Pinball Arcade: Season One
January is National Pinball Month, and it just so happens that I became a certified pinball wizard in 2016. So, what better way to kick off the new year than with a look at the best pinball game ever created. The Pinball Arcade is the closest thing you can get to playing real pinball tables without actually going to find them in real life. Pinball Arcade: Season One is a bargain, with the top ten tables being worth the price of admission alone. But with twenty-two tables, there are sure to be some that will cause you to tilt your table out of frustration.
22. Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson might the easiest pinball table I have ever played. I'm talking about even easier than those toy pinball tables you can buy at Walmart for $60. Harley Davidson isn't even good for a beginner as it fails to teach one simple concept, ball control. In pinball, it's all about making accurate shots and not just slamming on the flipper buttons. Erratic behavior will most likely cause your ball to drain in between the flippers. Harley Davidson almost encourages poor playing, as you can launch a post in between the flippers at any time. This keeps your ball from draining and has unlimited uses. Overall, the table is a little too basic and makes you wonder why it was included. The next table has the opposite problem.
21. Twilight Zone
I like Twilight Zone more than all of the next ten tables, but I can't put it any higher. Twilight Zone might be the most complicated pinball table ever created. There are over 700 slides of instructions on how to play this table in TPA. It feels like it was created just to challenge the world's greatest pinball players. After creating The Addams Family table and it becoming the world's best selling pinball table, Pat Lawlor was given carte blanche to design any type of table he wanted to. The result was Twilight Zone, an insane and complicated mess that only appeals to the best of the best. Lawlor said at a trade event: “We had a nickname for Twilight Zone, and it was “In Excess Pinball'…we had just gotten done setting the record with Addams Family, and [Williams executives] were willing to let us do anything, and we did, which was a big mistake.” However, if you're better at pinball than I am, Twilight Zone is the best table in Pinball Arcade: Season One. Costly to produce, expensive to fix, and headache inducing to play, Twilight Zone is not for the faint of heart.
20. No Good Gofers
I just don't like it.
19. Black Hole
Every table from here on out I actually like, I just happen to like The Black Hole the least. The Black Hole was the first pinball machine to require 50 cents to play. It's a wide body table with two levels of play but was designed to eat your quarters faster than a black hole. Black Hole has an extremely difficult to achieve multiball and numerous ways for your ball to drain. Shooting your ball into the lower level might actually doom you to draining your ball if you didn't close the gate to allow it back into the game. A fun table, but too little reward for too much risk.
18. Creature of The Black Lagoon in 3D
A fun table that has little to nothing to do with Creature of The Black Lagoon, and has you playing at a drive-in movie theater. The fun of the table is somewhat ruined by a clutter of ramps above the playing field.
17. Fun House
This is where my bias comes in, as I hate the theme. Fun House is one of the best pinball tables of all time, but the robotic talking puppet head ruins it for me. The central goal of making the puppet fall asleep is fun and the gameplay is easy to follow, but I can't get over the feeling of him watching me throughout the play.
Another good table that is ruined by my own bias, as Taxi was one of the first tables I ever played. I find the scoring potential too low and the goal of picking up passengers too hard to achieve. Granted, I haven't played it in some time, and that's okay.
This is the lowest I could fairly put Genie. It's an old table with not a whole lot to do. It was so average, I didn't even want to finish playing it. But it's such a big table and was probably pretty fascinating at the time it was released, that I have to give it some respect. The lack of any background music and the dead air sound of the ball rolling puts me to sleep.
13/14/15- Star Trek: The Next Generation/ Ripley's Believe it or Not/ Cirqus Voltaire
I have little to say about these tables because they are all great, but I've yet to progress very far in them. Each one has its advantages that make it unique. Cirqus has a giant ringmaster head that pops out that makes the game interesting, Ripley's is super generous with its multi-balls, and Star Trek has great music and voice acting. Star Trek has so many modes and goals, that it almost feels like an RPG. Truthfully, Star Trek might be one of the coolest tables in all of Pinball Arcade: Season One, but it's not my favorite.
11. Tales of the Arabian Nights
Not only is this table free for everyone, it happens to be a blast. There is a lot going on in this table and even more to try and figure it out. I've played this table numerous times, have read the instructions, and still am not sure what's going on. You're fighting a genie and collecting jewels. That's really all I got. The complex goals make it feel like you're playing a different game every time.
10. Monster Bash
Monster Bash is the second table featuring a Universal Studios monster. Instead of a drive-in movie, it's the Universal Studios monster starting a band. The goal of the table is to convince the six monsters to pick up their instruments and rock out together. Created in 1998, Monster Bash is one of the best sounding tables of the season, with great music and crystal clear voice acting. Monster Bash can be overwhelming for new players, but it's central goal and hilarious monsters keep you engaged.
Gorgar feels like the most modern table that comes from before 1980. It is relatively simple, with the only goal being to get the highest score, but you feel like you're fighting Gorgar the entire time. The pressure builds as you continue to rack up points and the demon's heart starts racing. He even talks smack to you during play.
8. Theatre of Magic
There is very little negative space in Theatre of Magic, with the top half of the table completely covered with ramps and shot targets. However, each ramp and target are clearly defined with what you need to hit. The relatively small playing field leads to a lot less unlucky drains. The goals and where to shoot are easy to identify thanks to the flashing lights on the board and the announcer frequently telling you where to shoot. One of the best tables that caters to casual and hardcore fans alike.
7. Elvira and the Party Monsters
Please refer to #4 for more details on Elvira and the Party Monsters.
6. Big Shot
Big Shot is an oldie but a goodie with a pool theme that rewards precision shots. The goal is to hit all of the solid and striped drop targets on the upper left and right side and eventually, get the eight ball. Big Shot is the best “classic” table TPA has to offer.
5. Black Knight
Rounding at the top five is my least favorite table of all time. I hate Black Knight. It's broken and unfair but I love it. I wanted to put this at the bottom of my list, but I can't deny how fun it can be, especially in multiplayer. The multiple playing fields make it especially enjoyable. The problem is, the game glitches out half the time when you lock the third ball in the upper playing field. The glitch makes it laughably hard to achieve 2.5 million points. This bug really kills the overall enjoyment a bit, and there are times when the ball drains almost immediately upon it launching, but I can't get enough of Black Knight.
4. Scared Stiff
Scared Stiff feels like Elvira and The Party Monsters, but turned up to 11. The best of the two Elvira games, Scarred Stiff is so high on the list due to it's easy to shoot ramps, a central goal of increasing the Stiff-O-Meter, a spinning roulette on the back box, and an impressive soundtrack. The music feels like it is straight out of Castlevania and really gets you into the action. The soundtrack alone puts Scared Stiff so high on the list.
2 / 3- Medieval Madness / Attack from Mars
I can't decide where to put these two. They are almost the exact same table in a sense. Both have launch buttons instead of plungers, skill shots activated via the left flipper, hurry up bonuses achieved by striking a center most object and several subgoals that must be completed to reach the main goal. The best part is the length of each game. If you're at least somewhat competent at pinball, a single game can last a long time. My first game of Attack from Mars lasted over twenty minutes. Best of all, the music and voice acting is top notch. You really get into the action after a while thanks to the great gameplay and effects. These are two of the best tables Pinball Arcade: Season One has to offer, but there is only one that is better.
1- Bride of Pinbot
Where do I start? I could write a thesis on how good this table is. Bride of Pinbot is one of the best tables of all time. This is the table you show someone who thinks pinball is boring or thinks pinball is nothing more than hitting a ball around and getting points. The whole game is about bringing the Bride of Pinbot to life by shooting the ball up the left ramp. That's it. The whole game is the left ramp. Shooting the ball up the ramp causes the bride to transform, eventually leading to multiball, and shooting both balls up the left ramp, causes her to become human. Continuing to shoot up the left ramp leads to a chance to go for the 1 billion point shot. Bride of Pinbot is the best because it teaches all the fundamentals of pinball in one game. For example:
- Ball Control & Holding- The only way to get to the 1 billion points is by shooting two balls up the left ramp. If one ball drains, the bride reverts back to her previous stage. This teaches the player how to deal with multiple balls, and that sometimes, it's necessary to hold one ball in a flipper while using the other to shoot.
- Passing- The most sure fire way to get the ball up the left ramp is via the right flipper. More often than not, the ball will go into the left lane flipper. Using the technique of holding the ball and immediately tapping the flipper button allows you to pass to the right flipper, allowing you to make it up the ramp.
- Using the board as shot markers- Shooting up the left ramp consistently seems daunting, until you realize that the artwork on the table indicates exactly where to shoot. On the board, there is a black straight line, where right when the ball rolls slightly past it, you know you need to press the flipper button. This works with a 95 percent accuracy. Perhaps this wasn't intentional, but using the artwork to pinpoint shots makes every game easier.
So there we have it. The first season of The Pinball Arcade. This isn't all the tables that TPA offers, as there is over 70 that have been released. My month of pinball isn't over, tune in later this month for my season two ranking, and maybe some other goodies.