Review: Pinball Fantasies (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out the SNES pinball game, Pinball Fantasies. We’re looking to see if this particular game is worth a try.

This particular game was released in 1993 and contains a lot of similarities to the game Pinball Dreams which was released a year later.

There are four tables you can play in this game: Party Land, Speed Devils, Billion Dollar Game Show, and Stones Bones. You also have limited option menu that allows you to make changes to the games overall such as adjusting the difficulty (via changing the tilt of the table) and number of balls you get (3 or 5). Another thing to note is that after you use all of the balls, you’ll get a random number popping up. If the number on the right matches the number on the left, you’ll be able to get one additional ball (however unlikely that tends to be). If you use that extra ball, that’s it. It’s game over.

Party Land is the first table featured in this game. One notable feature is the fact that if you lose your ball particularly quickly, you’ll get a “Party On” message. This means that you are allowed to try again without losing any balls. This game seems to rely mainly on getting through very particular ramps while hitting specific targets. Sometimes, you’ll be able to shoot your ball into a ball trap only to get a message that you need to activate something else before earning anything in that trap. Sometimes, finding that specific target or ramp can be difficult (in fact, one is hidden at the top of the table which can most easily be accessed by using a very specific amount of power on the plunger at the beginning of play. Many of these ramps can be accessed by the third flipper half way up the table, though it takes a certain amount of skill and luck to utilize this one well. Beyond that, there’s only a small handful of targets that are generally positioned in such a way as to risk having the ball come back down towards your flippers at a bad angle. If you lose a ball, you’ll be “getting sick”.

Speed Devils is the second table available in the game. It’s a racing car themed table with plenty of lights spelling out various words associated with cars. Like Party Land, there is an extra flipper – only this time, it’s on the right. When you shoot the ball into the field, it will gently stop just above this flipper. Each pass gives you a chance to spell “pit”. If you hit the flipper right when the ball is over top of a little graphical “bump”, then the ball will fly up into a small loop and fall back over top of the “PIT” letters. You can toggle the lights with the flipper, increasing your chances of spelling the word. If you spell “PIT”, then you get a chance to double your bonus through the off road portion. The easiest way to get to that is to allow the ball to get to the very edge of the third flipper and trigger it at that correct moment to jam the ball into the off road area – netting you an easy 2x bonus. A weird glitch I encountered while playing this table is the fact that if you can get your ball to roll down the main side bumpers, you can cause them to trigger a lot without causing the ball to be sent upwards in a left or right motion – netting you a nice unofficial bonus in points. This table is a 50/50 in terms of importance of ramps and targets. If you lose your ball, you’ll be “off the road”.

The third table in this game is the Billion Dollar Game Show. This table, of course, is themed around a game show. This table also features a third flipper on the right side. While it’s possible to get some points out of hitting a few of the targets, a vast majority of your bonuses are contained in the ramps at the top portion of the table. These ramps are mainly accessible through the third flipper which is angled at a something like a sixty degree angle. If you can get your ball to travel through the various ramps, major bonuses await you. If you lose your ball, you’ll be “falling down”.

The fourth and final table is the grammatically curious table called “Stones Bones” (though if you access the table, it’ll be titled “Stones N Bones”. No idea why the “N” is missing on the menu screen and the table art). This table is theme is horror and is mostly about hitting targets (though the difficult to hit ramps will also yield nice sizable bonuses if the right targets have been hit). I’ve encounters the glitch of rolling the ball over the main bumpers at the bottom of the table like I saw in the Speed Devils table. If you collect screams by rolling through the right hand ramp, you’ll get an extra 100,000 point bonus for each ball per scream.

Generally speaking, I found that the main problem with this game is that it’s hard to earn points without hitting specific targets and timing your journey over the ramps right. I think that makes this game have a less approachable feel to it. The ball physics can be a little quirky at times. One example is that if your ball just touches the top of the main side bumpers, it will act as if it got pushed upwards. The extra speed of the ball seems to come out of nowhere. Sometimes, the ball defies logic as it gets pushed around certain areas of certain tables. An example of this is if you use all of the plungers power in Billion Dollar Game Show, the ball will hesitate on the ramp, then suddenly get pushed over so that it actually makes it through. In Stones Bones, the ball can actually slow down as it rolls across your flippers. Not sure why. I also felt that this game suffers from the problem of having the camera a little too close to the table. This means your reaction times are naturally reduced because you get less time to see more of the table. This means you’ll be relying somewhat on memory more than anything else.

Graphically, I felt that this game as a bit of a disappointment. Some of the art for the menu screen has that “done in MS Paint” feel to it. Overall, the animations were low quality. For each table, the art isn’t much better half of the time. It has a very generic feel to it. It’s as if someone told the artist that they wanted, say, a racing car on the table somewhere and some stock art was thrown in. Overall, the art feels dull and somewhat lifeless in spite of the flashing lights the game tries to bombard you with.

The music wasn’t much better either. A lot of the general music had a generic feel to it. It was as if the music was created before the themes of each table were given to the composer – leaving the composer to scramble and plop samples in so that it somehow matched the theme. In some cases, this was somewhat successful with the Party Land sound effects, but other cases, it wasn’t successful like with the dripping sound of Stones Bones.

Overall, this game might work well for those who are already into pinball games. For average gamers though, this game might have it’s moments at times, but is otherwise largely forgettable. Probably the best part about this game is the ability to customize the overall gameplay, but this plays a rather small roll in the overall gaming experience.

Overall

Furthest point in game:

Party Land: Over 7,207,000
Speed Devils: Over 4,990,000
Billion Dollar Game Show: Over 9,051,000
Stones Bones: Over 10,120,000

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 52%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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