Published: 1995 by Twenty First Century Entertainment
Developed by Spidersoft Limited
Released in 1995, Pinball Fantasies is a Jaguar conversion of the 1992 Commodore Amiga game of the same name. Billed as a “pinball simulator”, Pinball Fantasies features four tables and semi-realistic play. In addition to the Amiga and Jaguar versions, Pinball Fantasies saw release on the Amiga CD32, Super NES, DOS and Gameboy. The game has also appeared in compilations on platforms as varied as iOS and PS3.
The Jaguar version of Pinball Fantasies is notable as one of only a handful of Jaguar titles published by a third-party company; Twenty First Century Entertainment. In the Jaguar’s library, it competes against Atari’s own Ruiner Pinball for the system's coveted pinball crown.
Pinball Fantasies is a game that I have not spent a lot of time with over the years. Outside of a few highscore club matches, I rarely plug it in. So I was actually excited to see it pop up on The Gaming Notebook’s randomizer.
Graphics: The graphics in Pinball Fantasies are competent. The layout of the four tables is well designed and the art is colorful, if bland. The score and ball readout is at the top of the screen and attempts to replicate the dot-matrix score display of a real machine. The ball looks right and moves fluidly around the table on various ramps, rails and loops. On the other hand, aside from some light-up bonuses and bouncing bumpers, there isn’t a lot going on.
The art style on the game tables themselves are somewhat generic. “Partyland” has a carnival theme, “Speed Devils” has a racing theme, “Billion Dollar Game Show” has a game show theme, and “Stones & Bones” has a horror theme. There are no crazy bonuses that set off a myriad of lights. Nor are there any character animations, explosions or other effects that might have been done given the videogame format. It’s all very vanilla. One of the things that I love about actual pinball tables is the over-the-top table art, lights and sound. Those are meant to attract players. The tables here all feel a little sterile. If I were walking through an arcade, I definitely wouldn’t look twice at any of them.
I don’t have the game on any other platform but a quick review of gameplay videos on Youtube leads me to believe that the Jaguar version compares favorably with contemporary ports. Like many of the 16-bit games ported over to the system, the Jaguar versions are typically sharper, with greater color depth and smoother animations.
Sound/Music: The clicks, bumps, pings and rings of classic pinball is well represented in Pinball Fantasies. A true pinball aficionado might find a fault but to my ears, the pinball sounds ring true. In-game music is a mixed bag. I didn’t mind the music in “Speed Devils” or in “Stones & Bones”. In fact, the music in both of those tables is fairly enjoyable. The music on “Billion Dollar Game Show” was inoffensive. I found the music in “Partyland” intolerable. Keeping with the table’s carnival theme, it is music suited only to knife wielding psycho clowns.
Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, Pinball Fantasies is just fine. With the standard control layout, the d-pad is the left flipper and the “B” button is the right flipper. The “A” button can be used to nudge the table and the “C” button launches the ball. It’s pinball so there isn’t a lot to it in terms of control.Like a real table, the tables in Pinball Fantasies are pretty big – too big for a standard tv. In order to accommodate, the field of view is limited to half of a table at a time and scrolls with the ball. You can set the scroll setting to “hard” or “soft”. A “hard” setting makes the action much faster and the scrolling is more jarring. I enjoyed playing with the “soft” scroll although this seems to slow the action somewhat. The game offers two difficulty settings: easy or hard. For me, the combo setting that most felt like real pinball was “hard” with a “soft” scroll.
Game physics seem spot on. The ball doesn’t feel too floaty or too fast the way it can in other video pinball games. This is a high scoring game with generous multipliers and bonuses - typical in pinball. One thing that’s missing is multiple balls. This is likely due to the scrolling nature of the playfield.
Of the four tables, I like "Stones and Bones" the best. It's just interesting enough to make me want to keep playing. "Speed Devils" is also a fun table. The other two are pretty forgettable.
Overall: Pinball Fantasies is an above average video pinball game. It generally replicates the pinball experience at home and I think that was largely the intent for the original game designers. That said, I can’t help but feel that there was a missed opportunity here to leverage the media to not only recreate the pinball experience, but to bring something exciting and fresh to the table.
Final verdict: If you like realistic video pinball, you might enjoy Pinball Fantasies. It definitely lives up to its description as a pinball simulation. If you prefer your video pinball to be a little more fantastical, pass.
Thanks for reading and please share your opinions and memories of Pinball Fantasies in the comments!
The next game is: CYBERMORPH!