Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to All!

Hello? (tap, tap) Is this thing on?

Well, since I haven't posted a single thing on here in 10 long months I realize there is an excellent chance that I'm talking to myself here, but regardless I wanted to tell all you wonderful folks (listening or not) merry Christmas and a happy new year!

The game room has grown quite a bit this year and I've had several ideas for posts, even have one in the draft holster at 99% complete for the last several months, but work and life obligations combined with my chronically lethargic demeanor to inadvertently put the blog on hold. I'd like to think I will post again, as I do quite enjoy it, but calendars don't lie. And I can't risk my previous post potentially being the final one with that big goofy picture of me in front of the Canyon Bomber. So in the event that I continue my non-posting ways I wanted to take this opportunity to tell everyone thanks for taking the time to read over my little blog every now and then (back when I updated it on a semi-regular basis). I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Merry Christmas and good night.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Arcade Games of the 70's: Canyon Bomber

Over the last couple of weekends, local friends and occasional blog-readers Pungent Onion and Twiggamortis made the trek down to the game room proper to check out the new Spider-Man pinball, and although pinball was the main attraction, the ol' MAME cab got some play as well. One of the oldies-but-goodies that got the most play this time was Atari's Canyon Bomber - and since I haven't thrown around any blather about that one on here, well I figured it was time.

Canyon Bomber is another of those games that I played on a home console as a kid (Atari 2600) but was never even aware that it was an arcade port until I discovered it on MAME, and then finally got the opportunity to play the real machine in person when I made the pilgrimage to the American Classic Arcade Museum back in 2010.

Back in 1977 Atari was a serious player in the arcade scene. They had released Breakout the year before which was a huge hit and spawned numerous clones so they were on the lookout for their next big game. Their research staff combed the streets compiling opinion surveys which all pointed to one simple conclusion - the public demanded blimp and biplane bombing action. In response to this public outcry, Atari elected Howard Delman, who had just completed his first arcade game for them called Super Bug, to design both the hardware and the software for this new bombing game.

Rather than creating new hardware entirely from scratch, Delman took the existing board for Atari's Sprint 2 and made some clever modifications to enable it to produce an entirely different game. With the hardware in place he proceeded to write the software, and after many grueling hours (OK I don't really know - he may have banged it out in a day) he finished up the code for the game and turned it in to his supervisor at a mere 3KB in size - roughly the same as an early Atari 2600 game. His boss's response - "3K?!  What do you think, ROMs grow on trees?! Jesus Christ Tolstoy, think you could shave a few chapters off that tome?!" (I paraphrase).  Delman recounted the scene in the June 2008 issue of GameRoom Magazine:

“In those days, memory chips held 2K bytes of code, and compared to other electronic components, were considered ‘expensive.’ Thus, a program that was just one byte over 2K required a second pricey component. There certainly were games at the time that used more than 2K of ROM. Super Bug was 6K. But my supervisor, Steve Calfee, always liked to challenge people. So when my code came in at around 3K, he said, ‘I bet you could get it down to 2K, and save the cost of the second memory chip.’ Never one to back off from a challenge, I went back to work. With judicious scrutiny of every routine, I was able to finally shrink it to 2K. In fact, it was exactly 2K. There is not a single extra byte in the ROM."

And so, weighing in at a sleek and sexy 2KB, Canyon Bomber was released by Atari in November 1977 with the bold promise of "exciting new blimp and bi-plane bombing action".

At its core, Canyon Bomber didn't stray too far away from the ball-breaking-through-the-wall formula of Breakout, but it flipped it upside down, added gravity and took away the bounce. It also added a few other twists that turned it into a game all its own. In Canyon Bomber you pilot a blimp and a biplane high above a canyon that is filled with boulders - the manual calls them "bubbles", but that doesn't make any sense so I'm going with boulders. Your job is to clear out those boulders, all of which are marked with a point value from 1-4, by dropping bombs on them. Every time you destroy a boulder, its corresponding number is added to your score, so obviously it's preferable to hit the boulders with the higher number. I must say that after playing pinball where millions of points are thrown around like beads on Mardi Gras it was kind of refreshing to play an old-school game where a hard-fought victory is won by a score of 409-401.

When the game starts both players are piloting blimps which fly slowly and higher in the sky. After half the boulders have been destroyed the players switch to biplanes which fly faster and lower. This helps speed the game up when there are fewer bombing opportunities and also offers a slightly different aiming challenge.  At the beginning of each bombing run your aircraft appears at either the left or right side of the screen and steadily flies in a straight line over the canyon until it disappears off the opposite side of the screen. Your task during each of these trans-raster flights is to drop at least 1 bomb on a boulder. If your bomb doesn't hit a boulder or if you fail to release a bomb, that is counted as a miss - and after 3 misses your game is over.

You can only drop one bomb at a time but after that bomb has detonated you can drop another one and you can drop as many as you want to during each bombing run - just don't get overeager with the rapid-fire and miss. As you bomb the boulders they disintegrate and any boulders that are located directly above them tumble down to fill the crevice you just created so it gets harder and harder to hit a boulder with each progressive bombing run.

And to make things a little more difficult - the opposing player (human or computer) is flying their aircraft at exactly the same time with the exact same mission so not only do the boulders get more scarce the longer you play, but when there are only a few left you are both gunning - er, bombing - for the same boulders. So you have to balance your timing and aim with strategic thinking to avoid your opponent stealing your boulder out from under you. Whoever has the most points when both players have used up their 3 misses is the winner.

It sounds pretty simple, but it gets difficult fairly quickly as the number of easy target boulders rapidly diminishes.  If you are able to destroy all the boulders on the screen the screen refills with a fresh new supply of boulders flown in from a nearby canyon for your continued gaming pleasure. I'm told that this refilling occurs twice, but I don't think I've ever cleared an entire canyon more than once so I don't know.

The graphics, as one would expect from a 1977 game, are fairly simplistic, but they are colored with all three monochromatic shades of the rainbow - black, white and gray.  Electronically the canyon is expressed as a featureless black silhouette.

But this display is nicely spruced up by the overlying artwork on the monitor bezel which combines with the canyon silhouette on the screen to actually provide a bit of a 3D effect to the scene. And in addition to making the canyon look much nicer, the bezel artwork also adds another dimension to the difficulty as it partially masks some of the boulders along the edges of the canyon.

Note that the ONLY thing you can control is the timing of your bomb release. Selection of the aircraft, altitude, speed, direction - all those details are controlled by the computer. The player's only control is a single button. 1 BUTTON! Not too many games can make that claim, so I think I can safely say this is my favorite 1-button arcade game. In fact the one-button action played an important role in the selection of Canyon Bomber during Twiggamortis' trip down as he introduced me to a little game he calls Edward 40-Hands which entails duct-taping a 40oz beer (Old English in this case) to your hand. Apparently the proper rules require you to tape one to each hand but that sounded like a sure way to get beer spilled all over the machine so we went with 1. By the way - Golden Tee was the other 40-Hands game for the evening. But I digress.

In addition to the 1-button controller, Atari also added a High Score Reset Button to the control panel.  Back in those days saving a high score was still a pretty novel concept for video games and they were erased every time the machine was turned off anyway so I guess the inclusion of the reset button isn't all that peculiar, but still it seems to defeat the purpose of saving high scores a little if any knucklehead can just hit the button and wipe it clean. I guess maybe gamers in those days were more concerned with tracking their high score achieved in each individual sitting as opposed to all-time.

I will say that the 1-player game gets dull fairly quickly, so I don't play it much by myself. The computer player just basically holds the fire button down and fires indiscriminately so once the boulders start getting thin he (she? it?) is no competition whatsoever. But if you have a friend to take the stick of the opposing plane then this simple little game can be a lot of fun.

I read that David Nelson of Manchester, New Hampshire holds the official record for Canyon Bomber of 1,399 points set on November 17, 2007.  Finally, a high-score record that doesn't seem THAT much higher than my high score!  (1,021).

To experience the arcade game properly you'll have to either track down a real cabinet (ACAM in New Hampshire is the only location I've seen) or boot up the ROM in MAME because like most of the simplistic arcade games of the 70's it never received an arcade-perfect port since by the time consoles were truly up to the task everyone had lost interest in the game. That being said, in 1978 Atari did a halfway decent job of porting Canyon Bomber to their new console the Atari VCS - known later of course as the Atari 2600 - which is where I was introduced to the game.

I suppose they captured the gameplay well enough on the 2600 port, but I only vaguely recall playing it when I was a kid and never considered it to be on my list of favorite Atari 2600 games so it didn't make much of an impression on me. And although I consider the arcade game to be marginally playable as a 1-player game, I can't say the same for the Atari 2600 port at least in this day and age. You pretty much HAVE to have a second human present for that one to keep your interest for very long at all. The cartridge contained 8-variations of the game, including for some reason the completely unrelated "Sea Bomber" which smacks more of a recycled but less fun version of Air-Sea Battle (which IS one of my favorite Atari 2600 games). And for some reason Atari elected to forego the blimps and biplanes altogether and went instead with horribly drawn helicopters and jets. Atari, did anyone ever ask you for helicopter and jet bombing action?  No. I believe the original request was for blimp and biplane bombing action. Stick with what got ya here will ya?

If you'd like to try the Atari 2600 port of Canyon Bomber and you don't have Stella up and running you can play it on Vizzed HERE.

Although the arcade version of Canyon Bomber never got its due respect, the Atari 2600 port has been included in a few different retro Atari collections including Atari Anthology on PS2 and XBOX, Atari - 80 Classic Games in One on PC, and the Atari Flashback Classic Game Console which plugs directly into your TV.

So in a nutshell, Canyon Bomber is at least worth a look if you're playing solo, but like I usually find myself saying on these really old video games, it really shines as a 2-player game. So grab your 40, boot it up in MAME and check it out - just be sure to download the artwork file too so you have the canyon overlay. Bombs away!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Fort Co-Op Adventure DLC for Uncharted 3

My fellow PS3-owners may have already seen this, but Eric Monacelli, Community Strategist for Naughty Dog, posted on the PlayStation blog Tuesday about new co-op adventure DLC for Uncharted 3 wherein you actually play as the bad guys!

By now you’re hopefully well versed in the long gun nuances, co-op narrative and all the hanging-by-your-fingers-on-edge-of-a-cliff action found in Uncharted 3 multiplayer. Today we’re firing a heavy salvo of Uncharted 3 DLC information your way featuring new content to download individually, or as part of the Fortune Hunter’s Club program. Downloading this fresh content will blow out the co-op storyline and expand the UNCHARTED series in ways that have never been done before.

Coming in today’s PlayStation Store update to Uncharted 3 is the Fort Co-Op adventure DLC. Did some of you guess that from our screenshot hint? Fort Co-Op Adventure will mark the first time in the series you’ll be able to play co-op as the UNCHARTED villains with Zoran Lazarević, Eddy Raja, Harry Flynn joining forces in a tale that further explores the mystery behind the Janus head statue from the on-disc co-op adventure. Check out a preview of that adventure here:

The new DLC costs $5.99. Not too bad for a new twist on things I suppose. What do you guys think?  Worth a purchase?

They also released a whole bunch of new skins for purchase but I've never personally had much use for the various skins even if they are dirt cheap. So a big fat meh to that.

One other DLC item of note, on February 21 Naughty Dog is releasing the "Flashback Map Pack 2" for $9.99 in which they update 4 competitive maps from Uncharted 2 - Plaza, Temple, Train Wreck and Village - with "all-new dynamic lighting effects, cutting-edge particle effects and a bevy of other fresh technical polish". I fished in this pond the last time, but I think I'll skip it this time around.  Recycled U2 maps for $10 seems a little steep to me, especially when I can still crack open my copy of U2 and play them on there - sans fresh technical polish of course. Also, I'm uncomfortable with their use of the word bevy. Thoughts?

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Stern's New AC/DC Pinball

Yep - another pinball post.

Pinball News has posted the first part of a two-part in-depth review of the new Stern pinball machine AC/DC - a pin I am looking forward to playing at the Texas Pinball Festival next month. And when I say in-depth I really mean in-depth. I only recently discovered these guys and I really like their pinball reviews.  In Part 1 of their reviews they typically focus on the artwork, hardware and playfield features and in Part 2 they focus on the rules, gameplay, and general thoughts/ratings. They also include lots of really nice closeup photographs and some cool details and insights. You do have to be at least a bit of a pinhead to appreciate it - but if you are so inclined check it out here:

And seeing as how I'm a guy who just loves game trailers. Well...

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pinball Hall of Fame on BBC

I wasn't going to do another pinball post (4th in a row!), but this is such a little one. This short video came out a few days ago on BBC New Technology where they spoke with Tim Arnold, owner of the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. That's the one place I regret not visiting when I was in Vegas about three years ago. Oh well, hopefully I'll eventually make it out there.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Texas Pinball Festival Right Around the Corner

My usual gaming habit is to wildly bounce between consoles, computers, arcade, retro, current-gen, etc. with no real rhyme or reason, but lately I've been hitting the Spider-Man pinball pretty much exclusively so forgive me if my posts are a bit pin-centric for a while. Along those lines I'd like to point out to you fine folks that the 2012 installment of the Texas Pinball Festival is rapidly approaching - March 23-25 - a mere two months away!

The Festival is being held at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas which is on the north side of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. That's like a 5-hour drive for me so... not exactly right around the corner, but I've been considering making a road trip to this thing ever since I discovered it a few years back and since for me personally 2012 is the Year of the Pinball, well, I do believe I'm finally gonna make it happen this year!  Gnome and Mik - can I expect to see you guys there?  What? Atlantic shmatlantic c'mon, hop on a plane and you'll be there before you know it. Fallguy, you only have to cross the Red River so that's completely doable - I'm putting you down as an attendee right now.  And Onion and Twiggamortis, you guys are no farther away than I am so I'm marking you down as well.

With two months to go the games line-up is still preliminary, but it's already shaping up quite nicely with tons of great pinball machines (surprise!) including a premium and four limited edition models of Stern's soon-to-be-released AC/DC pin.

Steve Ritchie, the designer behind Stern's Spider-Man, also designed AC/DC so I'm guessing I might like it.  There will also be a lesser, but still decent, selection of video games which will include some rarities like Quantum (1982), Lunar Lander (1979) and Gun Fight (1975). Over 250 games on free play all weekend!

Speaking of Steve Ritchie, he is going to be making an appearance and will be signing autographs, so I think I might bring my Spidey translite and get him to autograph it. I'm wondering if I need to bring my own pen for something like that or if they will set him up?

George Gomez will be their special guest speaker on March 24 - he is behind some great pins like Monster Bash, Corvette, Revenge from Mars, Lord of the Rings, Batman and the new one from 2011 that I just played recently for the first time - Transformers. There will also be pinball technicians, hobbyists and vendors giving seminars and/or selling their wares as well.

Speaking of Transformers - there will be several pinball tournaments going on throughout the event and one of the tournament machines will be a brand new Transformers Pro and after the tournament is complete it will be raffled off with proceeds to benefit the American Red Cross.

I'm normally not a big buyer of raffle tickets, but I'm getting one (or quite possibly three) of these. And even if you don't win the Transformers the raffle tickets qualify you for many other drawings throughout the weekend for prizes like translites, t-shirts, pinball DVDs, magazines, flyers, etc.

There is also going to be a swap meet on March 24 starting at 8:00 AM.  I might swap some of my time at that for another hour or two of sleep, but it goes through noon so I'll check it out.

Should be fun so I'll see you there!

Festival Hours
Friday, March 23: 5pm-1am
Saturday, March 24: 10am-1am (swap meet from 8:00am-Noon)
Sunday, March 25: 9am-2:30pm

Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center (in the Texas Grand Ballroom)
1800 Highway 26 East
Grapevine, Texas, 76051
Reservations: 1-800-984-1344

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Monday, January 23, 2012

My Very First Pinball Machine!

I didn't mention it at the time, but my previous post about Marvel Pinball was a bit of foreshadowing as not quite two weeks ago a couple of gentlemen delivered my new 250 pound member of the family - the Stern Pinball Machine Spider-Man!

I've always wanted to own my own pinball machine and now, following an arguably foolhardy expenditure of funds to a gentleman in Georgia, that dream has become a reality. I was going to make my own gameplay video, but as you know I'm a sucker for game trailers and Stern made one of their own for the machine when it came out in June 2007 (to coincide with the theatrical release of Spider-Man 3) so I decided to go with that instead:

The machine was designed by Steve Ritchie and programmed by pinball champion Lyman Sheats. I'm not exactly a pinball industry expert so I admit that I hadn't heard of either of these two guys until I happened to catch the pinball documentary Special When Lit a while back in which they were both featured so I was surprised when I discovered later that they were responsible for Spider-Man.

Kevin O'Conner did the artwork for the cabinet and the first thing that grabs your attention on the machine is his great looking backglass:

I might have positioned the super villains so that they were facing Spidey in attack mode instead of radiating out from the center, but debatable nitpicking aside I really like it.  Check out that foreshortening and dynamic action!  I bet Kevin read "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" when he was younger. I still have my copy.

If only I'd stuck with art maybe I could be creating artwork on pinball machines too! But I digress...

The Spider-Man pinball is based on the movie franchise and combines pieces from all three movies, most importantly the four super villains that Spidey fights in them - the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman and Venom. Each of the villains has his own scoring area and strategy shots on the playfield and you must defeat all of them to wage "Battle Royale".

There are a ton of different modes and scoring opportunities in the game, but I don't think it would be too interesting for me to document all of them in detail here. I will just talk briefly about the four super villains to allow me to include a photo of these nicely detailed toys.

In the upper-middle part of the playfield is the Sandman. He stands behind a motorized bank of three targets and you must hit all three to cause his protective wall to drop and start the first Sandman Stage - "Slammer Time".  Now you can hit Sandman himself or his "whirlwind of targets" and every time you do the yellow flasher lamps light up, big punch sounds and Sandman dialogue pump through the speakers and some digitized footage from the movie shows on the display. After you've hit him enough times Sandman raises up off the playfield to reveal the hole he was guarding. When you sink the ball into the hole you complete "Slammer Time". Sandman then lowers down to again protect the hole, the 3-bank wall of targets rises back up and the ball is launched straight up and over an arch called a web-slinger back onto the playfield for play to continue. This also sets up the next and progressively more difficult Sandman stages - "Subway Storm" and  then "Dunes of Doom".

In the middle right part of the playfield is my favorite villain/shot on the machine - Doctor Octopus.  Doc Ock starts in a raised position over a hole and when you sink a ball in it to start "Fusion Malfunction" he lowers to block it and a red flashing lamp glows as the movie scene plays - "Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts" then the ball launches straight up and over a webslinger back onto the playfield. When you hit Doc Ock the next time the ball bounces off him and a magnet below the playfield stops it cold in the middle of a picture of the sun, all the lights go off, the red flasher glows and you hear "the power of the sun, in the palm of my hand" then the lights come back on and the magnet flings the ball back at Doc Ock and then towards you as a 2-ball multiball ensues.  This is one of my all-time favorite pinball sequences - just so cool. The other two Doc Ock stages, "Bank Bust" and "Armed at the Dock", introduce a few new twists.

Venom is in the back left corner of the table and to reach him you have to make a somewhat challenging cross-field ramp shot with the upper right flipper. When you are able to hit it solidly enough to hit Venom's target his blue flasher glows brightly and Venom screams out to start the "Goo On You" stage where you have to hit Venom's ramp several times to complete it as a timer and your bonus points for the stage quickly run down.  Venom's two other stages are "Brock's New Suit" and "You Ooze You Lose" (spelled 'Loose' on the sign).

The final villain, the Green Goblin, is on the lower left side of the playfield. He is hovering on his goblin glider over five pumpkin bomb targets. Once you have hit all five targets "Unity Day Festival" begins. You have to hit the targets six more times to complete the stage, with the Goblin shaking in pain after each hit. The other two Green Goblin stages "Suffer the Children" and "Godspeed Spider-Man" introduce other twists such as moving lit targets that you have to hit.

The sound for the machine is outstanding. Hard pumping tunes for the various stages that really seem to flow well with the playfield action.  Great sounding movie dialogue is also seamlessly sewn in at just the right times. Stern also hired J.K. Simmons, the actor who played J.Jonah Jameson in the movies, to record a wide variety of pinball-specific dialogue in-character so they all have that J.Jonah Jameson edge to them - "Extra ball is lit!  What are you waiting for?!", "Who do you think you are? Spider-Man?", etc. works perfectly.

And in my opinion the machine is gorgeous - the artwork, the lights, the cool movie scenes that play on the dot matrix video display. A real spectacle. Mix all that with my old comic book loyalties to the subject matter and the fact that it is a really fun pinball machine to play and it goes at or near the top of my all-time favorite pinball machines list - along with the likes of Medieval Madness, Scared Stiff, Monster Bash and Lord of the Rings. Suffice it to say I love it!  I also recently learned that Pinside members rank Spider-Man as the 10th best pinball of all-time (just a hair below Scared Stiff) on their weekly updated list of top 100 pinballs. So it's somewhat reassuring to hear that my high regard for the machine is not inconsistent with the views of pinball insiders.

So anyway, if you happen to be in a movie theater or somewhere and see this pinball in the corner you ought to go pump a few quarters into it and give it a go. It's a lot of fun!

Oh - as I was putting this post together I stumbled across a nice interview with the designer Steve Ritchie in the June 2007 edition of the dearly departed GameRoom Magazine. has the interview posted online here if you care to check it out.  See ya!

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Spidey's Got Such a Supple Wrist!

It's no secret that I like arcades.  Historically I have spent most of my arcade time on video games and just a passing amount of attention to their older brother the pinball machine. But in recent years I have refocused a good deal of my attention to these wonderful machines. I think a big part of the reason for this is that I have visited more and more retro arcades and started getting my fill of a lot of the more commonly recurring classics like Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, etc. Don't get me wrong I still love those games but at this point I've seen them enough that I'd rather trade some of my time on them for some time with the silver ball. Also, one of my friends greatly prefers pinball over video games and is very knowledgeable about them and after quite a few pinball matches I'm guessing some of that interest probably rubbed off on me as well.

Thanks to the unfortunate demise of my beloved 60GB backwards-compatible PS3 and my subsequent purchase of a 320GB Uncharted 3 Bundle PS3 (that was on sale) I am currently a member of Sony's PlayStation Plus. One of the benefits of membership is that you get to download a free PS3 game each month and the game of the month in December was Marvel Pinball. I haven't paid much attention to console video pinball games in a long time so I didn't even have it on my radar before I got it as a freebie but I must say I am quite enjoying it and would heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys pinball, arcade style video games, or Marvel comics - and especially to those individuals like myself who are a fan of all three!

Playing it reminds of my first experience with a video-oriented pinball game which was Video Pinball on my trusty Atari 2600 (cue wavy curtain flashback effect).  Much like driving games, video pinball technology has come quite a ways in 30 years but the general gameplay mechanic remains more or less the same.

Hey, she may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts kid!  I guess I liked it so much that I asked my parents for it twice because I have 2 copies of the cartridge at home.

And speaking of pinball from my childhood, I was recently over at my mom's house and I brought back a box of old goodies (I always leave my mom's house with a box of old stuff) which included a Viewmaster, an 8-track tape player and carousel, a Star Wars jigsaw puzzle, and Wildfire Pinball - a handheld pinball game released by Parker Brothers in 1979.  Did anyone else have this thing?

I think it was actually my brother's so I didn't play it nearly as much as I did Video Pinball, but I figured it would fit nicely in the game room on the shelf next to the Merlin and the Game Boy.

Fast forward to maybe 8-9 years ago or so when I discovered Visual Pinball, a freeware pinball simulation program. When coupled with PinMAME (which emulates the pinball ROMs) it allows you play pretty much any real pinball machine you can think of right on your computer - basically the pinball version of MAME.  If you are interested in pinball and have never tried Visual Pinball you ought to check it because it is cool! (and free!). The tables that this community of pinball enthusiasts have developed are very impressive. Be forewarned though that it is even less user-friendly and documented for the novice to set up than MAME. Here is a video with some very brief glimpses of a bunch of Visual Pinball tables in action:

And finally this brings me back full circle to Marvel Pinball - released late 2010 by Zen Studios and finally checked out by me just last month. It is like Visual Pinball on steroids.  Here is the trailer:

It has the same authentic-feeling pinball play and great realistic physics of Visual Pinball combined with some really cool animated 3D action by the super villain set pieces that of course wouldn't be possible on a real pinball machine.  The art/graphics are gorgeous and the sound is very good. The game comes with 4 tables installed - Spider-Man, Iron Man, Blade and Wolverine.  They're all good but my favorite so far is definitely Spider-Man. Least favorite is probably Iron Man. That mirrors reality because I love the real Stern Spider-Man pinball but have never really cared a whole lot for the Iron Man.

The gameplay, if you enjoy pinball at all, is very addictive. Like real pinball it is simple to play but challenging to master. You basically only use 3 buttons - the left and right shoulder buttons for the flippers and the X button for the launch which you can vary to try and get skill shot points. As a pinball fan I can definitely say this game feels like the real thing with the added bonus of the realistic interaction with the various villains on each table who are bent on bringing you down. For instance on the Spider-Man table that includes Mysterio hitting you with hallucinogenic gas which reverses your flipper controls, the Green Goblin flying around and throwing exploding pumpkin bombs/pinballs on the table and Doctor Octopus grabbing your pinballs with his mechanical arms. Each villain attack feels like something you might see on a real pinball table even though the action is too complex for it to actually be mechanically possible outside the video world. Other features include online multiplayer play and several different camera angles you can choose. You can also nudge the table with the motion detection of the controller, although I found that particular control to be somewhat difficult to use and mostly just distracting so I pretty much ignore it.

I already liked this game quite a bit when I first started playing it last month despite a slight lag on the flippers which annoyed me, but then I remembered my TV has a "game" setting so I turned it on and that fixed the lag - so now the game went from really good to great!  If you aren't in PlayStation Plus the main game with 4 tables only costs $10 and in my opinion well worth the money.

They also offer a Fantastic Four and Captain America table as downloadable content for $2.99 each with one for the Hulk in the wings. I just love these little video trailers so here are those.

Finally, in mid-December they released a DLC 4-pack of tables called Vengeance and Virtue that features Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, Thor and the X-Men which costs $10. I collected Ghost Rider, Moon Knight and X-Men comics back in the day so I'm particularly curious about those. Here is a look at the Vengeance and Virtue pack - I might just have to get it at some point.

So obviously I think this game is pretty darn good.  One of the things I like about PS+ is that it basically forces me to try out games that I most likely wouldn't have ever gotten around to trying out otherwise. This has introduced me to a few stinkers, but has also allowed me to find a few gems as well, of which this is one. If you think pinball is boring and repetitive then you should definitely stay away from it as it wouldn't be for you, but if you like pinball like I do then this game is definitely worth buying.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012


Hello folks and a 4-day belated happy new year!  There seems to be a pattern emerging with me wishing folks a happy holiday 4 days after the holiday actually occurs. Oh well, as anyone who's ever waited for me to arrive at a party or at work or for an appointment will tell you - I'm typically late. Always have been, and if past performance is any indicator, always will be.

I'm working up a post on my new game Rocksmith (spoiler alert - I like it!) but haven't finished it yet so today's post is admittedly a gap-filler to keep my posting wheels rolling.

As I've mentioned before, I missed out on the NES gaming craze so I never developed much love for Jumpman, er... Mario.  And frankly there is such a tremendous amount of love for him out there from Nintendo fans that I grow a little weary of him sometimes, but nevertheless I stumbled across these 2 Mario-related videos the last few days that I thought were worth a nod.  If only I could learn that there Twitter gadget I could just tweet a link, but for now I'll just have to make do with an embed post!

First from is an early meeting between Mario and his slimy agent.

And, yet another floppy drive music video - this one from Silent's Homepage. I don't know why these fascinate me so, but this one features an entire symphony of (i.e. 8) 3.5" floppy drives belting out the Super Mario Bros tune. Enjoy!

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