A week or two ago the good folks at Infendo tipped me off to a hidden gem – Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection for Wii. I thought I’d give a crack at writing a video game review here, so without further adieu…
Summary: Pinball Hall of Fame provides the player with 10 classic Williams pinball tables in a few different playable modes, all in a “retro” 80’s era arcade motif. The game makes use of the Wii remote and nunchuck, and includes some minor motion controls in the form of table-shaking. If you enjoyed the pinball tables of yesteryear, this game actually offers a lot in terms of gameplay, replay value and visuals.
Gameplay: A-. The use of the triggers on the remote and nunchuck for the right and left flipper buttons is inspired – it’s so obvious, but it works very well. The control scheme also includes the use of the nunchuck thumb-stick to pull the plunger on each table, which makes a lot of sense. For tables with a skill shot, you can visually adjust the power of your plunger launch with ease, but there’s a reason those are called skill shots. You can bump the table by shaking either the remote or nunchuck (or both), but I just haven’t really gotten the hang of that myself yet. The game offers a couple of different modes – an open “arcade” mode in which you spend credits to play tables, and a “challenge” mode that pits you against each of the tables in the collection.
During the challenge mode, you have three chances per table to score a targeted amount of points, otherwise the challenge ends. The scores range from pretty easy to somewhat difficult, and I’m about 7 tables in to the challenge so far. In the arcade more you can earn credits based on the score you earn on each table, and frankly there’s no reason why anyone with a central nervous system should ever run low on credits. By doing well on tables – getting high scores and performing other specific actions for each table – you can unlock “free play” mode for any table you choose. This allows you to play the table without the use of credits, which is not exactly a huge incentive but fun nonetheless. The goals for each table generally take you through the high-scoring gameplay options, like causing the creepy head in Funhouse to go to sleep, or hitting a specific point goal.
One of the best things about the game has nothing to do with core gameplay, but it can help anyone be a pinball wizard. Each table has an illustrated and spoken tutorial that walks you through the features and gameplay. While the voiceover essentially reads through text displayed on the screen, the table pans and zooms to illustrate specific points in the tutorial. Some of the tables included in the game have a dizzying array of scoring options, so this particular feature is actually really cool. Each time I encounter a new table in the challenge mode I go back to the tutorial to find out what I’ve missed.
The tables included are widely varied in terms of features and time periods represented. There are a couple of early tables, several from the 70’s and a few that go up into the mid 80’s. The earlier tables tend to have fewer scoring features and are generally a little more sparse, while the later tables have more ramps, magnetic features and multiball options.
Audio/Visual: B+. The graphics for the game are really very good – in fact, during normal gameplay they’re quite excellent. The reflections on the table are well done, and you can choose to even include reflections on the table glass, offering a little additional realism. The only reason I’m grading down a little on the graphic portion of the score is because of the opening titles – they’re just quite awful. Even though the entire game is obviously rendered and not some kind of video capture, the opening looks like a really grainy full-motion walkthrough of the arcade and it just doesn’t look good.
The audio component of the game is a little more mixed. Again, the core gameplay features realistic samples from the actual tables and is excellent. The sounds in the board select area pretty well reflect the sounds of an arcade, so those are fine too. The problem is the supposed 80’s music played during the stage selection and other intermission areas of the game – it’s just a bunch of awful junk that I would willingly spend no time to listen too. But the fact is, why would I want to when I really just want to get back to the awesome gameplay on the tables themselves?
Replay Value: A. This game can be played over and over again, just like a real pinball game. Even though you think you may have mastered a table, there is enough of an element of chance on each table that you can always do better. There are enough table goals to keep you busy for quite a while, and having the tutorials available makes it possible to continue to find more and more scoring options for each table. Honestly, I don’t know when I’ve played a game that keeps drawing me back for more as much as this one.
Overall Score: A-. This is hands down one of the best values on the Wii, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a pinball game at all you will likely enjoy this very faithful simulation. I’ve seen around the interwebs that the game can be found for under $20 at certain places (Target), but the retail price of $29.99 is not asking too much at all.