball's direction a little nudge, but the real novelty is holding the handheld upside down to put the playing field on the bottom and the backboard on top akin to how an actual pinball table is constructed. Ultimately it's a gimmick, albeit a pretty cute one, and makes things a bit more awkward to play as you have to press the shoulder buttons up instead of down while holding the flimsier part of the handheld. Stereoscopic 3D holds steady in this flipped orientation.

The difference between playing in 2D and 3D is quite startling. The added depth lends a great sense of place and really makes the smaller details like lighting pop. In 2D it's very easy to overlook how much care went into the original design of the tables and see them more as cluttered playing fields than crafted arenas, but the 3D carves out and clarifies the methods to the madness. Pinball in stereoscopic 3D is among the best uses of the tech that the handheld has seen so far: subtle but enhancing.


Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection is an attractive proposition for portable pinball: the tables are fun and the stereoscopic 3D is impressive enough to leave other pinball games feeling flat. There is little incentive to double-dip if you already have another version of the compilation and missteps like a lack of mid-game saving are quite annoying, but Williams Collection proves that Nintendo's handheld can be a very exciting new home for the genre now that arcades have all but kicked the bucket.

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User Comments (37)



RantingThespian said:

I love pinball, and this actually looks great. Depending on how Zen Pinball 3D turns out, and how much each cost, I might nab this one.



LordJumpMad said:

Great review Jon
I was hopeing for another good pinball game for the 3DS.
Since we can't get Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon back
And I love that game on the DSi.

How would you compare the two games?



resort55 said:

cool. im waiting for a 3ds pinball game, so i´ll buy the first one i can get.



jgary1 said:

Can you comment on any darkness issue when using 3D? Several comments on Amazon have suggested that the top screen is very dark when 3D is activated.



pureval said:

Might pick this up, I wish it had some of the licensed tables though. Those always manage to score a few of my quarters/tokens.
I guess I am lucky with where I live. We have 2 huge arcades (1 being the largest arcade in the world) within an hour drive of here that offer tons of classic games and tables. There are also tons of small arcades around the various beaches with variable levels of quality.



daznsaz said:

i dont buy sport games but i got lets golf and play it a lot.i wouldnt get a pinball game either but will get the 3d one.probably put a lot of hours into that too.the zen one ive seen on eshop not this one



XCWarrior said:

I really liked the Wii version, but I'm not buying it again. I can't wait until we get past this port heavy life cycle of the 3DS.



Zach said:

@jgary1 If you're talking about the 3DS in general, I haven't had that issue at all. Maybe it's slightly darker than the bottom screen but you get used to it quickly. It's a lot better than the darkness you get with normal 3D glasses.
@DrCruse Retail. Download games are classified as "3DSWare" and "3DS Virtual Console" here.

Nice review Jon!



Davva said:

Is NL going to review the European Wii version, which finally came out this summer? It was delayed for about three years with System 3 saying the delay was caused because the game engine was significantly changed to improve the camera, nudging etc. It certainly works brilliantly on the Wii, a big improvement over the Gottlieb collection (which is the only thing i can compare it to). I'd be interested to know about the differences between the European and US versions... I've really enjoyed the Wii version so won't get the 3ds version (especially since the 3DS version seems to be missing a couple of tables (Firepower and Jivetime)).



bboy2970 said:

Only a 7? I would have definitely given this one an 8 or even a 9. Even though it is missing a few tables from other versions, I still feel that it has more then enough meat to it to justify $30. The 3D effect here is also just fantastic. When the table is set to camera 5, its like I'm literally holding that pinball machine in the palm of my hand. I was one of those who was very disappointed with the lack of Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon on the eShop but now that I have this, I don't care as much. If you are a fan of Pinball and own a 3DS, this is a game you simply must have.



ejamer said:

Not sure which is more disappointing: the fact some tables were dropped (probably due to file size limits?) or that they didn't include any new tables for gamers who already own the Wii version. If Medieval Madness and/or Tales of the Arabian Nights were included it would be a definite buy for me. As it stands now, it's more of a "buy after a price drop" kind of game.

Still sounds like a very solid game for anyone who doesn't already own it on a different platform.



JonWahlgren said:

@jgary1: Darkness was never an issue for me and I usually have my brightness on 3. You can always crank it up if it's tough to see but I had no issues.



mushroomer said:

sorry ill pass. i have it on wii and unless there are new tables, its a waste of money to buy this game which will suffer under smaller screens than ah hdtv

If you want a great Original pinball for the ds, get Pinball Pulse the ancient beckons for only 500 pts.. its 1 table, but really well designed with goals and objectives that are skill based. meaning the more you play it and the more you understand the strategy, the better you become



jgary1 said:

Thanks for the comments regarding screen darkness. The early reviews on Amazon really made a point of this issue. Since I already own it on Xbox, I'm still on the fence about buying - especially without Medieval Madness and Arabian Knights.



komicturtle said:

I'll wait for Zen Pinball.

And I do wish Kirby's Brawlball was downloadable and expanded on even more. such a great game.



zeeroid said:

This is cool, but I'm probably going to hold onto my quarters until Zen Pinball arrives.



LordAndrew said:

What tables are missing? That could be a deal-breaker depending on what exactly was left out in this version.



bboy2970 said:

@LardAndrew: I'm not totally sure what's gone but I can tell you what was kept. This version includes: Fun House, Black Knight, PinBot, WhirlWind, Taxi, Space Shuttle, and Gorgar. Its a good mix in my book since the only one I truly don't like is PinBot and maybe Gorgar. I absolutely love Fun House though. Its my favorite table on the game!



LittleIrves said:

I own the Wii version, but got it so cheaply that I might be willing to double-dip and get this... I've had it from Gamefly for a few days and I love the two-screen approach and the 3D is nice and crisp. One edit to the review: When you flip the 3DS upside-down (an awesome feature by the way), you can use Left on the D-pad and the A button to hit the flippers, a much more natural feel than pressing the shoulder buttons. If you love actual physical pinball tables, you gotta check this out.



mac_hine said:

I will be picking this up for sure... along with Zen Pinball! While it is $30 new, it is only $20 used at Gamestop. Not sure why its significantly less than new (unlike most other new vs. used prices at GS) but great nonetheless.



jeremybristol said:

I blew through this over a weekend, but I've played this on GC, Wii, and PS3. Other than the lower rez graphics (than the PS3), it really is a great use of 3d. My only real qualm is that there's only seven tables, and they're all playable from the beginning (you play to win tokens to unlock them for free play, and later to unlock special features).



tanookisuit said:

I disagree with the score being so low, I get it wasn't cool they cut some of the tables with the amount of room the game cards have. Dinging it for no mis-table save is a bit weak, not like the game ever offered it before on any home or portable platform so that's like holding it to another standard. I would have figured a solid/high 8 on this if there were decimal points here.

You should also repair your review, you left out the fact that it's NOT awkward to play it flipped over, you do NOT have to use the L/R buttons, it allows you to use the d-pad and face buttons for the left and right flippers too so it is totally comfortable. I may be forgetting, but I don't recall once (on Wii, PSP and PS3) clearing all 5 challenges on a table a 'wizard' set of 5 more unlocking either but I may be wrong on that. Yes this is the fourth version of the game I've had over time but I got the PSP used for $10 and the PS3 one at the flea for $2 so no real loss there.

I have to say this is a favorite version for me despite the small screen because as lame as it may sound the 3D slider really does make it feel even more like a real table on the default camera as it creates that sense of true depth of the ball around all the bumpers, lanes, jets and rest on these tables.

Of all the tables I hate Funhouse, wish they had left that out and kept Tales of the Arabian Knights(a favorite on the PS3 ver), Firepower, Sorcerer or something else in there, though Jive Time sucks too.



jeremybristol said:

Oh, and the upside down view doesn't require you to use the shoulder buttons--you can press the A for the left flipper and the control pad for the right. I actually enjoyed playing it that way--it wasn't all that awkward at all, and positioned the scoreboard above the playfield for the first time in any pinball hall of fame game (in fact, you've never been able to see the scoreboard during the game before).



Adamant said:

Pinball seems to be getting a comeback nowadays, with many malls, bars, airports and the like having a table or two. The recent Indiana Jones table is very common, and is an excellent game. My local arcade when in liked in North Dakota also happened to have my all-time favorite pinball table, Addams Family.
Genre ain't dead yet.



Sh00kst3r said:

The EZ's nearby used to have a different pinball table each month. I remember Popeye, and the last table before they completely took them out was Super Mario. I wasted a good $10 on pinball every visit. But that was YEARS ago.



pureval said:

@masterLEON Yes I live in Somersworth, NH. We up to Funspot a couple of times a year. I just recently discovered Pinball Wizard after winning a couple of gift certificates from the Channel 11 auction and loved it. Next time my Mother in Law and Wife drag me to the Salem mall I am going to tell them to drop me off there instead



masterLEON said:

@pureval I go up to Funspot once a year for the classic game tournament the weekend before bike week. I just found out about Pinball Wizard when some of my gamer friends wanted to check it out. Another place I wanted to check out was Fun World, which I hear is somewhere around Manchester. It takes me out of the way a bit when driving up so I haven't been there yet. Have you been there?



pureval said:

@masterLEON No I have not gotten over to Fun World yet, Nashua is a pain to get to from here. Might check it out one of these days. How is the classic game tournament? Every year I plan to go and every year something goes horribly wrong at work and I can not get the time off.



masterLEON said:

@pureval It's pretty fun, it's $40 to enter but you get 200 tokens, some freebies, and you get to hang around some of the best gamers out there, classic arcade, modern, or otherwise. Now with newly updated live score tracking which is the coolest thing ever! If you're good you can go for the cash prizes in the main tournament or the manufacturer [specific] challenge or even the mystery game of the day. The main tourney is too much for me as there are too many games and good players and too little time, even though the games are random and they've been bringing new, never before seen at Funspot, classic games out to help level the play field. They even have special side tournaments like this year's Galaga's 30th anniversary tourney and last year's After Burner 25th anniversary. I usually go for those or the Manufacturer's Challenge. I've been going since 2008 and it's been a blast!



rayword45 said:

If the physics are any good, then this is a hell of a better deal then Zen Pinball/Marvel Pinball, although those tables are arguably better (very good physics (though not perfect) with impossible tables).

I can find this for $10 at GS used in full, or $15 for new.

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