Pinball Illusions (Second Review)

Title           Pinball Illusions (Second Review)
Publisher       21st Century Entertainment (1995)
Game Type       Sport
Players         1-8
HD Installable  Yes; CD32 version also available
Compatability   AGA-only (CD32 works on AGA-CD systems)
Demo            aminet: game/demo/p3_demo.dms
Game data/utils Show scores - aminet: game/misc/PinHi.lha
                Set parameters aminet: game/patch/PinIlluPref2_0.lha

Well, this is the third game in the series.  What, you may ask, could
Digital Illusions do to warrant the release (and purchase) of yet
another pinball simulator? 	The answer is this:  They've polished the
simulation engine until it shines brighter than a very bright thing
indeed.  Then they've added new features like multi-ball (yeah!) and
hi-res mode.  Finally, making the game AGA only allowed them to
really work on the graphics until they look fantastic.  If you were a
bit disappointed with the AGA visuals in Fantasies, prepare for a
shock to the vision system.  Illusions looks every inch an AGA game.

For the two and a half of you out there that aren't quite convinced
by all that, here's a slightly more in-depth review.

Unlike its predecessors, Illusions provides only three tables, but
don't let that put you off, since each table has been worked on until
it plays like a dream, something that was not always true of all the
tables in the previous releases.  For instance, although I just love
Stones n Bones and Partyland from Fantasies, I very rarely play
Billion Dollar Gameshow or Speed Devils.  On the other hand, all
three Illusions tables get regular use, so for me, Illusions is
better value for money, as I get three great tables rather than two
great and two so-so tables.

Of course, some of you might still have preferred four tables, and
I'll admit that if Digital Illusions had provided four tables, I
wouldn't have complained.  However, this is absolutely NO REASON for
not buying the game.

A quick description of each table seems in order...

Law n Justice: 	 This table is based around a nightmare future of
lawlessness (as portrayed in Robocop) and places you in the position
of a police officer, trying to keep the peace whilst all around you
villains are doing their best to break it.  My least favourite of the
three, but that's only because the other two tables are so good.
(Featured in the playable demo available on Aminet)

Babewatch: 	 One for the Beach Boys fans, this table sees you as a
beach bum, trying to impress the babes by various means (surfing,
muscle building, gambling etc. etc.).  Fun, fun, fun 'till my Daddy
took the T'Bird away... ........My second favourite table.

LOVE this table.  You are a grungy kinda guy who likes nothing better
than a bit of bungee jumping or skydiving. (For UK readers, think of
the Pepsi Max adverts...) Everything about this table screams
EXTREME, from the music, via the sound effects, to the scoreboard
animations.  I could play this table all day.

So, three tables each with a different theme.  What about the common
elements to the game.  Firstly, if you're used to the single shade
score panels in Fantasies or Dreams, the multi-shade panels in
Illusions will be a bit of a surprise.  The extra shades are used for
purely cosmetic uses, to enhance the bonus/special mode animations.
But so what, if DI want to give us better looking graphics then so be
it, at least they haven't short changed us on the gameplay side of

The flippers seem to work slightly differently to the earlier games,
in that they "feel" different.  If you press and hold down the
flipper key, the effect seems to be different to when you press and
release the key.  This effect isn't mentioned in the manual, so it
might just be psychological, and then I might just be going crazy...

Finally we get multi-ball, and boy is it fun!  Up to three balls in
play at once, you just won't be able to flip fast enough at times.
It works beautifully, and shows no signs of slowdown on an A4000/030-
25.  Whether it`s just as smooth on an unexpanded A1200 is unknown...

Nudging the table is somewhat more involved now, with the old and
faithful vertical nudge being joined by left and right nudges, which
can be combined to produce diagonal nudges as well.  I found that
nudging the ball has less effect on it than in the earlier games,
which can be frustrating at times, but with a bit of practice you can
get out of most nasty situations.

If you've launched the game from Workbench, you can return during
play by pausing the game and hitting Tab.  This places you back on
the Workbench, and adds an extra option to the Tools menu.  Selecting
this option returns you to the game.  Slightly neater than some of
the methods used in other games, and it seems to be stable.  I've run
Illusions without any problems from a Workbench overloaded with
commodities (including screen blankers, normally the first thing to
cause a problem). The only thing I have to do is free up around 1.7MB
of Chip RAM, which is easy enough to do.  Unlike Fantasies, I've
never seen Illusions crash, though I haven't been playing Illusions
nearly as long as Fantasies.

The scoring system has been changed to produce scores roughly 10
times higher than those in the earlier games, so whereas previously
the highest preset highscore was 100,000,000, it's now 1,000,000,000.
Is this just a gimmick to make you think you're doing better than you
really are? I don't know, but it doesn't make much difference to the
gameplay, which is excellent.

The ball rolls around with much more realism than ever before.  Ramps
actually work like ramps, multiballs collide into one another and
rebound satisfyingly, and generally the game feels more like the real
thing than either of the prequels.  This is helped somewhat by the hi-
res mode.......  Yes, hi-res mode makes its appearance here.  Now you
can almost entirely say goodbye to vertical scrolling (since each
table is slightly taller than two low-res screens, there is still a
little bit of scrolling necessary).  The advantages are multiple.
Firstly, you can actually see where the ball is going to go, rather
than having to learn the layout of the table in order to be able to
hit a certain ramp or target.  Secondly, you get more warning when
the ball is about to reach the flippers, which in multi-ball mode is
crucial.  Finally it's more realistic, how many of you play real
pinball looking through a letterbox? No, I didn't think many of you
would own up, so why should you have to play simulated pinball with a
letterbox view of the table...well, no more.
Some of you folks may be concerned about interlace flicker. On a
decent monitor you'll hardly notice the flicker at all.  I've played
for hours in hi-res mode and I haven't felt any ill effects, whereas
after 10 minutes or so using a word processor in interlace gives me a
headache.  So, unless you are using a cacky TV which flickers badly
to start with, or you are ultra-sensitive to interlace flicker, hi-
res mode is just as easy on the eye as low-res.
Of course, if Illusions supported multiscan screenmodes life
would be even better, but it doesn't.  Bummer.

What more can I say?  The background music and effects are better
than ever before, the ball really looks like a polished metal ball,
erm, erm......I can't think of anything else.  Pinball Illusions is
just one of those games you'll either love or hate.  If you like
simulated pinball and you have an A1200/A4000, this is one game you
should have in your collection.

Comparison to other pinball games...

All through this review I've been using Pinball Fantasies as a
relative benchmark.  Illusions beats it hands down.  Pinball Dreams
doesn't even get a look in.

To conclude...

You've read the review, you know what I think.

Pinball Illusions is THE FINEST pinball simulator.  If you even
remotely liked either Pinball Dreams or Fantasies, and you have the
required hardware, then Illusions is a must.  4.9 out of 5

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