The first question I had when I picked this game up was who or what was Gottlieb. Well, the first result happened to reveal that Gottlieb was actually a German inventor best known for his work in the development of the gasoline internal combustion engine. The second result was a bit more on the money, as it turns out Gottlieb was previously a arcade game corporation one established by a David Gottlieb in the 1930s. In fact, David Gottlieb was a bit of a pioneer with pinball machines, and he made a ton of the things throughout the lifespan of the company. The company later went on to develop Atari 2600 games, but after a few failures Gottlieb was bought out and the company went bankrupt.
Just like arcades, pinball machines are basically dead now. In fact, it's actually rare to find a fully functional pinball machine, so if you want a pinball fix then a video game is likely to be your best bet. Gottlieb Pinball Classics is a game that tries to emulate the look and feel of a pinball machine, and has a staggering eleven Gottlieb tables at your disposal. With a wealth of options and a lot of extra features, Gottlieb Pinball Classics is actually one of the best pinball games ever released, although the game isn't the perfect replacement for pinball machines just yet.
Not only have all eleven Gottlieb tables been faithfully recreated, but the same challenges that were in the real world machines have also made it into this game. The eleven tables range from a flipperless machine (Playboy, which was released in 1932) through to Teed-Off, which was released in 1993. There are a few gimmicky pinball machines as well, like Strikes and Spares, which is a bit like playing bowling with a pinball. As a bit of a bonus, each of the tables comes with voice-narrated instructions on how to play, as well as a short history of each table and a flyer which advertised each table.
There are a few things in the game that are bound to please pinball enthusiasts as well. It's possible to flip the PSP screen so that you can play pinball either horizontally or vertically, which makes the experience feel a little more authentic. The analogue nub launches the ball and is a very intuitive way to control the ball. There are also twelve different cameras, which should mean that everybody finds at least one camera angle that pleases them.
The main single player mode in the game is the Gottlieb Challenge. Here, you're taken through all of the tables, but to progress to the next table you need to reach a certain score. You're allowed three attempts for each table, but some of the scores are extremely large. It's also possible to play through each table individually as all of them have certain goals. There is a catch though: not every table is on free play and you need to earn credits in the Gottlieb Challenge to actually play some of these tables, which is a little frustrating. There are a few tables which are on free play, but the only way to unlock all of the tables on free play is to complete all of the table goals.
The game also supports wireless multiplayer. It's possible to send over tables to those who don't actually own the game and the tables will stay on the PSP until it is turned off. If everybody has a copy of the game then it's possible to play in a tournament, though unfortunately infrastructure mode is not supported, which is a little disappointing as it would have been good to see some of the high scores for the tables online.
The physics in a pinball game really are extremely important and we're pleased to report that the game feels very realistic. Sometimes the ball will float in an unrealistic direction or will go a little faster than it seems like it should, but generally the physics are very good. It's possible to tilt the machine with the analogue nub, but the tilt isn't easy to execute and this often results in you tilting the machine. It's likely most people will actually give up on using tilt simply because it is so hard to pull off successfully.
There are occasional problems with the visuals of the game also. The developers really do appear to have put a lot of effort into making the game look good, but the textures are a little fuzzy at times and sometimes the ball becomes quickly camoflauged in with the rest of the table. If you look close enough it's actually possible to see the reflection of the top of the pinball machine on the glass; which is a great effect.
The voice narration is very handy and the announcer actually seems interested when he's talking about the pinball machines. The developers have tried to make the game sound as nostalgic as possible and as you're playing there is a lot of background noise which adds to the atmosphere. It really does make it feel as if you're playing a pinball machine in an arcade.
There are also plenty of unlockables included for those who think they are pinball champions. There is a payout mode to be unlocked as well as a custom ball option, although the novelty value of these unlockables runs out reasonably quickly. The multiplayer is really what will draw you back to the game, as completing the goals for every machine is extremely challenging.
Overall Gottlieb Pinball Classics is one of the better pinball simulations around. It looks good, has a wide range of tables and controls easily, with only a few issues such as the difficulty in tilting the machine. If you're a fan of simulated pinball or just remember any of these machines then this game is definitely worth trying out - it becomes extremely addictive.