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ups: Nice recreations of classic pinball machines, cool sharing feature supports multiplayer gaming on a single cartridge, good fodder for pinball fans.
downs: Doesn't do much to attract new fans, screen aspect and controls somewhat at odds.

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Pinball Hall of Fame Review
game: Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection
three star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Crave Games
developer: Crave Entertainment
view related website
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 12:53 PM Wed Jan 4th, 2006
last revision: 12:50 PM Wed Jan 4th, 2006

Click to read.Pinball machines are, unfortunately, a symbol of bygone days. Just as Grand Theft Auto and Doom have been reviled in contemporary gaming, pinball machines once bore the brunt of the citizens\' ire. Former New York City Mayor LaGuardia considered pinball machines a tool of the mob and outlawed pinball machines in 1941. LaGuardia destroyed over 11,000 machines, dumping the tables into the East River and sending the steel balls to be recycled for the war effort. His ban was not lifted until 1976, yet it remains illegal to win a free game from a pinball machine in New York City.

And this all came from the guy who read the Sunday comics out loud during his weekly radio addresses to help New Yorkers cope with newspaper strikes.

Needless to say, pinball is cool. And pinball machines are still fun, even when emulated in a digital simulation. Videogames have been recreating pinball for decades, and one of the latest efforts to bring the classic tables of yesteryear to your most modern gaming platform is Crave Games\' release, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection, out now for PSP. The Gottlieb Collection consists of eleven classic tables dating back to 1957 with a handful of extra goodies thrown in.

Gottlieb was a well-known maker of pinball machines and arcade attractions created in the 1930s by David Gottlieb. They created dozens of pinball games, dabbled in other electromechanical arcade attractions, and even branched out into videogames: Gottlieb created the classic Q*Bert game. Obviously, there\'s plenty of material at Gottlieb to draw on, but Pinball Hall of Fame has narrowed it down to a selection of the best machines.

Included in Pinball Hall of Fame is: Ace High (1957), Central Park (1966), Big Shot (1974), Genie (1979), Black Hole (1981), Goin\' Nuts (1983), El Dorado City of Gold (1984), Victory (1987), Tee\'d Off (1993), and Strikes \'n Spares (1994). Also included are some more unique games like Play-Boy and the Love-Meter.

This is a decent selection, and the games are represented in Pinball Hall of Fame with great attention to detail. The tables all look great, and the original artwork really shines through, making it clear why people have taken to collecting these very attractive machines. To help appreciate the unique qualities o each game, the instruction manual actually deserves a lot of praise: Each game is given a good description of how to play and achieve various table objectives. This is one thing that makes it difficult to pick up a brand new pinball machine in the arcade: These are complicated contraptions, and it takes awhile to get to know a table.

As you play the various tables you earn credits which can be used to unlock bonus features such as unlocking the tables for Free Play mode. Free Play mode allows you to play each table without paying. At the beginning of Pinball Hall of Fame, only four tables are available for Free Play mode. Completing goals on each of these tables will earn you credits which you can use to attempt other tables. This is a clever way of creating a sense of progression in the game.

In addition to regular table play, there is a Tournament Mode available. Tournament mode employs a scoring system commonly used among pinball enthusiast clubs to handle tournament play. Pinball Hall of Fame handles the complications of this unique scoring system, allowing up to four players to compete in a tournament together.

One of the major highlights of Pinball Hall of Fame is the ability to share tables wirelessly with another PSP from a single cartridge. Nine tables are available for Game Sharing: Genie, Play-Boy, Ace High, Central Park, Black Hole, Strikes \'n Spares, El Dorado, Goin\' Nuts, and Big Shot. This mode is a wonderful thing to see on the PSP, which has not seen much single-UMD multiplayer action. The ability to share pinball tables like this makes Pinball Hall of Fame a great title to have on-hand whenever you meet another PSP owner. The odds of two people having the same game slotted at the same time are slim to none, but if you are a pinball fan and you own Pinball Hall of Fame, you can always serve out a table for some quick multiplayer action.

The major downfall of Pinball Hall of Fame is in the PSP hardware itself. The normal style of display forces the camera to scroll up and down the table as you play. The camera angles are not quite right, generally being either too close or too distant from the action. A comfortable middle ground is hard to find. Some tables do support the ability to turn the PSP 90 degrees and play with the screen in a vertical orientation. This enhances the ability to display the whole table at once, but in doing so the table gets so small that it\'s difficult to keep track of the ball. Also, in the vertical screen orientation mode the controls to work the flippers and the table nudge are at odds and force you into a weird way of holding the PSP. These issues can be dealt with, but they do make it slower to get used to a table and I found myself continually dropping balls due to fast movement from the top to bottom of the table.

Overall, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection is not really going to win any new fans over to the world of simulated pinball. And it\'s not going to convince anyone to get rid of their classic pinball tables. But for pinball fans who own a PSP, it\'s not a bad investment at all. Going for the low price point of $29.99, it\'s a bit easier on the pocketbook than other PSP titles, and for the right gamers it will deliver much more enjoyable play time than the majority of games in general.

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