Anothhr game translated from an arcade in Brighton to a pc near you. This has to be welcomed since it saves you lots of 50 pences and you dont get sneered at by nerdy kids with braces on their teeth. I dont know about you, but I feel conspicuous in an arcade. Anyone over 30 feels as if theyre in a socially aware play of the 60s.
Recent software has drawn inspiration from the arcades of the 70s. After Defenders, Breakout, Tempest and Asteroids (see Off the Boards) comes pre-electronic Pinball. Imagine all the thrill of playing pinball without people coming over and demanding your dinner money, or old men sidling up to you and offering a bag jelly beans if you touch their willies. Or, of course, the Neanderthal that leans over and says: See that Baz on the high score? Thats me right? Played this table for years. This the first time you played pinball? And so on.
Crazy flipper fingers
Pinball Dreams comes with four tables: Ignition, Steel Wheels, Beat-Box and Nightmare. Ignition is the least complex but the hardest to play. The theme is space, so you have a sun run and warp roll-overs. Next is Steel Wheels which has a railway theme with ticket bonuses and a tunnel. Beat-Box has ramps, tour bonuses and music references, and the last, Nightmare, is the most complex and based around a graveyard. Each table needs particular tactics for success and an entry on that ever elusive high score table.
Controls are simple and naturally the same for all tables. The two shift keys for the flippers and the space bar to tilt. The cursor down arrow fires the ball, P pauses and esc quits. There is no way to redefine these - a pity, as I would be more comfortable using the enter key for tilt. A pity too, if youre a deaf dumb and blind player who wants to use the home keys.
Anything Amiga do...
Those of you who played Pinball Dreams on the Amiga will immediately say: What about the graphics? What about the sound? After all, these are areas in which the pc has tended to dawdle behind other machines. The graphics are in full 256 colours and feature some of the smoothest scrolling Ive seen on a pc. Each table is three screens long and the ball canons around without a hitch. How did Spidersoft (who wrote the program) manage that?
The 256 colour mode on a vga card is mode 13, where only a quarter of the memory is available. This means 64K on a 256K or 128K on a 512K card. As each pinball table needs 200K video memory, the programmers developed a software fix that allowed mode 13 to use the cards full memory. The screen is updated during the vertical blank period so there may be speed problems with early - that is, two years or older - vga cards.
Thats the graphics. The game has good background music and sampled sound effects - mainly from the Amiga version or from the programmers. Playing pinball is like driving a steam train, the noise is half the fun. If you havent got a sound card dont worry because the sampled sounds can be heard through the pc speaker. More clever programming.
The pc speaker responds digitally, so sampled sound cannot be played through it with conventional drivers. The programs driver runs the speaker on and off at a very high (inaudible) frequency so it can respond as an analogue device.
Back to Baz
The program gives you all the noise, the flashing lights and the excitement of pinball. Up to eight people can play, so you dont have to play with yourself, and its so realistic I replaced the space bar on my keyboard with a mercury switch for a proper tilt function. Is anything missing? Yes, of course; the aforementioned Baz. The arcade guru who knows the machine inside out. Well dont worry because Pinball Dreams comes with a manual that gives you tips on playing all the tables.
Download Pinball Dreams
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- Pentium II (or equivalent) 266MHz (500MHz recommended), RAM: 64MB (128MB recommended), DirectX v8.0a or later must be installed
Pinball Dreams gamers get a trio of fields that are far simpler than previous pinball simulations, like Devil Crush and Revenge of the 'Gator. Unfortunately, more sometimes means less.
Take the Plunge
You can choose from three playing fields: Ignition, Steel Wheel, and Graveyard. Each has different layouts, targets, bonuses, and goals to shoot for, but the basics are all the same: two flippers at the bottom, and progressive point scoring.
Control of the ball is simple, using a standard two-button, directional-pad combo for the flippers and plunger. Sometimes you'll feel that the ball weighs a ton or the flippers are "soft," because you can't zing the ball through chutes and passages.
Snazzy graphics highlight the ball's travels around the fields. The sound effects are light, as is the musical accompaniment, but they complement the action just fine.
Will You Hip Over This?
Unfortunately, Pinball Dreams tilts when it comes to the entertainment factor. There just isn't enough replay value or challenge to keep you excited and wanting to play again. By trying to give Pinball Dreams more with the three playing fields, the game actually ends up with less. It would have been better if Game-tek had created one blockbuster pinball field instead of three marginal ones. The elements are all there, but the chemistry just doesn't hit the jackpot.
- Watch the score display. It will tell you what targets you should hit or what bonuses are available.
- To score big points, you must have the courage to hit the ball at the very tip of the flipper. It's scary, but that's the only way to repeatedly get the ball up to the top section of the playing field.
- Each table has a spot that can be used to score lots of bonus points, like the channel on the left of Graveyard.
- Manufacturer: Game Tek
- Machine: Game Gear
Pinball never really worked well on portable systems and Pinball Dreams is no exception. The boards are huge, but the game is a little slow. Plus, what exactly is that bat/snake thing on the one pinball board? I'm clueless!