As much as I love gaming, something about pinball tables have always drawn my attention. The flashing lights, the bumpers…. and as we moved into the 90s, tables got even MORE elaborate. All sorts of contraptions under the glass — the Terminator 2 cabinet had a Terminator head, the NFL Table has a goalpost — they’re really creative works of art.
In the spirit of Mame (the Multi Arcade Machine Emulator), a gentleman named Randy Davis created an emulator that would play pinball tables on PCs in a simulated 3D Space. He called it Visual Pinball and it’s pretty awesome.
I am not completely sure about the legal implications of running the ROMs. It’s odd because unlike Mame, the arcade cabinets didn’t run solely on ROMs — taking ROMs from the old pinball cabinets probably gives you the logic that the game used for rules, but someone still has to draw the objects (like the flippers, bumpers, etc.) Folks are doing this and you can more than likely play some of your old favorites. Back in my old college days (which weren’t that long ago!! I’m holding strong!!) my favorite game was the Addams Family pinball game. (I can hear Raul Julia now — “That’s it Thing! You’re really on the ball!”. I played that game in it’s full glory and it worked just like the old game.
What’s better about Visual Pinball is that you can actually manipulate the tables (if you know what you’re doing). So, for instance — does that chute on the side keep making you upset by taking your ball? Put a big bumper in front of it. Heck, you can block off the holes and run up the score as much as you want! Uh…not that I would do anything like that. 🙂
There are a bunch of places where you can get tables and the actual Visual Pinball game, but the best place to get Visual Pinball appears to be PinballSim.com (which unfortunately appears to be shutting down in about a week!). This site appears to have the simplest installation and I was able to get up and running with little headache. There are other places that you can go to get tables and the Visual PinMame application (which bundles the Visual Pinball engine and a Mame-like front end for easy configuration to run the game in full screen, at different resolutions, etc.) Links are below.
DISCLAIMER – PLEASE CHECK ALL LEGAL DOCUMENTS TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE PROPER AUTHORITY TO PLAY THESE TABLES. If you get tracked down by the netcops, don’t come crying here. Like Flavor Flav said when he was militant, “I can’t do nothing for you, man.”