Can you experience the real fun of pinball without a real silver ball?
Demoed at the recent Chicago Pinball Expo, the new UltraPin Digital Pinball Machine by BMI Gaming aims to replace the playfield on your pinball machines with a 32 inch flat panel display. Gone will be the famous silver ball, quirky plastic toys, popping solenoids, under-field tunnels, and pop-bumpers — all replaced with a virtual (some would say, “video game”) representation on a monitor.
BMI has designed the machine with sensors which supposedly allow you to bump and finesse the machine just like a real pinball machine (note that I use the word “real” regardless of whether this technology becomes pervasive or not). It comes pre-loaded with emulations of several popular and/or classic machines such as Attack From Mars and Medieval Madness, both great machines IMO.
I’m unsure how I feel about this virtualization of everything. For example, those virtual “roller coaster” simulators some people claiming to be “the future of roller coasters” are complete junk IMO. A virtual pinball machine? That is more questionable. I suppose that if the simulation is done correctly and completely accurately, the gameplay could be OK. Having the ability to play several machines in one cabinet is awesome (much like a MAME cab). But there’s just something missing in the lack of physical movement and depth of a real playfield with all of its gizmos and toys.
I’ll wait to actually try one, which will be difficult as there are no arcades left in my part of town any longer, but maybe I’ll run across an UltraPin on a trip sometime. At first, I didn’t like the sound of the Pinball 2000 platform either, but it turned-out OK if a bit short-lived. At $6000, they are a bit more than a traditional pinball machine, but maybe with the lack of maintenance, they’ll actually be possible to find in some arcades.