First Impressions: Stern’s The Munsters Pro Pinball

When Stern Pinball Inc. unveiled their latest machine, The Munsters on January 8 at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, it generated such a buzz in the pinball world, that the Limited Edition (LE) models sold out worldwide almost instantly!

We may not be able to experience the glory of the LE machine, but when Zax Amusements invited us to the unboxing and the offer to play The Munsters Pro pinball machine, that was definitely an offer we could not refuse.

With The Munsters, Stern promises that we will be transported to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, joining the entire Munsters family, from Herman, Lily, Raven, to Spot and Grandpa in this cool haunted pinball adventure.  Stern Pinball’s Chairman and CEO, Gary Stern succinctly put it like this, “The Munsters are iconic and timeless, and it was time to create a pinball experience around this freaky-fun family.  With beautiful artwork inspired by the supernatural family, this theme is perfect for a pinball machine” – we could not have said it better, really!


source: Ausretrogamer – Facebook

As this machine is still evolving (with its code base), we can only offer out first impressions based on the current Dwight Sullivan code. As a lot of you know, we are huge fans of John Borg designed machines, with The Walking Dead being our favourite Stern machine in recent times. The excitement for The Munsters has been brewing for a little while, and with Borg designing it and Christopher Franchi on art, we knew we were in for a treat. Our only apprehension was with Dwight Sullivan being on code, but that may have been down to us being mediocre players that don’t necessarily like playing games with deep rulesets. To our pleasant surprise, the design and ruleset (so far!) of The Munsters is pure damn fun! We love the fan layout, with each shot feeling great when hitting targets, Grandpa’s ball scoop, the Herman bash toy and of course the two ramps, especially the 180 degree high speed gravity defying right ramp! Oh yeah, the visual look of the machine speaks for itself, so Christopher Franchi should be commended for his stunning and distinctive hand-drawn art.

This is where the magic happens!

After playing The Munsters, we can safely say that on first impressions, we really really like it. The theme integration is awesome – we never get sick of the artwork, the LCD visuals and the sounds from the TV show. The game made us feel like hitting the start button immediately after we drained our last ball from our previous game, so the game did have a high replayability for us – which is good news for operators routing this machine.

We also asked PAPA 20 Division B World Pinball Champion, Jordan Tredaway to give us his first impressions from an expert player’s perspective – he was quite open and upfront stating that the game shot well and hitting the ramps felt good. That’s a big plus coming from a champion pinball player.

There will never be a pinball machine that will make everyone happy, but just like everything else in life, variety is the spice of life, and in this instance, gives us the option to try all these new pinball machines to see if we like them or not. As it currently stands, we are big fans of The Munsters Pro and cannot wait for the Premium model to land in Australia – that lower playfield and of course, that beautiful black and white artwork has us intrigued!

If you are yearning for some fun pinball action, go and play The Munsters! You never know, you may just like it.

A big thank you to Scott and Phil from Zax Amusements for inviting us to check out and play Stern’s The Munsters Pro pinball machine.

 

 

VR Review: Singularity 5

Review By Alexisms

Let’s start from the beginning, Singularity 5 is a virtual reality (VR) wave shooter for Oculus, Vive and Windows Mixed Reality. Using motion controls, I donned my Oculus to immerse myself in all things Singularity 5!

The year is 2050, you are tasked with stopping an AI uprising in Paris through five levels of quickly escalating difficulty. The game opens within an open lift travelling towards the surface. You start with a couple of very stylish pistols which give you a tiny glimpse of the graphic extravaganza to come. You first face some fairly simple static robot enemies which throw grenades which need to be battered away before they explode. They also create these shards of red veined rocks which again you must smash or will explode.

Once the surface is reached, the graphics of the city are mind-blowingly fantastic – with a kind of techno Gothic vibe. Sometimes in VR games the backgrounds can be quite muddy and indistinct but here they are very clear and beautiful using well contrasting colours of white, gold and black along with occasional neon. Of course, visuals doth not just make a game, so the music and sound effects are just as impressive and add to the whole atmosphere.

In normal mode, the difficulty soon ramps up and by level three I had to reduce it to (the recently introduced) easy mode but even then I was unable to get to level four and five. It should be noted that you can select the later levels from the menu so you won’t be left just playing half a game.

The enemies are pretty much all robots. These range from the static type lobbing grenades to robots on rolling wheels that speed directly towards you before exploding. The really hard ones are the larger robots that fire a laser straight at your head so you will have to physically move out of the way (which is so damn cool). You’ll be doing this whilst facing other robots, batting away grenades and smashing rock shards. The frenetic pace to stay alive in the game feels like a high pressure cooker – one little slip and you’re dead!

To help in your quest you have the aforementioned twin pistols. You later obtain grenade guns and machine guns. Thankfully, all these guns have infinite ammo, but do need to be constantly reloaded. You can also throw grenades but I could never get them to do anything but roll weakly towards the enemies.

In conclusion, if you love wave shooters you could do a lot worse than Singularity 5. But be warned, you’ll be sternly challenged. It may only have five levels, but if you’re a high score addict there’s plenty of scope for replayability with multiple kills increasing your combo meter. Go and grab your VR headset and check out Singularity 5.

image source: Singularity 5

Disclosure: Singularity 5 VR  was kindly provided by PR Hound for this review.

Hit That Perfect BittBoy – Review

Remember Bronski Beat’s “Hit that perfect Beat”? You know the one, “I’ve got that feeling, That perfect feeling, That perfect feeling all over me. Beat boy, Beat boy, Hit that perfect beat boy, Beat boy, Beat boy” – yeah, it’s a great 80s electropop tune.

We have no idea why we started this review with Bronski Beat, perhaps it’s due to the name of the new little portable games player, BittBoy! We can’t seem to get the bloody tune out of our head now! Let’s cut this diversion and get back on track! The New BittBoy – is a little Game Boy lookalike that allows you to play your legally owned NES/Famicom, GB and GBC roms from your own microSD card via its built-in NES/Famicom, GB and GBC emulators. That’s it in a nutshell.

Cool specs and features right on the box!

Before we go into how it plays, let us tell you how it looks and feels. The cuteness of this little player is striking and familiar. It’s familiar in the sense that if you ever held a Game Boy (or its many variants, like the Game Boy Pocket), then you’ll feel at home holding the new BittBoy, albeit at a shrunken level. Since it is small (and cute), if you have large-ish hands, then you may experience some cramping. If however your hands aren’t the size of a lion’s paw, you’ll find that BittBoy’s D-pad and buttons feel almost as good as Nintendo’s Game Boy, which is a good thing. The layout of the buttons borrow heavily from the SNES pad, which is a great blueprint to assimilate. The click of the buttons feel good, but they aren’t exactly Nintendo quality, but still good enough as we expected them to feel cheap. Oddly, the black fire buttons feel the best to press for us. So far so good! Oh yeah, don’t be fooled by the screen either, the 2.4″ IPS screen is vivid, bright, and displays games in either LCD (16:9) or CRT (4:3) format, without any stretching or distortion in either of these aspect ratios.

Looks and feels good

We now know that it looks good and feels ok, but how does it work and play? With its built-in emulators, all you need to do is ensure the BittBoy is fully charged and then insert your microSD loaded with your legally owned NES/Fami, GB and/or GBC roms and you are good to play.

Once you turn on the BittBoy, you are greeted by one of the three built-in emulators. Selecting the emulators is as easy as flicking the D-pad to the right (and left). The next step is to select a game by using the D-pad by going up and down the list and pressing the select button to load the game. Exiting back to the emulator menu is an easy one button press on the round R (reset) button. Since there are no separate volume and brightness buttons or dials, BittBoy has cleverly interfaced these controls by using specific button pressing sequences – a very clever design. Another neat feature is the save and load, so you can save your progress and then load it back to kick off where you left off. If you don’t want to bother peeps next to you on the bus, then the 3.5mm headphone jack is there for you to immerse yourself with some 8-bit ditties.

Let’s play – NES/Fami, GB and GBC games!

Playing our handful of NES games we found that the emulation was accurate without any noticeable lag. We thought that the small form factor would hamper gameplay, but to our surprise, we were running Mario from left to right, jumping on blocks, collecting mushrooms and stomping on Goombas with gleeful ease. The GB games were just as good (Tetris is still a killerapp!), however, the emulation couldn’t display that distinct ‘green hue’ from the original Game Boy – a minor gripe really.

Playing some sweet (NES) Super Mario Bros!

The new BittBoy provides around 3 hrs of gaming via its 700 mAh lithium battery before it needs recharging using its packed-in USB cable. Charge time is fairly quick, so you will be back gaming in no time. The package also includes an AV/composite cable to connect the BittBoy player to your TV (via the 3.5mm headphone jack). This is quite novel and a great feature, however we loved using the BittBoy as a portable game player.

There are plenty of handheld systems that can play your old video games, however these usually require some level of hacking and tweaking to make them work. The new BittBoy fills this void by offering folks a pocket-friendly handheld system straight out of the box that can emulate the NES/Famicom, Game Boy and Game Boy Color. If you want a player to emulate other systems, then the BittBoy is not for you, but on the other hand if you are in need of a reasonably priced portable emulator that looks great, feels good and doesn’t pretend to be more than just a NES/Famicom/GB/GBC player, then the New BittBoy is for you.

Product: New BittBoy
Price: US$39.99 / AU$59.99
Available: Now via RetroMini
Package:

  • BittBoy handheld system
  • USB charging cable
  • AV cable

LCD vs CRT – it’s your choice!

Before we play some Tetris, it’s Super Mario Land time!

Super Mario Land in LCD (16:9) aspect ratio

Super Mario Land in CRT (4:3) aspect ratio

The New BittBoy has some beautiful lines

The top of the unit has the microSD slot and ON/OFF switch

The bottom of the BittBoy reveals the 3.5mm jack (headphones + AV/TV out) and USB-C connector for charging

Oo’er, this is one gorgeous little handheld

Disclosure: The New BittBoy system was kindly provided by BittBoy for this review.

 

Nintendo Switch Review – YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

Face the impending millennium in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG from ACKK Studios. Not just a new approach to RPGs but a whole other dimension!

Unlike any RPG I have played, YIIK: A Postmodern RPG (pronounced Y2K) is an interesting take on a well-trodden genre. You play as Alex, an entitled 20 something that stumbles on a mystery bigger than him or his bachelor’s degree. The game takes place in a small town called “Frankton” in the year 1999, a very unassuming place for a mystery of these proportions. You will team up with old school friends, arcade employees, pacifists and more on your journey.

The story in YIIK loves throwing curve balls at the player and will have you constantly questioning what is going on, drawing you further into the plot. Even though YIIK looks rather quirky it also delves fairly deep into themes such as the metaphysical, depression and anxiety. Don’t fret though as the game is full of humour, subtle pop culture jokes and references. YIIK pokes fun at cartoon characters, internet culture and a certain JRPG series on multiple occasions very effectively.

The soundtrack in YIIK has an amazing blend of music including chiptune, electronic, jazz and arty pieces. All of the tracks are extremely catchy, I found myself humming along to them while playing and even when I wasn’t. The art style is fantastic and suits the gameplay and story to a tee. Lush colours and striking visuals help bring YIIK to life and flesh out this seemingly ordinary world. YIIK captures a perfect sense of 90s nostalgia, from the birth of the internet subculture, POGs and payphones. The in game online message board “ONISM1999” plays a major role in advancing the story and giving hints on side quests and secrets.

The little details make the biggest impact even in battle as you will fight rodents, bats, rogue stop signs with Vinyl records, Keytars and Hula-hoops. The battle mechanics in YIIK are a fantastic combination of standard RPG elements and quirky quick time events that make you feel far more responsible for every action in battles. Long gone are random die rolls and mashing through standard RPG battle menus. In YIIK you contribute to every action from attacking to defending yourself in carefully timed action sequences.

Having clocked almost 30 hours, to tell too much of what makes YIIK so very charming and special would ruin the impact of seeing it first hand for yourself. If you love a good solid RPG, great story and long for the 90s then YIIK is the perfect game for you!

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Mat Panek
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: YIIK: A Postmodern RPG [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by Stride PR for this review.

 

 

Review: Atari Flashback Classics – Nintendo Switch

Up until recently Nintendo Switch owners had to watch and endure their contemporary console friends get their Atari classic gaming fix. Well, this is no longer the case!

The Atari Flashback Classics compilation is a collection of 150 Atari favourites for the Nintendo Switch. Taking full advantage of the Switch features, like vertical / TATE orientation (for compatible games), Switch owners now have lots to gloat about to their other console brethren. Let’s just say this straight off the bat – this compilation is choc-full of the legendary publisher’s iconic library of games, with titles from the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 home consoles, along with former Atari coin-op/arcade exclusives.

Of course we were always going to play Atari’s seminal arcade titles first! Well, the scrollable 11 page games menu had the arcade titles first, so it made the choice easier. If there is one gripe here, we just wish that that you could customise the games menu. Anyway, it was game on with Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Pong and Tempest (to start with), and boy, they did not disappoint! These classic Atari arcade games are perfectly converted on the Nintendo Switch, with impeccable controls (each game has a pop control area showing which map buttons to the correspond Switch controls). We also love the bezel artwork, which gives that authentic arcade feeling.

Speaking of artwork, the home console games (Atari 2600 and 5200) get their full box art on the menu and also come with their respective full manual. Some (not all) game manual scans are tad blurry, but it’s still a great example of conservation that helps turn this release into an almost museum-like archive.


source: Atari

Atari Flashback Classics has a slew of features, including a local achievements system, leaderboards and a local (up to four players) and online (two players) multiplayer. These features were designed to bring players together, just like back in the day – a neat little touch.

This massive library of classic Atari 2600, Atari 5200 and Atari arcade games is perfect for those Switch owners craving for a one-stop shop to play old school Atari games either at home or on the go. If you want a fix of classic Atari gaming on your Switch, then grab the Atari Flashback Classics now.

Disclosure: Atari Flashback Classics [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by UberStrategist for this review.

 

Review: Solar Flux – Nintendo Switch

Save some suns in Solar Flux, the latest Switch release from Firebrand games. A unique and challenging puzzler that feels a bit out of place on the Switch.

Solar Flux is an interesting little puzzle game that follows the age old premise “Easy to learn, difficult to master.” You control a ship that collects plasma to shoot into dying suns, saving them in the process. Each level is ranked by either time taken, shields depleted or fuel used. You are then given a ranking out of 3 stars depending on how well you perform. The game itself can be quite tricky but once you get that “Ah ha” moment getting at least one star is quite manageable. The real challenge comes from trying to get a perfect 3 stars in each level.

Listening to the sparse soundtrack and simple audio cues give the game a nice relaxing atmosphere. This really helps to create a sense of isolation in each level. Visuals are nicely contrasted, making each object clearly visible and easily recognised. Overall the look of Solar Flux is very minimal which works in its favour as a puzzle game. Level design can range from twitch reflex or timing based puzzles to pure patience and precision puzzles. Solar Flux’s level and puzzle design certainly make it well suited for some quick pick up and play sessions.

When it comes to controls, Solar flux is a mixed bag. Playing in docked mode the game uses twin stick style controls for thrusting and firing plasma. These controls feel nice and tight, making the game responsive and rewarding. Playing in handheld mode the game defaults to touch only controls, which seems very strange. The touch screen controls do feel fine but a few controls simply don’t work or feel finicky. If you are anything like me, touch screen controls are not exactly first choice when it comes to the Switch.

Solar Flux is a well-designed puzzle game that will have you hunting perfect runs and challenging friends. Puzzle fans will get some real enjoyment out of it at home but may want to give it a miss as an “On the go” title.

Developer: Firebrand Games
Publisher: Firebrand Games
Release Date: December 11, 2018

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Mat Panek
Retromancer – Collector, repairer & fan of retro games & tech. Atari to Amiga, Nintendo to Sega! LD, Zip, Beta and a proud dad! One half of the TiredParents on Twitch.

Follow Mat on Twitter and Twitch

 

 

Disclosure: Solar Flux [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by HomeRun PR for this review.

 

Book Review: GameCube Anthology

Geeks Line Publishing’s Anthology book series have so far been nothing short of brilliant. Their new GameCube Anthology is no exception, with excellent content and overall quality that will draw you in.

The GameCube Anthology, just like its predecessors, comprehensively details everything that is to know about Nintendo console. Chronicling it’s early days, this tome pulls no punches when it comes to detailing the stiff competition from Sony and its foundation for its successor, the Nintendo Wii.

Accompanying the great written content is the equally impressive photography – the breadth of photos cover the full gamut, from detailed hardware shots to exhaustive photos of GameCube games.

As mentioned, the depth of information and facts covered does true justice to Nintendo’s excellent GameCube system. This book is truly hard to fault. One of our fave sections in the book is the coverage of unreleased titles – which rounds off what is a must have book for any GameCube fan or gaming historians.

This book is an easy recommendation – go and get it right now!

Title: GameCube Anthology
Publisher: Geeks Line Publishing
Available from: Amazon

Disclosure: GameCube Anthology (Classic Edition) was kindly provided by Geeks Line Publishing for this review.