Pinball Dreams 2
I used to hate Pinball. It started after an early harrowing experience with a red plastic bagatelle game from a Christmas stocking: the ball flew from the machine and put my rabbit's eye out. Weeks later, he escaped from his cage and was run over by a milk float which was approaching from his blind side. I could, of course, have blamed the milkman and developed a loathing for dairy products. After all, the milkman must have seen the patch Binky was wearing over one eye; he could have taken evasive action - at three miles an hour, it wasn't as if his reflexes were being pushed to the limits. But I chose to blame the bagatelle game, and buried it with my beloved companion.
Then I started to hate people who played pinball. Especially the ones who thought pinball was "cool" or "rock and roll". Pinball is no more cool than darts, bar billiards, vomiting or any other popular pub activity, but these people go on and on about it until you want to introduce their face to the inside of one of the tables. Rooted in 1972, they're equally convinced it's "cool" to drink Jack Daniels, wear rock-band tee-shirts and cowboy boots with skintight jeans and have Roger Dean posters on the walls of their "pads".
Nowadays, pinball doesn't bother me much. I can approach a computer game based on the formerly hated symbol of Binky's demise with an open mind. I have to admit that the frequent release of several hundred computer pinball games every month has probably gone a long way towards dulling my inner pain.
They call him Flipper...
The current trend in computer pinball is towards retro-style simplicity. No more pinball/shoot-em-up hybrids with hunch-backed aliens clomping about the screen and you taking them out with a well-directed pretend steel ball; no more "warp space" experiences with games taking place in a badly drawn area of a little known galaxy. Instead, games companies are going for the "down the end of the pier surrounded by scary people with tattoos and knives" feel. In other words, they're trying to emulate the feel and the sounds of the old clanking, rattling chunks of metal of the 50s and 60s. They're keeping the layout of the tables fairly authentic and leaving the gameplay firmly in the traditional areas of getting buttons and lights in order; spelling out words; and hitting the right ramps and utilising flipper trickery to the full. 21st Century Entertainment, who obviously know when they're onto a good thing, have already released Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies, so lets see how this latest sim compares....
Faster than lightning...
Pinball Dreams 2 comes with four tables to play, with up to eight players able to take part at once. There's a basic three-balls-per-play bonus balls available, but no multiball play. Some games (such as Crystal Caliburn) like to fit a full table on screen at once; they're certainly fast, but the argument against it is that the graphics are too small; robbing the game of atmosphere. Pinball Dreams 2 takes the more usual approach of having a scrolling screen. The argument against this is that after an hour or so of playing in front of a screen that moves around the more garish tables, your eyes feel like they've been stuck on the end of a vacuum cleaner.
No-one you see...
The authentically nostalgic feel of the tables means that two of the four tables feature scantily clad women. Another features a scantily clad elephant, presumably this is to capture the vote of those who prefer their fantasy partners very big and very wrinkly.
Is smarter than he...
Although all the tables are pretty well done, generally speaking. Pinball Dreams 2 just doesn't quite match up to the standards made by its predecessor: Pinball Fantasies. It features identical installation and set-up screens and controls, but it doesn't play the same way. Basically, it doesn't scroll as quickly. This may be fine and dandy when playing on a fast machine, but you'll certainly notice the difference when you try playing them on something like a 386SX, when Pinball Fantasies still flies along, but Pinball Dreams 2 is markedly slower. I find this a bit weird - if they can get one game to scroll so quickly, why not all of them? Generally, though, Pinball Dreams 2 is alright. It's one of the more enjoyable ways to play pinball without having someone in purple cowboy boots looking over your shoulder and tutting. But then it should be - they've certainly had enough practice by now.
Download Pinball Dreams 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP