As any Amiga gamesplayer will know, publishers 21st Century have always been prolific in bringing out high quality titles for the platform. Their games usually fall into the category of pinballers and each time a new one comes out it seems a step up from the last one they released - despite the fact you thought that one couldn't get ay better. Firstly there was Pinball Dreams, then Fantasies then Illusions. All getting better each time.
However, sometime last year they brought out a title which unfortunately broke this role. And nobody was impressed - except perhaps Amiga Technologies who made the quesitonable decision to include the game, Pinball Mania in their MagicPack bundle.
The problem with this title, though, was that the development team they'd chosen was different to the one who'd done the other games. This new team didn't quite have the flair that Digital Illusions had and although not a terrible title, it wasn't that wonderful either. Mediocre most aptly described it. After that we'd pretty much given up hope. We thought 21st Century might, at this point, just given up on us all.
Fortunately though. They must still have faith in the Amiga platform, and good on them too. Signing up the talents of a new Swedish team, Liquid Dezign, a new title was soon on the horizon. It happened quicker than you could say "It's a new pinball game from 21st Century" and no sooner had we time to do a preview when we were sent the finally copy - no delays or anything - ready to review. "Too good to be true?" we thought. Well, no it's pretty impressive stuff.
There has been no compromise on gameplay, graphics or sound and you immediately get the feeling of a polished product
Despite a speedy release, there has been no compromise on gameplay, graphics or sound and you immediately get the feeling of a polished product - and one which will boost a jaded Amiga games
You get four tables to try your hand at, and each is themed and has music, graphics and missions to match. First up is Mean Machines, a motor racing table. The next is Pirates, with, (surprise) pirates, piranhas and mutiny. Ace of Space has a futuristic theme where space ships, asteroids and aliens provide the setting, and lastly, Night of Demons is a table inhabited by a naked (bar a strategically placed serpent) vampiress.
Being a pinballer there's not a great deal to explain about the gameplay - you simply use the keys to flipper the flippers and send the ball shooting around the table. There are plenty of missions to get to grips with and each table has a variety of modes to keep things different.
Graphically, the tables are well drawn and detailed enough to look good but not so much as to interfere with the gameplay
What makes this rather different from the rest, though, is the LED score panel at the top of the screen. Rather than just showing simply the score, you also get various video modes which provide different arcade challenges. On Mean Machines, for example, the video mode shows a car which you'll have to guide around the track with the flipper keys. These extra challenges work exceptionally well (although they definitely don't have enough gameplay to stand up in their own right) and keep things interesting.
As far as the main gameplay goes, the movement of both the ball and the flippers feels realistic and the tables vary from being quite simple with only a few tracks to windy, complex efforts where you'll need to keep your eyes peeled.
The sound effects also work well in enhancing the realism. Graphically, the tables are well drawn and detailed enough to look good but not so much as to interfere with the gameplay. Night of Demons for example, may suit a beginner better as the table is quite plain with only a few ramps and tracks. These different levels of difficulty whether intentional or not, work well and make the game ideal for any pinball player - whether novice or expert.
There are some other nice little extras such as a Lanesaver Feature which is a metal fence in the sidelane which forces the ball back into play instead of allowing it to be lost down the side lane. Another is the Magna