The Game: It’s all the thrills of pinball, minus approximately 75% of the excitement! Use your joystick to control the plunger tension and launch your ball into play. Use the action button to pop the flippers, keeping your ball on the field and out of trouble. The bumpers and spinner score big points…well, relatively speaking. (Magnavox, 1979)
Memories: Ya know, I’ve always thought that video pinball was just a bad idea from start to finish. Thunderball! is very much representative of most early attempts at this doomed genre – it’s not exactly a load of fun, and not even remotely exciting.
Some video pinball efforts have received quite a bit of acclaim – Bill Budge’s Raster Blaster, released for the Apple II by Broderbund Software, springs to mind – but I’ve never understood why. Pinball is all about physics. It’s about gravity, tilt, and Newton’s first law of motion. And those are things that even the most advanced computer simulations can’t model accurately enough to produce a real pinball experience. Last time I checked, short of dropping the keyboard, it’s hard to get that visceral ka-CHONK! of the flippers from a PC or a video game console. (And if you think any of the force feedback controllers on the market provide an accurate simulacrum of that effect…well, you’re probably younger than the SNES if you believe that.)
I’m not a big fan of pinball in general – tried it, tried it again, and it just didn’t punch my buttons. But if somehow my mortal soul depended upon me playing pinball, I’d much rather stand in front of a real live, coin-gobbling machine than even entertain the slightest thought of deluding myself by playing a sim like Thunderball!