“Endless Summer” is a flawed, but fun, original VPX table

Endless Summer

Endless Summer
RELEASE DATE: April 3rd, 2020
EMULATOR: Visual Pinball 10.6 or higher, PinMAME 3.3 or higher, PinUp Player 1.4.6 (Required for full DMD A/V) or higher
ARTIST(S): “makmak”
HARDWARE: Windows PC with an Intel i5 Quad-Core processor with a Nvidia GTX 960 or higher graphics card (Recommended)
SOFTWARE/OS REQUIREMENTS: Windows 10, 64-bit
RATING: B

Winter has come and gone…or not. As we hunker down and quarantine in our homes, and search for something to do instead of going out and actually doing it, Visual Pinball artist, “makmak” has come up with an original pinball table called “Endless Summer”, which brings the beach to us. Based on Bruce Brown’s epic surfer documentary “The Endless Summer” (and its sequel), the table allows the player the entire surfing experience without investing in a wetsuit and board.

DESIGN/ARTWORK – B-

The table has a tranquil playfield, made up of clear, tropical water — but the smaller details are a bit amateurish. Half of the table lights don’t look nearly as convincing as they should. While the smaller lights near the ramps and the left side drop targets and arrows look fine, the surfboard lights in the middle look like they’re big white blobs with no definition or detail. They don’t look like they’re part of the table. The font work is also a bit lacking and looks cheap and silly, like they were designed in MS Paint. The drop targets in the top “tube” look especially bad. The playfield, itself, isn’t too bad — but I felt like it needed more color injected into it aside from the blue. While the bright neon purples, pinks, and sky blue of the tops of the walls is nice, I can’t help but feel as though a couple palm trees might have helped. A sand-into-water gradient might have also helped things on the playfield and more colorful surfboards would have been great instead of plain white surfboard lights. Still, this is a colorful table.

MUSIC/AUDIO – C+

This is one of the weakspots of the game and one that I really would love to fix myself: while I understand and admire what “makmak” was going for here, the callouts are a disaster. The “voice” of the game is pretty standard: a girl who encourages every move you make and taunts you when you miss something or drain — but the “voice” is synthetic, having been created by some sort of text-to-speech program. So, instead of sounding convincing, it sounds cold, emotionless, and robotic. I would honestly love to hear Bruce Brown (or an imitator) doing the voice work or have an actual human girl recording her voice. The music is fine. The main tune is “Surf Nouveau” by The Aqua Velvets and fits the theme. The rest of the noises are fun. Droplets of water if you hit certain targets, splashes when you hit the center ramp and end up in the whirlpool, a crowd groaning when you drain…though, the Pharell Williams line from “Get Lucky” (“Like the legend of the Phoenix”) when the game saves your ball is annoying and clashes directly with the music being played. The music also changes with the modes so we’re not always forced to play with “Surf Nouveau” all game.

DMD/ANIMATIONS – A-

The game uses a PUP Pack for its DMD. I’m not quite sure if you can get the rest of the audio without it. It’s worth having because it adds a nice dimension to the game. The footage of waves and surfers is always great, especially when you complete modes and get some nice footage from inside surf tubes. The little added touches are great, too, such as wipeout footage when you drain — though I wish the art on it wasn’t so amateurish and that some of the footage was better and not so grainy.

GAMEPLAY/PHYSICS – B-

The table has a variety of shots as well as an upper playfield, but has no bumpers. The object of the game is to basically collect your surfboard by hitting the right outer ramp a few times, wax up your board by doing the same, collecting your things from the drop targets on the left, getting your plane ticket by hitting the middle left short orbit, then collecting your plane ticket and hitting the waves when the path to the far left ramp opens up. The effect when your ball travels through the top “surf tube” is ingenious and I love the top playfield’s “whirlpool ramp”. “Endless Summer Mode” can be achieved by hitting all the drop targets on the left side of the upper playfield while “Skeet Surfing Mode” can be accessed by hitting all the drop targets on the opposite side. Those two modes are simply ok and don’t seem to add much to the experience. The main issue with the version I played was that the physics were way too fast for the table. The ball bounces everywhere and is very hard to track. I am sure I need an update or I can tweak the game to fix this. Also, getting through ONE surf mode feels like a chore. The left drop targets are nearly impossible to hit and the “ticket” orbit nearly drains your ball almost every single time, even if you don’t mean to hit it. The Surf Tube shot, however, is very rewarding once you’ve gotten that far.

OVERALL

I really like this table. I am far more lenient when it comes to rating original tables because I know how hard it is to come up with something like this from scratch and make it look good. I think “Endless Summer” is one of my top original VPX tables of all-time. With some tweaks to the audio and the gameplay, I think this could be among the greatest originals ever created. As it stands, the game is already fun to figure out and play, provided the person playing it has patience and enough skill.

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