Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
10 July 2006
Pinball Hall of Fame eviscerates Pinball of the Dead
I like playing The Pinball of the Dead on my GameBoy Advance, but Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection on my PSP has changed my pinball-playing life. The difference is reality...or some adequate simulation thereof.

Play The Pinball of the Dead for an hour and you'll start to notice that there are only so many ways you can hit the ball around. For lack of a better word, the game's simulation is too granular. The lack of variation and randomness reduces the game to the status of toy.

By comparison, I don't think I've ever smacked a ball with a flipper in Pinball Hall of Fame and thought "Oh, yeah, I've seen that exact move before." This isn't the say the game is unpredictable. In fact, the game reliably simulates flipping the ball in mostly predictable ways, but there is just enough variation and randomness to make it interesting.

This richer simulation strikes me as much closer to reality and far, far more entertaining. And as a result, The Pinball of the Dead feels downright dead.

The only time I've played a real pinball machine with any consistency was when a graduate student colleague used to invite me each week to lunch at a pizza parlour and game room. We played his favorite table, The Addams Family, for probably 30 minutes. He was a good player and a helpful guide as I slowly grew in skill.

This game room also had The House of the Dead, and while my friend would get in one last game of pinball, I'd often use the skills I'd honed on my Saturn to shoot a few zombies. After a few lunches like that, my friend asked if House of the Dead always used the same pattern for enemies. I said that it did, to which he responded that that sounded profoundly boring. I believe he saw attempting to control the small unpredictability in pinball as a true challenge compared to the easily learned patterns in House of the Dead.

So it's perhaps appropriate that, years later, a true simulation of pinball has ruined The Pinball of the Dead for me. As happened at that pizza parlour across from the university, a little unpredictability adds just the right ingredient to make a game truly interesting.
--Matt Matthews at 00:42
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