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.
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.