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Bally Pin (Bally Professional Arcade, 1979)

Mezrabad

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Bally Pin (Bally Professional Arcade, 1979) :lust:

 

Off the top of my head, I'd have to say Bally Pin is the most fun we've had on the Bally Professional Arcade yet, and it's possibly the most addictive fun we've had with a videogame in our chronology thus far.

 

Like the various videogame portings of Baseball, Black Jack or Hangman represent attempts to mix the older school leisures of sports, cards and puzzle games into the new past-time on the block, so too, does the attempt to forcibly integrate Pinball with its younger sibling, the Videogame. Ports of Baseball, Black Jack or Hangman may not always hit their mark in the fun zone, but their technical accuracy usually isn't very far off. Pinball, on the other hand, seems to have evaded capture.

 

Looking at some of the previous translations of Pinball into the videogame realm, we find Atari Video Pinball (dedicated console, 1977), APF's Pinball (APF M1000, 1978), Fairchild's Video Pinball (Channel F, 1978) and Thunderball (Odyssey^2, 1979). The Atari Video Pinball console (un-chronogamed as of yet, sorry) and APF's Pinball each have their little plusses and big minuses, the minuses having to do with their failed attempts to simulate flippers. Channel F's Video Pinball isn't even pinball, it's a Breakout clone; mention it not. Thunderball for the Odyssey^2 is just too fast for me to appreciate, though, it at least makes an attempt to get the flippers right.

 

As I've said before, I am not a person who plays pinball in the real world. Other than a few games of Eight Ball at a bowling alley back in 1979, I've since, more or less intentionally, limited my exposure due to a lack of interest.

 

Bally Pin makes Pinball interesting to me again. Rather than feeling like each flipper is merely a gate keeper designed to prevent the ball from leaving play, the flippers on Bally Pin are implemented in such a way that they can be used to actually direct the ball to an intended destination. This adds greatly to the feeling that one is playing a game rather than passively participating in a pachinko session. There's still a luck factor, but for the first time it feels like skill and intent have something to do with a high score.

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Bally Pin comes with two pinball playfields: Red and Yellow. Yellow seems like the easier field, but that's just my opinion. Each field has traditional pinball elements in them: targets, drop targets, bumpers and spinners. The targets light the bumpers. Hit all the targets during one ball and you increase your score multiplier. The targets and lit bumpers reset at the beginning of each ball, so, to lose your ball is to lose your target progress. Unlike the targets, the drop targets stay hit between balls. Eventually, if you drop them all by hitting them, you'll get a score multiplier. Only after clearing all of the drop targets do they reset. The spinner doesn't seem to do anything. We thought it would rotate the bumper lights, or reset some of the drop targets, but we haven't yet observed such behavior.

 

The flippers and the plunger are the only devices the player manipulates to directly affect the course of the ball. Regretably, there is no "nudge" simulator, though players should feel free to contort themselves in an attempt to do so, as it amuses the other players. Before ball launch, the plunger moves up and down in its slot. For a "low force" introduction of the ball, you activate the plunger at the top of its oscillation, for a high force ball injection you activate the plunger at the low point in its oscillation. I know we will again see this player-reflex technique of allowing a player to choose the amount of force to be applied in a particular context in the future, but I can't recall seeing it before. This may be an innovation unless I'm forgetting something in one of the golf games. There are four flippers. Two left flippers and two right. The controls for activating these flippers are so awesome that I'm going to give them their own paragraph!

 

If you're not familiar with the Bally Professional Arcade controller then you should be told that they are thought of as "pistol grip" controllers; they are actually shaped how I imagine the handle of a Colt .45 is shaped. The fire button is in the spot where the trigger of a gun would be and one activates it with very much the same finger motion one would use to fire a gun. The joystick portion extends slightly up from the grip and doubles as an 8-way joystick/paddle combination. Not only can one move the joystick in eight directions, one may also twist the knob like a paddle. So, how is a controller such as this used to play Bally Pin? Well, to be quite honest, a controller isn't used at all, instead we use two! Each controller's trigger acts as a flipper button! It is quite effective as a control mechanism for pinball.

 

Of course, Bally Pin is more than its controllers. The ball and flipper movement is smooth, the ball speed is manageable, the playfield goals are readily apparent (take out the targets). Instead of merely trying to keep the ball in play, the player can increase their scoring capacity by clearing the drop targets or by lighting all the bumpers with their targets to acheive a 2x or 3x score multiplier. It's very engaging and very addictive. My entire family participated in a four-player game last night, and I didn't even have to coax or beg them to play again. Really! They simply wanted to, even in spite of the brand new Wii sitting in the next room!

 

So, we didn't merely "like" Bally Pin, we heartily enjoyed it. I'd name it something like "game of the decade" but that might imply that I liked it more than Superman which I also like a lot, but for different reasons. Unlike many of the games we've played, Bally Pin is something the whole family wants to play again. I just asked if anyone wants to play this afternoon and my son, daughter and wife each said "yes" with enthusiasm!

 

So, there we have it. The 1970s are over, in the sense that after 1979 no more years have the words "nineteen" and "seventy" in their pronounciation. Thus ends the first phase of Chronogamer. I hope to start the next phase, 1980-1984, soon. I'll post a list of everything I think I need to be playing in 1980 when I'm ready to get started in the next phase.

 

Thanks for everyone's kind words of encouragement during this exercise in drooling self-delusion. With the exception of parenting and marriage, Chronogaming--researching, acquiring, playing and writing about these games--has probably represented the most focused attention I've ever given a single project in my entire life. I can't think of anything I've ever started that's lasted more than two continuous years while still "getting done"! This doesn't say much for me as a project manager, I guess, but it certainly says, um, something.

 

I won't be updating this blog for a little while, but feel free to drop by www.chronogaming.com as I try to convert this blog into a less siteware dependant format. (ie, should a site stop providing blogspace, I'll still have a place to put all of this.)

 

Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope to see people at CGE. 12700

 

EDIT: added "to me again" when I say Bally Pin makes pinball interesting. I did think Eight Ball was interesting for all the reasons I like Bally Pin, just not as interesting as videogames were to me back in 1979 (when I wanted an Atari soooo badly, but didn't have one yet). Playing Bally Pin has made me re-understand Pinball's appeal.



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I'm taking it that it's been a while since you played pinball. If so, I highly recommend trying a game or two in the near future. When you're young, your reflexes tend to get in the way of strategic play. I wasn't good at pinball until thirty. The things that make Bally Pin fun for you are there in abundance in pinball.

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I'm taking it that it's been a while since you played pinball. If so, I highly recommend trying a game or two in the near future. When you're young, your reflexes tend to get in the way of strategic play. I wasn't good at pinball until thirty. The things that make Bally Pin fun for you are there in abundance in pinball.

 

I've been hearing a lot about pinball recently on old Retro Gaming Radio episodes I've been listening to, as well as the April 2007 edition where they talk about pinball machines and I've certainly begun to see the appeal. I think I agree with your young reflexes theory. It's more about patience and planning than about reacting as quickly as possible to a ball rolling towards your flippers. I'm looking forward to taking the shuttle to the Pinball Hall of Fame while I'm at CGE.

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I've really enjoyed this project.

 

Nicely done!

 

You really do need to go and play some good pinball machines. A well designed machine has lots of action, strategy and great tradeoffs where playing it safe or really going for a score are concerned. And then there is multi-ball, getting a ball stuck in one of the moving things, hitting it out with another, smacks on the glass, almost tilts that save your arse, etc...

 

Pinball really does begin to appeal over 30. As a young gamer, I gravitated toward the Eugene Jarvis style of game pretty huge. It's all about the trance, right?

 

Well, for some reason, I never was quite able to get a good trance on a pinball machine. It's as if the level of stimulation required just isn't there. Maybe it's just the attraction of the other games is too great...

 

Today, in my late 30's pinball is just excellent! I nearly always play when I see a good coin-op standing somewhere. My games are a lot longer now too and the comments above regarding paitence are spot on.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say your project is cool, and that I enjoy reading.

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I've really enjoyed this project.

 

Nicely done!

 

I really glad to hear that you've enjoyed it and thanks for saying so. I hope you bear with me as I do my homework for the early 80s. I'm shocked at how many games that came out just before the crash and all we know about them is that they came out sometime between 1981 and 1984. Gonna be hard to, um, "chrono-fy" them (figure out what order to play them in.).

 

I'm hoping that I can learn to appreciate pinball more without becoming obsessed with it. Which I fear.

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I don't envy you the task of trying to organize the games of the early 80's.

 

My only suggestion would be to go through the magazines of the era (Electronic Games, etc.) and see in what months, which games appeared.

 

Looking forward to it, though. My console gaming began in the early 80's!

 

August 10th, 1981, to be exact. :)

 

2600-receipt.jpg

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Incidentally, one of the things I like best about your reviews, is you post actual photos (or videos) of the games. Not screen captures from emulators.

 

There's something more "magic" about photos. Capturing lightning (or time) in a bottle. Something like that.

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Incidentally, one of the things I like best about your reviews, is you post actual photos (or videos) of the games. Not screen captures from emulators.

 

There's something more "magic" about photos. Capturing lightning (or time) in a bottle. Something like that.

 

Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn't thought about it before but I agree with you completely. I'm planning on getting a new camera that will let me make videos with sound, but I don't think I'll ever pump the video directly into it. There IS some added level of reality when the shot is straight from the TV rather than from the pure vacuum of an emulator, at least for these older games.

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I think it goes without saying that I'm having a blast reading your blog. :-)

 

Bally Pin IS fun! Even on the emulator. ;-) You're right, the previous attempts to bring Pinball to the video game era were very poor. Bally Pin offers very basic tables, but it nails the mechanics! And the graphics and sound aren't bad, so it ends up as a very pleasant experience.

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