|The Williams Collection follows much the same style of presentation and simulation as the earlier Gottlieb Collection (see entry 723): you're presented with a "virtual arcade" in which you skip around to some playable simulated pinball tables, and then play these one-by-one. As in the Gottlieb collection, the simulation of the physical pinball tables is virtually (hah) faultless, and as Williams tables were generally superior to Gottlieb's stuff, at least after the oh early 60's maybe, this collection is by far the superior one.
There have also been some nice tweaks made in the way of options. You can now mute the virtual arcade's background noise, and you can turn off the reflection on the glass over the tables, so they're easier to see.
The developers set a series of goals for each table (like hit such and such lane x number of times), and once you happen to achieve all of them, you get a second "Wizard" set, and you also get to unlock one of the other tables for "free play." Completing the Wizard goals for a table--according to GameFAQs--gives you some additional options like custom ball decals (eh?).
The game starts with eight Williams tables available to begin with, and I think for or so of them are not free-play, and require a "credit." You start with 20 credits, and earn more by doing decently on a table; it wasn't long before I'd racked up 100, for instance, which is enough to purchase free-play for a table. The eight starting tables are
and according to GameFAQs, there are two more tables you can unlock somehow: Jive Time and Sorcerer; I haven't seen those two yet.
While some of those tables are known as all-time greats, like Black Knight (at least that's what I've seen people say on the Int@rnet...I don't really care for the split design myself) and Firepower, some of the others probably wouldn't be on most people's lists. I think what they wanted to do was to get a selection of different table types, covering the full time period over which Williams made tables, or at least good ones, so they've got older tables like Gorgar and Firepower, up through newer things like Funhouse and Space Shuttle.
Firepower is by far my favorite; I've now played this one in three incarnations, and this is the best. The other two were a) PC emulator, which was okay but not pretty, and b) actual pinball machine, but it was lopsided and weak-flippered enough that I didn't even feel able to add it as an entry in this database. But here it looks great and plays like new.
I suppose I should qualify "looks great." The developers have recreated the tables in immaculate detail; all the decals and doo-dads are there and in the right places, and beautifully lit. They look real nice when the camera is zoomed in, but when zoomed out so you can see the whole table, the resolution of the PS2 just isn't high enough to do the table's detail justice, and a lot of the smaller features and textures simply dissolve into an aliased pixel mess. It really makes me wish that they could bring this out on a system capable of HD display.
The simulation of the pinball is great, with pretty impeccable physics (I saw the ball flip up at the end funny on Pinbot a few times, but that might happen on the actual table for all I know) and flipper control. The only criticisms I can make are minor ones; things that should have been handled in options but aren't. You can't remap the controls, for instance, which is too bad, because although having flippers on the upper shoulder buttons is fine, sometimes I like 'em on the lower ones too.
The "smart" camera system works better now, and the camera usually zooms back out once the ball comes free so you have enough time to line up a shot down the full length of the table. Still, the game really should save your camera settings so that you don't have to reset it to the mode and angle you like each time you revisit a table; while that only takes a second or two, it just should have been saved, since they're already saving stuff per table like your high scores and achieved goals.
The goals are sort of nice, but when you complete one, big white text covers the bottom of the screen, right over where the flippers might be. It's only there for a few seconds, but it can be really distracting while you're playing.
I won't go over the individual tables here. Suffice it to say that I quite enjoy Firepower, Pinbot, and Taxi, and like Black Knight and Gorgar in their own ways. (Taxi, incidentally, looks remarkably like the fictional table in Pro Pinball: Big Race USA--see entry 207.) Space Shuttle is a bit too crowded and plasticky for my tastes, but it could grow on me. Funhouse is crowded with plastic ramps and features an annoying talking mannequin head, and Whirlwind has three rotating sections in the lower part of the table that are really obnoxious. I'm excited to unlock Jive Time and Sorcerer and find out what they're like.
Even if they turn out to be horrible, this is still one of the best pinball collections available; Williams made what I think are generally the best pinball tables, and while not all of the tables here are their very finest, they're still worth playing, and most of them are quite good. The simulation is excellent; when you can be playing Firepower and hear the isolated sound of the steel ball rolling back down the lacquered wood, and just feel the real table from the sound, movement, and simulated metallic shine of that ball, you know they've done pinball right.
|Doh! Turns out that Jive Time and Sorcerer are in the Wii and PSP versions, but NOT in the PS2 version. That's a bummer, 'cause from photos on the Internet Pinball Machine Database (ipdb.org), they look like tables I'd really dig. The excuse I've heard offered by players is that the PS2 version was half the price of the Wii and PSP versions, which I'll admit was nice, but still--dang.