Despite the fact that a new company has risen to release all-new pinball machines, by and large, the pinball industry collapsed along with arcades a few years back. While you can still find machines in some out-of-the-way locations, it's getting harder and harder to see a fully functional pinball machine in its natural habitat. Over the years, this has given rise to a variety of video-based pinball simulations that tried to accurately mimic the ball physics and general gameplay of the real deal. Some, such as Crave's recently released Pinball Hall of Fame, even attempt to emulate actual pinball machines. With tables from several different decades and good gameplay to boot, Pinball Hall of Fame presents a nice collection.
Pinball Hall of Fame brings together several games manufactured by Gottlieb, a company that made a ton of classic pinball machines throughout history. The games come from different eras, which sort of let you see how pinball evolved over the years. You've got an old, flipperless machine in Play-Boy (1932), a great late-'70s wide-body table like Genie (1979), and so on. The collection makes its way up to 1993's Teed-Off, a golf-themed game with a Caddyshack complex, and a few gimmicky machines like the bowling-themed Strikes & Spares and the multiball-focused prototype, Goin' Nuts. If you spent your formative years in a decent early-'80s arcade, chances are you'll remember at least one of the tables on offer. Even if you don't, the tables are laid out well, and unless your only idea of acceptable pinball is the amazing over-the-top designs that companies like Midway put out in the mid- to late '90s, you'll find a lot to like here.
The PSP version is slightly different than the console versions of the game in that only a few of the games are immediately playable. You'll have to earn credits in these games and use those to play the others, some of which require up to five credits to play. If you can beat a specific table challenge in a table, you can unlock it for free play. There's also a challenge mode that takes you through all of the tables, giving you specific score challenges that have to be met before you can proceed to the next table.
When it comes to rendering a pinball machine on a screen, there are a few key things that absolutely must be done, and done well. Ball physics, obviously, are key. In this area, Pinball Hall of Fame does a good job at rendering a realistically moving ball. You'll do most of your ball-moving with the flippers, though you can also nudge the table around with the analog stick. While the ball moves realistically, you don't have quite as much control over nudging as you'd like, which results in the loss of a lot of balls to tilts...until you just give up on nudging entirely. More-refined nudge control would have been nice here, though to be fair, this is something that very few, if any, pinball simulators get right.
The other key feature that a pinball table needs to have is a good angle to view the action from, and Hall of Fame gives you multiple angles to choose from. Most of them are a little too close to the action, though the pulled-out views make some things a little tough to make out. Most of the tables also let you play vertically, which is a cool idea, but the pulled-out views here still make everything a little too tiny. Plus, the nudge control is still on the analog stick, so you'll have to hold the bottom with one hand to work the flippers and the top to nudge. It's a little unwieldy.
The game's sound attempts to re-create how a table would sound in an actual arcade setting. So you get a lot of background noise (some of it taken from arcade offerings like Galaga, Missile Command, and Joust) thrown in with the table's sound effects, which are played back in a slightly distant way. The game also has an announcer who reads off brief historical and instructional information about each table, which is a nice, helpful inclusion.
Overall, Pinball Hall of Fame offers a fine collection of classic pinball machines. It looks good, controls well, and should be an easy choice as an addition to your library if you're a fan of simulated pinball.