Date: 25th February, 2011

We've reviewed several pinball publications over the years and until the end of last year, all these had been released as traditional paper products.

In November 2010, John Popadiuk broke the mould when he produced his 'Pinball Scrapbook' history of pinball's development, which was released for the Apple iPad.

Now a second iPad pinball book has been published.  This one comes from Kevin Strasser and is simply called 'The Pinball Book'.

The title page
The title page

Kevin has been a pinball fan since the age of 8 and a collector for 13 years.  Since his first game - Creature from the Black Lagoon - which he bought in 1998 for $1300, he estimates he's gone through around 100 different machines since then.

He's a software developer and web app creator by trade, and was looking to expand his iOS programming skills.  He thought combining his software skills with his love of pinball would be a good way to learn, and The Pinball Book is the result.

The Pinball Book's introduction
The Pinball Book's introduction

It proved to be quite a bit harder than he expected though, and at one point he scrapped his work and started over again when the app didn't work as well on a real iPad as it did on the simulator. 

He told Pinball News, "It was painful, but resulted in a much better app than it would have been otherwise. Knocking all of the blocks down and starting over is sometimes a very good thing in projects such as these."

The Pinball Book starts with an introduction where Kevin extols the virtues of playing a real pinball machine and explains what readers will find in the rest of the 'book'.

What they find is a reasonably detailed examination of 32 popular solid state games covering the years 1982 to 1999, an era Kevin describes as "...the golden age of pinball, as I think the best built, most fun and wildly creative games came out during that time."

Most of those included are Williams/Bally machines, but the occasional Gottlieb, Capcom or Data East makes it into the list too.

The games included are:

The Addams Family
Attack From Mars
Black Knight 2000
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Doctor Who
Fish Tales
High Speed 2 - The Getaway
Guns 'N Roses
Haunted House
Indiana Jones
Judge Dredd
Medieval Madness
Monster Bash
No Good Gofers
Pinball Magic
Revenge from Mars
Road Show
Safe Cracker
Scared Stiff
The Shadow
Star Trek - The Next Generation
Takes from the Crypt
Theatre of Magic
Twilight Zone
White Water
World Cup Soccer

The selection of games
The selection of games

These 32 are available in the initial release, but being an electronic publication, updates and additions can be created and downloaded to increase the number of games covered and correct any errors which may be found.

Kevin says he plans to release regular updates to The Pinball Book.  "I have already started on an update. The next update will include The Bride of Pinbot and Terminator 2. I will also add videos to many of the games and further edit some of the text entries. It will be kind of a 'living book'.”

These 32 were chosen by Kevin because they were games he had owned and also games where he took good quality pictures.

Each game has around 4 screens' of content, starting with a brief introduction describing the game's feel and history before getting down to the statistics about the year of manufacture and number made.

A typical game's pages
A typical game's pages

After that, an overview of the game's features is followed by a list of areas to inspect if you're considering purchasing one.  Common playfield wear spots and mechanical failures are then listed along with some common modifications you might find, or might like to fit.  These include links to the mod's manufacturer.

A guidance price range is also offered together with suggestions for who the market for the game might be.

The bottom section of each entry contains other media showing the game in more detail.  The first section consists of a photo gallery of game images.  The pictures pop out in a polaroid-style box but you can't pinch to zoom in or out, which is a pity if you want to see some specific detail.

A picture of Star Trek - The Next Generation
A picture from Star Trek - The Next Generation's entry

Most of these games have a good selection of pictures available on the web anyway, and it's the web where the book gets the final section of a game's page.

If you have an internet connection available, the book will stream a couple of clips from YouTube for you to enjoy - typically the promotional video if one exists, and someone reviewing or playing the game.  If no internet connection is available this area of the page appears blank, but then the iPad was made to be internet-connected if you want to get the best out of it.

The overall look of The Pinball Book is bright, with a good structure and layout.  The information is a mixture of the factual and the subjective and gives a good impression of the game to someone without in-depth knowledge.

As always, improvements can be made and features we'd like to see included are:

  • Zooming in on pictures to see more detail
  • Pause, stop and shuttle controls for the videos
  • Better backglass pictures without so much flash glare on important areas
  • Ability to add personal notes and bookmarks

These can of course be included in future updates.  The book currently has a few typographic errors, but these too will hopefully be tidied up in the next release.

With this initial release, The Pinball Book provides pinball fans old and new with useful and entertaining information about many of the world's most popular games.  Buyers will find it a great portable reference of issues to be aware of, while the pictures show how the game should look.  Owners can also use it to show off the machines in their collection to their friends.

The Pinball Book costs $4.99 from the iTunes App Store and is only available for the iPad.  Kevin says he doesn't think the app would work anywhere near as well on the smaller screen of the iPhone and iPod, and he doesn't currently have any plans to convert it to run on Android or Win7 operating systems.


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