Slam Tilt logo AGA

Reviewed by Tina Hackett

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 gamesplayers collection.

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 Magnatable which is a magnetic playfield where you control the magnet with the flipper keys to get the ball locked between them which results in various award.

Issue 100, June 1996 pp.98-100

Night of Demons: This is the horror themed table and you will need to defend yourself against the evil Zombies. To kill a Zombie and earn an extra 5,000,000 points, shoot any ramp showing a flashing yellow lamp. If in Bat Butcher Mode you will have to shoot the flying bat from the sky with your shotgun.

Ace of Space: Survival in space is the name of the game. You will have to destroy the Asteroid Belt and kill the Aliens with your flamethrower in the 3-ball multiball mode. The Final Mode is The Big Blam where you can destroy the whole universe. When you've played through every mode then you can try your had at this 4-ball multiball where you can shoot any ramp to explode a planet and collect a jackpot.

Mean Machines: Hit the road as you pit your wits against Monster Car Mode where you can use your Monster car to crush the smaller cars, or Formula 1 Race Mode where you use the flipper keys to steer your car around the track shown on the scorepanel video.

Pirates: Shoot the Mermaid Ball-Trap to get the Mermaid bonus. This starts at 1,000,000 points but can be raised through the Magnatable. This is a magnetic playfield where there are magnets placed under the red lamps - these can be controlled with the flippers. You will also have to control a mutiny and a raging storm, various multi-ball modes.


Video modes

The video Modes are played in the scorepanel and add some variety to the game. Here are some that are available.

No Brain No Pain - You must try and keep track of where the brain is going while the skulls are rotated. When they stop you have to pick the skull that the brain is in.

Death Planet - Fly your ship through the inner tunnels of the planet to get to the centre. It's harder than it sounds because you have to guide your ship through the narrow tunnels with the flipper keys.

Knife Throwing - Throw knives at your enemies and try to avoid being taken out by cannon fire. The flipper keys allow you to move left and right whilst the return key will throw a knife.

Formula 1 Race - There are six windy tracks that you ahve to steer your car around with the flipper keys. Don't bump your car too much though as you will lose energy.

Final word

Slamtilt is without a doubt an excellent title. On the one level this is an accurate simulation of the real thing (as much as it can be in 2D anyway) and on another, the arcade element makes for something different to keep it varied. Graphics are colourful and detailed with well designed tracks and ramps to keep each table individual. The cartoon style in the scorepanel adds novelty too.

The sound tracks work well enough (although some are rather cliched such as the rock tune), and they accompany each table appropriately. Whether it is up to the same standards as Digital Illusions' last venture, Pinball Illusions, is really going to be down to individual preference.

It's up to the same quality technically and it does look as good, so whether you buy it or not depends on whether you're bored of illusions. This is a great game and if Liquid Dezign keep this up then it certainly looks like this new team have a bright future ahead of them. Let's hope their future plans include the Amiga.



Slam Tilt logo AGA Amiga Format Gold

Richard Jones says the latest offering from 21st Century is a whole new ball game...

Finally there is an Amiga pinball game that has broken the mould. Until now flipper games have either been perfectly-scrolling, good-looking and ultimately boring reproductions of The Real Thing (Pinball Mania, Illusions) or they have been quirky, curious things (Pinball Prelude) or they have been crap (Thomas The Tank Engine).

Actually, there is a fourth category for surreal French pinball games. It has one entry - Ultimate Pinball Quest.


Slam Tilt is the biggest, best and most imaginative pinball game on the Amiga. Adventure, intrigue and fantastic flipper action.

And do you know something? For years, people who choose silver balls and flippers as their favourite stimulant, have been muttering: 'Why can't they get it right? What we want is an Amiga pinball game that does not try to replace The Real Thing, but develops it - we want sub-games, and video sequences, and loads of top technical trickery".

In short, pinball games that try to imitate The Real Thing are stuff and nonsense. Real pinball machines have been trying to introduce a video game element for years. Slam Tilt at last says: 'Hang on, I am a video game. Maybe I should include some little video sequences...'. It is a cunnig plan. And in this case it works rather well.

Slam Tilt is not an unqualified success, but it moves the Amiga pinball genre on so far that you can safely ignore most of the previous games: The future of Amiga pinball starts here... So what have we got then? Well, Slam Tilt is a huge game, there are too many features and video modes to look at all of them, but let us take a peek at each of them, starting with...


PIRATES

A seafaring theme. Some might say nautical, but nice. But not us. A similar table to Mean Machines in that it is a bit fussy and the video modes are intriguing rather than adrenaline-pumping. The process for activating the video bits can be a bit of a yawn, too. It involves firing the ball up the lane just to the left of the top-left flipper and then, when the ball lands on the top flipper, hitting it up the mode chute. Here are some of the good things on offer:

Shark Attack: A simple, if chilling scenario. You will be eaten by a large-finned beast unless you can hit enough ramps and loops and things to put 34 seconds between you and the big fish. Those with a keen sense of the morbid might enjoy the 'being eaten' sequence.

Knife Throwing: Throw knifes, avoid canon fire keep the ball into play, sweep the floor. This one will keep you busy. Or not if you cannot do it. You do not really have to sweep the floor, but you are supposed to dodge cannon balls by using the flipper keys and lob knives using the Return key.

Crocodile Multiball: Easy-peasy two-ball multiball made all the more worthwhile by the hilarious music.

Overall: there is loads more to this table, but do you really want to dally on it when better things await?

87%

NIGHT OF DEMONS

A simple, indeed sparse, table compared to the clutter of Mean Machines. But Night Of Demons comes a close second to Ace Of Space in the list of top Amiga pinball tables. Some players might find the squelching noise made by the stake-on-flesh in the Exterminate Vampire mode, a tad uncomfortable. But you can always turn the volume down. The best bits are:

Bat Butcher: A simple plan. After shooting the appropriate ramps to activate the mods, a bat flutters around the video screen. By firing the ball up more ramps, you can unload a double-barrelled shotgun at it, Crude, yet worryingly addictive.

The Mega Mutant Meatball: Hit the right ramps to leg it from the hideous meatball beast. You would be foolish not to.

The Bumpers: The sight of the poor chap on the video screen pummelled as the ball hits the bumpers is one of the game's finest moments.

Werewolf Video: As the gruesome beast lurches towards you (you released it from its lair by hitting the Werewolf Trap below the right ramp), you have to tap the flipper keys as fast as you can to shoo the fast approaching werewolf and thus avoid all sorts of unpleasantness.

Overall: Simple, yet fiendishly effective.

94%

ACE OF SPACE

Possibly the finest pinball table in the history of the Amiga. This is the only computer pinball table I have ever played where I have used the Space Bar nudge to desperately (and, in this case, successfully - phew!) try to keep the ball in play. Let us face it you usually only really hit the Space Bar to see how far you can push the table before it tits you. A fantastic table, it is simple, yet compelling. All you have to do is whack the ball into the Space Station on the bottom left of the scene and hit the appropriate mode start. But you can have loads of modes lit at once! You breathlessly, finish one and another is upon you! Crikey! Here are the best bits:

The Death Planet: Brilliant. In video mode, you are hurtled at walls and have to dodge them using the left and right flippers. It is the same theory as the Formula One malarkey on Mean Machines. But that was a bit dull and this is white-knuckle mayhem. Ridiculously simple. Very exciting.

Blam!: Blast video targets - including a banana, a space station and a cyber cow - by hitting the appropriate ramp. The mechanics are identical to many of the features on some of the other tables. This way it is just a lot more fun.

Walker: The same theory as Shark Attack from the Pirates table. But more laughs. Put space between yourself and a bad alien thing hitting the right targets or suffer the (quite horrible) consequences.

Overall: Expertly crafted table. The best.

95%

MEAN MACHINES

A smart-looking table with loads of ramps and flashy things, Mean Machines looks better than it plays - it looks fantastic and plays very well. As with all the tables, the object of the exercise is to go for the multiballs and the video mode. You could just play for points, but you would be a rather and sad individual if you did.

Tonk the ball into the hole at the top-left of the table to activate the video mode and sling it in there again to start it. The highlights of the video modes include:

Formula One Race: Use the flippers to steer your car around the track. If you are totally brilliant, you will do this six times, collect the incredible riches of a maximum bonus and an extra ball. If you are a mere mortal, you will crash after a few seconds, swear a lot and suffer the added indignity of No Score flashing up on the screen.

Offroad Race multiball: a three-ball multiball, the object of which is to hit the car lamps to overtake your rivals and collect a nice fat points bonus.

Chicken Race: You are in a head-to-head race with a psychopath who has probably got no licence and been drinking heavily. The clock counts down and the later you leave it before confidently shooting the trap on the left of the table, the more points you get. Should you fail to hit the trap before the time runs out, your car is totalled by the psychopath and you climb from the wreckage a humiliated player.

Overheat: A curious and slightly unnecessary thing. While you are doing something far more important, you notice that your car is overheating and eventually explodes. You can prevent this happening if you stop what you are doing and hit a few lights. Or you can watch your car explode, which is far more satisfying. Do not worry, you have got plenty more.

Overall: Good, in a methodical and (hrnghh!) mechanical kind of way.

88%


Slam Tilt logo AGA Amiga Joker Hit

Seit vier Jahren beliefert uns 21st Century Entertainment nun schon mit oft genialen Flippersims. Nun ist mit der Nümmer fünf zwar die Hand voll, das Maß aber noch lange nicht: Dieses Spiel legt wieder einen neuen Highscore für das gesamte Genre vor!

Unter den Fittichen der Engländer bittet nach Digital Illusions und Spidersoft diesmal Liquid Dezign zu Tisch. Vier davon werden hier geboten, alle reicher gedeckt denn je. Wie gehabt dürfen ein bis acht Spieler an ihnen Platz nehmen, um nach Wahl der Sound- und Steuerungseinstellungen per Optionsmenü in den Genuß eines Augen- und Ohrenschmauses der ganz besondern Art zu kommen: Das Quartett besticht durch detailliertes und abwechslungsreiches Design mit Schmankerl wie dem beim Anlassen vibrierenden Motorblock der "Mean Machines".

Und vor allem Scoreleisten, wie man sie bislang noch nicht im Genre gesehen hat - da laufen film-ähnliche Sequenzen zu den diversen Modi ab, da wreden irre Bonusspiele gezockt, die den reaktionsschnellen Wizard mit einem wahren Punkteregen belohnen!

Aber auch das Kugelverahlten verdient wieder Höchstnoten für Animation und Realismus, auch wenn der Silberball nicht mehr ganz so wundervoll metallisch glänzt wie anno "Pinball Illusions". Die Bewegungen bleiben jedoch stets flüssig, also quasi echtes Liquid Dezign.

Nicht das dezenteste Ruckeln ist selbst in den Multiball-Modi bzw. beim Vertikalscrolling der mehr als zwei LoRes-Screens hohen Tische festzustellen, die sich selbstverständlich auch auf die übersichtlichere HiRes-Darstellung umschalten läßt. Das erledigt wahlweise der Compi vollautomatisch oder der Spieler manuell via Tastatur.

Letztere ist auch erste Wahl, was die Steuerung betrifft. Und das nicht nur deshalb, weil Einwurf, die Flipper, das Kippen des Tisches nach links, rechts oder oben und Spezialfunktionen wie das Aktivieren von Spurwechslern nach eigenem Gusto auf die Tasten gelegt werden können.

Denn vor allem garantiert nach wie vor nur der Keyboard-Betrieb wahrhaft lebensnahes Spielgefühl. So lebensnah, daß man in Tateinheit mit den phantastischen Sound-FX und den lässig-fetzigen Musikstücken oft genug meint, tatsächlich in einer Spielhalle zu sein - und daher dann entsprechend sorglos auf die Tastatur eindrischt.

Ein echter Härtetest für Nerven und Rechner also, den die einzelnen Tableaus hier auf das Tableau bringen. Das zeigt sich auch und gerade bei den "Mean Machines", wo durch gezielte Rampenschüsse Autos von Monster Trucks verschrottet werden, um Extras bei der Formel 1 gekugelt wird und es in der Sahara rallyemäßig wüst zur Sache geht.

Mit dem Dragster muß durch schnelles Tastenhämmern der Geschwindigkeitsrekord unterboten werden, Kickstarts sowie Sprünge über Klippen erfordern fixe Reaktionen, und als absolutes Highlight dieser Bonusgames in der Scoreleiste gibt es ein 3D-Autorennen, das sogar eine Art Texturemapping zu bieten hat! Während unterwegs Heavy Metal-Klänge und ohrenbetäubende FX ein auch akustisch rasantes Vergnügen garantieren.

Wer lieber auf Errol Flynns Spuren über die Weltmeere segelt, taucht mit "The Pirate" nach Schätzen, schwingt die Klinge im Schwertkampf, jagt Schatzkartenschnitzeln nach, schwimmt Haien davon oder schickt Meuterer über die Planken.

In Sachen Scoreboard-Action darf man sich hier zwar nur als Messerwerfer betätigen oder ein Schiff per Kanone versenken, doch dafür bietet ab und an ein magnetischer Minitisch die Möglichkeit, nette Boni zu erbeuten. Und für Humor im historischen Szenario sorgt unter anderem die Animation mit dem kleinen Affen, der dem Spieler durch Abfeuern einer Kanonenskugel in die Weichteile des Piraten einen Extra-Ball beschert.

In die ferne Zukunft geht's hingegen mit "Ace of Space", auf dessen voll spielbare Demoversion sich diesen Monat alle Neuabonnenten gratis feuen dürfen. Auf der Raumstation erhält man dabei Aufträge, die vorn der Zerstörung eines Asteroidengürtels über Ausflüge ins CyberNet bis hin zur Teilnahme an Weltraumrennen und dem Zielschießen auf allerlei unnütze Gegenstände wie Bananen oder PCs reichen.

Neben dem Videomodus, in dem ein 3D-Flug durch sechs Tunnelabschnitte des Todesplaneten auf dem Programm steht, ist die Zerstörung der Walker wohl die interessanteste Mission, denn dabei wird erstmals auf der Scoreleiste und dem Tisch gleichzeitig gespielt.

Last not least sollen auch die Splatter-Fans auf ihre Kosten kommen, denn in "Nicht of the Demon" bereitet man Zombies im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes Kopfzerbrechen, pfählt Vampire oder holt Fledermäuse mit der Schrottflinte vom Nachthimmel - alles begleitet von recht deftigen Animationen.

Flinke Actionfinger sind hier beim Vollpumpen des herannahenden Werwolfs mit Silberkugeln gefragt, während eine Art Hütchenspiel (bei dem aus fünf Totenschädeln der einzige mit Hirn herausgepickt werden muß!) oder der verhexte Ball mit seinem unberechenbaren Verhalten für Abwechslung sorgen.

Dieser relativ leere Tisch dürfte wohl auch der schwierigste sein, eine echte Herausforderung für feinfühlige Flippermeister, die mit dem sachten Stoppen der Kugel keine Probleme haben.

Damit man sich in den verwirrenden Rampenlabyrinthen schnell zurechtfindet und gezielt auf Punktejagd gehen kann, klärt das vorbildliche Handbuch haarklein über all die Kombinationen und Bonusspielchen auf, die jeweils im Finale-Mode mit vier Bällen gipfeln.

Doch auch Praktiker dürften sich dank durchschaubarem Tischdesign und fairem Schwierigkeitsgrad schnell in die speicherbaren Highscores eintragen. Wen wundert es bei soviel Perfektionismus, daß die Macher sogar an eventuelle Speicherprobleme beim Start von Festplatte auf einem A1200 ohne Fast-RAM gedacht haben - ein Klick aufs Rebootstar-Icon, und die Kugel rollt...

Zum guten Schluß sei noch auf die teils brauchbaren, teils witzigen Cheats hingewiesen, doch wollen wir keine Spielverderber sein und gleich hier verraten, was sich da so alles zwischen den einzelnen Tischen versteckt. Nein, da verraten wir doch lieber, was Ihr mittlerweile sicher ohnehin schon ahnt: Slamtilt ist nicht nur ein neuer Meilenstein für AGA-Amigos, sondern für das gesamte Genre - wer sich diese Kugeln nicht gibt, kann sich die Kugel geben! (st)


FLIPPER AUS DEM 21STEN JAHRHUNDERT
Pinball Dreams Pinball Fantasies Pinball Illusions Pinball Mania

Bereits anno 1992 brach am Amiga dank 21st Century Entertainment das nächste Jahrtausend an - zumindest, was Flippersimulationen betrifft. Denn damals schufen die Genies von Digital Illusions vier phantastische Tische in Spielhallenqualität, die die Träume jedes Kugelkünstlers wahr werden ließen. Klar, daß hier seinerzeit ein Joker-Hit fällig war.

Noch vor Ende desselben Jahres lag auch schon der phantasievolle Nachfolger auf dem Gabentisch. Rein technisch hielten sich die Neuerungen, abgesehen von satterem Sound, getrennten Highscores und einem zusätzlichen Paddle auf drei der Vier Tische, in Grenzen. In Puncto Gamedesig knnte man jedoch für einen zusätzlichen Motivationsschub sorgen, und endlich wurde Flipper auch der beste Freund aller Konsoleros mit CD32.

Wer geglaubt hatte, daß eine Steigerung nicht mehr möglich sei, der wurde zwei Jahre später eines Besseren belehrt - falls er einen AGA-Compi besaß. Denn nur auf A1200/4000 bzw. am CD32 wurde die Illusion zur Realität und bot Innovationen ohne Ende: Multiballmodi, die drei dank HiRes optional auch übersichtlich über den Screen flimmernden farbenprächtigen Tische sowie ein Feuerwerk von animierten Szenen, das in der Scoreleiste abbrannte.

Zur Abwechslung wurde das bis dahin mit den PC-Umsetzungen betraute Team von Spidersoft mal auf den umgekehrten Weg geschickt. Das Ergenis blieb zwar etliche Punke unter dem grafischen und technischen Highscore des Vorgängers, dafür herrschte aber an Optionen kein Mangel. Selbst der Neigungswinkel der vier abwechslungsreichen AGA-Only-Tableaus war Einstellungssache, und so schnürte Amiga Technologies das Teil auch ins Softwarepaket des Magic Pack.


Slam Tilt logo AGA

From the same people who brought you Pinball Mania.

Preordination. The Circle Of Life. Just One Of Those Things. However you account for it, it's a pretty spooky coincidence that the first game I ever reviewed for AP was a pinball game and the first game I'm reviewing on my return is... well it's a pinball game. Obviously. Or I wouldn't have mentioned it.

Although you'd be forgiven for being confused because it's not obvious from the title. I'm sure Stuart's pinball feature on page 38 will set me straight but I rather think Slamtilt is one of only a very few pinball games that doesn't have the word 'pinball' in its title (off the top of my head I can only think of Dragon's Fury on the Mega Drive - and wasn't there a sequel? Dragon's Extreme Huffiness or something?).

Anyway, the first words I ever wrote for AP, apart from a few headlines and captions, were about Soccer Pinball. At one point I made mention of the fact that I thought pinball should be easy enough to simulate on the Amiga because it's just simple physics. There's a steel ball involved in some (nearly) elastic collisions with some obstacles on a sloping table. What could be simpler? No need for any Einsteinian stuff and certainly none of that quantum nonsense, just good old Newtonian physics. Like we learned at school. Easy.

But over the years a number of software developers have shown in glorious computerised colour, that it isn't Easy. There are so many things that can go wrong: balls can behave inappropriately (a common problem is that they will hove improbably in mid-air for indeterminate lengths of time); the traps and bumpers can fail to work; the tables can be tedious and ill though-out; flippers can fail to flip convincingly... and you can probably think of loads more (I could probably think of loads more, too, but not right now).

Then along came 21st Century and Pinball Dreams. It set the world's collective heart a quiver with its realistic action and set of tables that wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in a real life arcade. The ball moved round the table like a real ball. The traps, ramps and turnways slowed the ball and shunted it around the place like real traps, ramps and runways. There were targets to hit and things to do as well as just trying to keep the ball in play. It was a big hit around these parts, let me tell you.

Then along came the sequel, Pinball Fantasies. It was so popular in the AP office that the then editor Mark Ramshaw hid the disks during the week before our deadline to stop us from playing it. It was everything Pinball Dreams had been, only better - with more colourful graphics and much more depth.

Then there were more sequels and 21st Century established themselves as the leading computer pinball game publishers. And then there were some more sequels, And now there's Slamtilt. Another one. Of them.

Which leads me to one of only two negative things I'll be saying. We were talking about in the office and the consensus was that it's fabulous. But so were all the others. And although I can see some places where there have been changes and I'm sure some of the programming must have been tweaked after all this time. If someone had told me that this was a data disk full of extra tables for one of 21st Century's other pinball games I wouldn't have been surprised.

The second negative thing is a matter of personal taste - I've already been told I'm wrong, so take it with however a handful of salt you think you may need. Among the bonuses on each table are some video games which you play on the tables' scoreboards.

The scoreboards are the usual dot-matrix type things and every once in a while you'll be asked to steer a car round a track or throw knives at a target. The games look odd because they're played on the scoreboard and they play strangely for the same reason. I didn't enjoy any of them and I thought they interrupted the flow of the pinball sufficiently that I began to dread their appearance.

But apparently, I'm in an AP minority and others among us think they're an amusing addition to the main game. The fact that I hold a minority opinion doesn't mean I'm wrong of course, but I thought you'd appreciate the balancing view.


A few headlines and captions

And that as far as the negative stuff goes, is pretty much that - it's all uphill from here. There are four tables, each lovingly described in the boxes here and here. Oh, and over there. In the event of sudden depressurisation of the review and oxygen mask will fall down automatically from the panel at the top of the page. Simply place the mask over your nose and mouth and breath normally until the review crashes to the ground, killing us all.

Each table has its own themes and an individual feel - they're not simply the same table presented four times with different backgrounds. You'll need to learn different tactics to wring the most pleasure (and points) from each of them and I found that changing tables was a tad like starting a completely new game.

The fresh approach I was forced to take to each new table was enough to renew my interest in the thing just when I was sure I had enough and it was only the increasing pain in my neck (for reasons that are too tedious to go into, the Amiga was on the floor) that made me stop and go to bed.

The mathematical modelling of the ball is astounding. It behaves exactly as you'd expect a real ball to behave and I'd be willing to swear I could feel the flippers flipping. If it hadn't been for the scrolling screen and the increasing pain in my neck I'd gladly believed I was playing on a real pinball table. I wonder if I ought to see my doctor about this neck pain thing.

And the sound? The effects, samples and jingles are spot on. They create sufficient atmosphere and provide ample information so I never troubled to listen to the music at all. I imagine it's okay if you enjoy endlessly looped game music, but I'd sooner smack myself in the face with a frying pan, thanks.

I considered all sorts of approaches to the writing of this review. I thought of doing a lengthy Charles Dickens pastiche by way of introduction followed by a reworking of dialogue from the first act of Waiting For Godot, substituting "pinball game" for "Godot" and hoping everyone would get it before I ran out of steam.

Then I tried to write it entirely in pantomime-style rhyming couplets, but once I'd rhymed 'pinball' with 'nimble' I didn't have the heart to carry on. Then I found, lurking beneath Enquire Within Upon Everything and the ITN Fastbook, my first copy of The Big Boy Book Of Superlatives and suddenly I had my review - just write a huge list of superlatives and put a score at the end. Simple.

Great. Astounding. Wonderful. Amazing. Terrific. Wizard. Top hole. Superb. Marvellous. Phenomena. Extraordinary. Splendid. Sensational. Splendid. Breathtaking...

But even that doesn't really do it justice. After a few years of playing games for a living (it's a tough job, etc) the thrill begins to fade. Faced with a shiny box holding the latest gaming marvel most of us will say, 'How many words do you want? How much does it pay?" and then shuffle off to an appropriate machine to see what's what. But every once in a while a game comes along that makes us play on even when the words are written and the invoice submitted. And Slamtilt is one such game.

If you haven't already got once of 21st Century's other pinball games then make Slamtilt your first. If you're already a devotee then this will be a superb addition to your collection. If you don't like pinball then you're probably dead. And if you play Slamtilt and still don't like it then you're dead and daft.


I DON'T NEED THIS They're low res, low tech and triggered a nagging pain in my neck. Cheers, then.

Slam Tilt
Using the flippers to steer left and right, drive around for a bit, picking up points as you go.

Slam Tilt
This is the magnatable. Control the magnets with the flippers in order to force the ball out of the exit.

Slam Tilt
On the Night of the Demon table you get to shoot things. Like werewolves.


MEAN MACHINES

...or 'cars' to you and me. The table is about cars, for goodness' sake. Mean Machines, Tch. I ask you. Anyway, it's by far the busiest of the tables with seemingly the largest number of modes and bonuses (a quick glance at the manual hasn't helped me to work that out for certain, but it seems that way and that's the important thing). It's the easiest table for the new player and seemed to give me access to multiball mode accordint to its own whim. Which is always a good thing and saves all that tedious mucking about with targets and traps. It was also the table most willing to interrupt play and force me to play one of the scoreboard games. Which I didn't enjoy. But I'm in the minority so I'll no say too much about it.

TABLE RATING: 8

THE PIRATE

Shiver me timbers. Ah har. Ah har har har. Aha... Ahem. Just getting into character, you understand. It has a piratical theme, this one, although I'm not sure about the muscle-bound beefcake in the picture - I always thought of pirates as ill-fed skulking cut-throats who'd prefer a belly full of rum and a knife fight in a dark alley to a healthy meal and a night in the gym. Still. There are quite a few opportunities for special bonuses, a top flipper (which I always enjoy) and its special feature is the 'magnatable' where you use your flipper buttons to control two electromagnets under the table to... no, I didn't understand it at first, but trust me, it's a hoot.

TABLE RATING: 9

ACE OF SPACE

The final frontier, or so they say. But only if they're Americans and thus obsessed with the idea of frontiers. This table seems to be connected with some sort of intergalactic espionage-type thing with a Manga-esque character staring limply out from behind a big gun demanding that you give him back his Jelly Babies THIS INSTANT. For me it was the least satisfying of the four tables, with its lower bumpers carefully colour-matched to the background so I couldn't see them and with nothing really outstanding further up the table to capture my interest. It does have a loop-the-loop runway reminiscent of the fairground table in Pinball Fantasies (its name eludes me temporarily) but overall I wasn't taken with it.

TABLE RATING: 7

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, apparently, and the lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea. But that's quite enough romantic reflections on English country life for now, eh? We want blood, gore and werewolves. Oh, and spooky clock towers. And vampires. And none of your ploughmen homeward plodding their weary way, if you don't mind. It's a table full of eeriness and dark foreboding. Or something. And at first play it seems a bit spartan. There aren't many exciting runways or bumpers and it feels a bit dull for the first few minutes. But it grows on one. There are targets and traps to be hit and a regular dose of multiball fun to keep things lively. The theme is as hokey as the rest of them but if you ignore it it's a table with quite a bit of long term appeal.

TABLE RATING: 9



Slam Tilt logo AGA CU Amiga Superstar

Price: £29.99 Publisher: 21st Century 01235 851 852

Addiction is one of those nasty side effects of playing computer games. Slamtilt should be medically investigated for its effect on people...

This game caused some confusion in the office for the first week or two of the schedule: someone had mistakenly put it down on the monthly plan as Spamtilt. Images of a potted meat hero running around vintage World War 2 platforms abounded while I was away in foreign climates on holidays wasting (according to my better half) Francs on a ten year old Indiana Jones pinball table. Things were cleared up fast on my return, but most of the mag were mystified. It's a Pinball Game. So what? It's by Liquid Dezign. Who they?

Without going into the usual drivel about 21st Century and Pinball games let me first explain that Slamtilt is absolutely marvellous. If you were disappointed by Pinball Mania please read on because this is one game that will warm your tapping fingers, if not wear them to the bone.

I also broke the right Amiga key on my keyboard playing it (the second time I've done this with a game) but 21st Century would not accept responsibility, after all I didn't NEED to hit it like a possessed elephant trying to record a jungle beat.

Choices
The game consists of four tables, each occupying a single disk. Like its spiritual father, Pinball Illusions, it has a multiball function utilising a high-res table that automatically and smoothly flicks on-screen when extra balls are activated. But there is less flicker and more clarity in the high-res versions of these tables than Illusions.

The tables are based around four themes. Mean Machines is all about car racing, with Rally, Off-Road, Formula 1 and other modes to get into and big bonuses to be won either by getting combos, hitting lit-up areas or timing shots on the graphic display at the top of the machine.

Pirates is a sea faring table, with lots of shooting, treasure hunting and sailing to be done. Ace of Space is a futuristic table, which doesn't actually look all that futuristic, unlike say, Future mode from Pinball Prelude, but it's exciting enough with probably the largest amount of bonus games of any of the tables.

The final table, nestling away on disk five, is Night of Demons. This is supposed to be scary, but the only scary thing on it was how low my score was. It's packed with horrible squidgy modes like Batch Butcher, Exterminate Vampires and Grave Digger.

My favourite...
My favourite table is the Pirate one, mainly because I'm a sucker for old sea shanties, but also because there is a lot to do on it, and the right top flipper is ideally placed so it is a lot ore use than the third flipper on many of the other tables.

Examples of the types of mode in this table include Monkey Business, which involves shooting lamps to get parts of a map back from a smart-ass monkey who tries to distract you by jumping around making smart expressions in the score box.

Another amusing mode is played solely in the scorebox itself involves throwing knives at enemy ships while trying to avoid their cannon balls. It's arcade-style interludes like this that make Slamtilt really special.

AGA only
This is an AGA only game, and a gorgeous one at that. Liquid Design, the Swedish programming team responsible for this masterpiece developed Slamtilt for Amiga first and although other format versions are on the way it really shows off the A1200's capabilities - much more so than Mania, which was developed backwards and pretty much stayed backward.

Add to this graphic wizardry some superb music and sound effects, with original tracks for each table, and all the music volume/FX volume adjustability that made Prelude so pleasurable to listen to and you're onto a winner.

The ultimate?
Up until now my favorite Amiga pinball game has been Illusions. It took all that was right in Dreams and Fantasies and gave it AGA polish, a beautiful hi-res multiball mode and cracking sound effects.

Now Slamtilt has taken over like a new young pup in my affections. This is not just because Illusions is a year and a half old, it's because Slamtilt is just that little better in all areas: music, graphics, gameplay. Plus, there's the bonus of four tables - Illusions only had three for the same price, and was still superb value.

OK, I'm not as impressed with the Spaceport table as I am with the Pirates or the Mean Machines one, but this is largely a matter of personal preference, and none of them will really disappoint anyone. Although one advantage of Mania was that it can be hard disk installed.

The word ultimate is overused and easily misunderstood. I could say this is the ultimate pinball game because it's just so damn entertaining and most of you would get my meaning. But my English teacher would remind me that ultimate not only means biggest, best ever, wonderful - it also means last ever. And I would hate this to be the last pinball game from 21st Century or Liquid Design. They're just so good at it.