Game Review - by James Allen
Before all these new fangled computer games, people went to the arcade and played pinball. These seemingly simple games required hand-eye coordination and the ability to not destroy the machines in a fit of anger. Capturing all that glory is Williams Pinball Classics, a game from Encore Software which features four true-to-life pinball machines manufactured by Williams. Will Williams Pinball Classics obtain that elusive high score, or get laughed out the arcade by superior onlookers?
As I stated earlier, Williams Pinball Classics features four award winning (yes, there are awards for EVERYTHING) pinball machines: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Black Rose, and Lost World. The difficulty is reflected in the tilt of the table: the more it is angled downward, the faster the balls move, and the more often you are feeding quarters into your disk drive. You can also set the number of balls at your disposal per game, whether it is three or five (the difference in playing for 15 and 30 seconds for me). You can also completely configure your controller (although there isn't support for a second joystick) to your liking. Each game can have from one to four players, so you can crowd around the computer, making fun of your friends in real time! About the only improvements that could have been made was more pinball tables, or an editor to create your own (that would be really cool, actually), but as it stands, there is enough replay in Williams Pinball Classics to satisfy the pinball junkie.
I think that the audio must have been taken directly from the machines themselves, because it is dead-on perfect. Every single sound that you would have heard at the arcade (with the possible exception of the crowd) is present here. It's really quite an engrossing experience. The musical score isn't some artificially placed background noise (like in every game ever): it's the same music from the real machines, and it plays at the appropriate times. They have done an absolutely wonderful job in emulating the sound from these classic pinball machines.
I'm not that very good at pinball, and, man, does it show here. The physics model incorporated in the game is true to life, and I've found only one glitch which occasionally rears its ugly head: the ball sometimes jumps to your flipper when it is slightly out of reach. Other than that (which only serves to help you out, anyway), the game obeys all of the applicable laws. To get the high scores, every game requires you to complete some tasks, spelling out words and phrases by sending the pinball over/under/through a certain object. This is basically accomplished by striking the pinball at the precise angle with your flipper, a skill which parallels the geometry found in pool (sure it does). It is also possible to "nudge" the table forward or to either side. However, there is no "slam table in frustration" button. You can check the manual on the CD to see what it is exactly that you have to do, but I mostly end up just trying to keep the thing in play. I like the Lost World (not to be confused with The Lost World) table the best, since it is simplistic and it has the saucers (which are my favorite things in pinball), which seem to be painfully absent from the other tables (or I just can't see them). It's still really cool and neat and stuff (now THERE is a sentence worthy of Webster's). Pinball is in full force in Williams Pinball Classics.
Wow. If I didn't know better, I'd say the real pinball machine is located inside my monitor ("It's INSIDE the computer?"). There are absolutely no graphics glitches I have found, and everything looks great in its SVGA glory. The utter confusion that most pinball machines are is definitely present here. The whole lot looks so darn accurate, with its artistically perfect precision. Even the pinball itself has reflective surfaces. The combination of the fully meticulous graphics and sound combine for an awesomely absorbing experience.
If you have even a remote interest in pinball, Williams Pinball Classics is the game for you. Even without knowing the history of the tables included in the same, it's still the essential pinball game available for the PC. The atmosphere created by the effective combination of the graphics and sound is overwhelmingly exact. So, bypass your local arcade and get this title now: the "slam table in frustration" button awaits.