By Drew Wilson
In this review, we check out a pinball game called Pinball Dreams. We find out if this SNES game is worth a revisit or not.
This particular game was released on numerous platforms, but this review will focus on the SNES release. The date of the SNES release was 1994.
The game focuses on four pinball tables: Ignition (space exploration theme), Steel Wheel (wild west theme), Beat Box (touring in the music industry), and Nightmare (horror theme). You can select any of these at any time through the games main menu.
Ignition is focused on many things that surround futuristic space exploration. A lot of the targets spell out things like “SUN” and “FUEL”. While there are ramps, a lot of the action will focus on hitting these targets. The four entry points along the top can grant point multiplying bonuses. When the ball first pops into play, you’ll have one of them flashing. If the ball falls through that particular entry point, then you’ll receive a large point bonus. Beyond that, you can change what lights are lit up and which ones are not by using the flipper buttons to cycle through the different possibilities. You can manipulate this if you can get the ball to fall through the far left corner because sometimes it hits the bumper below to send the ball back up. If this happens, you can get three lights lit up right at the beginning of play, getting you very close to a multiplier bonus. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get the ball back up to this upper location of the table once the ball rolls down to the area where your flippers are located, so any manipulation you can pull off here is, I find, extremely helpful. If you lose your ball, you’ll be “lost in space”.
Steel Wheel operates much like Ignition. Instead of four lights along the top, you get three you have to get. Again, getting the flashing entry point at the beginning earns you a lot of points and lighting up all three will also net you bonuses. I found that while there are fewer targets to hit compared to ignition, but the points you do earn are quite large when you do manage to hit something correctly. So this game tends to go back and forth between you hitting the corners of ramps and areas that earn you hardly anything and gaining huge bonuses in a short period of time. If you lose your ball here, you’ll run out of track.
Beat Box differs a fair bit from Steel Wheel and Ignition. Instead of a large number of targets, this particular table is very ramp intensive. The positions of the ramps forces you to try and hit the ball with the tips of the flippers. Otherwise, there’s seemingly very few things you can hit (though some of these targets add greatly to your score if you send the ball up the ramps after. Also, launching the ball into the playing field will send the ball underneath the targets at the top of the screen. In order to reach the top targets, you have to hit the ball hard, sending it up the ramp to the far left of the table. Losing the ball here causes you to have a “sound overload”.
Nightmare is the final table that is available in this game. There’s numerous targets you can hit. The big twist of this game is the fact that launching the ball will only send the ball a third of the way up the table. If you use full strength, it will bounce off the corner of a ramp, deflecting the ball directly towards your flippers. A lighter shoot can let the ball pass just under the corner of the ramp and possibly hit a target on the left hand side of the table before rolling down to your flippers. One interesting trick I found with this table is that it’s possible to roll your ball along every white target towards the top left hand corner of the table below the left ramp. Sometimes, although difficult, you can send your ball up the ramp, but not strong enough to get it to go all the way over the upper portion so that it rolls back out. Doing this can allow you to earn larger bonuses. While it is possible to get to the upper targets in this game, it’s extremely difficult to have your ball get sent through any of them because, at best, your ball will either fall a little short or get sent all the way over them and down another chute. If you lose your ball here, you’ll get “scared stiff”.
One general criticism I have of this game is the camera. I found it too close to the table. This causes the camera to move very quickly, leaving you little time to react to where the ball is going if you haven’t played the tables enough times. If you memorize the positions of the flippers so that you can accurately predict which flipper to use in any given angle, you’ll find your luck improve greatly. Until then, chances are, each ball will last about 15 seconds.
An interesting element to this game is the fact that each pinball has a legitimate pin in the middle of the flippers. This is great because of the flipper positioning. If the ball goes straight down the middle, don’t use your flippers because, chances are, the ball will hit the pin, deflecting it back up and to the side. Using your flippers in this scenario can cause you to block the ball from traveling back up into the field and push it fast into the pit below. This doesn’t work with every angle, but for the more direct paths, this can save you in tight situations.
I’ve noticed on some reviews that there was a lot of positive feedback on the ball physics of this game. Seeing as though there were numerous platforms this was launched on, I’m going to assume that this may have been in reference to this game on a different platform. The ball physics in this platform were good with one exception: sometimes, the flipper “grabs” the ball and pulls it down in specific situations. I haven’t quite figured out what exactly triggers it, but it often happens when the ball has very little momentum and the ball is just within reach of a flipped in the up position. I figure it was just a minor glitch in this particular game.
Graphically, this game was decently well done for a pinball game. It was quite smooth with little, if any, lag. Some of the lights could have used a little more shading and ambient effects, but I think that’s getting to the point of hair splitting here. Good overall here.
The audio was a very strong point in this game. Even the menu music was nicely done. The music in each table, whether it’s in the standby mode, in the mode where the ball is about to be put into play, or the ball is actually in play, I think the music was all very well done. The sound effects were also all nicely done. This is especially so for the Nightmare table which had it’s own sample for almost every little thing you can do.
Overall, I liked this game. It’s got good variety between the different themes of all four table and there are always ways of improving your score in each different game. There were even small snippets of storyline in each table (i.e. the places you tour in Beat Box or trying to stay alive in Nightmare). It isn’t a perfect game by any means, but if you are into pinball, this game is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already played it already. Otherwise, this game can provide some entertainment value once you get over the learning curve thrown at you from the rather close camera and the fact that a lot of your games will be rather short lived in the beginning.
Furthest point in game:
Ignition: Over 600,000 points.
Steel Wheel: Over 4,470,000
Beat Box: Over 770,000
Nightmare: Over 17,150,000
General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 7/10
Overall rating: 68%
Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85