Game Review: Gottlieb Pinball Classics (PSP)

This is a rather curious title as this – and it’s Williams Pinball counterpart have both been released twice for the PSP in slightly different forms in the “Classics” range and as part of the “Pinball Hall Of Fame” series, featuring exactly the same tables and game itself. Regardless, both have been developed by Farsight Studios who have since moved on from the PSP and are now known for producing the Pinball Arcade series of games recreating classic arcade pinball machines for the PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita, iOS and other systems. It all began with this which collects no fewer than 13 old arcade machines and sets out to emulate all of them on the PSP as faithfully as possible…

All of the machines on offer are – as the title implies – are from legendary pinball manufacturer Gottlieb and date from one of the very first tables from the 1930s right up to the 1990s so there’s a real mix of tables with something for everyone. In terms of the tables themselves there is a mix of traditional themes ranging from science fiction, sports, adventure, cartoon and several others and with a range of ages of machines emulated, there’s a wide variety in terms of style to choose from.

Starting off, the game presents you with a 3D arcade hall with the machines on display. You can explore the arcade and selection which of the games you want to play as well as a couple of additional games that are on offer but I’ll come onto those in a minute. Once you’ve chosen the one you want to play, the game loads and you’re up and running. Okay, to say that there are thirteen pinball machines on this game as is advertised is a little generous. There are in fact only ten what I would consider to be pinball machines, one (Play-Boy) that dates from the 1930s which is more a random chance game, and two random luck arcade “games” that have no connection to pinball whatsoever.

When it comes to playing the tables themselves, only three are accessible from the start and all of these are set on “freeplay”. The rest can only be played by using credits that you earn in the game and can only be unlocked for freeplay once you achieve a set goal during play. The cost to play varies between 1 and 5 credits per table and this only allows you to play a table once before needing to use more credits. Credits can be won at the end of every game on each table with the standard random number matching system giving you a one-in-ten chance to win a credit. Additional credits can be won on the Love Meter and Xolten machines.

These random chance machines are based on old arcade cabinets and are simple affairs. Using one of your credits, you game this against a chance to win more in return. Love Meter simply gives you a rating as a lover (the original machine had you holding two handles to “test” your love rating) and the other, Xolten, is a psychic that tells your fortune asking you for your star sign and a topic you want a prediction on. Both are rudimentary and really a waste of space on the game. Sadly, with most of the tables being restricted to start off, these two are essential if you want to have a chance to play all of the others that are on offer.

And this is probably the biggest drawback of Gottlieb Pinball Classics. When I buy a game like this, I don’t want to find most of the game locked off from me, or find myself having to struggle or relying on pure luck to being able to play any of the tables more than once or twice and that really gives the game limited long-term appeal for casual players who aren’t able to unlock freeplay mode. What this leaves you are three tables you can play as often as you want and other tables that you can play very occasionally and that really isn’t good enough. Instead, this should have offered players other rewards for achieving in-game goals.

That’s not the only problem I had when playing this. Sadly, there are major issues with a number of the tables. In many of the tables I played, I found that the position of the flippers were slightly off compared to where they should have been on the tables. While this may seem like a minor quibble, in many cases this made targets harder to hit and in instances where the ball was heading straight towards the centre of the table on its way to certain doom, there was nothing I could do to attempt to recover it because of the extra distance between the flippers. If it was just a single table it would have been annoying but something I could have lived with but it seemed present on a large number of them.

Equally, some tables seem to more than a little unfair on the player. On several occasions I spent more time launching balls and looking at the game over message than I did actually playing because I lost a ball before I even had the chance to hit it! I don’t mind a game being challenging, but this really made some frustrating to the point that I lost interest quickly, and with so few accessible from the start it makes it difficult to want to persevere with the rest of the game.

Don”t get me wrong, the game does have it’s good points. The tables have been faithfully recreated and not only do they look good on the PSP but sound exactly as you would expect them to. It offers a choice of horizontal and vertical play modes and a range of viewing angles and something that does frustrate me with modern pinball games on the Vita, when playing in vertical mode, you can still use buttons to control the flippers as the buttons are remapped and it’s something that Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball Arcade should implement in future updates as touchscreen controls simply do not work for pinball games.

That aside, while I did find that the tables themselves were fun to play for a while albeit somewhat dated if you’re looking for fresh, modern tables then you may as well look elsewhere. There are no licensed tables featured here in this collection so unless you’re a fan of the original tables you’ll find them little more than retro curiosities in comparison to modern day tables, whether they are home or arcade counterparts.

If you love old-school tables and can’t wait for all of these to be converted to the more advanced Pinball Arcade, then this is possibly worth a quick go but with no chance of an update to fix the bugs with the tables and the frustrating need to unlock tables before you can play them, even at the bargain price it’s one for die-hard pinball fans only I’m afraid.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Gottlieb Pinball Classics
  • Publisher: System 3
  • System: PSP
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (local multiplayer possible via ad-hoc mode)
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 200Mb

Vita Player Rating - 05

 

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