Next up for a deep-dive look back into games from yesteryear is that of Williams Pinball Classics, known as Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection in the US to clear up any confusion. This 10-year retrospective is also in-line with the North American release date of 22nd September 2009; the PAL release came in June/July 2011, but more on that later. For ease, the game will be referred to by the PAL title.

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Williams Pinball Classics featured a variety of pinball machines, all from Williams Electronics’ extensive back-catalogue. Tables dated from 1970 up to the late 1990s, presenting a broad spectrum of pinball tables to give players the chance to experience as many titles as possible.

There were 13 tables in total, the earliest being Jive Time which was an unlockable table provided you could beat The Williams Challenge. In chronological order, the others were:

  • Gorgar (1979)
  • Black Knight (1980)
  • Firepower (1980)
  • Space Shuttle (1984)
  • Sorcerer (1985)
  • Pin-Bot (1986)
  • Taxi (1988)
  • Whirlwind (1990)
  • FunHouse (1990)
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights (1996)
  • Medieval Madness (1997)
  • No Good Gofers (1997)

Being perfectly honest, some of the earlier tables aren’t very good. It is easy to justify why they were selected for the game – for example Gorgar was the first ‘speaking’ pinball table, featuring a grand total of seven words and Firepower was the first electronic pinball table to feature 3-ball Multi-ball – but technological limitations prevented them from being as entertaining as later tables. But that shows how faithfully recreated the tables were in this title; so much so that when loading the Medieval Madness table up I was transported back to Sunday afternoons as a kid going as a family to the pub where they had one sitting in the corner.

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But this wasn’t just a list of pinball tables to play whenever you wanted. No, there was a fully-detailed arcade which housed the tables so you could see them from different angles and a progression system that was old-fashioned and yet surprisingly in line with today’s microtransactions all at the same time.

Upon starting Williams Pinball Classics you enter the arcade, pockets full with credits to use that allowed you access to play tables that weren’t currently unlocked for Free Play. When first loading up the game, only Gorgar and Pin-Bot are available to play, but each table has a number of challenges to complete, that are also tied into the games achievements. Complete all challenges in the first batch – known as Basic Goals – and you can unlock a new table for Free Play. These credits could not be bought as per a microtransaction, but if this was a pinball game released today, you can bet your last quarter they would be.

Each table also had Wizard Goals, a separate list of much harder challenges that you could attempt after completing Basic Goals. During my time, I managed to complete all Basic Goals apart from those on the Funhouse, Whirlwind and Medieval Madness (despite this one being my favourite) but only managed one set of Wizard Goals on Space Shuttle. These later challenges were for serious pinballers.

There was one table that was an exception to all the above – Jive Time. As mentioned earlier, this could only be unlocked by completing the Williams Challenge which was a 12-table high score challenge that had to be done in one sitting. Each table had a score to beat and you had to beat them in order to complete the challenge. You had three attempts at each table which sounds enough but the scores were designed to test your skills to the max, and they certainly did. After much cursing and punching of the pillow next to me, I emerged victorious, only to be disappointed with the Jive Time table. Still, it was a 100G achievement.

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My wait for the game was slightly longer than the NA to PAL time difference, and I never found out whether this was a problem with the publishing of the game, or of a certain UK high street GAME shop that shall remain nameless.

My pre-order was all ready and done with plenty of time to go but the usual email confirming delivery a couple of days before release, never came. What came instead was an email stating the release date had been delayed by a couple of weeks. And then another email followed stating the release date had been delayed again when the fortnight had elapsed. All in all, four emails were sent with delayed release dates and I never got to the bottom of why.

One of the biggest problems with the collection was the lack of licensed tables. Williams have previously made tables based on Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Star Trek and Demolition Man to name just a few. Sadly, it isn’t a surprise that licensed tables didn’t feature. You don’t need me to tell you what a minefield licensing agreements are in the 21st Century. Sorry, Spider-Man.

Those same licensing issues are why it isn’t easy to recommend how best to play the tables featured in this collection anymore. You could pick up a cheap pre-owned version but as for a more up to date version, you will struggle. Developer FarSight Studios released The Pinball Arcade on Xbox One in November 2014, where monthly additions added not just Williams tables but also Bally’s, Stern and Gottlieb official tables. Sadly though, the licence to reproduce Williams and Bally’s was lost in 2018 and passed to Zen Studios, creators of the rival Pinball FX series.

Williams Pinball Classics were a great insight into the world and a celebration of all things pinball. The tables on offer presented a great snapshot of classic tables, and the physics were good enough that connoisseurs could play these classic tables as if they were the real things.

But what are your memories of this game? Are you a pinball wizard that managed all the wizard goals, or were you affected by the numerous delays like me? Please let us know in the comments below!

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