Don't get yer flippers in a twist

Pinball Dreams logo

21st CENTURY ENTERTAINMENT * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Keyboard * Out now

Pinball on the Amiga. Now there's a neglected area. I honestly can't remember ever seeing a pinball game on our fudge-coloured friend. There probably were a couple, but I'd bet my complete A-Team sticker album that they were crap. But now 21st Century Entertainment have chosen to take their claim with Pinball Dreams.

Of course, pinball brings back all those memories of misspent childhoods in smokey arcades, and dodgy old Who records. "That deaf, dumb and blind kid, he sure plays a mean pinball!" they warbled. This sounded like an interesting notion, so we set up a little experiment.
We loaded up Pinball Dreams, and plonked Biffa in a chair. We then blindfolded him, gagged him and stuck Blu-Tac in his ears. "Go on Biff, play a mean pinball" we ordered. He wobbled around for a bit, grunted and then fell off the chair. SO, for the best results on Pinball Dreams, don't rely on crap rock operas by crumbly dinosaur rock bands. They're liars.

With that little test out of the way, and leaving Biff struggling away in the corner, the more able-bodied among us got on with playing Pinball Dreams. And it's a bit good if the truth to be told.

Indeed, Biff really doesn't know what he's missing. With his blindfold he can't see the massive tables - almost three screens high - the full screen display, the smooths scrolling and pixel-perfect collision detection. With Blu-Tac shoved firmly in each ear, he can't hear the many groovy tunes and sound effects and with his gag he can't complain about it either, I should have done this sooner.

In Pinball Dreams, you get four tables to choose from. Admittedly, that's not really enough, but there is an eight-player option, so if you can get some mates round it should last you a good while.

The first is Ignition, and as you can see from the piccy, it's set in space. You also get Steel Wheel (a Western railway game), Beat Box (set in the music biz) and Nightmare, which is based around, erm, a nightmare. Each table has its own tune and sound effects, as well as having a very distinctive design.

Control is extremely simple. Use the down cursor key to pull back and release the spring, and shoot the ball into play. The left and right Shift keys control the flippers, and if you want to cheat then Space will tilt the table. However, over-enthusiastic tilting will forget your turn.

And that's it. Just keep the ball in play and try and smash the high scores, which are saved to the disk each time you play. The best thing about Pinball Dreams is that, as well as being great to look and listen to, it's brilliant to play. The way the ball moves is unnervingly realistic, wand while there aren't really that many features on each table, it manages to keep the excitement going without appearing too cluttered or empty.

And as for the addiction level, well, imagine having a pinball table but not having to play to play it. It's very, very hard to resist just having another quick bash.
The morning we got it, we booted it up about half nine and it didn't get turned off again until five o'clock. It's now ten past nine in the morning and already Darren is well into his third game. Addictive? You could say that.

There is one criticism, and that's that for nearly £26 you don't get enough variety. Once you've mastered all for tables, the appeal might not be as great. A table editor would've been a nice idea. Or even the option for further tables on separate data disks.

Even so, what you do get is a maddeningly addictive pinball simulator with the added bonus of an eight-player option. If pinball is your thang, then get hold of it immediately.
OK, get off the Amiga, Darren. It's my turn now. Hang about, is Biff supposed to be that purple colour? Oops.

Pinball Dreams logo

Your Amiga may well be deaf, dumb and blind - but it can still play a mean pinball, as 21st Century Entertainment prove with Pinball Dreams. With eightplayer action and four different tables for you to master (each with real character and secrets to discover), this game comes as close to matching the thrill of playing the real thing as you're ever likely to get without venturing down to the murky dinginess of your local arcade or your local.

If a pinball game's going to be a success on the home computer, then the graphics got to be smooth, but most importantly the 'feel' of the ball has got to be spot-on. Pinball Dreams achieves this and more. 50 screens per second scrolling ensures smooth-as-silk movement and the ball bounces and rolls as realistically as anyone could have hoped.

Soho down to Brighton
Once these technical obstacles have been successfully negotiated, the world is your lobster. Without the limitations of gravity, size, expense and all number of other spoil-sport laws of physics dictating the design of your table, in theory computer pinball should be better than the real thing. Imagine teleports, gravity-switching buttons to aim for, balls splitting and then regrouping, moving target on the table.

But for some reason, 21st Century have decided to settle for realism as opposed to Silverball meets Star Wars fantasy. Hence the four tables steadfastly remain within the realms of the physically possible. All four tables feature only two flippers, all four tables shunt the ball around with meticulous attention to Newton's laws and all four tables offer nothing that can't be found in existing, real, actual pinball tables.

So if Pinball Dreams offers nothing that can't be found in any pub or arcade, why is it so ridiculously addictive? Because what 21st Century Software have done is recognise a brilliant game concept when they saw one. Pinball is such a classic game, it doesn't need tarting up I order for it to appeal. The four tables we have on offer here are enough to satisfy the appetite of any would-be Tommy.

Four starters
Table One is 'Ignition'. This is the easiest of the lot, following a Forbidden Planet, space-ship, lift-off sort of theme. As with all the other tables there are special bonuses and rewards to be played for. Luckily the instruction manual explains what exactly is asked of the player, detailing the correct sequence of targets that must be hit in order to access particular bonuses. This makes things a lot easier than in the pub, when a detailed (if casual) inspection of the locals' talents is the only way to working out what targets do what.

Table number two is 'Steel Wheel', based on an American rail-road. Table Three is 'Beat Box', in which you must play for the benefit of a struggling pop band - earning record deals, tours, and foreign signings as well as the usual point bonuses and extra balls. Lastly comes the awesome 'Nightmare' table. The soundtrack sends shivers down the spine as your little silver-ball is catapulted, flicked and slapped about the table.

Pinball Dreams is great fun to play, looks great, sounds awesome and faithfully reproduces all the thrills and spills of the real game - you can even tilt the table with a quick tap of the space bar.

Of course £25.99 is a lot of money, but if a favourite pinball table still clings on to a niche in your gamesplaying hear (I'm still a sucker for a quick 'Go For The Hill' courtesy of Banzai Run), then Pinball Dreams will do nothing but bring a smile to your face.

Flipper ist unser bester Freund!

Pinball Dreams logo Amiga Joker Hit

Nach der etwas kläglich geratenen Action-Arie "Rubicon" haben sich die Jungs von 21st century kräftig am Riemen gerissen. Das Ergebnis: eine der besten Flippersimulationen für den Amiga!

Keine Frage! Pinball Dreams ist wirklich ein Traum von einem Computer-Flipper, das Teil hat allemal Spielhallenqualität! Wozu also noch in üble Spelunken schweifen, liegt das Gute doch so nah: Wer mag (und über ein Zimmer von der Größe eines kleineren Stadtpark verfügt), darf die schnelle Silberkügel hier sogar mit bis zu sieben Freunden gemeinsam scheuchen - hintereinander, versteht sich, aber das ist in der Kneipe ja auch nicht anders. Was, Ihr habt nur ein Wohnklo und bleibt sowieso lieber alleine? Auch kein Problem, der Spaß im Solo-Betrieb ist (fast) derselbe!

Dafür sorgen in erster Linie die vier verschiedenen Flipper mit unterschiedlichem Schwierigkeitsgrad, die im Hauptmenü einzeln angewählt werden können. Jeder davon ist zwei Bildschirme groß und ein wahres Grafikwunder: Gescrollt wird fließend und ohne störende Verzögerungen, die absolut realistisch animierte Kugel trägt das ihre zum rasanten Spielablauf bei.

Auch von der musikalischen Seite verwöhnt Pinball Dreams seine Spieler; passend zum jeweiligen Flipper ertönen flotte Rhythmen und eindringliche Melodien, witzige Soundeffekte machen den Ohrenschmaus komplett. Wählt man beispielsweise "Steel Wheels", so trällert ein Country-Heuler aus dem Speaker, Züge schnaufen vorbei, Pistolen knallen, ja selbst digitalisierte Sprachausgabe ist mit von der Partie.

Und auch bei der Bedienung haben sich die Programmierer keinen Schnitzer geleistet. Gesteuert wird äußerst präzise über das Keyboard, jede Shift-, Alt- oder Amiga-Taste bewegt das Paddle auf der entsprechenden Seite, und per Cursor-Taste kommt der Ball ins Spielfeld (das geht zwar auch per Maus, aber wozu eigentlich?).

Nein, da gibt es wirklich nicht viel zu verbessern, zumal sich die Kugel jederzeit prima stoppen läßt, und per Space auch kräftig am Gerät gerüttelt werden kann. Wer zu kräftig hinlangt, braucht hier zwar keine bösen Blicke vom Wirt zu befürchten, sollte aber mit einem stilgerechten "Tilt" rechnen - dann stellt sich der Kasten wie üblich taub und verweigert weitere Einflußnahme, außerdem wird der Bonus für den gerade gespielten Ball gelöscht, Apropos Bumper, apropos Bonus: Alle vier "Level" sind vorzüglich designt, mit reichlich Bumpern, Rampen, Lämpchen, Extra-Optionen (Zusatzball, etc.) und was der Flipper-Freuden mehr sind.

Man kann es gar nicht oft genug sagen, bei Pinball Dreams stimmt einfach alles: Grafik, Sound und vor allem die erstklassige Spielbarkeit. Nach langer Durststrecke endlich wieder eine durchdachte Flipper-Simulation, die Stimmung und Action satt garantiert - wer sich nur ein bißchen für dieses Genre erwärmen kann, sollte die 79 Markstücke investieren! (pb)

Pinball Dreams logo

From out of nowhere comes the definitive pintable sim...

Pinball, eh? Don't you just love it? I certainly do. One of the oldes forms of coin-op entertainment, it's enjoyed something of a resurgence in the last couple of years as arcade kids got bored with the hopelessly hackneyed beat/shoot-'em ups videa game manufacturers have been content to churn out by the thousand since about 1985.

Perhaps surprisingly, this hasn't been reflected in the computer market, with only Activision's Time Scanner and Pinball Magic (a French game which has more of a pinball-based computer game than a straight pinball reproduction) offering Amiga gamers the chance to play the deaf, dumb and blin kid.

Now there's Pinball Dreams, which gives you four different scrolling tables to play - A couple of which bear striking similarities to pintables in the arcades at the moment, namely The Machine and T2 - each with its own theme, music, sound effects and layout, and all the great features you'd expect from pinball, like flippers, balls, bumpers, multiple players and, all that kind of stuff. And guess what? It's bloody great.

Now, as a self-confessed pinball lover who spent an entire day playing this solidly when it appeared thus getting no work done whatsoever (and who keeps sneaking back to it when no-one's looking), my gut instinct is to rate this around, ooh, 96 percent or so. That would, however, be a smidgen unrealistic, so let's start off by picking a few pedantic little holes in it.

Firstly, the scrolling table format makes multi-ball play unfeasible (which ball would the scrolling follow?), something which is the crux of most new arcade pins. Secondly, while the four tables you do get are extremely playable, they're not the most imaginative ever designed - lots of things which could have been easily implemented (like plunger skill shots, which practically no arcade pin is without these days) aren't, and it can make the tables a tiny bit repetitive.

And lastly - well, actually, I can't think of anything else. I suppose a construction kit option would have been nice for when you get bored of the four tables supplied, but then you could say that about almost any game - no-one moans about for being able to design new levels for, say, Formula One Grand Prix, so it's a bit of an artificial criticism.

There's one other problem, of course. More than a few people around the office have suggested that while this is indeed a lovely game, £26 for a pinball sim is a bit over the top. It's a reasonable complaint, and I'd certainly have preferred to see this nearer the £20 mark, but if you compare the amount of time you'll spend playing this with the amount of playing time you'll get from, say, The Secret Of Monkey Island or Another World (not that I've got anything against either of those), it doesn't seem like such a bad deal after all. Like Cliff Richard, Pinball Dreams is a game which will never really age. But unlike Cliff Richard, it's not totally crap.

Anyway, that's the objective bit out of the way. What I really want to say is "Ignore all that whinging, Pinball Dreams is a beautiful pinball game, closer to the real thing than any other attempt I've seen on any machine, and gorgeously presented with great sonics and some lovely graphical touches, convincing ball movement and more playability than almost anything in the world. Go and buy it once." So that's what I'll say:
Ignore all the whinging, Pinball Dreams is beautiful (Snip! Ed).

Pinball Dreams logo

21st Century Entertainment claim that Pinball Dreams is the world's first Amiga Pinball simulator. Hardly. For if you look back a few years, you may remember an excellent little bumpers and balls number called Pinball Wizard. Misinformation aside, Pinball Dreams is still rather good.

Four tables are on offer: Space, Wild West, Dance Music, and a Nightmare table based loosely on the coin-op Terminator 2 table. The design of the tables are all pretty simple, with the usual array of bumpers, flippers and flickering lights. Playing the tables is simplicity itself, with the mouse sending the ball into play and the Shift keys activating the flippers. In addition, the space bar is used to nudge the ball - although too much nudging will cause it to 'Tilt', rendering the flippers useless.

During play, the tables scroll to follow the ball, and each spans two full screens. Although this may seem a little off-putting, it works very well and adds to the instinctive nature a Pinball sim needs.

Real tables can be very frustrating, with loads of places for the ball to avoid your flippers, and 21st Century's game features an equally devious array. I've never been an avid player of the real machines, but it used to wind me up no end to see the ball sail cleanly between my flippers or one of the aforementioned gulfs.

The fact that this game got me as worked up as the real thing, is as good a compliment regarding its realism that you're ever likely to hear. In addition, the all-important ball movement is equally good, with no quirks to the bouncing or jerky rebounds.

The presentation is also amazing. All the flashing lights and impressive samples of a true table are present, as are all the pings, squeals, digitised speech and small snatches of music.

Basically, this is playable stuff and, as far as I'm concerned, utterly addictive. Pinball Dreams may not have been the first, but it's definitely the best so far. True pinball fun without a coin slot.

Pinball Dreams logo

Duncan MacDonald once had a nightmare in which one of his testicles was pierced by a very long, very thin, very sharp piece of metal. As far as he was concerned, this made him the ideal person to review Pinball Dreams from 21st Century.

We can't believe we're about to do this, but we are. We're actually going to explain the rules of pinball to you. Why? You may well ask. It's not as if any of you won't know how to play pinball - it's just a case of stopping the ball dropping down between the flippers.

However, if Pinball Dreams was an American football game, we'd tell you the rules. If Pinball Dreams was a water-polo game, we'd have to tell you the rules. If Pinball Dreams was an ice hockey game we'd have to tell you the rules. (Yes, we get the idea. Ed.) As it happens, Pinball Dreams is a pinball game. So we're going to tell you the rules. Sorry and all that, but here we go...

Rule One: You have to stop your ball dropping down between the flippers.
Rule Two: You have to get the highest score you can by bouncing your ball off the flippers and onto the targets. You have to try to light up everything which can be lit up.
Rule Three: You have to stop your ball dropping down the flippers.

And there you have them - the rules of pinball. If you can manage to stick to rules one and three, rule two generally takes care of itself (eventually). Pinball, eh? What a blinkin' little scamp of an invention. Bless its socks.
All you really need to know about Pinball Dreams, apart from the fact that up to eight players can take part, is that there are four tables to choose from - each loading with its own music and sound effects. Here's a quick run through.

IGNITION: This table looks a bit 'spacy'. The music and sound effects are a bit ''spacy' as well. Yup, it's spacy alright. There's a picture of a space shuttle for you to light up, in case you don't believe us..
STEEL WHEEL: This one's a bit 'wild west steamy-trainy' in the graphics department, while the music and sound effects follow suit. "Wheeeee... chuff, chuff... yee-har!" (and more besides).
BEAT-BOX: Yes, it's all beat-boxy. Ravy writing and funky sounds akimbo, with James Brown samples (amongst others) punctuating a particularly good shot.
NIGHTMARE: Horror visuals with a soundtrack to match. Scary sound samples let you know when you're doing well, but when you lose it turns to an evil cackle. It's a nightmare.

Amiga reviewSean: To say that there are loads of pinball games on the Amiga would be like saying Jonathan King isn't an obnoxious git. It's simply not true. Jonathan King is an obnoxious git and there aren't many pinball games for the Amiga.

I can only think of two, actually: Pinball Simulator from Code Masters (crap) and Time Scanners from Activision (okay). So what about Pinball Dreams then? Well, first off, Pinball Dreams does what it does (i.e. plays pinball) excellently. The graphics are excellent, the music is excellent, the sound effects are excellent, the table designs are excellent and the ball behaviour is excellent (although it's maybe a little on the 'light' side, if you know what I mean), So, there you go - four computer pinball tables for the fraction of the cost of the real thing.

My only gripe is that things don't go any further. Using the computer as a medium, the world can be your oyster - take the Mega Drive game Devil Crash. for example - a pinball machine crossed with a shoot 'em up. Brill! If only Pinball Dreams stacked the tables on top of one another, and you had to get a certain score before a 'gate' opened to allow you upwards access. If only there were lasers which you could blast your ball with, instead of relying on 'table shake'. If only you could... but there are lots of 'ifs' and this is supposed to be a review, not a think-thank, so I'll shut up. Let's call Pinball Dreams a pinball game for the purist and have done with it.

If you want a very good, plain and simple, no techno-frills attached pinball-game, Pinball Dreams is your baby. It's that straightforward. Stop