Can we talk video pinball for a second? Real pinball is awesome and fun and a whole bunch of other stuff, but I've always enjoyed the impossible, innacurate world of video pinball much more. On the surface, video pinball looks just like normal pinball, but actually playing such games feels entirely different. Their physics are often floaty and unrealistic, and that adds to their charm. Mastering these physics, which varies from game to game, is part of what makes these games so fun. Figuring out which angles and velocities different parts of the flippers will yield, being able to predict how bumpers will react to the ball. That sort of stuff. This is an ancient genre with thousands of games over the years that still continues today with releases like Pinball FX and Zen Pinball. Here's a look back at my favorite video pinball games throughout history:
Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies, Pinball Illusions
This is one of those series that refuses to die and just keeps on coming back. It was originally a series of Amiga pinball games, but they've been ported to just about everything since, including iOS, the GP32, various game consoles like the Atari jaguar and SNES, numerous PCs, and even less capable hardware like the C64. My first run in with the series was Pinball Dreams on the GP32, but I've since played numerous ports, my favorites being the iOS and Amiga CD32 versions. Developed by Digital Illusions CE (AKA DICE, the battlefield people), each of these games contained 4 themed tables. This game aimed more for realism than most video pinball games, and thus the tables often felt like they could have been real, actual tables without sacrificing too much. You had typical themes like circus', or urban life, along with slightly more interesting themes like a haunted house. This is a solid, low-frills pinball game series that has survived because it deserves to. Standard versions of these games have MOD music, but the Amiga CD32 versions have a special, and absolutely incredible, redbook audio soundtrack that is indicative of early-mid 90's house music.
Just as capable as Pinball Dreams/Fantasies/Illusions, but with a much more exotic and impossible design, Epic Pinball has to be my favorite video pinball game of all time. A gem from the glorious golden days of DOS gaming, I'd dare say that no single pinball game has had more variety in its tables than Epic Pinball. the game, when ordered (or collected) included a staggering 12 tables. These range from traditional action pinball tables like Android, to score-attack tables like Crash and Burn, to an awesome action-game tie-in with a Jill of the Jungle table, to, my personal favorite - Enigma, a table completely impossible in real life with warps and invisible areas and trippy, acid-induced visuals. The soundtrack rocks a soundblaster 16 card and is written by the same dude who did Jazz Jackrabbit and One Must Fall 2097's soundtrack, so you know that you're getting a breakbeat, house-inspired soundtrack. This is from the days when Epic did more than Unreal and Gears. It's been recently re-released on iOS as Retro Pinball. Epic Pinball was unique in that it didn't adhere to the typical shareware model - rather, each individual table was distributed as shareware which could be purchased for cheap, and would install into a common folder, so that, as you collected the shareware demos, you'd gradually unlock the entire game. I actually got the full version of this game, in 12 full-sized boxes, from a promotion blockbuster video was doing in the mid 90's.
Space Cadet 3D Pinball
This is actually a part of another, full game, called Full Tilt! Pinball by Maxis. But, until a few years ago, I had no idea that game existed. No no, I got space cadet pinball as a pack-in with Windows 95 Plus!, a commercial service pack for Windows 95. From the inclusion in Plus on forward, Space Cadet Pinball was included in every windows release up until Vista. I'm fairly certain everybody reading this thread has played this game. It's terrific as far as pinball tables go. The table is very interactive, with many goals. It's a beefy pinball table, one that you can play for a long time without completing (yes, you can complete a pinball table). It never really wears out its welcome and is still quite a bit fun to play.
Devils Crush, Alien Crush
Developed by the classic japanese shmup company NAXAT, the crush series are a pair of incredibly video-gamey pinball games popularized on the Turbo Grafx 16 and Sega Genesis (under the name Dragon's Fury). Like Space Cadet Pinball, the crush games feature a number of goals and objects to interact with, but unlike space cadet, these games include various video-game inspired mini games as rewards for completing said goals. Some are clones of other games, like breakout, while others are shooting galleries. You can get these games today on the Wii Virtual Console for almost nothing.
Considering how limited the Atari jaguar's library is, it's rather shocking that it got 2 pretty excellent pinball titles. One was a great port of Pinball Fantasies, and this is the other, a jaguar-exclusive pinball title. I like this one a lot for its unique gimmick - dual tables. The game has two different dual-playfield tables which zoom in and out as needed. When normally playing, the screen zooms in on the ball, giving you a viewing angle similar to pinball dreams or epic pinball. But grab the correct multiball powerups or hit the right ramp, and the screen will zoom out, revealing a sister table that extends the playfield. Sometimes you'll get 4-8 balls going at once on both tables and the action is completely hectic. Beyond this gimmick, it's pretty no-frills, but the gimmick, when working, is a lot of fun to mess around with.
Mile high pinball
Yes, I'm serious. This is one of the very best, last n-gage games released. It's also one of the most uncommon and least heard of. But it's a terrific pinball game. This is one of the very few games which the n-gage's vertical screen orientation is a blessing. The game is actually 80 levels long. rather than conventional pinball, this game plays more like Kirby's Pinball Land, where the goal is to reach the top of the tower and falling between the flippers merely drops you down a level. Every time you move up a screen, you gain a level. Each screen is a new level, with new gimmicks. Some have goals which must be accomplished before the gate to the next level is open. Some have enemies that need to be killed. Some are simple pinball tables. It rarely gets old, and is one of the few n-gage games that you could play for hours on end without getting bored of.
Anybody else like video pinball?