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Summary:

In my opinion, pinball can be likened to the huge range of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. There are a countless number of variations on what is always essentially the same basic recipe. With this classic arcade game, the simple essentials are always the same. Take […]

In my opinion, pinball can be likened to the huge range of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. There are a countless number of variations on what is always essentially the same basic recipe. With this classic arcade game, the simple essentials are always the same. Take a couple of paddles, the ability to tilt the board and a shiny metal ball then combine them to create an addictive (all singing all dancing) pinball machine.

However, the main reason for the timeless success of the pinball machine is that it can be changed and altered to be based around a different idea. The 7 pinball games I have been playing (obsessively I might add) for the last couple of days have covered themes such as the Knights of the Round Table, a Monster Theme Park, Las Vegas and the Beginning of Time. Ultimately, it means that although you are playing a similar game with similar objectives each time around, you are still remain interested in each individual one.

As their website states, LittleWing have been creating pinball games since 1990 – the days of the very first gaming capable Macintosh. This shines through in the range and features of the pinball games available. Obviously, it means that much of their earliest software (Tristan, Angel Egg etc) is not the 3D effect laden type of gameplay you would expect on your G5. However, there is definitely a certain nostalgia about playing the older games in their collection – if only to remind you of ‘the good old days’.

LittleWing Pinball - Tristan Screenshot
Tristan – The original OS9 creation. Classic pinball.

That said, I’m going to focus more heavily on what LittleWing have recently produced – their more up to date pinball creations. The main aspect of these games which makes them so appealing is how they capture the classic pinball experience. Although games such as Monster Fair (my personal favourite) use lots of special effects and flashing gizmos on the pinball backdrop, they retain the familiar experience of frantically flipping the paddles to keep the ball on the table. Rather than try to create a new game on the Mac, LittleWing have put all their efforts into porting pinball as accurately as possible from it’s original format. This is demonstrated from the simple navigation menus, right through to the retro LED scoreboard effects. An added bonus is that most of the games have a turn based multi-player capability.

From playing the games, it is apparent that the sound and audio effects improve in the more recent games as well. Some of the music recaptures the classic feel, and the range and quality of the sound effects are much more varied. In Monster Fair, you are treated to some fantastic audio – recreating a classic (albeit cheesy) ‘ghost ride’ feel. All the games feature the clattering of the ball moving around the table – building up the tension… One feature that doesn’t seem to be apparent in any of the games is the ability to play it in a window rather than full screen. This would be a welcome addition, as pinball is the type of game many people like to quickly move in and out of as they work.

As far as gameplay difficulty goes, I found it very easy to just pick the games up and enjoy them straight “out of the box”. However, I’m most certainly an amateur. There is plenty of scope for more dedicated players. One interesting feature which LittleWing have added recently is the high score competition on the internet. Before you take part in the competition for Monster Fair (the one currently running), just take a look at the high score results for Jinni Zeala. If you think you could get somewhere in the region of 429 billion – get your entry submitted!

LittleWing Pinball - Jinni Zeala
Jinni Zeala – The Arabian Nights keyboard breaker.

I have put together a quick summary of what I found the pros and cons of each game to be. I’ve started with the older OS9 games, moving on to the more recent releases.

Tristan
Pros
Classic Pinball Game
Old School Gameplay
Simply layout

Cons
Changes resolution, colour mode (for the negative)
OS9
Poor Graphics

Angel Egg
Pros
More ‘girly’ feel to the game (could be a con…)
Multiball feature

Cons
Changes resolution, colour mode (for the negative)
OS9

Crystal Caliburn
Pros
Well themed around ‘knights of round table’
Authentic feel
Records High Scores

Cons
Changes colour mode
Very complex layout
Very simple menu and navigation

Golden Logres
Pros
Gameplay is good – Sequel to Crystal Caliburn
Good detail in the design of the pinball machine

Cons
OS9
Changes resolution, colour mode (for the negative)
Complicated layout

Loony Labyrinth
Pros
Improved gameplay – More obvious aim
Easier to understand than Crystal
Retro speech

Cons
Very similar to Crystal, but with different theme
Doesn’t use full screen – Small area

Jinni Zeala
Pros
Vegas style neon lights
Smooth gameplay – Lots of functionality
Different perspective/view

Cons
Contrast a little too low – Many items look similar
Quite complex layout

Monster Fair
Pros
Uses full screen, full colour
Fantastic gameplay
Great music and lighting – Captures fairground atmosphere
Cheesy

Cons
Too addictive

LittleWing Pinball - Monster Fair
Monster Fair – The newest, and quite possibly most addictive incarnation.

On the whole, I found these games to be very entertaining. If you are looking for classic ‘old school’ gameplay, it might be wise for you to opt for one of the original titles. With that mind mind, I would fully recommend spending a little extra and trying out Jinni Zeala or Monster Fair. You’ll appreciate the cheesy soundtrack and special effects. Of all the pinball clones I have played in the past, I am confident to say that LittleWing have done the best job of recreating the classic experience on a Mac. The only way it could be more realistic would be to have a coin slot – and let’s face it, that’s the only aspect of pinball we’re happy without.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the pinball games reviewed, I would strongly recommend first downloading the demo version. Playing those will give you an idea of which game(s) you prefer over others. You should then head over to LittleWing’s online store to pick yourself up a copy. Although prices are shown in Japanese Yen, you can pay in any currency. Prices range from $9 through to $27 for the latest incarnations.

  1. [...] ilar objectives each time around, you are still remain interested in each individual one. Continue over at The Apple Blog

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  2. Oh god, the hours I spent on the original Tristan and Looney Labyrinth… I repeat the warning – highly highly addictive games. And LittleWing continues to put out the very best of this class of game.

    If nothing else it’s change from YAFPS.

    Erik

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  3. These look cool, I will certainly take a look. Have you got a PSP or DS? There are great versions on that too – and they have the added feature of being completely portable.

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  4. cvbgfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

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  5. So Much Fun

    ArcadeMare Games

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  6. Why pay for pinball when you can get it for free, Since PC comes with a fantastic pinball game, out of principle I’ll never pay for a Mac Pinball, it should already be included, shame on Apple for not including decent games

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