Pinball Arcade – Core Pack
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Although one of the tables in the core pack is already available for free, it is more than worth it for the other three. Theatre of Magic is perfect for introducing newcomers to the addictive nature of pinball while Ripley’s Believe It or Not has something for everyone. Even Black Hole which looks pretty basic by today’s standards has some very unique gameplay elements to keep you hooked. Overall a very solid selection of tables that looks and plays great.

Gameplay: Four great tables, packed with hours of addictive gameplay.

Graphics: Faithful reproductions of classic tables.

Sound: Distinctive audio with some great speech samples and effects

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Pinball Arcade – Core Pack

Developer: FarSight Studios | Publisher: FarSight Studios | Release Date: 2013 | Genre: Pinball / Simulation | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

I love pinball tables almost as much as video and computer games, but unfortunately it is getting harder and harder to find the tables. Most arcades clear out the pinball tables because they take up so much space and the ones that are still available tend to be in very poor shape. Thankfully, FarSight Studios have taken it upon themselves to faithfully recreate physical pinball tables in digital form.

Because there are so many great tables available, Farsight Studios have split everything up into packs and seasons. This way you only have to buy the packs that contain the tables that you want to play or splash out for a whole season if you want everything. A great starting point if you want to get your feet wet with the whole digital pinball genre is the core pack which contains the four tables that launched the series. Included in the core pack is Tales of the Arabian Nights by Williams, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! by Stern, Theatre of Magic by Bally and Black Hole by Gottlieb. We have already covered Tales of the Arabian Nights, which is available as a free table, so you can check the full review HERE. Below we will take a closer look at the other three tables in the core pack.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

First up is Ripley’s Believe it or Not! which is a fairly modern table, first released in 2004. It is a licensed table, based on the Robert Ripley franchise. The design of the table was done by Pat Lawlor, who also worked on The Addams Family and Funhouse tables. The goal of the table is to join Robert Ripley as he travels around the world collecting strange artifacts. There are seven continents to visit, each with specific challenges for collecting an artifact before taking on a final, secret location.

Pat Lawlor is known for great table designs and RBION is no exception. The most notable gimmick on the table is the shrunken head which is situated at the top of playing field. The table also features three flippers instead of the more traditional two. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of the artwork on this table, although some of the smaller decals are very nice. It is just that the lower playing field is dominated by a temple grid layout that light up to indicate how many temple jewels you have collected. Lighting up rows and columns by shooting the temple on the upper left of the table unlocks rewards so the grid is functional but not really much for the eyes.

The table looks rather complicated but thanks to the clever design casual players are given a fair chance as well. There are plenty of extra ball opportunities and the table also features a 2- 3- and 4-ball multi ball for big scores. In keeping with the Ripley’s theme of the table, the multi-ball animation on the dot matrix display features a man stuffing 8-balls into his mouth.

The table has some very distinctive audio and apart from the music there are plenty of speech samples. Robert Ripley makes all kinds of observations as you hit your goals, but the most unusual is the booming Jamaican voice of the shrunken head. What makes this even more bizarre is the fact that its mouth is clearly sown shut. The table also involves penguins, believe it or not, so brace yourself for hearing plenty of what can only be described as quacking.

Farsight Studios has faithfully recreated the Ripley’s table and everything feels spot on. If you have played this table in real-life, you will instantly feel at home with this digital version. It is a great table that can easily keep you busy for hours and is definitely one of our favorites from the core pack.

Theatre of Magic

Theatre of Magic dates from 1995 and is themed around magic and illusions. The design is by John Popadiuk, who also worked on Tales of the Arabian Nights and he once again did a great job with this high-scoring table. The centerpiece of the table is the magician’s trunk, which is used to activate the eight illusions you have to perform on your quest to become a master magician. Other interesting visual pieces on the table are the tiger with saw blade and back panel mirror that allows you to see the upper rollovers that would otherwise be hidden. The table also has a digital pinball mini-game which is played on the dot matrix display display to win an extra ball.

Theatre of Magic is very friendly towards newcomers and it is easy to quickly rack up a high score. Repeatedly shooting the trunk causes it to spin around and reveal a hole which allows you to access the eight illusions. You only have about 25 seconds for each illusion, which range from shooting the spinners to shuffle cards to shooting the right ramps to levitate someone, but you don’t have to win the illusions to advance to the grand finale. Shooting the right loop also advances the theatre clock with the goal of reaching midnight and scoring big points.

The table is extremely addictive and feature some very nice artwork. The background on the lower part of the table shows a magic book with the names of the illusions lighting up as they are activated and two rabbits perched on the corners. The backbox art is also beautiful and overall the table perfectly captures the mysterious look and feel of a magician’s show. The music sounds great and the two voices that you will be hearing the most are the sinister sounding magician and the sultry lady magician.

If you are a casual player you will probably be spending most of your time with Theatre of Magic. It has enough nooks and crannies to be very enjoyable for experienced players as well and is definitely a highlight in a pack that already contains a wealth of great tables.

Black Hole

The final table in the Pinball Arcade Core Pack is also the oldest one by far. Black Hole was first released in 1981 but that doesn’t mean that it can’t compete with the newer, shinier tables. There are two things that are immediately noticeable when you see this table for the first time, the ridiculous amount of flippers and the lower playing surface. Black Hole has four separate flippers on the upper playing field and another two tucked away on the lower playing surface. Incidentally, the lower playing surface is reversed and slopes away from the player which makes it an extra challenge to play.

The theme of the table is obviously a Black Hole in space, but there isn’t’ really much of a goal beyond achieving a high score. It is a very open table with the lower part dominated by the hidden playfield below. The lower playing field is reached by shooting the ball up the gravity tunnel lane which is quite easy to do with four flippers at your disposal. The problem is that the ball can go straight down the outlane if it drains on the lower playing surface before you unlock a gate on the upper playing surface. The lower playing surface bonus is the key to putting up a big score, but it is only awarded at the end of each ball. Black Hole does have a multi-ball feature, but it is extremely tricky to activate and requires a lot of practice to pull off consistently.

Due to its age, the audio for the table isn’t’ that impressive and features a droning, repetitive background tune that will instantly transport you back to the simpler era of the 80s. There are a few speech snippets which are actually generated by a Votrax SC-01 for that robotic, synthesized effect. The artwork on the table is also quite eye-catching with astronauts getting sucked into a black hole.

Back in its day Black Hole was already known for being notoriously high maintenance so finding a perfect working table in real-life might prove to be quite tricky. The table also has historical significance as it was widely believed to be one of the highest-grossing tables of all time after its release. While it is a good table, the fact that it was one of the first tables to charge a whopping 50 cents to play might have more to do with its earnings.

Conclusion

The four tables in this core pack will definitely keep you busy for ages, whether you fondly remember playing the physical tables or you are just looking for a realistic pinball simulation. These tables are great for teaching you all the basics and each comes with detailed instructions on how to perform the various challenges they offer. A brief history of each table and some flyers are also included, but the focus is very much playing the actual tables. It won’t take you long to find a favorite table amongst the four on offer and due to the nature of pinball it is also something that you will find yourself returning to time and time again.

*Review originally published March 2014

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: Dual Core 1.6 ghz or better.
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Graphics card supporting DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 9 GB available space
  • Sound Card: Direct Sound capable card.
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.0 ghz or better.
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTX 560 or higher. ATI HD 6950 or higher.
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 9 GB available space
  • Sound Card: Direct Sound capable card.
  • OS: Mac OSX Lion or Mavericks
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz or equivalent
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0+ support
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB available space

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