In the early ’90s, way before all this crazy internet stuff, we still would get excited about new client software (I still do actually), and there were a series of games for the Mac (and Windows too now) that occupied our hearts and sapped our productivity for some time — Little Wing Pinball. Crystal Caliburn, and it’s successor Loony Labyrinth to be exact.
Those people who’ve formed their opinion of PC pinball based on the “3D” pinball game that came bundled with Windows 98, throw away your misconceptions. Yes there is a tactile part of pinball that playing on a keyboard and screen can’t duplicate. But there’s also an amazing amount that can be conveyed in the video version.
Little Wing Pinball is a small Japanese company that has dedicated themselves to creating original desktop Pinball games with depth, originality, and amazing authentic pinball feel. Seriously. Here’s a shot from their latest release, Monster Fair:
From the image you can already see the intense care and attention to detail they put into every pixel. The great lighting effects, the perfect angle to fit the whole table on the screen while preserving an authentic aspect ratio, the super interesting layout and theming, the details beyond the playing area at the bottom of the screen where it looks like they took a photo of a real pinball machine (the instructions, etc.) are all perfectly rendered. These combined with the things you can’t see — the super authentic way the lights flash, the audio (lifted straight from a pinball parlor), the physics of the ball and the flippers — all make for an incredible experience.
The other hidden gem, which any serious pinballer (pinballist?) will tell you is no big surprise, is the depth of these games. You may think pinball is a simple game, and you wouldn’t be exactly wrong. Stop the ball from going past the flippers. But there’s tons of detail and texture in how the best of these games actually work with incredible complexity going into how you unlock various bonus modes and stages that make the game light up like there’s no tomorrow and yield millions of points. And you don’t have to understand this complexity to get started. But once you accidentally unlock one of these bonus modes, you’ll scramble to read the instructions so you know exactly how to get back there. It’s quite addictive.
If you have way too much work to do, stay away from Little Wing Pinball. It will destroy your productivity. Highly recommended. :)