Review: The Pinball Arcade: The Twilight Zone (Sony Playstation 3/Vita)

The Pinball Arcade: The Twilight Zone
Developer: Farsight Studios (originally Midway)
Publisher: Far Sight Studios
Genre: Pinball
Release Date: 02/05/2013

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

Back in May of 2012, along with 2,364 other backers, I threw money at Farsight Stuidos for their first ever Kickstarter campaign. The end goal was to get enough money to be able to pay all the assorted license fees for The Twilight Zone, one of the most popular pinball tables of all time. I’m a big fan of it, but I love pretty much every table Pat Lawlor ever designed, chief of which is Addams Family Pinball. However that table probably won’t be made for The Pinball Arcade for quite some time if ever. The Twilight Zone was successfully funded and came out for PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices in late 2012. Sony however dragged their feet big time and for those that prfer to play The Pinball Arcade on the Vita or PS3, we’re just NOW getting the game. It could be worse though; 360 fans haven’t gotten this or add-on packs three through seven due to Microsoft being slightly insane and Crave going out of business.

I will admit there were a few snags to the campaign. For example, I paid ten dollars for my copy of The Twilight Zone in the campaign, but when it was released to PSN, it was only five bucks. I wasn’t as bothered by this as some backers because honestly, I just wanted the table to be digitized and preserved for all and I was willing to pay double retail price to ensure that happened. As a treat for backers Farsight threw in Pro Mode and a free custom ball option to backers, which more than made up for the price difference in my opinion. Where I wasn’t happy is that backers actually got their PSN version twenty four to thirty-six hours after the game went live in the story, meaning we got our copies after everyone else, which was decidedly not cool. Now I know some companies like Nintendo drag their feet for on digital codes for games, especially when they aren’t first party titles. It took us a few weeks to get some codes from Agetec after those titles were released to Nintendo’s eShop and we’re still waiting (along with everyone else) for Nintendo to generate review codes for Tecmo Koei’s Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 for the Nintendo Wii. Sony isn’t without their problems either when it comes to review codes, but those problems tend to happen with review codes that are released well in advance of the game’s public release. The code we got for Persona 4 Golden for example was given to us a month before public release and it took a day or two for Sony to activate that code. It’s happened to us several times. Honestly though, because Sony and those that develop games for their systems can get review codes out to sites like ourselves weeks before a title is released, there is no reason at all as to why Farsight couldn’t have gotten its backers who made this (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) table possible their codes before the general public, not after. So while this was egg on Farsight’s face, they are a small developer and the bottom line is that everyone now can play The Twilight Zone pinball table without having to search it a copy that still stands in an arcade or pool hall, and more importantly, it means you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to own the experience, which is awesome. It also means a large chunk of a room won’t be taken up by a machine that needs constant maintenance. All in all, backers may have gotten their codes far later than they should have (or that was acceptable), the fact I can play a pretty good replica of the real thing whenever I want, outweighs the minor negatives that occurred with the Kickstarter campaign.

So now that we have all that out of the way, is The Twilight Zone worth your five bucks? Hell yes it is. The fact you’re getting one of the most popular and addictive pinball experiences of all time for less than a Sega Genesis port for modern systems is proof enough of that. If you’re a pinball fan in the SLIGHTEST, you should be downloading this table and playing the hell out of it once you’ve finished this review, if you haven’t purchased it already. There’s simply no reason at all not to own this.

So what makes The Twilight Zone so special? In truth, it’s something you have to experience, either first hand or with this digital re-creation to truly understand. However, I’ll do my best. You have to first understand that after the massive success that was Addams Family Pinball, Pat Lawlor was given free reign to do whatever he wanted. The end result was easily the most complicated and tricked out pinball table to all time. Some of the thing the table included was a scale working gumball machine that dispensed pinballs rather than gumballs. One of the balls in the machine was the “powerball” which was ceramic instead of steel. This means it could not be affected by the magnetic field that the game sometimes produced and it all flew further and faster as it weighed less than a normal steel ball. The powerball really could change gameplay big time as how and where you hit the ball on the flippers for top points would be altered. You also had the Powerfield up near the top left of the table where you would propel the ball via magnets rather than the flippers. There was even a working analog clock used for modes like Clock Chaos! This table just had so many weird things to offer, it’s no wonder so many people consider it the best pinball table of all time. Now again, the full effect of these things can’t be realized by the digital version simply because it’s not a real gumball machine or analog clock anymore, but that doesn’t make the table any less fun to play. Hell, people that have never played the original won’t even realize what they are missing.

That’s not all. The game also featured MIDI versions of the original Twilight Zone theme song and the 1982 song by the same name performed by the band Golden Earring. It even features a digitized sound-alike for Rod Serling , who unfortunately had passed away in 1975 and thus couldn’t be a part of this table (made in 1993). The table also features numerous references to the TV show from the late 50s that inspired it. The most prominent is the door from the credits that appears smack dab in the middle of the table. There are also references to classic episodes like “The Hitchiker,” “A Most Unusual Camera,” and others, although the bits on the field have little to nothing to actually do with those episodes. There are also visual homages to other episodes, like Henry Bemis from “Time Enough at Last,” Robby the Robot (who you probably know better from Forbidden Planet, but appeared in two Twilight Zone episodes) and the radio from “Static.” There are a lot of visual delights for the devout Twilight Zone fan, but the theme is merely window dressing for the board and you can enjoy it without having ever seen a single episode of the series. Indeed, the two most memorable items on the table, the gumball machine and the Powerfield have nothing to do with The Twilight Zone series at all. They were just thrown in because Pat Lawlor thought they would be fun!

So is the table 100% accurate? No, it’s not. I’ve noticed the ball physics are a bit off and that it will end up in the outlying lanes far more often than on the real table (Yay for living next to the Pinball Hall of Fame!) and “Fast Lock” appears to be missing all its musical tracks. In the real table, tracks from previous Pat Lawlor games could be heard via the radio. These included tables like Addams Family Pinball, Fun House and so on. However I haven’t heard any of these while in this mode, so either it’s a bug or they didn’t get the licensing for it. My biggest complaint is that view #3 (the angle I use for every other table) doesn’t show the upper left flipper very well or the ball coming down to the upper right one. and so These are minor complaints in the long run though, and for the most part, the table plays just fine. I mean, it’s a five dollar download. I’m more than happy with what’s here and so will the vast majority of pinball aficionados that pick this up.

The key thing to this digital version of The Twilight Zone is that everything that matters is still here. The skill shot is a bit harder than in real life due to using an analog stick instead of an actual plunger, but it still a lot of fun to try and get that juuuuuust right. All four versions of multi-ball are intact and holy hell, is “Lost in the Zone” as intense as ever. Six balls at once is enough to drive even the most hardened pinball player mad. The standard table goals are pretty easy to achieve, but the wizard goals will take a great deal of practice, luck and skill for the average person to achieve. That doesn’t mean you can’t obtain an obscenely high score. The Twilight Zone hands out millions of points like candy on Halloween. What’s considered a low score on this table would be an all but impossible feat on older ones like say, Gorgar. While some purists may poo-poo the exceedingly high scores that are possible on this table, I maintain that the scores actually make the game more inviting to casual or new pinball players as large numbers makes one feel like they have accomplished something and will want to come back to this table time and time again. Combined with the table’s theme/license, this creates a killer one-two punch that has helped to make The Twilight Zone so memorable these last twenty years.

The bottom line is that it’s great to finally have a digital version of The Twilight Zone available to gamers on multiple platforms. A LEGAL digital version, that is. The table plays great and with a cost of only five dollars, you are getting one of the best deals in the history of gaming right here. It’s not a perfect copy, but when you calculate how much it would cost to buy the physical version of this table, much less maintain it, the only people who will complain about what’s here are ungrateful wretches who can’t appreciate the time, work, and love that went into this project. I absolutely love what’s here. Could it be a little more accurate? Sure it could, but it you don’t have the actual skills and forte to make it so, be happy with what you have and trust that Farsight will fix the middling piddly stuff in a future update.

Short Attention Span Summary
The Twilight Zone remains one of the most popular and beloved pinball tables of all time and if considered by many to be the single greatest table ever. While I personally prefer Addams Family Pinball, there’s no denying that The Twilight Zone is fantastic in ever way possible and it totally deserves its reputation. Farsight Studios did a wonderful job taking an actual physical pinball table and turning it into an electronic version that won’t need regular costly repairs, dusting or fine tuning on a regular basis. For only five dollars to download, The Twilight Zone is one of the best deals in gaming today. Sure, it’s not 100% accurate to the real thing or to pinball physics, but I’m more than happy with what is here and I’m not going to nitpick this thing to death, especially for the piddling amount of spare change Farsight is asking in exchange for having an electronic version of this table. Just pick this up and see why The Twilight Zone is one of the most acclaimed gaming experiences out there. There’s no excuse not to.



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