Obsession logo Amiga Computing Gold

Obsession, far from being the latest after shave from Calvin Klein, is a pinballer from Swedish team, Unique Developments. Pinball Wizard Tina Hackett takes a look.


Digital Illusions series of pinball games have somewhat ruled the roost as far as Amiga pinball games go - some have even hailed them as the definitive pinballers. So maybe it comes as a bit of a surprise then to learn of a new challenger on the market from Swedish team, Unique Developments, with Amiga development from Blade.

The game originally came out on the ST and I happened to review it for ST Review magazine. Back then I awarded it a massive 98 per cent, and said it was 'the best ST game ever!' so I awaited the Amiga version with glee.

However, the Amiga market is another kettle of fish altogether, and after being spoilt by Digital Illusions previous offerings, I wasn't quite sure where Obsession would fit in with the state of play. So to be fair when marking this game, it has to be scored in relation to others available.


Aquatic Adventure is, believe it or not, a sea-related table and tells the story of Bobby Bubble, an adventurer who has escaped from Captain Notpolites dungeons, stolen his map and his heading for the Sitnalta archipelagos. He ends up on a strange island and takes a dive into the waters. He then has to find the treasure before he ends up as fish food. But little does he realise that the Captain is watching him from his submarine.

X-ile Zone, on the other hand, is a futuristic table. It's set in 2058 after a nuke attack and your mission is to kill the enemy leader, after completing a number of missions.

Balls and Bats has a sporty theme and puts you in the role of a world-class baseball player. You are taking part in the World Series - the pressure is on and the whole team are counting on you.

Desert Run deals with life in the fast lane. You must get from Paris to Dakar as you leave the roads and try to earn the title 'Desert Runner'.



Other pinball games available for the Amiga are from Digital Illusions and these have sold in abundance and gained many fans. Obsession is an excellent game in its own right, but I'm afraid it is let down against Pinball Illusions because it doesn't have multi-ball. Also, an extra set of flippers, even on just one table, would made a hell of a lot of difference. Music, although very impressive, isn't as good.

Saying that, though, the graphics are very impressive for a game of this nature, especially as this isn't the AGA version.



Desert Run: you are racing from Paris to Dakar and to finish a stage you must light the pit stop lamps, but to light a lamp you have to buy enough fuel units. Money will be given to you at two stages - the Hundring Ramp and the Speed Passage. To get a really high score, though, you must finish each stage as either the first or second car, and to increase your place in the race you need to go through the Place Passage.

Balls and Bats: Two-play modes are available for this Baseball-themed game. In Normal Mode you just play the ball around the table, collecting a score. In Pitching Mode you shoot the ball into the Pitcher's Box which halts the game for a few seconds and the Pitcher throws the ball at you, either as a Fast Ball, Slow Ball or Curve Ball. You must then use the flippers as bats to hit the ball.

X-ile Zone: On this table you have a series of missions to complete before you can go ahead and kill the enemy tribe leader. The nine missions are displayed in the middle of the table and to complete one you must light 'Death' and shoot the ball into the Mission Ball Trap.

Aquatic Adventure: Try and spell 'Dive' and then you go onto to do one of two things. You can either increase the Bonus Multiplier at the bottom of the table or enter a Dive Mission where there are five to complete, from Deep Dive to Submarine Hunt. The Starfish ball trap also gives extra awards such as bonus points or an extra ball.



Again, these are fitting to the theme of the table such as the dark, moody X-ile Zone which has a mysterious introduction tune and then as the ball sets off around the table, a louder beat kicks in.

A nice range of voice samples have also been included, for example, in Balls and Bats you get the Americanised baseball slogan 'Play Ball' or 'Strike'. Sound effects such as the flippers hitting the ball and bells ringing when you hit certain lights work well too.




There are four tables available and each has a different them, varying immensely from the dark, foreboding atmosphere of X-ile Zone to the jovial Sports theme.

Each table is bright and colourful and are pieces of art in their own right - well in a 'streetwise' way! This is because of the airbrushed look that is reminiscent of graffiti art or even pop art. The overall effect is of a very modern style and all worked brilliantly as backdrops for this sort of game.

The tracks for the balls have been well designed too and provide an exciting challenge for the player, as well as being clearly set out so as not to cause confusion. Animations, lights and traps all add to the realism.




This is a very able pinballer, it has to be said. It doesn't have the glamour of Pinball Illusions, but it certainly gives it a run for its money.

Obsession comes across as a very authentic pin game. The ball moves at the right speed and feels like the correct weight, flippers respond well to the keyboard controls and the tilt feature - left, right and middle - works nicely.

The eight-player mode allows for some excellent multi-player competitions and there are a good deal of missions per table. Other than the objectives I've briefly mentioned here, there are also 'special' aims that will earn you extra bonuses. It all makes the game highly addictive and lasts even the pinball wizards a good while.

This version is available for all Amigas, though a new AGA version is promised soon.

Obsession logo

Steve Bradley takes on hardened silver baller, Richard Jones and discovers that you don't need pockets full of shrapnel to turn the tables.

There was a brief period when it seemed most of Amiga Format were obsessed with pinball. Not the computer variety, you understand, rather the big fellows who greedily swallow pound coins at the local hostelry.

Upon hearing the hometime bell, chairs would be placed firmly on desks and out we'd troop, ready to do battle with the silver ball. And though we'd occasionally lose horribly, the thrill of a big score would keep us sufficiently interested to return the following day. But the physical nature of the game does not computer-translate, and without denying that previous pinball games have been awfully good fun, some of us harbour reservations.

Heads turned briefly when Pinball Illusions multiballed its way into view, but Obsession - written very much in the vein of Pinball Fantasies - seems, on the face of it, a rather pointless exercise.

It rather slips down the side lane because of the competition

If you can't rattle the blessed features of Pinball Illusions, why silver ball at all? You can play Obsession on all 1Mb Amigas and it's got one more table than PI. So blinking what? It's got two really rather fine tables - so has PI. Sorry, if you have Pinball Fantasies or Pinball Illusions, you'd have to be dreadfully keen to unleash a further thirty nicker.

Mechanically, it's not as slick as Digital Illusions' efforts, (but then this is a port from the successful Atari ST version), but the way the whole thing has been moulded is remarkably similar.

The ball sometimes moves with sluggish disregard. But despite my negativity, Obsession is a fine game, only, it rather slips down the side lane because of the competition.

Oh, they surely could have done more with the tables, more features, more flippers...


The only table with a proper skill shot, explorer Bobby chases treasure while evading evil Captain Notpolite. Roll the ramps, attempt to spell PEARL and activate a points bonanza. The third best.

A baseball table and the best of the bunch with an excellent Pitcher's Box feature. A pitcher hurls a fast, slow or curved ball from above. You have to control the ball and thwack it right around the top of the table to score a home run. Even the chirpy beach music is bearable. The Silver Ball.

Desert Run is the friendliest table, and the most feature-lead, as you travel the Paris-Dakar rally. Collect money at the stages, buy fuel and light the pitstop lamps. Everything is done to order. Dull, some might think, but I like the discipline of Desert Run.

A lively affair, though it's a mite cluttered. Post-nuclear war attack is the theme as you steal security cards, log on to mainframes and assassinate rival leaders. Competently average.

Obsession logo

Eine Nation gibt sich die Kugel: Nach den Pinball-Wizards von Digital Illusions hat sich mit Unique Development ein weiteres Programmierteam aus Schweden auf Digi-Flipper spezialisiert - und will die Amigos nun über vier neue Tische ziehen!

Die Chancen für die Newcomer am deutschen Markt, sich einen ähnlich guten Namen wie die großen Digi-Illusionisten ("Pinball Dreams", "Pinball Illusions") zu machen, stehen nicht schlecht, denn ihr Debüt kann sich weiß Gott sehen lassen.

Zumal man bei dieser Umsetzung von Ataris Nischencomputer Falcon 030 schöne Grafik und ruckelfreies Scrolling endlich mal wieder nicht ausschließlich auf AGA-Rechnern bekommt!

Quasi aus dem Vermächtnis von 64-er Vater Jack Tramlier werden hier zwei Disketten geliefert, die mit einem zugegebenermaßen ziemlich umständlichen Kopierscutz gegen unerlaubte Vervielfältigung unter den Amigos gesichert sind.

Ist diese Hürde genommen, dürfen sich bis zu acht Spieler beispielsweise das Aquatic Adventure aus dem lustig rotierenden Auswahlmenü pikken. Dabei kämpt dann Bobby Bybble kugelnderweise gegen den bösen Captain Notpolite samt dessen Stealth-U-Boot: Mit zwei Paddles (mehr gibt's auch bei den übrigen Tableaus nicht) muß das Wort DIVE buchstabiert bzw. abgeschossen werden.

Bei Erfolg gib es entweder Bonuspunkte oder die Möglichkeit, die sogenannte Mission-Ramp emporzurollen, um sich an fünf Sonderaufträgen unter Wasser zu Versuchen.

Andere Ziele ermöglichen z.B. den Perlenfang, was sich vor allem bei Wiederholungstätern im großzügig erhäohten Punktekonto niederschlägt. Aber auch Delphine und Seesterne versprechen als Rampe bzw. Kugelfalle viele Bonuspunkte und damit immer neue Highscores.

Weitaus kriegerischer geht es in der Z-ile Zone zu, einem postatomaren Szenario. Hier erhält man als Elitesoldat den Auftrag, den Führer eines feindlichen Stammes zu eliminieren - immerhin ist die menschliche Zivilisation nach dem großen Atomschlag in diverse streitbare Grüppchen zerfallen.

Unterteilt in neun Einzelmissionen (die diesmal durch das Wort DEATH aktiviert und durch den Schuß in die Missions-Kugelfalle absolviert werden), warten drei Beförderungen vom Sergeant bis hin zum Captain auf den Retter einer düsteren Zukunft.

Auch eine Beserk-Rampe hält auf diesem Tisch Überraschungen in Form von Punkten oder einem Extraball bereit, wozu dieses Feature allerdings binnen 15 Sekunden abermals zu treffen ist.

Sportler wählen wiederum die Baseball-Verflipperung Base & Bats, wo ein Team durch möglichst viele Home Runs von der American League in die World Series katapultiert werden soll.

Dies geschieht vor allem durch ausgiebiges Berollen der Home Run-Passage, denn sobald alle Bases aufleuchten, ist das Match gewonnen. Dadurch steigt der Verein in der Saison vom Viertel- ins Halbfinale auf, um letztendlich (hoffentlich) Weltmeister zu werden.

Dazu gibt es auch noch einen Wurfmodus, in dem die Kugeln aus der entsprechenden Falle langsam, schnell oder angeschnitten nach unten gefeuert werden - gerade letzteres führt zum heftigen Bearbeiten der Shift-tasten.

Verschwindet der Ball dagegen im Kugelnirwana, wird dies als "Strike" gewertet, was ganz im richtigen Leben dreimal passieren darf, ehe die Ballanzeige wieder eine Murmel abzieht. Natürlich lassen sich hier ebenfalls Extrabälle und jede Menge Bonuspunkte erflippern.

Sport ist auch das Motto des vierten und letzten Tischs mit dem schönen Namen Desert Run, der von der Rallye Paris-Dakar handelt. Die Strecke besteht aus sechs Etappen, während derer sieben Pitstops einzulegen sind.

Um für einen solchen Boxnstopp gerüstet zu sein, braucht der Rallye-Pilot Geld in der interessanten Währung "Kronor" sowie Benzin - beides wird mit dem "Durchfahren" entsprechender Passages ergattert.

Besonders viele Punkte erhält dabei derjenige, der innerhalb eines Zeitlimits die beste Platzierung innehat, wozu das richtige Feld zur richtigen Zeit getroffen sein will.

Soweit die einzelnen Tische, nun zu den Optionen. Und davon hat Obsession nicht gerade übermäßig viele anzubieten, beispielsweise kann noch nicht einmal die Anzahl der Bälle pro Durchgang variiert werden. Andererseits haben die Nordländer das obligatorische Rütteln hier sehr differenziert gestaltet: Es kann nämlich nicht nur genreüblich mittels Spacetaste vor den virtuellen Flipperautomaten geschlagen werden, auch subtilere Stöße von links oder rechts sind möglich!

Und damit können Geübte so manches Mal die Silbermurmel aus dem Auskanal doch noch zurück ins Spiel befördern. Allzu ausgiebiger Gebrauch dieser Funktion führt freilich zum gefürchteten Tilt, der neben der Kugel auch die erspielten Bonuspunkte ins digitale Nirgendwo befördert.

Zudem ist das Scoreboard in seiner Größe einstellbar, und die akustische Begleitung läßt sich detailliert regelen: Die Musik kann zugunsten von FX-Begeleitung pur abgestellt werden und umgekehrt - dann unterbrechen keinerlei Jingles mehr den rund halbstündigen Soundtrack von sehr ordentlicher Qualität.

Grafisch mußten natürlich kleine Abstreiche gemacht werden, um die ECS-Kompatibilität zu gewährleisten, weshalb reine AGA-Flipper wie etwa "Pinball Illusions" oder "Pinball Mania" am Amiga etwas plastischer wirken.

Doch die jeweils zwei Bildschirme großen Tische wissen dennoch gut zu gefallen, auch und gerade was ihr Design betrifft. So mangelt es den stets 336 x 500 Pixel großen Spielfeldern keineswegs an Bumpern, Kugelfallen und Zielen; auch inst die Ballanimation flott und realistisch geraten.

Die Tastatursteuerung hat man quasi von den nationalen Kollegen bei Digital Illusions übernommen, von daher läßt auch sie keine Wünsche offen: Dank der Prozentangabe kann die Kugel feinfühlig (z.B. für einen Skillshot) oder auch mit Karacho abgefeuert werden.

Auch die variantenreiche Rüttelei klappt in der Praxis sehr gut, nur leider fehlt eine Multiball-Option. Ebenso fehlt dem Programm eine Routine zur Festplatteninstallation, und die Highscoreliste geht nach dem Ausschalten der "Freundin" den Weg aller RAM-Daten.

Kein rundum befriedigendes Testergebnis also, aber doch eine Flipper-Sim, die ihrem Namen durchaus gerecht werden kann: Für Genrefreunde mögen die schicken und abwechslungsreichen Tableaus von Obsession vorübergehend tatsächlich zur Obsession werden.

Und weil man hier auch am Standard-Amiga süchtig werden kann, dürfte die neue Software-Droge das Markenzeichen "Made in Sweden" hierzulande wohl endgültig zum Gütesiegel erhoben haben! (mash)

Obsession logo

Only other people's are unhealthy.

Frightened as I am of most things in life (hence my reliance on cartoons for companionship: Bugs/Yakko=aspiration, Daffy=persecution complex, Duckman=fear of a failure, Frank Walker=omnipresent adversary figure - it's all there in Bleuler), I never do well at pinball for I am unwilling to bash the table about to stop the ball going down the sides.

I was therefore delighted to be introduced a year or so ago to Pinball Fantasies, where you surreptitiously pressed upon the space bar to bounce a ball abrink on disaster.

Furthermore, I was brimming with good humour at the discovery that you could 'nudge' a 'sidelaned' ball out of the 'drain', off the centre pin, off a flipper and back into play. Pinball Illusions, disappointingly, obliterated the centre pin and foiled this ploy.

But now, with Obsession, the ability to pluck my on-screen icon from certain death has been returned. It's terribly symbolic of something, although I'm sure I don't know what. But it keeps me chipper when Obsession begins to annoy me. Which it does. A lot.

Obsession, spectacularly obviously 'inspired' by fellow Swedemeisters Digital Illusions' Pinball series, is a straight port of the ST original, and that is silly. It's almost as if Pinball Fantasies and Illusions never happened - we're back to the chunky, relatively simple, slightly twee tables of Pinball Dreams

Obsession has no exciting LED animations, for example, concentrating instead on zooming numbers and words out at you. (There's a bit in the Exile Zone table where you assassinate someone, shown in the LED display as a cross-hair drifting over a box and the box vanishing. What about the surprised victim being shot, eh?)

There's no multiball either. (Although there will be in the A1200 version AS YOU WILL SEE). And remarkably few 'command' animations exhorting you compellingly to shoot certain ramps or targets (instead the game favours flashing arrows at you, which certainly isn't as thrilling).

Oh, and 'combo'-led scoring, involving shooting, say, the letters of the word 'OIL' and then getting the ball up the appropriate ramp before the letters stop flashing. (Although I'm assured this is a standard feature in pinball - the time limit, I mean - I don't like the idea of having skilfully to knock down targets and then losing the points because I didn't hit the ramp within ten seconds, or whatever.

Surely the trick is getting the angle right for the ramp, not being penalised for thinking it through - and remember this is what most of the game is about, not just some massive bonus shots. Still, I bow to superior pinball knowledge (Steve's) - I've not docked the game any points for this, but just thought I'd let you know).

Pluck my on-screen icon from death

It's obviously too much to expect Unique to have rewritten their game completely during the conversion, but in view of the competition they could at least have 'sherwoomph'-ed it up a bit. At least they could have bumped the point values: Obsession, in a slightly old-fashioned manner, awards scores in thousands, so you play for ages, do really well and find yourself top of the high-score table with 16,000,000. Science has proven that outrageously inflated bonuses running to hundreds of millions peps up the pinball experience no end, especially when you're in an eight-player tournament.

Far more seriously, the ball itself feels, in a way, 'off'. Instead of zooming about the tables, it tends to be 'sticky', defying your severest flipper-thumping to poodle about the lower half of the screen like strangely heavy plastic.

Even I, who am ignorant of the secret affinity with real pinball, was surprised at the way the ball would whirr down and bounce out of the 'hinge' of my prepared flipper when it should have rolled quietly to a stop.

Regarding individual tables, well, read the blessed boxes. I shall pause in the traditional manner while you do so. (Look, I known, but it's the way AMIGA POWER does pimball games).

Literally devices, eh? Anyway, as you'll have seen, I really like two of the tables, hate one and regard the last with amused indifference (but can see how other players will enjoy it). There are also a couple of stand-out friendly features: being able to switch off the music, jingles and samples, and sound effects separately, for example, and the manual giving a few tips on getting bonuses and the game relaying further hints if you balance the ball on a flipper.

And you get five balls instead of the usual three, which Steve tells me harkens back to the innocent days of pinball, before evil mega-global corporations stepped in and ground value-for-money beneath their jackbooted heels.

So. Final verdict, then?
Obsession's two good tables are highly commendable (the 'curvy bowling' feature especially), and the game as a whole has a certain older pinball charm, but it's infuriatingly incoherent. The ball does things it clearly shouldn't, keeping a mental picture of the whole table when playing for a ramp hidden by the scrolling is far harder than it should be thanks to the equally bright background pictures (there were moments when I 'lost' the ball altogether), and a game too often drifts back into a losing match against getting the blasted ball off the bottom half of the table.

I've a feeling I'll not be going back to it while the AP Pinball Fantasies disks still work. (Except, of course, they were stolen along with our A600 hard drive and good CD games.) Give it a try, anyway.


THE PLOT: Some bloke's robbed Captain Notpolite (I like Swedish jokes, me - this and Pinball Illusions' Extreme Death Bonus made me laugh out loud) of a treasure map. Uproot the treasure and flee, hurdy ho. Curses.
THE TABLE: It's the one on the coverdisk (except for A500 owners) (until next month, anyway), and everyone except me thinks it's the best of the tables. It's certainly the most rounded, with dozens of ramps and targets, a multiple hit thing (spell 'PEARL' on the oyster for a largeish bonus) and missions that involve shooting different ramps (exactly unlike the missions in Exile Zone).

It's also the only table to justify the variable-strength plunger, with a rollover skill shot when you first launch the ball. (The other three tables feed the ball straight to a flipper via a ramp, making a nonsense of holding down a button to make the ball go further). And, of course, it has the tremendous 'startle the starfish' ramp.

Loads to do, basically, with enough variety of shots to keep you interested, and an agreeably uncramped mid-table so you can see the ball coming. There's nothing outstanding here, but it's put together well (despite the gasthly chirpy music) and it's fun to play. I'm just not particularly fan of it.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * * * *


THE PLOT: Baseball.
THE TABLE: Supremely entertaining gimmick table - the only one to 'be' computer pinball. It's all to do with ramps, featuring ingenious bumpers astride the 'SAFE' rollovers which whack the ball about as you try to keep up. When you hit the centre box you get 'bowled' a looping cuver ball, a deceptive slow one or a nudge-before-it-goes-down-the-middle fast ball and have to hit the top ramp to steal bases. Lose that ball and you've still got two more 'strikes' before it's gone forever. It's a bit one-note, but I reckon it's fantastic.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * * * * *


THE PLOT: It's the Paris-Dakar rally.
THE TABLE: Easily the most 'together' of the four, with a followable 'story'and clearly defined goals (as opposed to blindly shooting at things and hoping everything works out). Shooting the speed loop or the right-hand translucent ramp earns you money: you then shoot the petrol station to fuel your car, finally flinging the ball up the centre ramp to light letters of 'PITSTOP' and so qualify for the next stage.

Alternatively, you can play craftily. Shooting the plcae loop moves you through the leading trio of drivers, for if you finish a stage in pole position you earn that most gratifying of pinball bonuses - the extra ball. More entertaining is spelling 'OIL' and then sthooting the stop sign top top up your car with rocket fuel - if you then shoot the pitstop ramp, you automatically qualify.

It's a blindingly fast table, with that crowded mid-section raining poorly-aimed balls back down upon you in a terrifying fashion. The pitstop ramp is satisfyingly challenging to hit squarely (although that exciting left-hand curve turns out to be part of the completely pointless plunger-to-flipper feed, curse it) and the targets are just over the scrolling if you're lining up a ball at the bottom.

Even the LED animations are fairly interesting, with cars being filled to the brim with petrol, and fireworks igniting for the rocket fuel bonus. Land sakes, even the combo time limits aren't as intrusive as usual. It would have benefited from a few more targets to break up the ramps, but still, eh? Ad the arrows are clearly visible.

Outrageously, when the ball is fed down the left lane after hitting the pitstop ramp, it can jigger out by itself into the outlane - a disaster that happens far too often to be marked down to the fortunes of the game. Hopefully the ball routines will be revamped for the A1200 version, which makes these painstakingly-linked tables look adequate if desperately dull publicity shots accepted gratefully from Unique when your screenshot-taking 'equipment' fell to bits at the last minte. That's torn it.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * * * * *


THE PLOT: Some sort of futurey thing, with you as an assassin trying to bump off an enemy gang leader. Or something. Oh, and they spell it 'X-ile'.
THE TABLE: It's by far the worst table of the four, not helped at all by the confusing backdrop. Three of the five ramps first oblige you to knock down the letters of 'WAR' (not forgetting, of course, that the letters stop flashing after ten or so seconds), and after spelling 'DEATH' to start a mission, it's massively disappointing to discover that this merely involves shooting the trap under the top-left ramp.

You never really feel you're in control, spending most of the time watching the ball bounce around the rollovers or (almost incredibly) hitting a kickback, bouncing into a wedge, and from there ricochetting back down the now empty sidelane. This happens around nine out of every ten times, and is indescribably angering. There's also a 'berserk' feature if you hit the lower right ramp repeatedly, and this is where the big bonuses are to be found, but it's an unpleasantly fiddly shot.

Nope, you're best not bothering with this one. But I do like the tune.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: *