PINBALL HALL OF FAME: THE WILLIAMS COLLECTION / Crave / Sony PSP
 
 
The Williams pinball heyday was from the late 1970s to the early 90s, so that's where the game's machine selection comes from. You get 10 boards in total, with nine available to play from the start (Jive Time can be seen in the menu but has to be unlocked). They span from 1979's Gorgar, the first pinball machine to incorporate voice clips, to 1990's Whirlwind and Funhouse, each of which had neat table gimmicks like a rotating magnet wheel that simulated wind and a shit-talking clown head you have to keep popping in the mouth using the upper flipper.

I was a big arcade kid during this period, starting with the Pac-Man machine at the local grocery store in the early 80s when I was too little to even know what was going on, and moving on to my first (of many) trips to an actual arcade in the mid-80s when I was capable of playing Galaga and Super Mario on the Playchoice-10 at a decent level. However, I never really got into pinball at all. Just a few games played experimentally once in a while, then ignored in favor of the seductive flashing lights of the cabinets. So I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed this one, given that it's a nostalgia trip not really targeted at me.

At first, you've only got 10 credits with which to actually play machines, which initially seems a little bogus -- didn't I pay actual money for this game? Playing the "Williams Challenge" or tournament mode quickly racks up a hefty credit sum, however. You can also unlock free play on any table by either meeting five goals (none of which are usually all that strenuous) or purchasing it with 40 credits. Aside from Jive Time, there's also other gradual unlockables as you meet goals in the games, like the use of different ball textures.

Williams Challenge is your primary means of earning credits, and simply takes you through each of the nine tables giving you three balls on each to beat a pre-set score (usually a reasonable challenge). Even just making it through two or three tables usually racks up 20-40 credits for you, and any goals you hit grant bonus credits.

I would really prefer you not have to earn credits just to play the games as you wish in a game compilation, but the ease of racking up credits makes this such a minimal headache in practice that I'm not taking off a point for it. Since it doesn't really interfere, it shouldn't bring down what is otherwise an excellent and clearly painstaking recreation of these machines that plays about as well as a video game adaptation possibly could. Sound effects are lovingly recreated, and there's a wide variety of fixed camera angles to choose from as well as a well-implemented dynamic camera.

The only limitation here is the PSP itself; specifically the small screen. If you're hooked up to a TV (or emulating) this won't be an issue, but on an actual original PSP sometimes the small details of the board are hard to make out, even on a 3000 Fat model. You can play in vertical mode, but you can't seem to reconfigure the buttons, meaning you have to reach awkwardly up top to shoot the plunger this way.

This one is an absolute must-have for pinball fans looking for something portable on their PSP or Vita, however. Hell, even if you're not really a pinball fan, this might convert you -- worked on me! If you're looking for something for home play, though, this also came out for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii and one of those versions will probably offer superior visuals.
 
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