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6  |  Alien Vs. Predator? Nah, Pinball Vs. Breakout (?)
Darryl B. , 4/10/2005 12:28:30 AM
With the huge explosion of video games and arcades in the late 1970s (mostly due to Space Invaders leading the way for the latter), there were all kinds of areas for the young industry to explore, rather it be outer space, sports, fantasy, humor, or even something closer to the real world, like trying to emulate pinball.

The early days of video game pinball usually turned out to be quite klunky, due to trying to get the physics correct as to how the ball is going to bounce around the playfield and all, and some of the earlier pinball efforts turned out to be a bit unusual, to say the least: I played a very early Pong-type console -- Atari might've made it, as far as I know -- of a friend's that had several games in it, one of which was pinball. The playfield looked more like a junior high school kid's art project rather than a video game, with square bumpers and all in it's black and white playfield (remember the days before color?), and you could rack up a huge score due to the weird way the flippers worked: when you pressed whatever controls to have the flippers go up, they'd turn into one long, straight horizontal line at the bottom center of the playfield, rather than be at a diagonal (like flippers in *real life* are), forming an impenetrable border that the ball couldn't get past, much less go down the drain. My friend said he had turned the game over before at a million (or whatever score the console would turn over at) because of this silly little design flaw.

As you can probably imagine, the Microvision's Pinball program was a bit...unusual, due to only having 1K of memory on board.

First off, it DOES play a bit like pinball, although the ball can, at times, go straight up and down, rather than at angles. If you can hit a bumper four times, it will light up (well, DARKEN, anyway) for bonus points, which gives you a good incentive to activate as many bumpers as possible (which there were four on the playfield). So far, so good. (A lot of the early pinball games don't really give you much of an incentive to keep on playing.)

So, what's so different about this early version of pinball? Well, instead of flippers, you've got a blippin' paddle, of all things, to knock the ball around with. So it's like Breakout (I guess?). So that kind of dampens the spirit of building up some frenetic "pinball fever" right there. Oh well, it was still a decent attempt, and was fun to play, although I would also see a handheld pinball game a few years later that actually had regular flippers in it's LCD display (yet I doubt it had much more memory than the Microvision did).

Grrrrr...would that've been so difficult to do, Milton Bradley?!

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