Friday, April 29, 2022

Game 457: Pinball Quest (1989)

     
Pinball Quest
Japan
Tose Co, Ltd. (developer), Jaleco Ltd. (Japanese publisher), Jaleco USA, Inc. (U.S. publisher)
Released 1989 in Japan and 1990 in U.S. for NES
Date Started: 24 April 2022
Date Ended: 26 April 2022
Total Hours: 3
Difficulty: Hard (4.0/5), but I suck at pinball
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
      
Pinball has always slightly mystified me. I've seen the tables in bars and arcades all my life; I've played them a few times; and I've always suspected I was missing something. The machines are so complicated, full of bumpers, holes, flags, tunnels, and targets, each of which offers an inscrutable number of points. There are a seizure-inducing number of lights, music clips, and digitized voices on some of the machines. And to control all of this sound and fury, you have . . . two buttons. And while I know there's some skill to timing the buttons just right so you angle the ball in a certain direction or whatever, you have to admit that much of what happens on a pinball table is random. I've never scored 20,000 points by hitting some target and felt it was because I did something particularly skillful. I'm sure some people are more skilled than others, but even the most skilled pinball players don't have any more recourse than I do when the ball shoots cleanly between the flippers, or goes in the gutter. Do they? Are there secret additional buttons?
    
Pinball Quest suggests no. The only controls are the left and right flappers and the plunger, plus a button to nudge the table that never seems to do anything productive. I understand that nudging the table in real-life is an actual strategy, but it just seems wrong to me. Try that with any other game and see how quickly you get thrown out of the bar.
        
Only one mode of Pinball Quest is an "RPG." The other modes offer regular games of pinball on different backdrops.
     
I saw Pinball Quest on my console list when I drew Dragon Ball, and I thought it would be fun to check out. I didn't expect it would be a real RPG, and of course it's not, but this is one of those situations in which you just roll with it. It's a clever idea. The game is really a pinball simulator, offering three types of machines for up to four players. But then it also has an "RPG mode" in which a series of fantasy-themed pinball backdrops are integrated into a story about rescuing a princess. It reminds me of how I used to invent epic stories to go along with my otherwise-boring games of Space Invaders or Solitaire.
     
The Pinball Quest main menu, designed by Magnitude.
     
RPG mode starts with a cute cinematic of three goons bursting into a castle throne room and kidnapping the princess from her chair. Two of the goons rush off with the princess while one tangles with a castle guard. The "guard" is a round silver ball with a face on it--your "character" for the rest of the adventure. The ball hurries out of the castle after the kidnappers.
       
The princess is kidnapped while the ball protagonist fights a guard in the northeast.
    
Six scenarios follow, each with multiple screens. Your goal on the bottom screen is generally to knock the ball into the path upward (this usually involves smashing a door first). As you kick the ball to the next screen up, you can move your flippers up to a new base; if the ball falls downward past the flippers, you can move the flippers back down to the old location. But if the ball goes into the gutter on the bottom screen, it falls back to the previous scenario and you have to play it over again.
    
There are a couple of "RPG elements." As you destroy monsters, you increase the power of your ball, as depicted in a series of ovals on the bottom of the screen. But if you lose the ball to the previous level, that power is cut in half. Second, as you defeat enemies and scenarios, you gain points that can be spent in between scenarios like gold. After every scenario, you can stop in a shop and purchase different types of stoppers, which under certain circumstances can stop the ball from being lost, and more powerful flippers. There's even an option to steal from the shop if you don't have enough money. I didn't try it.
     
Purchasing flippers in the final store.
      
Scenario 1 begins in a graveyard, with grass, trees, and headstones. Two fenced-in areas serve as bumpers. A ghost comes out of the first headstone knocked down and offers some unnecessary instructions. Ultimately, the player must knock the ball through a gate to the next screen upward. There, amid more headstones and trees, skeletons appear. Once they're pinballed out of existence, their bones coalesce into a giant armored skeleton with 18 hit points. It takes a few hits to kill him and then launch the ball through the final gate to the next scenario.
      
I was doing that already.
      
Scenario 2 takes place on a gray, paved surface with concrete blocks and posts. A witch named Ziffroo (according to the manual) patrols the northernmost of two screens with a bunch of cats. Hitting them enough times opens the door to the next shop and then Scenario 3.
       
The witch and her cats. I knocked the ball up here from the lower screen but haven't moved my flippers up to the next station yet.
     
Scenario 3 has, I guess, a nautical theme. The action starts at the stern of a ship, with the player's goal to move the ball past walls and posts to the helm. A little "buggy" on the left-hand wall helps in that regard, pushing the ball forward every time it enters its "lane." Little goblins roam the map (until you kill them). If they can grab the ball, some will hurl it back to you and some will take it to the buggy. Nine goblins and a large goblin king guard the bow end of the ship and must be knocked away .
     
The boss of this level. I'm not sure why my ball is red.
       
Scenario 4 is the most abstract of the lot, and I'm not sure if it really has a theme. Tusked turtles roam around, if that helps. The ball must be knocked into a hole, which starts it on an automated journey from hole to hole, down a passage, around a spiral, and into a boat, which ferries it to the top of the map. Getting it knocked down to the bottom of the level is a huge pain because you have to watch the whole sequence every time you kick it back up. At the top of the level are six "dark knights" that attack one at a time and must be hit several times to destroy. They can attack the flippers and paralyze them for a few moments. Once they're gone, the ball automatically escapes out of the northwest exit.
         
They don't look all that "dark" to me.
           
Scenario 5 depicts the kidnapped princess's bedchamber. You must maneuver the ball up and down a couple of corridors full of flippers and stoppers to the northwest section. There, the princess jumps off her chair and periodically (and inexplicably) turns into a vampire. (I don't know, maybe the vampire is just disguising herself as a princess.) It must be killed. Then, the chair must be hit to reveal a secret door beneath it, leading to the final scenario.
       
Except for the manual, I wouldn't have known that was a vampire.
     
Scenario 6 uses the same kind of backdrop as Scenario 2. The ball is knocked north past a pit of skulls to the upper area, where Beezelbub holds the princess hostage. You have to hit him repeatedly with the ball. He spews skulls periodically, and if the ball takes enough damage from the skulls, it and the flippers turn red and get knocked down to the previous scenario. I think if you hit the candles on the edges of the screen, it increases your own damage.
     
I had a lot of trouble with the interface. By default, the left and right flippers are mapped to the left arrow on the control pad and the A button, respectively. At first, I thought that was crazy. Why not just map them to the left and right arrows? But after I tried that, I understood. I couldn't get anywhere with the game unless I was controlling the two flippers with separate hands. There must be some Psychology 101 reason for that. I ultimately mapped them to the two SHIFT keys, and I was all set.
   
Winning the "quest" takes maybe 30 minutes if you're any good and infinity if you're me. The problem is getting kicked back to the previous level every time you lose the ball. I put up with that about twice and then started using save states a lot more liberally. Even then, it took me a couple of hours. The final scenario is particularly fiendish because you can "lose" and have to replay the previous scenario even if you don't actually lose the ball.
   
Nailing "Beezlebub."
       
Once you defeat the big boss, the smiling ball triumphantly circles the princess a few times and leads her around the room before both escape through a floor hatch. Then, for some reason, the ball and princess encounter a giant magnet, half-grey, half-red. The ball hits the red side, which causes the entire thing to crack apart and collapse.
      
I have no idea what's happening here.
     
The final screen depicts an idyllic castle and what looks like the ball introducing the princess to his ball family. I could be misinterpreting.
     
The pinball appears to have a little Band-Aid.
     
I can't say I found it "fun," but it was much more a pinball game than an RPG. It was cute. I give it 13 on the GIMLET, nothing exceeding 2. There's really no point in analyzing the GIMLET for a game like this.
 
Thus concludes one of the more bizarre hybrids we've seen. Surprisingly, it's apparently not the only pinball-RPG hybrid. MobyGames lists two more, but Barbaric: The Golden Hero (2016) is only for iOS. Brave Pinball (2020) had a Windows release, but I won't be getting to it any time soon.
 

53 comments:

  1. I'm no pinball buff, but I've played a lot of computer pinball. Where the ball goes isn't just based on where it is on the flipper but also its speed and spin when you act. You can gain some control over those factors by holding the flipper button down instead of hitting the ball away at every opportunity - you can slow the ball down, catch it in the crook of a raised flipper, pass it to the opposite hand, and so on.

    When the ball is firing all over the place then it can become a game of chance of course, but the objective (or an objective at least) is to reduce the exposure to chance by executing moves you're familiar with instead of letting fate control everything. It's not, say, snooker. But it's not -not- snooker.

    Don't know how much computer pinball you've played, but both SHIFTs is pretty standard (Dreams/Fantasies/Illusions or Epic or Psycho etc.). Though any modern software worth its salt would let you change it.

    You've reminded me of the story of the lawsuit which legally proved that game of pinball was a game of skill and not chance:

    https://gizmodo.com/how-one-perfect-shot-saved-pinball-from-being-illegal-1154267979

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great story which also got a documentary called 'Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game'.

      I've been a member of a local pinball club for a couple of years, and I can definitely confirm that there's some skill involved, but almost more importantly, extensive knowledge of the machine you're playing. Among the forty or so, the 'Arabian Nights' pinball machine was my favourite, I played it almost exclusively and really got better at it, first and foremost because I knew what I was doing, so there's that.

      The place unfortunately closed down due to fire hazard restrictions, as things go...

      Delete
    2. I’m a fan of pinball, and yeah you have a lot of control once you know some tricks. Typically you figure out what targets are likely to send the ball between the flippers and then avoid them. You usually want to capture the ball often in the flippers and play it relatively leisurely. Go for a particular target that helps you but it’s also safe unless you have multi ball or just won an extra ball. There’s a lot of nuance though

      Delete
    3. I won't go into the history of pinball machines, but in the early 90s those things became much more sophisticated, including mini-games on a LED screen, quests to fulfill, events to trigger, puppets or sculptured stuff under the glass, enhancing the entire experience, but ultimately it's still all about that high-score.

      Now of course, for all the enthusiasts out there, it *really* is all about the physical experience: metal balls shooting up chutes, rolling up ramps, coming down elaborate slides, nudging the case just a little to avoid the outlane - something a computer simulation could never capture.

      (I spent my entire allowance on the 'Indiana Jones' pinball while on vacation in Bretagne, France with my parents, forgive me ;)

      Delete
    4. I'm sure the French people have already forgiven you! ;-)

      Delete
  2. There is a really fun recent Pinball/RPG called "Rollers of the Realm", available in quite a few modern platforms.

    I love pinball games, and both Pinball FX3 and Zaccaria were my mood saver during these last two years (they are really good!).

    And there are a few fantasy pinballs around, from the first ones like Pindo to games that it's a miracle that they are playable like Sonic Spinball. Still, don't be too surprised of the hybrids. You will find Arkanoid and RPG hybrids. And shoot em up /RPG hybrids. And some really fun match 3/rpg hybrids. Is there any flight simulator/rpg hybrid? I guess the Origin games could apply...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah Jaleco. Those are the guys who made Pindo.

      Delete
    2. There is also ChronoQ (on the PS 2). It is a racing/RPG hybrid. I do not know the details, but it is part of a larger series only released in Japan.

      Delete
    3. Road Trip Adventure and Gadget/Penny racere was released outside. The first is a large world where you do fetch quests for talking cars and get better parts and use them to win easy races. The second is just about collecting parts and races, a kind of couterfeit Gran Turismo.

      Now The Car Rpg™ is really Racing Lagoon. It's not very fun though. There's lots of grinding and easily permanently missiable items. The handling isn't good either. It feels like a tv show trying to carry repetitive races.

      Delete
    4. The Origin flight games never appeared as RPGs to me but I'm no simulation nut so don't take my word as gospel.
      However, there are two hybrids that I know that aren't on Chet's master list: The two "Tobal" games from Square which are 1-on-1 fighting games with an additional quest mode:
      https://www.mobygames.com/game-group/tobal-series
      I don't know if they meet the "minimum criteria" to be judged as RPGs on this site but back at the time (they are both PS1 exclusives) they appeared unique.

      Delete
    5. I feel like in the racing/RPG case you could call a ton of racing games that, but it wouldn't be right. Basically since the PSX era most serious racing games have had an absolute ton of customization and level up systems. I know that Gran Turismo 5 had both. And I've also seen quite a few games with features similar to the one that makes Racing Lagoon a RPG. The problem is you're not really going say any of these in comparison to any serious RPG, because well, they're not. I think a lot of mech games also have that problem. Some probably technically fit though.
      As flight sims or space sims that are also RPGs, while there is the same problem, quite a few actually do fit. Space trading games especially, since RPG aspects of those are a constant of the genre dating back to SunDog: Frozen Legacy. Not sure of any specific flight sims, but I have noticed that a lot of titles from the '90s have C&C that most RPGs only dream of having.
      TBH, you could probably find a lot of games in various genres with a smattering of RPG elements like Pinball Quest, but they wouldn't be very interesting to read about.

      Delete
    6. @R The real "CAR.P.G." is Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo for PC/PS2. =P

      https://www.mobygames.com/game/alfa-romeo-racing-italiano/cover-art/gameCoverId,593655/

      Delete
  3. I never expected to see Pinball Quest covered on this Blog, but it apparently meets the minimum criteria for a CRPG. I enjoy these brief diversions from the longer, more significant games.

    I quite like Pinball Quest, but I have never actually managed to get past the second screen. (Like our host, I am a lousy pinball player; though I do enjoy trying interesting tables IRL.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me neither. I went back to it 25 years later with savestates and cleared it that way.

      Delete
  4. Your ball was red because of the color limitations of the nes. I believe it's about 8 colors max at any given time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The NES could display 25 colors at once, but it was split so you had one background color, 4 sets of 3 colors for sprites, and the same for background tiles.

      Delete
    2. Also: Note the colors of the score display in the lower left. It uses the same color scheme as the ball so when the ball is red (rage mode?) the score display is also.

      Delete
  5. There are other pinbal games with RPG elements, most recently in the PinballFX series that feature tables based on fallout and skyrim (and some others). These tables let you upgrade your equipment and stats and whatnot but they are still mainly pinball games. As a lover of pinball games and a long time player I can say that there is a lot of skill involved in a lot of tables (depending on their quality ofc, some tables plain suck), and there are depths to the game not easily seen by new players. There is a element of luck involved ofcourse (that's true even for crpg games because of the RNG heavily featured in most of them) but you would be surprised how many balls that look like they're going straight down are saveable even without nudging. You can never dismiss luck completely in a pinball game but with more skill it becomes a much lesser factor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally forgot that many of the pinball fx tables have rpg elements, but it's what you say: sometimes Zen are too keen on forcing a specific combo to be able to enter some modes, and the combos on some tables (Rome, Skyrim, Fantastic Four) are absolute hell. Maybe the most fun RPG table is Epic Quest.

      Delete
  6. Pinball! That brings back memories. Of regularly playing the 'Terminator 2' machine at a bar. And of playing 'David's Midnight Magic' on the C64. Good times.

    I could imagine a - real or simulated - pinball machine with an RPG theme. But I never knew or even suspected there might be such a thing as a pinball-RPG hybrid!

    And interesting to see several pinball aficionados already in these first few comments, both for the mechanical RL as well as the virtual kind. Just goes to show again this blog attracts a variety of people with different interests besides CRPG.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Terminator 2 pinball machine was my fav too! It had this "gun trigger" on the side that you would use to launch the ball and also to shoot targets that would appear on the dashboard on certain scenarios.

      There's something exhilarating about going with the flow of the game, triggering all sorts of events and lights and sounds. Amidst the chaos, though, there's usually an order to what you're supposed to do (hit) in order to reach the jackpot.

      Delete
  7. And now I'm hoping World Court Tennis for the TurboGrafx-16 is somewhere in the Addict's "completely left-field console game" Rolodex of randomness. If a game as totally unexpected as Pinball Quest is showing up, maybe that singularly bizarre Dragon Quest/tennis game hybrid will pop up someday too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah the Turbografx got a couple sports games with rpg modes. Tennis and racing game rpgs in 1989 or so. Who would have even thought it?

      Delete
    2. "Tennis has always slightly mystified me. And while I know there's some skill to timing the racket just right so you angle the ball in a certain direction or whatever, you have to admit that much of what happens in a tennis court is random. I'm sure some people are more skilled than others, but even the most skilled tennis players don't have any more recourse than I do when the ball goes cleanly into the net. Do they?"

      Delete
    3. Anonymous, are you quoting something? Can't find it on Google.

      In any event, the premise of the quote is bogus: barring the occasional gust of wind or broken racket string, tennis isn't any more random than basketball or billiards. The reason top players dump the ball into the net is because they're working on fine margins and typically trying to hit as hard as they can while keeping the ball inside the lines. It's a question of geometry. Ask them to just get it over the net and keep it in play, and they can go hours without making a mistake.

      Delete
    4. Just read the first paragraph of this blog post again. Pinball also requires more skill than Addict seems to realize.

      Delete
    5. Oh, you got me. That's what happens when you read one day and post the next! Ten points to you, Anonymous.

      Delete
    6. Tennis takes place on the same type of court for every game, with a consistent scoring mechanism. And the tennis player has control of dozens of different variables, not just two buttons. I don't find the comparison apt.

      Nonetheless, I concur that pinball requires more skill than I'm aware of. I allowed for that very possibility in writing the first paragraph. It's the NATURE of that skill, not its existence, that I've never fully understood.

      Anonymous, if you're reading my blog purely to pounce on "gotcha" moments, I might suggest your time would be better spent doing something else.

      Delete
  8. Incidentally, the game 'Ultimate Pinball Quest' (Amiga / MS-DOS) is nothing to do with this game, and isn't an rpg. Which is probably a relief. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm another RPG fan who is also pretty good at pinball, and as others have said, it's a lot less random than you think. The overreaching objective is to control the ball, so you can put it in places you want instead of troublesome areas that lead to drains. There are a bunch of skills to learn and master, everything from simple cradling/aiming to drop catches, bump passes, live catches, loop passes, slap saves, multiball billiard saves, nudging, backhanding, etc. Check out a few youtube videos on some of these and you'll be surprised some of the tricks pros use to keep the ball alive and make high-scoring shots.

    Unfortunately, most of this doesn't translate will to video pinball, especially on 8-bit systems, so games like this tend to relay on figuring out specific tricks for this program.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've felt the same way as the Addict about pinball before, and I think the issue for me was that I was thinking of it as something akin to tennis -- I get points by having good aim, and I avoid losing with good reflexes. With that mindset, it seems bizarrely unfair that after the ball spends a lot of time bonking around it can be "served" back to you in a way that you cannot actually respond to. It took me a period of time where I was regularly playing the same table several times a week (and watching a much more skilled player) before I started understanding how viable it was to predict the result of various moves.

      Delete
  10. A good game to cover! While not really an RPG, it is an early example of the themes and mechanics being imported by other (far-flung) genres. As a kid, even the allusion to RPGs was enough for me. Pinball was alright, but pinball with monster-slaying? Sign me up!

    I played this on the NES when I was 12 or so. It was a bit annoying but once you got the hang of it (using some of the simpler techniques commenters above have mentioned) you could clear it pretty quickly.

    That said, clearing it in 2022 would be another story - I can't imagine I have the same level of video game resilience that I had as a child.

    ReplyDelete
  11. According to The Cutting Room Floor (https://tcrf.net/Pinball_Quest), the cinematic intro wasn't in the original Japanese version, but added for the US release.

    On 'stealing', the manual says: "If successful, your four item slots in inventory will be filled with flippers and stoppers. If unsuccessful, you will lose half your gold.' No word on the mechanics / probability, though.

    For such a weird hybrid of over 30 years ago, it's surprising how much there seems to be on the net on it, also compared to other games covered in this blog. At least a dozen videos, including a 'tool-assisted speedrun' in ca. 3:40 min (https://tasvideos.org/1825M), longplays, many reviews and even two guides/walkthroughs on gamefaqs. After a quick glance, others seems to be clueless as to the 'evil magnet' and 'ball family' end scenes, too, though.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I played a lot of pinball as a teenager. After all, we had no personal computers or video games then! One year for Christmas, my parents bought a used Paratroopers pinball machine as a "combined present" for my sister, brother, and I. We could pull a string in the back to get unlimited free games. I loved that game, and once had a sad dream that we would move and have to leave it behind. That happened, but wasn't a big deal by then.
    The key to controlling the ball - at least on older machines - was to hold one of the flippers and "catch" the ball on the flipper. Then you would release it and "flip" at a precise moment on the way down.
    As for bonuses and such, you learn them by playing the same machine over and over. Sometimes there will also be notes on things to try. If you see something like a ramp, it's pretty clear that you want to get a ball into it.
    Launching the ball also requires technique. I was once told that only beginners pull back the handle. Good players strike the release handle in order to get the desired release speed.
    Nudging the machine risks a "tilt," which costs you that ball, but in the hands of an expert, can affect the ball motion. I was never good at it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As for computer pinball, it never made much sense to me. It's like bowling, or any other sport, on the computer. Without the physical feel of the machine, ball, etc., it isn't a satisfying experience.

      Delete
    2. Yes on the computer variants of bowling... had an old BASIC bowling program for my Tandy 1000. It was not the most exciting game!

      Delete
  13. There is a somewhat similar game on SNES called Firestriker (Holy Striker in Japan).
    https://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/firestriker
    Despite what the Moby says, it is more of an arkanoid then pinball. It looks and plays a bit like a Zelda-like game, only RPG elements are even lighter.

    And while we at it, even Sokoban received an Zelda-like version called Power Soukoban. Fan-translated in 2019.
    https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/snes/571539-power-soukoban/images

    ReplyDelete
  14. As an aside, there's a pinball-based platformer/metroidvania called Yoku's Island Express that I highly recommend. You play as a dung beetle and move by rolling/bouncing a ball around. I'm a very casual video pinball player and had a lot of fun with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the far stranger side of pinball hybrids, there's Odama on the Gamecube. Pinball combined with a real time strategy game, where you roll a ball around a battlefield and have to command your troops using a microphone. Unsurprisingly it's not particularly good.

      Delete
    2. FedoraChicken: coincidentally, Yoku's Island Express is one of XBox's free Games With Gold for May 2022. If any readers here have XBL Gold accounts, they can play it for free.

      Delete
  15. Could've bought this game last night instead I went with "Skate or Die" glad my discussion was vindicated.

    ReplyDelete
  16. For my sleepy brain, "nailing Beezlebub" came a bit too soon after the Princess' bedchamber.

    Even missed the Community reference the first time I read this.

    I had Pro Pinball Timeshot and played that a lot. I was never really good at it, never knowing exactly what triggeres which modes, and still losing balls I could have saved. But still with some experience I eventually got into scores above one million, just by hitting those ramps more often and getting a feel for how the ball moves (and thus getting at least some saves). Very addictive.

    ReplyDelete
  17. There seemed to be something of a pinball revival in the 90s, or maybe it had never really gone away; I would play it in bars around Pittsburgh. My favorite machine was Medieval Madness, which according to Wikipedia is sometimes considered the greatest of all time. With the faux-medieval theme its milieu isn't unlike many RPGs; princess-rescuing, troll-slaying, castle-destroying, jousting, and eventually a battle for the kingdom which led to Merlin declaring you the ruler of the kingdom (I certainly never saw this happen myself). It had dialogue and voice acting by members of the Second City troupe, including Tina Fey as the princesses.

    There's definitely skill involved even if I never got beyond basic trying to aim the ball by hitting it in the right place on the flippers. The physical interaction is what made it satisfying for it. The only computer version that ever gave me that feeling was NightSky by Nifflas, which is mostly about controlling a ball directly, but has a few short levels where you control flippers instead of the ball; and something about the physics engine and the sound design gives the ball's movements a satisfying weight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try Pinball FX3. They have a really good implementation of Medieval Madness, among others.

      Delete
  18. I am or at least I was a huge pinball player, as I worked in a pub with a couple during my studies. The trick is to always have the ball "in control" either because it is going along a ramp, and then its trajectory after it exists the ramp is known, or because you control the ball by keeping the flip up and "holding" the ball until it stops.

    Once you know this, you can test where the ball should be when rolling nicely on the flip from this "zero" position to hit the various ramps, and then you can start doing the "scenarios", with you only being at risk if you miss a ramp or in some cases because some ramps / targets are risky (hitting lamps for instance). Some pinballs are well designed and if you are doing everything correctly you can easily play for a long long time (there is a reason with Monster Bash or Medieval Madness are considered some of the best pinballs of all time), some others less so with some features that randomize the ball direction so much that you are bound to lose the ball at some point (looking at you Circus Voltaire). The owner of the pub can also make the pinball easier or harder by the way he cleans the center of the board).

    People you see hitting their pinballs frequently are not good players, either they are venting or they are trying to impress. Going physical with the pinball only helps when the ball is on the verge of either falling either where you want or where you don't, typically in one of the side lanes (an "outlane") falling directly to the bottom of the pinball (the "drain") where you lose your ball. Anyone hitting the pinball in another circumstance is adding randomness to the trajectory of the ball, which is not again not good.

    The most impressive (physical) pinball for me is Whodunnit, where you need to actually conduct an investigation (you move a lift up and down with dedicated ramps to inspect different floors, then you find clues (eg a woman's boot) or maybe interrogate suspects ("I saw Trixie that night"). When you think you have everything, you go in a specific ramp and point at the suspect among 4 by moving a pointer with the flipper left & right button and confirming with Start.
    There is a good video of it there :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Hd0419eMFo
    And for instance, a suspect is interrogated at 1'36 and based on this (and earlier hints) the player points a suspect at 1'46 and catching it at 2'10 or so after a chase on the roof. Another suspect is interrogated at 3'38 for another example.

    Other pinballs (eg Medieval Madness and Monster Bash, for two I already mentioned) have an inventory system, that you use at the appropriate moment with the "start" button. The Renaissance era of physical pinball is absolutely fascinating. In theory, nothing stops a pinball from being a RPG, with character progression, it just was not done yet to my knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. There's clearly a lot more to pinball than I imagined. One more thing I can credit this blog for teaching me about.

      Delete
  19. Well, at this point I see I can add "pinball games" to the list of topics I don't stop listening "I knew it when I was young but I lost my interest so probably the rest of humanity did" and I have to reply back with the history of that in the latest 20 years, as I have to do with point n click adventure games, western movies and drum n bass.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow, never thought 2 of my biggest hobbies would intersect! I would consider myself an above average pinball player, my best accomplishment being placed 26th at the Dutch Pinball open, an international pinball tournament. I also own 5 pinball machines, one of them Monsterbash. I think Narwhal summed things up pretty good, so I won’t make it long, already being late to this party ;-). The way I explain the chance element in pinball (and for this it was actually for a time thought to be a gambling machine in the US! Google Roger Sharpe and pinball lawsuit in the ‘70’s for a good read) is as follows: I can play the world pinball champion 100x and maybe win 3-4 times, when I have my best/luckiest games and the champ his worst/unluckiest and he will win the other 95, easily. This is why you see the same names on the world ranking lists coming up and why skill/practice and intimate knowledge of table rules (giving the best risk/reward strategies) play such an important role in winning, and the law of averages favor top players. Even with being an above average player I marvel at the ease of a top player who after playing one of the customary three balls exactly knows how that individual table plays, what the angles are, and where the tilt limit is. I have seen impossible saves on tournament machines who already have been calibrated to be very hard to play to limit “ball time” and give the other players the chance to play. A top player can play hours on end on a loosely or “easy” calibrated machine. So while everybody can lose a ball SDTM (straight down the middle), on any other aspect I would consider pinball a skill game, with the mental aspect being the most important factor, closely followed by motor reflexes, visuomotor coordination, and motor skill sets specific to pinball (nudging, flipper control, timing). It helps to be a good billiard or pool player to get the angle thing. I would also like to mention the Pinball Arcade game as one of the best physics simulations for virtual pinball commercially (sadly discontinued) and Virtual Pinball, a PC sim that is made by very serious amateurs :-). End fanboy rant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never got into the floaty, bouncy and slow Pinball Arcade and it surprises me when people that have experience with real machines praise it. It had a huge collection of tables, but they all sounded awful. Their cameras were cool though.

      Delete
  21. Incredible save example (at 52 secs): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj_hBAsaCDc
    And the Roger Sharpe story (in text): https://gizmodo.com/how-one-perfect-shot-saved-pinball-from-being-illegal-1154267979

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think what makes this game ingesting is it's developer. Those is one of the most prolific devs from the Famicom boom and ended up working on some really great stuff, including the Crono Trigger DS, Dragon Quest Monsters, Super Princess Peach, and a lot of stuff that went uncredited.

    ReplyDelete
  23. There's a Philip K. Dick short story about a pinball that shoots back at the player.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.