Thursday, January 9, 2014

Zen and the Art of Pinball

Okay, those of you who read this blog, as well as Welcome to Hell and French Fry Diary, know that I was a sheltered child, and that I am no videogame genius. The truth is I was also a pretty dumb kid.

Outside of television, I had never seen a pinball machine until I was around ten, and that was in my uncle's basement. We visited and while the adults chatted upstairs I was supposed to keep myself occupied with the pinball machine in the basement for a couple hours. So I played my three or four balls, badly, mind you, then waited it out down there for my parents to be done visiting. Yeah, that's right, I had no idea there was a button to push to start over.

And that was my first pinball experience. Did I mention I was a pretty dumb kid?

Later, years later, when The Sweet Shop opened on my hometown main street Atco Avenue, and when I started going to Malibu Grand Prix, I did learn the basics, as well as the more subtle ways of the silver ball. I was never very good, but I had come a long way from that dumb kid in his uncle's basement.

While dating the woman who would eventually become The Bride I got my real education. She is the real player, getting multiple free games and lots of play time out of a single quarter. Watching her I learned how to work the flippers, move the machine, and finesse the ball. Damn, she's good. And she would little to no interest in the PS3 game Zen Pinball.

Much like the Atari Pinball game (although with graphics eons ahead of it), this is still a videogame. No matter how pretty, how stunning, how super high def these tables are - these are not real tables. Push buttons all you like, you cannot finesse this ball. Perhaps Zen Pinball is fun for those with no pinball background, but not for those of us even with a limited understanding of real pinball.

It is noteworthy that there are some cool tables, including some based on Street Fighter and Ninja Gaiden, and the graphics are outstanding. Pretty, but not playable in a pinball way.

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