It was quite a shock to pinball video game fans back in June 2018. Farsight Studios had just announced that they had lost the license to all of the tables from Williams and Bally so they would disappear from The Pinball Arcade. While they would be safe for anyone who had already purchased them for everyone else they were set to disappear from online stores forever. Fortunately, High Roller Casino was one that avoided the cut so I thought it was time to take a retrospective look at it…
About The High Roller Casino Table
Unlike its missing counterparts, this table hails from the designers at Stern Pinball, originally created in 2001. Unlike many of the releases from Farsight, this doesn’t have a major film, television or character brand attached to it. For some this may be a major detraction, but for me that allows the table to stand on its own merits. As the name suggests, it recreates all the thrills and spills of a traditional highroller casino but in the shape of a pinball table.
Visually the table itself attempts to cram an entire casino into its playfield, with separate games located in different areas of the table. The top right corner features a roulette wheel which has multiple functions during play. Still at the top is a slots machine with cards lower down The table graphics also display decorative stacks of chips, dice and other familiar casino sights.
Using a traditional spring-based plunger, High Roller Casino is started by launching a ball into the roulette wheel. Instead of aiming for a specific target for a skill shot, an opening bonus is awarded. It’s completely randomised depending on where the ball lands on the roulette wheel. While this is completely out of your control, the mood is set immediately by the sound effects as the realistic clatter of the ball as it spins around the wheel is simply superb. You instantly feel as if you’re right in the middle of a casino and this sensation doesn’t let up for one minute as the game continues.
As you’d expect, all of the game modes are triggered through a combination of hitting the targets and ramps in certain combinations. Bonuses are awarded depending on what you do, and various game modes make use of the simulated dot matrix display. The extra modes and sub-games help make for a healthy diversion from the pinball action. Adding variety in this way ensures that the game doesn’t get monotonous and gameplay remains fresh and interesting throughout.
Despite the original physical table being 17 years old, it still managed to capture the casino look perfectly. The table artwork is fantastic and the console ports have recreated this superbly. Everything is incredibly details, well animated and moves smoothly. Sound is equally impressive. The music isn’t the best I’ve heard in a pinball table, but that’s more than made up for in the sound effects. These are truly stunning and apart from the licensed tables that use recognisable music and actors voices, this is amongst the best I’ve heard anywhere on a table.
But How Does It Play?
Overall this is a really fun table to play and I found myself returning to it over and over again. But it does have a few negatives to it. High Roller Casino does suffer from the same problem many older tables have, namely the lack of an automatic ball save feature at the start of the game. It’s all too easy to lose a ball at the start due to the layout of the table, sometimes without even having the chance to hit it. Without having a second chance function, it just leads to frustration. Most tables of this era offered it so I’m puzzled as to why this didn’t.
At the same time, there are situations where the ball can be propelled into the side lanes far more often than I have seen with other tables. This has resulted in an over dependence on the table’s tilt function or – more often than not – losing a ball. There’s nothing that this home version can do to change this as it’s down to the original design. However, it does spoil the game somewhat when it happens and it’s out of your control.
Unlike many gamers, I haven’t moved on to the current generation of consoles. As such I’ve only played this table on the PS Vita and PlayStation 3. Of the two the PS3 is understandably better in terms of visuals and sound. Unfortunately it does suffer from slight lag and responsiveness issues. This does seem to be a common problem with many of the Pinball Arcade tables. It’s not a deal-breaker and is something that you quickly adapt to and you’ll soon forget that it’s present. However, from a PlayStation perspective, it does mean that the PS3 languishes behind the PS Vita and PS4 versions of the game.
Regardless, it’s still a fun game and it’s well worth the money. It isn’t the best table released for The Pinball Arcade by a long stretch. But with so many removed from the range it’s still a great addition to the collection so why not give this one a try.
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I’m an animal lover and vegetarian.
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