Pinball has been around for a long, long time, and Gottlieb was at the forefront of its development into the modern-day style. Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection showcases eleven tables and a couple of other non-pinball goodies in a tour of the company's history reaching as far back as 1937. It uses the same physics engine powering The Williams Collection, making the ball react as close to reality as possible without actually playing the real thing, but unfortunately a few of the tables are more interesting for their age than gameplay. Couple that with a misplaced motion-controlled bump mechanic that can't be remapped and this becomes a slightly disappointing chunk of pinball history.
When it works, though, The Gottlieb Collection is a lot of fun. The table selection shows a huge variety in styles and gimmicks, and even the annoying ones have some interesting ideas in play. Ace High, for example, is a game about losing the ball, although timing is key. There are three targets in the lower playing field with Queen, King, and Ace lights on them. Losing the ball in the Special hole at the top of the play field when an Ace or a three-of-a-kind is lit earns extra credits, which are more important to this particular table than the score. It's a brutally cheap table and the flippers come into play so rarely they seem like a cruel joke instead of a gameplay element, but it's unquestionably an interesting design.
Central Park, on the other hand, seems like it would be another cheap old layout but is actually one of the more fun tables in the collection. It's got the same tiny little flippers as Ace High but they come into play far more often, making its goals much more attainable. Central Park has a straightforward target-shooter layout, where lighting 1-5 advances the bonus on one of the center stationary targets and 9-10 the other. All lanes, including drains, advance the count in some fashion, so even a lost ball helps with working towards the table goals. It's surprisingly playable, simple without feeling simplistic, and a good way to rack up credits as well.
Credits are important when just starting out, because there are only a few tables with free play unlocked. A little practice gets the credits flowing in nicely, though, and then a few rounds on Playboy, where you can earn a good payout shooting for poker or blackjack hands, throws the entire game wide open. Additionally, each table has a goal to aim for that unlocks free play, although not necessarily for the machine it was won on. The credit system is only a limit during the first few hours of play, and the tables open up at a reasonable pace.
After that it's time to really dig in. Games range from failed prototypes like Goin' Nuts (timed multiball, but so easy that games end by boredom rather than lost balls or the clock running out) to Strikes N' Spares, which is basically bowling where a flipper is used to launch the pinball, to the excellent Black Hole, which has a second table recessed beneath the central playing field. Victory, on the other hand, is pretty bad, with a shot so easy it's almost impossible to avoid leading to a lane that stops the game cold for a few seconds, just so a sound effect can be played. The good tables outweighs the bad, though, and there's no faulting the creativity in table design on display.
A little variety would have been welcome in the control scheme, however. The Gottlieb Collection uses the remote's trigger for the right flipper, the nunchuck's trigger for the left, and you shake the appropriate hand to nudge the table left or right. No classic controller support, no way to remap the nudge to the analog stick, and no way to avoid lots of unnecessary tilting. I eventually gave up on nudging the table almost entirely, which was particularly annoying on the older tables from the '60s and '70s where it was a central gameplay mechanic.
Despite this, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection still manages to retain a lot of charm. It's far less concerned with the modern style and instead concentrates on the mid-'80s and earlier, differentiating itself quite nicely from the recent Williams Collection. Most of these tables were from the period where pinball was evolving from the simple layouts and dinging bells it had been known for into the sleeker, more gimmicky game it eventually turned into. A little more care and polish in the presentation would have been nice, especially in regards to the unhelpful motion controls, but even taking that into account it's still great to see these tables given a new shot at life.