Have you ever wanted to build your own pinball table? Pinball Builder from 21st Century Entertainment makes it easy. You start with one of the basic designs which provides a simple table layout, including ramps, side guards and flippers. Then place bumpers, lights, kickers and other pinball pieces anywhere on your table to complete your masterpiece. Pinball Builder includes thousands of colorful graphics and hundreds of sounds, and lets you import your own graphics for complete customization. Once you're finished, you can play your creation, and trade table designs with anyone who owns Pinball Builder.
Pinball Builder is a fun tool for pinball enthusiasts who want to try their hand at designing their own tables. Creating a simple pinball table is easy; the basic table layouts and the drop-in components allow you to put together a simple table minutes after installing the game. Designing a good table can take much longer. My first design attempts were plagued by spots where the ball got stuck because I'd left too little space.
The component selection interface is fairly easy to understand, but could use some improvement. You select the general type of object you want (e.g. lamps, decals, kickers, etc.), then select a set number and part number. You can only see one object at a time while scrolling through the parts inventory and, with several sets in each general part type, finding the part you want can be difficult. It would have been much nicer to be able to select from a page displaying all the parts in the selected set. Once you have placed an object on the table you can modify its properties, including its sound effect, scoring, bonus, color and orientation. In addition to allowing you to create your own, Pinball Builder comes with eight ready-to-play tables. They are well designed, fun, and provide good examples of what the game can do.
While the design module of Pinball Builder runs only under Windows, the game includes both DOS- and Windows-based engines to play tables you create. Both versions are plagued with speed problems. The Windows version performs well on 486 systems, but on P90 or faster systems the game speed is too fast -- on a high-end Pentium it is completely unplayable. The DOS version runs much too fast, even on slow 486 systems.
The game has many other problems in addition to the troubles with game speed, mainly related to the display. On several systems I tried, the game did not set the screen color palette correctly, resulting in bizarre color patterns on the pinball tables that made designing or playing impossible. Pinball Builder requires a 256-color display at a resolution of 800 x 600 or greater. Other games that are designed for 256-color modes generally allow you to run in a high-color screen mode, sometimes with reduced animation or performance, but Pinball Builder refuses to run in any other mode. With most of today's systems supporting high-color screen modes, I found this requirement annoying. In addition to the display problems, there were some quirks in the ball action while playing a table. The ball would sometimes speed up or slow down randomly, often while approaching the flippers.
The graphics in Pinball Builder are good, and the various tables and parts are well drawn. There are several different schemes you can select from and all the parts in each scheme blend together well. The game also allows you to import new graphics from either BMP or PCX files, so the only limitation is your own imagination.
The sound effects in Pinball Builder are realistic and give the game an arcade ambience. The music is also well done, but is paused each time the game resets for another ball. The pauses quickly become very annoying -- I shut off the music after playing only a few games.
The documentation for Pinball Builder is very thorough and provides detailed information on the effects of the various components and their properties on game play. There is also a good section of tips for creating good pinball tables.
Windows: Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, 486/66, 8 MB RAM, SVGA (800x600 256 color) display, a 16-bit sound card, and a 2X CD-ROM drive
Pinball Builder is a great idea, hearkening back to Stuart Smith's Pinball Construction Set on the Apple II and Commodore 64. Building your own tables is fun and the game has a lot of potential, but it fails to live up to it due to the many bugs and design problems. If 21st Century releases a patch to correct the flaws, it might be worth a second look, but until then don't waste your time or money. I give Pinball Builder 58 out of 100.
Download Pinball Builder
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP