capsule review

Monster Fair

You’d think that pinball—a game that has been around for decades—would be pretty easy to simulate on a computer. But a surprising number of game developers manage to screw it up—either by making it too much like a video game or by improperly modeling the game’s physics. That’s why Monster Fair, a new pinball game from LittleWing, is such a gem. While it’s not perfect, Monster Fair offers plenty of fun and challenge for pinball fans of all ages.

Unlike traditional pinball machines, Monster Fair gives a bit of backstory to the pinball play. You’re at a traveling carnival populated by aliens who masquerade as monsters as they make their way around the world, earning money to fix their ship and return home. It’s a tenuous concept at best. But that’s OK; you’re really just here to knock the ball around the board. What really counts is the bling—beautiful board design, flashing lights, and tricky traps and ramps. Here, Monster Fair does not disappoint.

The game features a beautifully rendered cabinet filled with plastics—the 3-D embellishments you’d expect to see on a modern pinball game. For example, there’s a witch riding her broom, a vampiric emcee at the top of the cabinet, and a wolfman riding a wheeled coffin along a roller coaster. There’s also a lushly illustrated and brightly colored playfield populated with stand-up targets, traps, and ramps—all of which offer a seemingly endless array of combination shots and challenges to aim for. If the game’s graphics have a shortcoming, it’s that the plastics appear a bit amateurish.

Monster Fair also makes good use of audio. There’s plenty of feedback when you hit bumpers, targets, and other objects on the playfield—along with an appropriately bouncy and whimsical soundtrack loop. Some of the voice work is a bit silly, but it’s cute, not annoying.

Of course, any computer pinball game worth its salt lets you nudge the ball—and Monster Fair succeeds here, too. In fact, LittleWing has built in three different nudge motions: left, right, and up. These are the three motions you’d most likely employ in a real arcade. This helps you move the ball around the playfield while preventing it from dropping down an outlane or the drain. Be careful not to nudge too much, though, or you’ll “tilt” and lose the ball.

Half the fun of playing pinball is exploring all the crazy combos and secret game modes the board offers. Mon-ster Fair has plenty of those to discover—so many that I suspect I’ve barely scratched the surface after a few weeks of regular play.

You can download a demo of Monster Fair from LittleWing’s Web site. You pay a registration fee to unlock the full game.

The Bottom Line Monster Fair isn’t the most complicated or the most elaborate pinball game LittleWing has done, but its clean playfield and outstanding physics make it one of the company’s most realistic to date.

Nudge the board—but don’t tilt—to keep your ball in play in Monster Fair.
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