08 August, 2017

The blog is five years old

Last year I was writing that I was really disappointed by the attendance levels of the blog. It started with 3000 the first year, jumped to 10000 on the second, then to 19000 on the third only to fall down to 25500 on the fourth year. And the downturn continues. This year we are reaching a total of 32000: this is 6500 over this year's period on par with the disappointing 6500 of last year.



What does that mean? I think that the message is clear. Nobody (well, almost) cares about digital pinballs. So, the number of developers who can make a living out of digital pinballs is shrinking. The day FarSight goes, the whole business is dead and the only thing to do will be to let the blog die. In the meantime it stays on under life-support meaning that I will publish whenever something new appears and will not push it. I was thinking about writing about the crappy pinballs that plague the AppStore, about writing something a bit more technical from time to time, but what is the point. With fewer than one visit per hour this is not worth the effort. 

So the blog continues, be it only as a repository of the digital pinballs available for MacOS and iOS, be it only for the few friends who follow it loyally (and to which I am deeply indebted). 

01 August, 2017

Firepower of FarSight is out

Firepower II is the new table of the Pinball Arcade. As I was saying in my previous blog, thanks to FarSight I have something to write about every month and thus keeping this blog (barely) alive. (More on this in my 5th anniversary post to be published next week). Anyhow, Firepower II is here. 



In fact it is the evolution of a previous table named (you guessed it) Firepower and which had been a very successful one. Most probably Williams, the original maker of the pinball machine, decided to surf on the success of the first Firepower and proposed a "re-charged" sequel (whatever re-charged means). In case you are wondering, here is a view of the playfield of the original Firepower



Well, back to Firepower II. First remark, it's a oldie and thus the gameplay is rather simple. (But, as you know, I do like this). The feature I did like most was the two-ball multiball which automatically has a double score. I would have been interested in playing the original Firepower also, just to be able to compare, but I don't think that now that FarSight opted for the second they are ever going to produce the first one.

17 July, 2017

Timeshock is alive (sort of)

No, we are not talking about Barnstorm's Timeshock, which by now, I am convinced, is dead and buried. I am talking about the real pinball machine based on Timeshock which was being developed by a company called Silver Castle. I have written about the Silver Castle Timeshock here and here.

Having had no news for over a year I was thinking that this project had gone the way of the dodo like the ProPinball revival project  I was wrong. My friend Marco chimed in to let me know that the project is advancing. The team behind the project has started building the first prototype. Here's a view of the playfield.



I must say that I like a lot the graphics with their cartoonish look. You can catch a short fly-over of the table at YouTube.

If you wait till the end of the video the next video YouTube is proposing is the announcement of the ProPinball Kickstarter by Adrian Barritt. What a waste, my God!



08 July, 2017

FarSight is saving my bacon

Let’s face it: pinball simulations have never been particularly popular. They have always been confined to a niche gaming activity and the arrival of iPhones/iPads did not improve the situation in any appreciable way. Things got rather worse in fact, since the milieu was polluted by a slew of crappy games. Recently there is a notable downturn as the few remaining pinball developers have slowed-down their production. Only FarSight keeps cranking out new pinballs with clockwork regularity. For a pinball blogger like myself this is priceless.

So, this month’s new pinball is here. Wipe Out


is a ski-themed table. A rather easy table but unfortunately a not very interesting one. The slalom track is definitely an original feature (but on the other hand I was unable to figure out how to guide the ball in an efficient way, in particular in a multiball situation). A thing that i did like is the fact that the ball does not drain too easily. Choosing the proper colour for the ball is always a challenge in Pinball Arcade. This time I opted for the white ball, a choice appropriate for a snow-themed table.

01 June, 2017

Paragon is here

Season 7 of Pinball Arcade starts with a bang. The first table of the series is an oldie (I adore them) and a beauty. I wrote in my previous post that I was looking forward to this table. In fact I was captivated by its backglass and the artwork of Paul Faris. And now Paragon is here!



I did not have the time to test it thoroughly but I can assure you that this table is hard. Usually I manage to get to the lowest high score at my first try (barring accident). For Paragon it took me several tries. And I have the feeling that It will necessitate an effort akin to that for Eight Ball before I register a real progress.

There are so many things that I do like in this game. First the fact that it is an oldie and thus, while having a relatively simple layout, it manages to provide a challenging gameplay. I did really like the original touches like the isolated bumper guarding the outlane gap or the inline drop targets. Managing the four flippers effectively is a major challenge, all the more so since the two lower right ones have a draining gap between them.

As always with FarSight pinballs I had to find the most visible ball. The fact that the playfield is high in colours does not help either. After having tried the black and the white balls I finally opted for the blue one. It is probably the best compromise.

I any case, Paragon is a great pinball and you should absolutely give it a try.

27 May, 2017

They keep doing it!

I have written several times about games that are abusively called pinballs. I wrote for instance about Ascending Pinball and Super Hyper Ball both of which we can readily forget. They present no interest whatsoever and I wouldn't consider them even as a pastime.

Now don't get me wrong. Sometimes people are managing to do something really original with flippers and, although the game is not a pinball, it is interesting and really worth one's time. I have written very nice critiques for games like INKS or Pinout. They are games I did (and still do) enjoy.

However, when I saw the new breakout variant, Throw Pinball, I knew immediately that I was not going to waste a dollar just to give it a try. 



If you are curious you can track down the video of gameplay, just in order to convince yourself that the game has zero value as pinball. Of course there are plenty of pinballs in the App Store that are pure trash. But at least they are pinballs. Pinning the name of pinball on a game that just happens to hit a ball with flippers is something I cannot stand.

04 May, 2017

Season 7 of Pinball Arcade announced

Back in my March 16th post I was predicting that Cactus Jack's was going to be the last table of Season 6. Well, I was wrong but just by a hairbreadth. Swords of Fury came at the beginning of April and with them Season 6 was indeed completed. In a recent newsletter FarSight teased about the first table of Season 7, Paragon. An oldie (as I like them) and in particular one with graphics by a great artist, Paul Faris. Faris has designed many pinballs starting in the seventies. Two of his creations are already part of the Pinball Arcade: Phantom of the Opera and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. But what FarSight is promising for some time in May is Paragon. Just have a look at the artwork of the backglass.



It's fabulous. Now I am itching to get the Paragon table and take it for a ride. 

By the way, Paul Faris did the graphics for the first Eight Ball pinball in 1977. I have included a picture of the table in my post on Eight Ball tables. Just so that you can appreciate it in its totality I give below a picture of the backglass. 



Still. I like Paragon's backglass artwork much, much more. I don't know, it's its Frazetta-esque quality that attracts me.

02 April, 2017

Swords of Fury: the new FarSight table

Last month I made the prediction that Cactus Jack’s was to be the last table of season 6. I was wrong. Season 6 continues with a new table bringing thus its total to 12, compared to 11 for season 5 and just 10 for seasons 3 and 4. Anyhow the numbering of the seasons is immaterial and what counts is the fact that new tables keep arriving. So, this month’s table is Swords of Fury:


It’s an almost 30 years’s old table. The playfield is high in colours and thus one has to make the proper choice for the ball. I chose the blue one but probably the green one would be equally visible. The game is interesting and far from easy. I did particularly like the two single flippers. The one situated at the very upper left part is a kind on mini game in itself and keeping the ball going is rather tricky. 

So, if you like oldies (in fact, even if you don’t) give this game a try. But don’t expect to excel in it unless you invest some time in order to master it.

16 March, 2017

Cactus Jack's from FarSight

The new Pinball Arcade table is here. It could probably signal the end of season 6 since we are now reaching release number 60. This does not mean that there are just 60 tables. in fact, since seasons 1 and 2 had mainly two tables per release we have now 82 recreated tables plus an original one (that of Dr. Who, Master of Time. Anyhow, the new table is Cactus Jack's



It's an oldie and thus it should a priori be to my taste. Unfortunately I could not relate to this game. The table is too gaudy, the ball drains all too easily and I just could find that many interesting things to do in the game. The only feature that I really did appreciate was the 2-ball multiball that you can obtain very easily. It does, somehow, compensate for the ball  drain. 

One advice. While I usually try new pinballs with mute on, I did slip this time and left the sound on. Don't do it. If you wish to appreciate what is there to appreciate do turn the sound off.

09 March, 2017

Timeshock and Arcooda

If you follow this blog you may have surmised that I consider the ProPinball revival a total loss. Three years of efforts led to Timeshock running on MacOS and iOS with the same old physics (which to be fair is perfectly OK as far as I am concerned) and the hope of seeing the remaining Pro Pinballs revived becoming more and more remote. A few months ago the developers went into radio silence and I considered this as last nail on the coffin of Pro Pinballs. The situation has not changed since then. However a new announcement is making the rounds and one may interpret it as a positive sign for the revival of (at least one) Pro Pinball.



Arcooda is an australian company specialising in gaming hardware. They recently announced a video pinball machine. It definitely looks great (but I shudder at the thought of the price). Of course having a pinball machine one needs pinball games and thus the Arcooda cemented a partnership with FarSight which will make the Pinball Arcade tables available on the video pinball machine. (Yes, I know. I should have reported on this earlier, but I only came to realise this once I got wind of the Arcooda-Barnstorm partnership).



A few weeks ago Arcooda announced that they had secured Timeshock for their video pinball machine. This is of course a tribute to the great Pro Pinball line since Timeshock is the only virtual pinball of the collection, the FarSight ones being recreations of real pinballs. The announcement is enthusiastic. In the words of the Arcooda CEO:

Pro Pinball is one of the premium titles available as a video pinball table with a rich history. We are extremely happy to be working with Barnstorm who are adding additional features to an already feature packed pinball game software. When combined with our machines, it will play and feel like a real pinball".

This announcement is just a few weeks old, so the fact that it says that additional features are being added to Timeshock might be interpreted as meaning that the Pro Pinball line is not dead yet. I will definitely not cross my fingers (being of the pessimistic persuasion) but at least there is now something one can look forward to.

01 March, 2017

Pinball Arcade got a new name

The last update of Pinball Arcade on iOS was accompanied by a renaming of the app. Pinball arcade is now known as Pinball Arcade Plus. The new version, 6.8.5, is supposed to bring updated tuning, a plunger button, updated sounds and some fixes.


I don't know what spurred the renaming of the app. My guess is that since recently we have seen several iOS pinball games incorporating the moniker "arcade" into their title or their description, FarSight opted for the "plus" qualifier in order to distinguish their app form the intruders. A simpler explanation could be that, since there exists a free version of the Pinball Arcade, FarSight decided to make a clear distinction by renaming the paying version as "plus". 

As to what are the real improvements in this new version, I guess we'll have to wait and see.

21 February, 2017

FarSight will always be FarSight (bis)

I know. I have already used this title back in July when commenting about a bug in Pinball Arcade scoring. This time I was playing on my iMac 5K and on the second screen I noticed another instance of jumbled graphics.



I also know that the Mac is not a priority for FarSight and that more serious issues do exist, like he infamous slow-down, which really spoils gameplay. But stil, when you come across situations like this one you can wonder whether there is anyone supervising the Mac-developer's work. (I am using the singular here because I am convinced that at no time are there more than one persons taking care of the Mac port of Pinball Arcade).

Update. I checked the second screen on other, non-5K, iMacs. The graphics are OK there, which means that FarSight is not testing on 5K iMacs.

16 February, 2017

Star Wars Rogue One, Zen pinball

I have stated it clearly in the past: I do not like the Star Wars pinballs of Zen Studios. They have excessive animations with plenty of moving things that disrupt the gameplay. So I was surprised when I tried Rogue One. 



The animations are kept at a minimum and one can concentrate on the gameplay. The graphics are as always of high quality. I am not a fan of Star Wars, so I cannot relate to the characters on the lower half of the table. The physics is the standard Zen pinballs one, i.e. more than adequate, and the ball is not trying to drain out on you. 

Did I enjoy the game? Well, yes and no. It is definitely the one Star Wars table that I prefer. On the other hand I did not find the gameplay particularly exciting. So, if you are a Star Wars fan go ahead and give it a try. If not, well, wait for the next, non-Star Wars Zen pinball.

02 February, 2017

Al's Garage Band goes on a World Tour

I know, it's a mouthful. But one does not get to choose. That's the name of the latest FarSight pinball table. Just in case people were wondering (I did) whether FarSight would abandon Pinball Arcade and concentrate on the Stern thing we are now reassured. The regular Pinball Arcade releases do go on. So, this month's table is the Al's ... World Tour (no way I am going to write the whole title again).



It's a nice table and there are certainly plenty of interesting things to do, but I couldn't figure out exactly how to get to them. So, I just kept playing carefully, trying to get to multiball and build up the score. The game is fast and sometimes tricky, when you see the ball at the very last moment. The rather gaudy colours make the choice of the ball delicate. In the end I opted for a white ball. There is also a video mode: if somebody knows how to play it, please, do not hesitate to leave a comment.

I did like the game but I think that an update is necessary. In fact, the ball can get stuck at the spinning wheel but also at the upper multiball trap. Anyhow, these things do not happen all the time and so you can enjoy the game without worry.

22 January, 2017

They are on a spree

Another one of those non-pinball pinballs has made its appearance. To tell the truth it was announced long ago and I kept an eye open for it. Super Hyper Ball 2 is an evolution of (you guessed it!) Super Hyper Ball where the main innovation is the addition of flippers.



The game is announced as a pinball-breakout hybrid and while I can understand the "breakout" part I don't see how it could qualify as a pinball. Also the finger position for the flipper control is totally un-natural for a pinball player. Of course it could not be otherwise since one has to control also the bottom reflection bar but I noticed that while playing I had the tendency to forget the flippers and take care only of the bar.

Is SHB2 a bad game? Not at all, especially if you like breakout games. (I do). My only critique is that at times the ball stays too long in the upper part getting reflected around and one's attention may drift. But, hey, this is also part of the gameplay. To put it in a nutshell. You could give SHB2 a try. You may like it provided you do not expect a pinball.

16 January, 2017

Why, oh, why are people insisting on these "pinball" games?

I have often written about games which are supposedly pinballs and which are nothing but games where you kick a ball around with flippers. For me all these games are abusing the "pinball" moniker. This does not mean that they cannot be fun. It's rare but sometimes it happen. I have recently written a post on Pinout a game with nice graphics and which is really interesting. However the last supposedly pinball game, Ascending Pinball



is something we can immediately forget about. It is so stuffed with advertising that you have to spend more time watching videos than actually playing. But this is not so bad as one could surmise: the videos are much more interesting than the game itself.

I am often complaining at the crapware that passes for pinball now-a-days. But games like this one necessitate the creation of a new class: non-pinballs. And unfortunately we are getting more and more of them recently.

12 January, 2017

Eight Ball Deluxe redemption

It was a game that I was crazy about when it first appeared on the Mac produced by Amtex/Littlewing. After the game was resurrected for the Pinball Arcade I wrote two different posts on the frustrations caused by the Eight Ball Pinball. My friend Marco chimed in pointing out that a) 8-ball is a tough game and b) the pro version did allow one to play with 4 or 5 balls. I did give the pro version a try playing with 4 balls but I decided that it was too much hassle and went back to the basic one. And then I noticed something. The pinball is a faithful reproduction of the original and in low left corner one could see the card with the minimum scores for a replay. 



There was the answer! Eight Ball Deluxe was indeed a tough game and when playing on the real pinball one could get a  free play for just 600 thousand points (and a second free play for 1.1 million). Now, while 600 k does ask for some careful play it is something that one can reach rather easily (and 1.1 M is also a realistic target). So, I forgot about multi-million scores and I started playing 8-ball again with more modest objectives. And I keep improving. I have still to beat the highest high-score but I am getting closer and closer and in fact I have fun playing this great classical pinball game. The morale of this story is that playing pinball is also a question of attitude. You have to acknowledge the difficulty of a game and accept to spend the time necessary in order to master it. Also, do not aim for the top score from the outset, high scores will come after some time. 

05 January, 2017

Gameprom's new table: Vikings

I must admit that I was a little bit worried. The last table of Gameprom to be released was Mafia in July. Over the last 6 months we did not have any update from this mobile game developer, one of the few that produce quality pinballs for the Mac&iOS. Fortunately today's update of the Pinball HD app brought a new table, Vikings


I gave it a try and my feelings are mixed. While I usually love the Gameprom pinball graphics this time I found them not really to my liking. Too much red perhaps? And the concept is a little bit weird. Are we on a ship? If yes, what is the ship on the left doing on-board? I also found the foam effect rather poorly designed and the land (island) could have used a little bit more texturing, even if this is not essential for the game. I think that Gameprom reached a level of perfection with Red Planet and it is difficult to reproduce it since. 

The physics are always OK, but the gameplay is not particularly exciting. The playfield is uncluttered and some shots do ask for precision. The ball does not drain too easily allowing one to play for quite some time (and one has always the possibility to opt for an extra ball). I happened to play the game with sound on and I found that the accompanying music was of very good taste. If you like Gameprom's pinballs you could give Vikings a try.

02 January, 2017

Steam pinballs and the Mac

I should have titled this post "The sad state of Mac pinballs on Steam" but then I decided for a tamer title. Well, it remains that it's a sad state indeed. When you look for pinballs on Steam you leave really disappointed. Some of the classics are there: ProPinball (Timeshock), Pinball Arcade and Dream Pinball 3D. You have also some crappy pinballs like Momonga Adventures



(is it really a pinball? For me it is a game with flippers), Snowball (I have already written about) and Hyperspace Pinball (it exists also on iOS, I tried it and you can forget about it).



The Pinball HD and Zen Pinball and the Zaccaria collections exist only for Windows. For the first two Mac-specific apps do exist so the absence of Mac-Steam app is no big deal. For the Zaccaria collection it is really a pity but I am afraid that ASK Homework is a very small company and had to choose priorities. Perhaps, one day, if they survive, they will bring this nice pinball collection to the Mac.

And now for the real shock. Stern Pinball arcade does exist on Steam and it is Windows-only. After the disastrous iOS10-only choice FarSight is adding insult to injury as far as Apple users are concerned by limiting their Stern Steam app to Windows. Does this mean that they edging slowly out of the Mac? Time will tell. But for the time being I am really, really pissed-off by FarSight.