Reviews

The Pinball Arcade: Twilight Zone Review

The Twilight Zone is one of the greatest pinball games ever made. Can the digital release from Farsight stand up to the memories of the physical table?

Ted Polak
810

After the success of The Addams Family pinball table its creator, Pat Lawlor, was given free design to design a pinball table however he saw fit. This new table had all kinds of targets to hit, including the use of magnetic flippers in a pinball machine. The result was Twilight Zone, a table with so many objectives, bells, and whistles, you will likely be in two special modes at any one time.

I played Twilight Zone every day in college for the better part of a year. I became intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of its playfield. Farsight, the developers of The Pinball Arcade, launched a Kickstarter many months ago to port this classic table to their pinball platform, and after a few months of being available on other platforms, it is finally available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Considering that this single table is selling for the same price as a normal table 2-pack, does the digital version of this classic hold up to my memories?

Twilight Zone

Memories of a Twilight Zone

The first thing I noticed were the sounds, which were as accurate as they could be; my memories of them were tainted by the fact that Twilight Zone was not the only machine in the arcade; I had background noise. The sounds brought back memories, and within the span of one minute, I remembered darn near everything about the playfield. The voiceovers hit every note that I remember, with an old-timey yet knowing sound that belies the theme of the table.

Special consideration has to be given to the music. Many pinball tables have soft, forgettable or otherwise relaxing music. Twilight Zone’s sharp, sudden, loud, and repetitive soundtrack implores a sense of urgency, which perfectly complements the frenetic pace of the table, along with the numerous targets.

It ain’t all roses

Both the PS3 and Vita versions of Twilight Zone have their strengths and weaknesses. Twilight Zone is one of the most crowded, busy pinball tables ever made, and the higher resolution of the PS3 benefits from it. A player can clearly see the objectives they have completed, and what the next objective is. Text on the playfield can be discerned. The Vita’s lower resolution, on one hand, makes the game unnaturally more difficult to read. I find that the Vita version’s lower resolution makes it harder to judge my shots using the upper, secondary flippers. This may be due to the default camera angle, which I tend to prefer, but I felt like it was easier to aim my shots on the PlayStation 3.

One advantage the Vita has, however, is the lack of analog shoulder buttons. In many physical pinball games, the flipper buttons have two levels of sensitivity. The first level only engages the bottom, main flipper. Pushing the button all the way engages any secondary flippers associated with that side. The PS3’s L1 and R1 buttons are able to replicate this functionality, but here it is a detriment. There feels like there is a lag between the press of the button and when the secondary flipper engages. There is also no way to configure the controls to not use the shoulder buttons, nor is there a way to turn analog off. Over time, one might be able to adapt to this timing difference, but it had a noticeable effect on my game. The Vita version of Twilight Zone has no such issues.

I also noticed an odd bug. At the conclusion of my game, if I started a new game immediately, it would, just as immediately, end the game with a score of 0. If I started another game, it would start in 2 player mode. This bug occurred on both the PS3 and the Vita. Waiting to start a new game helps the issue, but hopefully there is a patch soon.

Only the dedicated need apply

Twilight Zone Magna FlippersTechnical issues aside, Twilight Zone is a fantastic table. It was one of the highest-selling pinball tables of all time. The only one in my mind, that delivers more fun and more flow, would be The Addams Family, which happens to be the highest selling pinball table of all time (since 1930, anyway). I guarantee that you’ve never played anything like it. The first time you use the magna-flippers, will be the moment you realize the sheer awesome madness of this table.

It’s not friendly to beginners, though. The sheer number of modes and targets are more things for a player to have to remember. In fact, the number of tutorial screens that developer Farsight made for this table reached a new record at a staggering 710. This is broken up into sections so you don’t have to sit through them all, but there are still a very high number of sections. The skillshot is hard enough to do in person; with a tenuous and shaky right stick to pull the plunger, making the yellow skill shot might not be possible due to a twitch of the thumb. However, if you put the time and effort into learning the table, you’ll find one of the greatest pinball tables of all time.

Ted played about 15-20 rounds on PlayStation 3, and 15-20 rounds on PlayStation Vita. Before that, in his college years, he played the physical table on almost a daily basis for about a year.

 

 

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  • Scubafinch

    Great review. I just picked this one up on it’s EU release… and although a little expensive, it is great. I also find it difficult to time the upper flippers as it is difficult to track the ball on the Vita’s default view.

    An Addams Family table might never happen due to the licensing associated with using Raúl Juliá’s likeness. No waiting in anticipation for ST:TNG!

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    I actually got this game on the iPad recently and you weren’t kidding about the difficulty of this table. I mean, there’s already so much stuff happening on pinball tables in general that looking at the whole thing for the first time was overwhelming. Still, I’m glad I’m playing part of history!

  • Ted Polak

    I am fully aware Addams Family has a slim chance of happening, but I also bet Farsight thinks about it all the time. I can only hope.

  • Ted Polak

    If you can make it to the ultimate mode, let me know. That one took me about 8 months. It’s hard to hit the player piano in this version, maybe the iPad is easier? That mode has 6 ball multiball. Good times.