He's the Pinball Wizard

Pinball Fantasies logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

Psygnosis * £25.99 * 1 meg * Mouse * Out Now

A sure sign of a misspent youth is a good pinball player, in which case I think our resident teenage delinquent/old man Dazza had a childhood similar to that of Oliver Twist. Whereas I personally was a good, God-fearing child who never went anywhere near such things as the pinball machine - I was an Afterburner and Galaxians man myself. Biff wasn't born, as he is a genetic experiment gone tragically wrong.

Alas there is no escaping the simulation bandwagon, and one must put up with such things. All right, I admit it, it's very good. In fact as far as simulations go this is one of the most realistic I've seen. I'm more used to seeing rubbish football manager games and flight sims with the minimum specification being a MENSA member.

On starting the game you have the choice of four tables. They all act like the real thing, and none is easier than the others. Your playing screen is the view you would normally have of a real table. You can't see all of it at once as you could in the older console-type pinball games, but this means you get a closer, clearer view of the part you are concerned with.

The table scrolls with the ball when you knock it up the table with the flippers. You might think that this would be a bit confusing to watch, but the scrolling is silk smooth.

Graphically the game is fantastic and all the illustrations on the bed of the machine are colourful. The ball's movement is perfectly smooth, even though on some of the tables it gets flung around at a hell of a rate.

I played first on table two. The theme here is rally driving, and an unusual feature is extra flipper which involves a hell of a lot of skill to use it effectively. When using the other flipper it was almost as though you were playing independently of the lower table - you could get massive scores at the top.

Themes of the other tables are a game show, horror setting and theme park, all with their little quirks. A lot of the time you not only control the flippers but also small games of skill further up the table, like moving the light which the ball will run over - very simple but very effective.

I think the only thing lacking is a multiball sequence with two or more balls on the screen, but it's understandable they didn't do this as multiball scrolling would be a nightmare.

To polish off their product 21st Century have added cracking theme tunes, even a creepy one for the horror table. Also they've got a direct sample of the flipper noises, so as you can imagine it's pretty convincing. The music itself at first sounds pretty dodgy but they are very cleverly written and irritatingly catchy tunes.

If you have Pinball Dreams there might not be much point buying Pinball Fantasies, but if you were madly in love with it then this is probably well worth a look because of the extra features it offers.



Pinball Fantasies logo

Pinball Dreams was widely acclaimed as one of the most addictive games on the Amiga. For those pinball wizkads who can't get enough of it, up pops the sequel to set your flippers a-flippin'...

Earlier this year, 21st Century Entertainment proved that the age-old game of pinball can be faithfully reproduced on the Amiga by releasing the incredibly popular Pinball Dreams. On the face of it the game seems to be quite simple, but when you consider all the physical components programmed in it to make it realistic, such as gravity and momentum, it takes on a whole new complexity.

Not concerned with extending the game to introduce features which couldn't be possible in the real world. 21st Century concentrated on producing a game that was as close to coin-op pinball as possible - and as anyone who has played Pinball Dreams will tell you, it couldn't be much more realistic.

There were a few niggly points that spoiled the lastability of the game, such as the limited number of flippers and lack of special sequences (such as multi ball).

Play on your fantasies
Enter the sequel: Pinball Fantasies. Opening the box gives you a clue that something must be different here - the game comes on three disks instead of the original two. On loading, it takes on the polished look of its predecessor and it's only when you start playing a table that you realise just how different the game is. Although there are still only four tables to choose from, each is incredibly large and features three flippers instead of two.

Dead good scrolls
As with Dreams, the tables scroll vertically depending on the position of the ball - a feature your eyes will probably take a while to get used to. Loads of imagination has gone into designing the game, with each of the four tables based on a single theme: Partyland, featuring ducks, snacks, cyclones and skyrides; Speed Devils, with pit stops, speed bonuses, off-road and speed ramps; Billion Dollar Gameshow, including expensive prizes, super jackpots and cash bonuses; and Stones 'n' Bones, featuring bats, devils, mummies, ghosts and the Grim Reaper.

The graphics are excellent: there are large, colourful backdrops which scroll smoothly up and down, and a plethora of features crammed into each table. The sound manages to recreate exactly the repetitive tunes that are found on traditional pinball tables, but thankfully they can be turned off if required. The spot effects are excellent, with some nice sampled sounds adding to the atmosphere of the game.

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes pinball addictive, both with this version and the ever popular ball-bearing-based arcade game. Maybe it's just that utterly infuriating feeling when the ball drops down between the flippers, and you curse and swear that it won't happen the next time; or then again it could be just the bells, pops, whistles and flashing lights that draw you in time and time again. Whatever it is, the pull just gets stronger each time you play.

If your art editor Marcus hadn't made a concerted effort to yank himself away from his monitor after several days of solid playing, this issue may never have been finished on time. Almost everyone in the office was bitten by the bug at one time or another, causing a situation that hasn't been since the release of Anco's productivity-destroying footie blast Kick Off 2 (Never mind Speedball 2. Ed.)

So could this flippery fantasy be improved on? Of course it could, but for now Pinball Fantasies is certainly the best pinball simulator available for the Amiga, and one of the most maddeningly addictive games we've come across of late. Well done 21st Century Entertainment - roll on the sequel to the sequel because we want more!



Der Ball, aus dem Träume sind?

Pinball Fantasies logo Amiga Joker Hit

Gerade mal acht Monate liegen zwischen 21st Centurys phantastischem Debut-Flipper "Pinball Dreams" und seinem Nachfolger - können die Spielhallenbesitzer jetzt endgültig ihre Läden dichtmachen?

Nein, soweit ist es noch nicht, denn statt Revolution bietet Pinball Fantasies "nur" Evolution; sprich vier neue Unterlagen für die schnelle Silberkugel. Die narrensichere Tastatur-Steuerung (die Maus dient nach wie vor nur zum Starten des Balls) wurde also praktisch 1:1 vom Vorflipper übernommen, aber abgesehen von der obligaten Rempel-Taste, gab und gibt es daran schließlich auch nichts zu rütteln...

Was nun den Spielspaß betrifft, steht das zweite Digi-Pinball dem ersten nicht nach, erneut sind Design und Optik über alle Zweifel erhaben: "Partyland" startet mit einem kunterbunten Jahrmarkts-Hintergrund, "Speed-Devils" präsentiert verschiedene Motive rund ums Auto, die "Billion Dollar Gameshow" zeigt sich im Glücksrad-Gewand, und "Stones 'n' Bones" kommt im Fantasy-Look samt Totenköpfen daher.

Die Anordnung der Bumer, Rampen, Boni etc. ist raffiniert und ausgefuchst wie eh und je; vermißt haben wir lediglich Freispiele und die Möglichkeit, mehrere Bälle auf einmal durch die Gegend bugsieren zu können. Naja, zum Ausgleich verlost die Rechner nach dem Game Over via Zufallsgenerator einen Extraball.

Besonderes Augenmerk richtete das schwedische Programmierteam von Digital Illusions diesmal auf vertrackt angeordnete Transportkanäle, die immer eine höllische Konzentration darauf verlangen, wo die Kugel im nächsten Moment wieder auftaucht.

Überhaupt ist Geschwindigkeit hier Trumpf! Jede der farbenfrohen Stages ist über zwei Screens groß und wird blitz-schnell und butterweich nach oben bzw. unten gescrollt; die Kugel flitzt nicht nur rasant über die Plattform, auch das Rollverhalten (Bahn, Beschleunigung, Aufpralldämpfung) steht dem ihrer "echten" Kneipen-Kollegen nicht nach. In punkto Sound hat Pinball Fantasies gegenüber dem Vorgänger noch einmal leicht zugelegt: Die Begleitmusiken passen stets prima zum Thema des jeweiligen Levels und klingen nun noch einen Deut rhythmischer und origineller; auch die Sound-FX rumpeln nun etwas kraftvoller aus dem Lautsprecher.

Darüberhinaus sind noch Detailverbesserungen zu vermelden, etwa daß die Highscores hier nicht mehr "komplett", sondern für jeden Flipper einzeln gespeichert werden. Auch das Anzeigeboard hat erkennbar an Lesbarkeit gewonnen, und statt sieben Spielern, dürfen nun derer acht (hintereinander) die Kugel scheuchen. Die Frage ist bloß, ob derlei Fortschritte nicht auch in Form einer preisgünstigen Datadisk machbar gewesen wären?

Naja, grau ist bekanntlich alle Theorie, und in der Praxis werden zumindest all jene von Pinball Fantasies begeistert sein, die den Vorgänger noch nicht besitzen. Und eingefleischte Pinball-Träumer können sich ja (hoffentlich) bei einem kleinen Probespielchen ihr eigenes Bild machen... (pb)



Pinball Fantasies logo

Every once in a while, a game arrives in the AP office which brings our mighty labours to a standstill.

I think we all pretty much know the score with Pinball Dreams by now, don't we? (If you don't, pop over to the Readers' All-Time Top 100 on page 79). It came from nowhere, but almost instantly became one of the most popular Amiga games of the year, as flipper-fun-starved silver ball fanatics lapped up its fast, smooth, and above all realistic arcade pintable feel (almost all the previous attempts at Amiga pinball had lacked either realistic ball structures or lifelike ball movement, or even both).

This sequel, then, had been eagerly awaited since it was announced, which can be a little dangerous - the element of surprise that served Pinball Dreams so well had disappeared, and authors Digital Illusions found themselves having to match up to some pretty hefty expectations. How did they cope? Read on and find out.


Party Land: A table of totally top terrificness

HOW THEY COPED
Well, they basically wrote Pinball Dreams all over again. Pinball Fantasies' biggest flaw - and its biggest strength - is that it disrupts very little of the winning formula of the earlier game.

It's a bit faster-moving (the tables seem to be tilted more steeply), the flippers (of which you get more - three of the four tables now have three flippers each) are all, deeper, more realistic than before, and there are a few slightly more complex features (split rail channels, kickbacks, score-locked barriers and a few more), but the game engine itself feels almost identical (no multiball, for example).

With that in mind, then, let's forget about the game engine. In the four boxes around these pages, you'll find a little mini-review of each of the game's tables as a pinball game in its own right. Go and read those, then come back and join me for the last paragraph. Well, go on, then...


Busier tables and faster action than Pinball Dreams

THE LAST PARAGRAPH
So there you have it. One brilliant table, two good ones, and one slightly ropey one. Whichever way you look at it, that's four pinball tables in your home for £30 and - whoa! THIRTY quid? Surely with half the game already written, there's no feasible excuse for this being priced at a fiver above the tag on Dreams?

They certainly didn't spend a load of extra cash on the sound - several little jingles and snippets on the Stones 'N' Bones table, for example, have been lifted straight from the Nightmare table in Pinball Dreams., and the effects on all the tables are the same as in the previous game. This is my biggest (and it's not really very big) gripe with Pinball Fantasies - the sound effects are pretty tinny and weedy, and don't really convey the physical thump and clatter of the real thng very well at all.

But I guess you can't have it all. This is still a brilliant game, so save yourself up 30 quid, grimace a bit as you hand it over to the shopkeeper and grumble a bit about market forces and profit margins, but buy Pinball Fantasies anyway.


PARTY LAND

A gorgeous table, similar in feel to the corking arcade machine Hurricane, in which you seemingly have to eat lots of fairground-type junk food and then go on lots of stomach-churring rides unti, you, er, throw it all up again (by lighting the P-U-K-E lights, of course). Loads of stuff to do, skill shots at the start, hidden and secret features a-go-go and some excellent bonus rounds to go for. A table of totally top terrificness, and one which certainly wouldn't look out of place in any arcade.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * * * * *

SPEED DEVILS

A bit odd, this one. The bottom half of the table is almost completely empty, and the top half is taken up by a rather slow-moving and none too feature-packed section which seems to consist mainly of an uneventful loop to nowhere very interesting. There's actually plenty to do on the table, but none of it is very instinctive or entertaining, and moments when you're actually in danger of losing the ball between your flippers are few and far between, meaning this is pretty low on thrills.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * *

BILLION DOLLAR GAME SHOW

This is the fastest table in the game - the ball gets up to some fairly breathtaking speeds here, and you'll frequently find yourself staring gaping - mouthed at the screen going 'whuuh?' as the ball rockets round a whiplash passageway and rockets pas your flippers before you've ever seen it. Lots of clever shots to play for, and the ball never travels very far without doing something interesting (exactly the opposite of Speed Devils, where even when there is something interesting happen, it doesn't look like it). Good fun.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * * * *

STONES 'N' BONES

The spooky horror table of the set, with ghouls and ghosts and bats and creepy noises aplenty. There aren't actually all that many targets to hit here, but it's the most zippily-designed table, so you don't get much time to catch breath and find fault. It contains one of the most innovative features in the game (a barrier to the big-point-scoring Tower area which drops down when you light three targets, allowing access for a while), but nothing else really remarkable. A good solid table that's well worth a few plays.

Individual Pinball Game Rating: * * * *

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FANTASIES...

That was the rather impertinent question we asked Fredrik Liliegren, the Project Manager at Digital illusions. Unfortunately we can't print the answer, so here instead are the answers to some other questions we asked him about DI's new pinball game.

AP: A couple of the tables in Pinball Dreams were clearly, er, heavily inspired by some real coin-op tables. Did you borrow from the arcades again for Pinball Fantasies?
FL: Ah, no. Before we were young and innocent, but the tables in Fantasies are entirely of our own design. I mean, we play a lot of pinball and obviously the odd bit rubs off here and there, but we haven't consciously stolen anything this time around.

AP: Sor of on the topic, did you ever consider actually getting a licence for an official conversion of an arcade table? It's worked very well for the NES with the old Williams games Pinbot and High Speed.
FL: Funnily enough, we had talks with Mirrorsoft some time ago about doing something with some Williams licences, but when they went bust that whole thing fell through. It might still happen at one point, but it's entirely up to 21st Century.

AP: Why does the game take up three disks this time? IT doesn't at first glance, appear to be noticeably bigger or significantly more complicated.
FL: Well, the tables ARE actually longer this time. We've got the same amount of music and so on that we had before, but we've also got all the new animations and stuff on the dot matrix backdrop to cope with. We could have fitted three tables on to one disk, but there didn't seem a lot of point.

AP: The weakest point of the game is probably the sound (specifically the effects, rather than the music and jingles and so on). Why didn't you use a few samples from the real thing?
FL: It was a simple case of memory - the sound takes up 200K of the game, which left us with a choice between having samples or using the space for jingles, which take up less room. Things should change in the CDTV version, which we're working on at the moment, although we don't know when it'll be out or exactly what 21st Century are going to get us to put on it yet.

AP: Are there going to be more data disks?
FL: It depends on sales, but probably. The system is built to take course disks, and 21st Century are looking at the possibility of some kind of voucher system where you'll send the voucher back with a few pounds to get the data disk - that way priates won't be able to get the extra tables, but nothing's definite yet.



Pinball Fantasies logo

Dan Slingsby goes flippin' crazy over 21st Century's follow up to Pinball Dreams.

REPLAY
21st Century had a bit of a surprise hit on their hands when they released Pinball Dreams earlier this year. The pinball simulator really took off and stayed in the charts for ages. Now the Swedish programming team behind the game, Digital Illusions, are back with another four computer pinball tables for your delectation and delight.

Each one revolves around a particular theme. Partyland uses a theme park as the basis for its design while Billion Dollar Game Show has a cheesy smiling host adorning the table with the chance to win TVs, holidays and cars by hitting the right lights. Speed Devils is based on motor cars, and Stones & Bones is a spooky table with all manner of ghosts and skulls adorning the backdrop.

Everything is controlled via the keyboard, with the shift keys activating the flippers and the down arrow shooting the ball onto the table. Unfortunately, the game suffers from exactly the same problem as its forebearer, namely that four tables aren't enough for your money. Of the four tables on offer with Pinball Fantasies, only Partyland lived up to its potential, the other three being incredibly boring and unrewarding to play. And that's not exactly good value for money when you consider 21st Century are putting it on sale for £29.99.

PAAAAARTY
Things began well enough. Partyland is a garish table crammed with bumpers, lights, bonus combinations and ball-carriers. The fun park theme is effective with fruit machines, a duck shoot, skyride and demon's mouth making up part of the display, reinforced by the fairground sounds and jolly music.

Unfortunately, none of the other tables are as good. Speed Devils showed an utter lack of imagination in table layout and design. Too few rewards and a huge empty table soon made me tire of this one. Moving on, Billion Dollar Game Show had an incredibly grating audience sample, but was sadly lacking in imagination. Why not samples of Leslie Crowther shouting 'Come on down' or even the simpering Bob Monkhouse? Just a little more thought could have saved this one from disaster.

The last table, Stones and Bones did have some brilliant graphics depicting all manner of ghouls and ghosts and there were excellent samples of creaking doors, church bells and manic laughter, but again, the layout was crap and there was just too little to do.

SUPER FAST
What bugged me even more, though, was the scrolling. Each table takes up roughly two-and-a-half screens and the action automatically centres on the ball as it whizzes about the screen. At times, things are reduced to a blur and its very hard on the eye. Surely it would have been a better idea to restrict each table to only one screen so that all the action could be viewed at once? Also, although eight players can take part, only the current player's score is displayed, so it's difficult to keep track of who's winning.

I don't mean to rubbish the game entirely, as it has been slickly put together and some of the samples are very good, but a little more variety and thought could have made this a much better game than it actually is. If you liked the first game, you'll like this, but make sure you play before you buy.


WHATS NEW

The new tables include multi-flippers (well, three!), a dot matrix score panel which continually flashes messages and come-ons, and a JACKPOT accumulator which is built up by all participating players during a game. At the end of each game, one digit of your score is shown. Random numbers are then flashed across the panel and one will be selected. If your number matches the random number, you're awarded an extra ball and play continues from where you left off. It's also possible to save the high-scores for each table to disk, so that when you next load up, your previous high-score will be there for all to see.


Pinball Fantasies AGA logo AGA

21st Century Entertainment * £29.99 CD version reviewed AF52 85%

More colours, faster and smother scrolling... Ooh lovely, missus. So is the consensus that it is worth buying then? Well considering that Pinball Special Edition with Dreams and Fantasies has just been released for only five quid more, then the answer is no. Probably.

And why, oh why, does the CD version cost an extra three sovs? Anyway, Pinball Fantasies is one of the best games ever in the history of the whole wide world and the AGA version improves on the original. But you would have to be a real hardcore devoteer to splash out again. Mind you, if you have not got a copy yet, what are you waiting for? Go and buy it!



Pinball Fantasies AGA logo AGA

Für den einmaligen Einwurf von 79 Märkern rückt 21st Century hier vier Flipper heraus, von denen jeder sein Geld wert ist. Bloß eine ruhige Kugel kann man dabei nicht schieben, denn das äußerst realistische Rollverhalten des Balles und die ausgetüftelte Anordnung der Bumper, Schikanen etc. Verlangen volle Konzentration und schnelle Reaktionen.

Insofern hat sich gegenüber den Standardphantasien also nichts geändert, dafür wartet die AGA-Version mit 256 Farben und optionaler HD-Installation auf. Der Zuwachs an Farbe und Komfort machte nun vier statt drei Disks erforderlich und wird mit 84 Prozent belohnt. (ms)



Pinball Fantasies AGA logo AGA

The best pinball game just got a little bit better.

Once upon a time, in the depths of the magic forest, where jolly goblins passed the day discussing insider trading and fleecing holidaying elves with slick tourist traps, there lived a game called Pinball Dreams. It was a happy game, and would spend its time spinning electronic simulations of metal balls across electronic simulations of pinball tables.

One day a merry pixie happened across it and fell instantly in love with its fabulous playability and tore it bodily from the magic forest and showed it to the world and proclaimed it to be of fabulous playability. This merry pixie's name was Stuart. "Roll up, roll up," Stuart would command sternly in his nevertheless twinkling pixie voice. "Come and see Pinball Dreams, the wonder of the age. Fabulous playability, it is pinball on the Amiga, guaranteed to retard the ageing process or something." And many people came to listen, and bought surprisingly-reasonably-priced copies of the game from authorised dealers, and found that they were indeed of fabulous playability. And Stuart saw it was good.

A little later upon the same time, Stuart was again skipping through the magic forest on his way to cut himself in on the goblin tourist grade or something. Anyway, as he was passing a road accident involving a lot of socially backward people from St Ives, he heard the unmistakable sound of someone scoring a five million point bonus by traversing a loop anti-clockwise with a small steel ball. Pushing aside some leaves he carried for just such an occasion, Stuart was amazed to see Pinball Fantasies, an incredibly fabulous pinball game with four magnificent tables and more playability than a goblin shell-and-pea game, and nowhere near as deadly to your health should you actually win.

Capturing the frisky game in a quickly fashioned mantrap, he rushed to town to tell the people and further the cause of really very good games indeed.


I have never played a pinball game. Is it any good?

On the way he bumped into Jonathan. "Hello Jonathan," said Stuart, breathlessly. "Look at this incredibly fabulous pinball game." "Pinball?" asked Jonathan, his brow wrinkling in an endearing fashion. "I have never played a pinball game. Is it any good?" "Don't be stupid," admonished Stuart, lightly punching him in the face. "It is stupendous. You just cannot get better than this. The tables are classics, the action never lets up, the satisfyingly huge bonuses are tricky but attainable, you can play for fun or strategically, you can have eight players taking part, and it is staggeringly addictive. And it looks good. And sounds better."

Jonathan put his arm around Stuart's shoulders in a friendly and yet somehow sinisterly conspiratorial manner. "Concisely put," he nodded, "and a fine summary considering the enormous amount previously written about the game which means that repeating it would be pointless and irrelevant," he grinned. "I happen to have the A1200 version here, and it is exactly as you described, except it obviously looks better than the standard versions. And you can install it on a hard drive, although, inexplicably, this means you lose the groovy table-selection screen and music. Do you think we could come to some arrangement by which I can use your well-crafted paragraph and thus avoid writing a regurgative review myself? Oh, hang on, I've already done it. Thanks anyway. Bye."

And, clapping the bewildered Stuart on the shoulder and adroitly stealing his watch, Jonathan went on his way, whistling in a particularly smug and irritating style.



Pinball Fantasies CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

Pinball Fantasies * 21st Century * £32.99

There won't be many Amiga gamers out there who won't have been stunned by the majesty of Pinball Fantasies on their A500s. Well, now it is time to greet with open flippers the CD32 version. The original got rave reviews with most people ending up totally gobsmacked that a computer had managed to replicate what previously had been restricted to the confines of smoky bars.

To all intents and purposes the content of Pinball Fantasies on the CD32 is the same as its older brother. The four tables featured are the same: Stones and Bones, Billion Dollar Gameshow, Speed Devils and the unforgettable Partyland.

Most people were very impressed by the graphical quality of the four original tables featured. Now, on the CD32 version those same four tables are resplendent in 256 colours. Each table is highly playable and gravely addictive, although I reckon the best two are Partyland and Stones and Bones (probably because I get my best scores on them!).

One thing that immediately grabs you about the CD version is the quality of the music and samples that accompany the tables. The tunes have again been totally rerecorded and really give a feel of the genuine article.

In fact, Pinball Fantasies is so realistic if you have a pint of lager and a tab you would almost think you were in the boozer. The only complaint I could find is that there are no new tables to play.

If you have never played Fantasies before this title is well worth inserting your money in the credit slot, but if you have already got it on the A500 I am not sure you will be able to justify it.



Pinball Fantasies CD32 logo CD32

Opinions are divided in the Amiga Format office. Richard Jones, a bit of a wizard with the silver ball and possibly the only man on earth who has the power to control gravity at wil, believes that pinball is a game without any element of chance. That is easy for him to say. Personally, I believe that chance plays more thana small part in the shiny ball game. Come to think about it, many is the time the ball eludes Richard's preternatural control and slithers down the drain between his violently jerking flippers. If this is not chance, he must have chosen to ditch himself... strange tactic!

The pinball table is a closed system, all the variables are under the direct control of the laws of physics, therefore there can be no chance. Once we introduce chaos theory, and butterflies in Japan start affecting our game, the debate becomes even more heated. Then there is always the position of the moon which also needs to be taken into account...

The net effect of this conversation is that we play less pinball and drink less beer... the opportunity cost of philosophy, eh? One thing is for sure, if any game on earth is fundamentally analogue, it has to be pinball - world-class tennis is almost completely digital these days. So you could never successfully convert this mixture of genius, beer spawn and gravitational anomaly to the antiseptic environment of the computer - could you?

What a stupid bloody question. Digital Illusions did it almost a year ago with Pinball Dreams. They improved on it with Pinball Fantasies, and for a while we spent more time in the office after work than we did in the pub. Eventually we came to our senses and started playing real pinball, but for a while there we nearly earned our anoraks.

NOW IT IS OUT for CD32. Can it possibly improve on what is already one of the greatest games ever to grace the Amiga? Of course - there is 256 colour graphics for a start, with the already gorgeous tables now rendered even more gorgeous. On first impressions the gameplay seems to have been ruined by CD-isation. The screen is massive (well, our fabulous new Nicam stereo telly is, when compared to our old 1084S monitor) which is merely weird.

But the scrolling is much faster, and the motion of the ball smoother. For some reason (possibly the 50 frames per second animation) the act of scrolling from the bottom of the table to the top, and back again, at high speed is nowhere near as nausea inciting as it used to be. Digital Illusions have been freed of making allowances for the limitations of 16-bit technology. The ball trajectory algorithms are now all computed by the speedy 32-bit 68020... and it shows.

These enhancements are disconcerting at first. All the shots seem easier to make than on the Amiga 600 version and visions of truly huge scores start flashing before our eyes. A few more games dismiss these illusions and after a few days 'hard playing (hey! Thre is no other way to play pinball!) these dreams are diminished, and it becomes obvious that Pinball Fantasies CD32 is actually more challenging than the computer version. How much of this can be ascribed to the joypad control method is a moot point, and of no interest to anyone.

THERE ARE ONLY two blots on this shining star of a game. Firstly, there is the excessive price. £32.95 is simply too much. What happened to lower prices on CD products? And secondly, and closely related, there is no reason why all four of the Pinball Dreams tables could not have been put on this disc as a bonus. There is no chance Pinball Dreams will ever stand alone as a CD32 product in the wake of Fantasies. For this tightness on the part of the publishers, this 95 per cent game gets downgraded a full 10 per cent.



Pinball Fantasies CD32 logo CD32

21st Centurys Digital-Flipper hat schon am Computer Maßstäbe gesetzt, auf Konsole ist er absolut konkurrenzlos: Vier tolle Tische in 256 Farben, nette CD-Musikbegleitung, eine astreine Steuerung und höchst realistische Bewegungen der Kugel machen das 69 Mark teure Game zu einem Klassiker! In Zahlen: 83 Prozent belohnt. (ms)



Pinball Fantasies CD32 logo CD32

21st Century £29.99

While it does seem pointlessly stingy not to include Pinball Dreams on a full price re-release of an old game like this when you have got 650 megabytes of storage space to play with, that is not really a valid criticism of the game itself, so I will get on with it.

This is the same game as the everyday 500 version, except there are apparently 256 colours on display. You do not, in all honestly, notice them at all unless you look at some of the bumpers really closely, but they are there anyway. The other main addition is a musical one, with a couple of new tunes on the table-selection screens, including an absolutely gorgeous mellow piano number reminiscent of the intro music from Agony which I listened to for hours before I could bring myself to play the game.

The game has not been changed at all, except there is not any disk swapping and the high-score table uses an awful lot of the CD32's built-in save memory. It is the same weekend-swallowingly compulsive game that it used to be, and it still knocks spots off any other pinball game on this or any other format. If you have not got it for your Amiga, then do not miss this version.



Pinball Fantasies CD32 logo CD32 CU Amiga Screen Star

That ball just keeps rolling, as 21st Century take the sequel to Pinball Dreams and crank it up a notch. Tony Dillon gets on his platform boots.

When Dan reviewed the standard Amiga version of Pinball Fantasies, he was not too impressed. I, on the other hand, absolutely loved it, and there lies the problem with reviewing a game like this - you either love it or you don't. Pinball has always had a cult feel about it, and if you're not in, you're out. But enough of these clichés - down to brass tacks.

ROLLING ALONG
In essence, Pinball Fantasies continues where Pinball Dreams left off. You have four new tables, each based on their own theme, and each crammed full of flashing lights, spinning bumpers, springs, buttons, bonuses and traps - basically everything you would normally see on a pin table. As always, you have to somehow guide a small polished steel ball through these hellish mazes using only a couple of flippers at the bottom of the screen.

To begin with, there is Partyland. Based on the ever-popular Funfair idea, the table is laid out with roller coasters and other lunch returning rides, and special ice-cream bonuses. Next up the ladder is Billion Dollar Game Show, with your host with the oversized smile Keith McTeeth. Win cash prizes and a dream holiday in the Caribbean for two. Or you can try your hand at the driving wheel with Speed Devils, complete with an off-road area and pit stops for points. Finally there is the obligatory horror table, Stones And Bones, with more gore than a Freddy film.


Graphic artist Marcus Nystrom has had his work cut out improving the look of the game, but you have to admit it looks even more like the real thing now.

The biggest difference between this and Dreams is that you get more than two flippers on each table. At strategic points around the tables, extra flippers are placed, just to make those extra bonuses that little harder to catch. Some rat runs can only be reached by these extra flippers, and some of the flippers can only be reached when the ball is whizzing about at high speed, so fast reflexes are most definitely called for!

Each table is quite long - over two screens high in fact, and the screen scrolls to follow the ball. This might seem a little disorientating in theory, especially when the ball has a full head of steam behind it. In practise though, it works very nicely. After all, when playing a real pin table your eyes will follow the ball, so why shouldn't the screen on this? That is not to say that you do not lose sight of the ball repeatedly, but then again who wants to play a slow pinball machine?

There have been many attempts at pinball simulators, but none before these two have ever really enjoyed any success. Some fail because they just are not realistic enough, but most fail because they do not feel right. Pinball machines have a definite feel, and it is not an easy one to reproduce.

Judging the angle the ball will come off the bumpers is a skill that takes time to learn, and can be very gratifying once acquired, but most games just completely fail to emulate that, and end up feeling dull and lifeless. Pinball Fantasies is a completely different kettle of fish. In short it is pinball to a T.


It would have been nice to have seen more tables, perhaps both pinball games rolled into one package. Still, it is a great game by any measure, and one of the most addictive the CD32 will see for a while.

The ball is perfect in every way. Every single knock and bump leaves it reacting exactly how you would expect it to, and the design of each table is such that everything works as it would in real life. Indeed, one of the things that Digital Illusions stresses in their designs is that anything included in one of their tables must be feasibly possible in real life. Even if the electromagnetic mechanisms needed are to intricate to produce right now, it must still work on paper, or the idea is not included.

SINGING A SONG
But what you really want to know is how has the game been improved for the CD32? Well, the main initial difference is, of course, the graphics. If you think the game looked good before, then take a look at the glorious 256 colour tables on these pages. Graphic artist Marcus Nystrom has had his work cut out improving the look of the game, but you have to admit it looks even more like the real thing now.

Sound, too, has had a serious boost. Olof Gustafsson has written completely new tunes for the game, and recorded them professionally to take advantage of the CD32 capabilities. As a result you have some stunning music playing while four channel stereo sound effects top the aural experience. I have to say, it improves the game even further, adding to the atmosphere and tension like you would not believe.

All in all, though, Pinball Fantasies is much the same as the standard Amiga version. This is no bad thing, of course, if you happen to like the original. Even so, this is not a true example of what the CD32 is capable of. It would have been nice to have seen more tables, perhaps both Pinball games rolled into one package. Still, it is a great game by any measure, and one of the most addictive the CD32 will see for a while.


QUOTINGS AND MUSINGS

We asked project manager Fredrik Liliegren of Digital Illusions what his thoughts were on Commodore's new darling.

"Basically, it is the best available console. It's a fair price, much better than the Mega CD. It is a good thing that it is on CD too, as that means less piracy if the games are big enough. On the other side, though, a CD takes a long time to fill. I think that for the first few months, the only games that appear will be Amiga ports with different music. Because it will take so long to fill a disc, there will be fewer releases, but they will be better games. Commodore should have fitted it with FastRAM though. At the moment it runs twice as fast as a normal Amiga - with FastRAM it could have run five times faster".

SECOND CENTURY

The man at the top of the 21st Century ladder has just published his 200th game, and is feeling pretty happy about the whole thing. Andrew Hewson, ex-boss of Hewson Consultants, and one time freelance writer for the sadly defunct Sinclair User magazine, has been in this industry longer than most people remember there being an industry. Memorable moments in this giant's career include the classics Uridium and Paradroid, and who can forget the unbelievable Southern Bell a faithful simulation of the London to Brighton train ride!