Pinball tables make up part of the trinity of electronic entertainment that I enjoy the most, along with sports video games and arcade/coin-op games.
I’ve been playing pinball machines since around 1980 or so, starting with Gottlieb’s Aquarius, Bally’s Hokus Pokus, and Williams’ Gorgar. It was tough to play the games well at age 8, but the Hokus Pokus machine was at my uncle’s house… so I could play as much as I wanted and improve without spending any money. As the years went on, I graduated to High Speed, Pin*Bot, Comet, F-14 Tomcat, and a host of others.
Thanks to Farsight Studios, and its licensing deals with Bally, Williams, Gottlieb, and Stern, Pinball Arcade gives me the opportunity to play many of the pinball machines that I enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s, either on my iPad or on my PlayStation 4. While it’s not exactly the same thing as playing the actual machines, Pinball Arcade is the next best thing… and, once you buy the tables, you can play them as much as you want– no tokens required.
It’s fitting that the first table that I’ll be covering here is Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt. This table blends baseball and pinball into a pretty enjoyable experience, with a fairly straightforward table layout that makes it easy for players of all skill levels to start racking scores up on. All of the pinball trappings are here, including multiball play, chances to score extra balls, and varying modes or missions for players to take on that can really jack up the score.
When playing this table, there are a couple of things to note right away. The first is a hole on the right hand side of the table, which starts a new mission when lit. The second– and the most exciting part of this table– is the set of three elevated ramps, along with a baseball glove that travels from left to right. Aside from these things, the rest of the table is pretty standard fare. There is a third flipper on the left side of the table, opposite of where the mission hole is, that is used to attack a trio of drop targets. The only traditional “ramp” shot is a scoop shot just to the left of the three elevated ramps.
Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt has several objectives. The first, constantly running objective is to score as many runs as possible… much like an actual baseball game. The easiest way to score runs is to hit the middle elevated ramp and hit the white target just below the “Big Hurt” sign. Doing so counts as a home run and scores all runners. Missing the middle elevated ramp and going up the left or right ramps instead advances the inning that the game is in, which increases the Super Jackpot amount by 100 million points each time. Hitting that white target requires timing, though, in order to avoid the roaming baseball glove that may act as an obstacle. Hitting the glove earns points toward the outhole bonus, as well as advancing the cumulative number of “catches” made. Ten glove shots lights an extra ball chance, so it’s not all bad if you miss that homer.
The second objective is to complete the series of missions that Big Hurt offers. Golden Glove mode awards bonus points for each glove shot and activates multiball play. Frank’s Home Run Derby is similar to Golden Glove mode, except that bonuses are awarded for home runs instead of glove shots. Steal Home mode challenges players to complete two steps; run the ball up the scoop ramp, and then hit the lit drop target to advance one base. #35 All Stars mode is about completing lit shots on the table to add players to the field in the time limit allowed. Frank Thomas Cards mode allows players to collects Frank Thomas baseball cards, which are good for huge bonuses per card at the end of the game… or for activating certain special modes if “traded” when prompted. These cards are collected by completing lit shots on the table, which is made more difficult by having to keep track of multiple balls. The Night Game mode is a quick way to advance through innings, which is done by completing lit shots during multiball action. Completing all of these missions activates a shot at the World Series mode, which features a shot at the Super Jackpot if players can hit a home run after completing all other lit shots in the time allowed.
Scoring runs and completing missions are the main focuses of Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt, but there are other things to do, including completing Skill Shots when the ball launches, collecting Bullpen awards, competing in the Grand Slam Derby and the 7th Inning Stretch, and activating stand-alone multiball play. It’s not a difficult table to figure out, and many players will have basic attack strategies after only a couple of plays.
The iOS version of this table still has a couple of bugs that Farsight Studios needs to work out. The main offender is that the ball can get stuck behind the elevated ramps. When this happens– especially during a timed mission– there’s nothing that can be done as seconds tick away and players are left waiting for the ball to be forced back into play. When this bug strikes during World Series mode, the expletives will fly. Of less concern is a bug with the dot matrix score display where the mission mode information doesn’t always display when a mission starts.
I had never played this table before it was released for Pinball Arcade. It’s a fun table, and my love for sports just adds to the enjoyment. It was also easy for me to figure out, so I was scoring 500 million points by my third game. It is a Frank Thomas table, so his name is mentioned ad nauseam. It’s reminiscent of the scene in the Baseball Bugs Looney Tunes short, when the public address announcer calls out that Bugs will be playing every position on the field. It’s a minor nitpick, but it’s something that I couldn’t ignore. (Then again, if a game is making me think about Baseball Bugs– which is one of my favorite Looney Tunes shorts– it’s not necessarily a bad thing.)
Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt is a fun table that appeals to pinball players of all skill levels and to baseball fans. It’s available now for iOS, Android, and Steam for $4.99, and requires the Pinball Arcade application to run. Farsight is a bit behind in porting its more recent table releases to consoles, unfortunately… so if you’re a console-only player, you’ll need to wait a little bit. That said, Pinball Arcade on PC and on tablets performs well and is highly recommended.