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Microsoft Pinball Arcade

Previewed by Byron Hinson

Microsoft have become well known for releasing software based around the older arcade games everyone used to play. This latest offering follows up from Microsoft Arcade and Microsoft Return of Arcade. Having various members of my family who enjoy arcade machines and playing pinball, I asked for a preview copy of Microsoft Pinball Arcade, and now here I am with that very preview.

Microsoft Pinball Arcade combines seven pinball table games, each with its own look and feel. Each pinball table takes the player on a trip back in time through the 20th century. Some of the tables included are

Baffle Ball (1932), one of the first pinball prototypes
Humpty Dumpty (1947), the first pinball game with flippers
Haunted House (1982), the first triple-decker table

Pinball Arcade includes realistic physics models and some superb high-resolution graphics, as are now standard in any pinball related game. Here is the list of the features you can expect in the final release of Microsoft Pinball Arcade.

Seven authentic tables. Microsoft Pinball Arcade features seven pinball tables representing each decade from 1930 to 1990 -- Baffle Ball, Humpty Dumpty, Knock Out, Slick Chick, Spirit Of '76, Haunted House and Cue Ball Wizard, licensed by Gottlieb Development LLC, and developer and manufacturer of official Gottlieb equipment and parts in a tradition dating back to 1927.
Real Arcade Look. Realistic flipper, bumper, ramps, ball and tilt physics give players the sensation of playing on actual pinball tables. The balls react to the environment with absolute precision. Every pinball table has different features. In Pinball Arcade, each bounce, bump and flipper hit will behave as it would in an actual pinball game
Superior Graphics. Tables have been exactly replicated from the original arcade versions. Perfectly rendered and beautifully modeled tables offer players a real pinball arcade experience without having to plug in quarter after quarter.
Perfect for a quick break. Players can take a quick break anywhere because Pinball Arcade needs only a mouse and keyboard -- Perfect for home, office or while travelling with a laptop. All seven tables are easy to get into and simple to play. Action-packed game play is addictive enough to replay over and over throughout the day.

msarcade_pinball1.jpg (45438 bytes)
The Haunted House pinball table

Gameplay, Graphics and Sound

So how does this early beta feel to play then? Well, it's certainly not bad, I'm sure I don't need to bore you with all the details on how to play pinball, so I'll just get on with it. While not offering anything majorly new to the pinball era of gaming, it does have a larger number of tables than most other pinball games (Addiction Pinball). The physics of the table, flippers and the ball control seem to be spot on, and it is fun to play and easy to get into (as pinball should be).

The graphics are excellent, I'm not quite sure what resolution the game was running in, but it seemed higher than usual and there were no strange side-stretched tables that I have seen in other pinball games. There are a number of on-screen animations going on while you are playing, this all adds to the atmosphere and helps you feel that you are playing on a real pinball table.

In-game sound is also of a high quality, although my beta version kept losing sound every so often, and it wouldn't come back until I restarted the whole program. There is no CD soundtrack, at least not in this beta, but there is realistic "pinball music", if you can remember the weird music that came out of the pinball machines in the arcades, you'll know what I mean.

This isn't the first time that Microsoft has tried their hand at creating a pinball game, if you remember back in August 1995 - Plus 95! was released and that included a Space Cadet table. There is one main difference between the two games. The old Space Cadet game that came with Plus 95! was fast paced, but Microsoft Pinball Arcade has a more laid back feel to it...this means that Pinball Arcade doesn't have the same feel as any other pinball game I have played on the PC, it has it's own unique feel.

Microsoft Pinball Arcade may well not be the most frantic action packed pinball game out there, but it is easily the most realistic simulation available. We will have a full review of the final version of the game in November.


Version Previewed

Beta 1

Expected Release Date

November 1998

In The Box?

1 CD
1 Press Release
1 Set of instructions

PC Setup

Pentium 166
Windows 98
32 Meg EDO Ram
Diamond Stealth 3D 2000
Orchid Righteous 3D
SoundBlaster 32 PnP

PC Required

Pentium 90 or better processor
16 megs of Ram
50 megs Hard Drive Space
Win95/98 or NT 4.0
DirectX (Included)
2 Speed CD-ROM
2 MB Graphics Card

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