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Pinball illusions AGA logo  AGA

When Shakespeare spoke of "Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms", he clearly was not anticipating this.

Runs on: A1200, CD32
Publisher: 21st Century Entertainment
Authors: Digital Illusions
Price: £30
Release: Early November

S Pinball illusions ecretly I am fascinated by pinball, but I hate it when people try to make me play it at the pub. "Come on," they say, "it is only a bit of fun. Look – we have selected a three-player game, so you will have to play or it won’t work. And it cannot possibly go straight down the middle this time". But it always does.
So pinball games on the Amiga are a great source of comfort to me. From safely within the confines of my bedroom I can play them to my heart’s content, the rest of the world insulated from my cries of "No! Not again!". I did it with Pinball Dreams, with Pinball Fantasies. And just recently I have been doing it with Pinball Illusions. And Pinball Illusions is by a slight but at the same time significant margin, the best yet.

You will probably already have spotted that, while Dreams, with Fantasies had four tables, Illusions has just three. This is the one disappointing thing about it, so we will get it out of the way right at the beginning. Apparently, Digital Illusions decided at the last minute that, out of the four tables they had designed, one was slightly crap. So they threw it away. And now there are only three. And it does note even cost less. Tch, eh?

But still. Distract yourself instead with thoughts of the multiball feature. (I wrote ‘multiballs’ on the cover when we first did it, but apparently it is ‘multiball’. Shows how much time I spend in pinball-playing circles, hmm?). This is activated either by getting two ball locks or hitting the right features, and causes three balls to bounce around the table at the same time.
This could be slightly confusing, especially when balls start disappearing off the top of the screen, but thankfully a swift stab at the H key throws the game into high-res mode. You can now see nearly all of the table on the screen at once, but miniaturised. Initially this evoked similar emotions in the AP office to the first time we saw a Competition Pro Mini joystick. Multiball does have its downside, though – without it the game might have been able to run on an A600.

Also improved in Pinball Illusions are the LED displays above the tables. They are now higher resolution, and have loads of little animations for when things happen down on the table. For example, on the Law and Justice table you get to see coppers chasing criminals across the top of the screen, and shooting them.

And with it being an AGA-only game, the graphics generally are great. The tables have all been digitised from paintings and are tremendously colourful, although sometimes it can be a little hard to tell what is hittable and what is just background.

Really, though, it is Pinball Dreams all over again, just as Pinball Fantasies was. And, when you think about it, it is hard to see what else they could have done. Pinball games like Dragon’s Fury on the Mega Drive do their own thing, adding baddies to knock out with the ball and bonus screens that you reach by knocking the ball into the right holes. But Digital Illusions have always aimed to recreate real-life pinball as accurately as possible, and they have managed just that with Pinball Illusions. Design-wise the tables are even closer to real ones than ever before, and there is not a single duffer among them. The Law and Justice one is the best as far as I am concerned (one of the reasons why you will find a demo of it on our coverdisk), with the other two being just a little too American (but still jolly good).

Lights flash, things go ping and clack, and the ball zips around like thre is no today, let alone tomorrow. The music is great, changing when you activate important features to heighten the drama. It is impossible to conceive of the Amiga getting any closer to playing pinball in a pub than this (at least, according to Steve and Jonathan, who do it all the time).

Amiga Power, Issue 43, November 1994, p.p.38-40

The first – and best – table casts you as a futuristic policeman, enforcing the law in a seedy, post-apocalyptic vision of etc. etc. (Although actually, of course, you are really just playing pinball). You must engage in high-speed pursuits, round up escaped prisoners, quell riots, defuse bombs, rescue hostages, and hunt down Johnny Crack. Perhaps the most sinister bit is when three terrified civilians run across the top of the screen, pursued by a policeman who shoots them in the back. Cagney and Lacey would never have behaved in this fashion. The throbbing techno-pop adds immeasurably to the tension (rather than causing you to flee down the room crying "Tool of the Devil" like the other two).

Although its name would normally earn its creators an AMIGA POWER knee-capping, this is Steve’s favourite table, so that is okay. He likes its ‘traditional’ 1950s look, and does not seem to mind a bit that it centres on the antics of tedious unemployed Americans and keeps writing things like ‘Excellent’ and ‘Woah’ at the top of the screen. Amusements include chicken racing, where you drive towards the edge of a cliff, burders, where you make bigger and bigger and then eat, a Beach Gym and a jukebox from which you can pick different tunes. The music, though, is of a pseudo-Beach Boys persuasion, complete with synthesised singing in harmony, and is thoroughly aggravating.

And the third table is really good as well, despite having perhaps the worst music of the month. It is a kind of, oh, grunge heavy metal thrash, you would probably call it, and will completely destroy your will to live within seonds unless you switch it off. The table, meanwhile, is based on dangerous sports like bungee jumping and rock climbing. (Golf is not mentioned). The animations at the top of the screen who you falling off cliffs and diving into the sea, and there is also a bit involving a goat. And a Maniac Skier Jackpot and a Super Iron Man Jackpot. Although this was the table we played the least, that was probably more to do with our personal musical tolerances than any inherent flaws in design.

"Now there are only three"

"Just a little American"

Thanks to being A1200/CD32 only, Pinball Illusions is the first game in the series to feature a multiball facility. It is activated using complicated pinball methods, and causes two or three balls to rattle around the table at once. In a game like Pinball Illusions, where you can only see a bit of the table at once, this could easily be confusing – which ball should the scrolling follow? Thankfully, though, Pinball Illusions also features a high-res mode, which shows nearly all the table on the screen at once. Phew.

"A swift stab at the H"

Upper UPPERS Table for table the best pinball game on the Amiga. There is stuff going on all the time, with no dull ‘dead ball’ moments. The atmosphere and everything is perfect. And now it has got multiball.
Downer DOWNERS If you are used to four tables in these things, you will inevitably be slightly disappointed. We hate the music on Extreme Sports. And really of course it is just Dreams, and Fantasies again, with a couple of new gimmicks.

A tough call, in a way, with there being one less table. But the quality of the three we have got is compensation enough. After all, as Steve so wisely observes, would you mark a platform game down for having 60 levels rather than 80? No you would not.


Pinball illusions AGA logo  AGA

Price: £29.99   Publisher: 21st Century Entertainment   081 988 8888

He is a pinball wizard, there has to be a twist, that Pinball Wizard has such a subtle wrist... ahem, as the song goes. Jim Conway tickles the flippers.

Pinball illusions M y first on-screen pinball outing was Devil Crash on the PC Engine, and what a game it was. But I did not have a PC Engine of my own and the friend who did eventually moved away. Then Pinball Dreams dawned on the Amiga, followed by Pinball Fantasies, and happiness returned to my household. Then it all went quiet, until this year when a poor attempt called Ultimate Pinball Quest darkened my disk drive.

Then around last September, plans for Pinball Illusions were announced and there was great rejoicing. This game was to be the most realistic yet, with AGA graphics, detailed tables and much improved sound. But it continued to be an illusions, with the rest of the Amiga press giving it middling to high review marks, despite 21st Century holding back its release (originally planned for Christmas), until the game was perfect. Well now they have finally got it right. The enhanced graphics (the game is A1200/A4000 only) do two things. They not only increase the realism of the tables, which scroll up and down, but they also have allowed the inclusion of a high resolution full screen mode. The screen snaps from low resolution to hi-res interlace when you get a multi-ball, so you see twice as much of the table, allowing you to keep track of both balls. You can switch between the high and low resolution modes at any time with the F9 and F10 keys.

The three tables are called Law ‘N’ Justice, Babewatch and Extreme Sports, and each comes equipped with three flippers. Law ‘N’ Justice has 17 scoring missions, and is based around police chases, jailbreaks and hostages. Scoring includes everything from simple ramp combos to more complicated specific targeting. The Babewatch table involves scoring in more ways than one: the idea behind it is to attract babes by surfing and lifting weights, and it even has a gambling casino. The Dangerous Sports table is inhabited by the likes of the bloke from the Volvo 850 TV advertisement (the ‘control freak’). It is all about living life to the limit, scoring combos, climbing cliffs and bungee jumping by shooting ramps. If 21st Century had been on the ball they might even got the table sponsored by Pepsi Max.

Pinball illusions True to life
These are definitely the most realistic Pinball tables yet. The ball has a beautiful sheen and the lighting and scoring panel are pretty convincing. The flippers are also realistically sprung and the ball movement off the bumpers is very accurate. However, I would have liked a more realistic press and release spring mechanism for shooting the balls. The tables are not actually set up in a way that is affected by the initial speed of the ball, but this facility, which was about the most realistic thing about Ultimate Pinball Quest, would have perfected Illusions.

Other niggles include the sound which, although good enough in the music stakes, does not recreate the genuine pinball experience which should include flipper noises, ringing bumpers and so on. I also did not like the choice of pink as the colour for the surround on the Extreme Sports table. It does not seem fitting. The hi-res versions of each table are also really too small to be practical, although toggling between high and low-res is both easy and fast, so this is not really any disadvantage. It is really more a sort of stunted advantage.

Still the best
If Pinball Illusions is the last ever pinball sim on the Amiga (21st Century will not conform or deny this and nobody else has plans for one at the moment) then it is not a bad game to bow out on. It is beautiful and addictive and although it does not excite me as much as its predecessors, it is still a top game. It does not quite give you the same feeling ass a genuine pinball table, but for computer pinball fans it is pretty much an essential purchase.

CU Amiga, March 1995, p.58









workbench version: 3+

number of disks: 4


hard disk installable: yes









A genuine piece of pinball wizardry.

Pinball illusions CD32 logo  CD32  CU Super Star

Price: £29.99   Publisher: 21st Century Entertainment   01235 832939

I Pinball illusions CD32 f, as 21st Century claim, Pinball Illusions is their last pinball game on Amiga or CD32, then they will have exited on a very good note, indeed.
Easily the most polished of the Dreams and Fantasies series it brings us three tables, top graphics and a couple of spanking good tunes, even though they sound like those Barclays Bank advertisements on telly.

The most innovative thing about this version is its high resolution full screen mode, where about 70% of the table is shown with minimum reduction in graphic detail. This allows very effective multi-ball play and can be toggled on or off easily by pressing right on the direction pad.
The controls make very good use of the CD32’s joypad buttons: pause starts the game, green shoots the ball, red shakes the table vertically, the shoulder buttons shake it horizontally, yellow quits the table while left direction pad and the blue button control left and right paddles respectively.

The three tables are called Law N’ Justice, Babewatch and Extreme Sports and each of them has three flippers.
Law N’ Justice is based on police chases and jailbreaks, Babewatch involves attracting babes by showing off your surfing skills, lifting weights and also has a gambling casino, while the Dangerous Sports table contains Point Break style dudes, bungy jumping and the like.

The tables are very realistic, the scrolling ultra smooth and the timing of the lights and bumper collisions is just right. Although the music is good the sound effects still lack atmosphere; this is something that has not changed in the CD version.

When it comes down to it though the game could have been made for the CD32. It works brilliantly on it and although there are those who disagree with me I am convinced that its joypad control is almost perfect, much better than the Amiga’s keyboard control. That, allied to the immediacy of the CD format makes it a winner. Better than the Amiga version. Just.
Alan Dykes

CU Amiga, June 1995, p.63

CD32 pad A Launch ball
B Exit table
D Shake table
E Shake left
F Shake right
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