Way back in 1992, when Digital Illusions CE released their hit pinball game Pinball Dreams, it was heralded as the most realistic, well-designed pinball game ever made. Its realism and attention to detail were rewarded when it made the top-selling games list for the Amiga.
It had four tables for you to get flipper happy on, all of which were as beautifully rendered as the Amiga’s limited palette would allow. Each table was designed in such a way that you would swear it was a replica of an actual pinball parlor table. The themes of the tables were not just skin deep, they were integrated with the mechanisms and scoring of the actual table, making each a unique and lively experience.
Fans of this classic game will be glad to hear the PSP version holds true to the original in every way, except that it looks better. The only significant changes are a re-mastering of the table graphics with additional colors.
Being so well-crafted back in its time, Pinball Dreams holds up well by today’s standards. While the gameplay is certainly not as revolutionary as it may have been back then, each of the game’s four tables still offers a good dose of pinball fun. With four such different tables on offer, everyone is bound to have their favorites.
For me, Nightmare is still the most thrilling, with its bloodied blades at the bottom of the screen and suitably sinister sound effects, but the Wild West mayhem of Steel Wheel gives it a close run. Space-themed table Ignition looks particularly vibrant in its new incarnation, all bright red paint, planets and rocket ships. Only the pop-music themed Beat Box feels like it hasn’t quite stood the test of time in comparison with the others.
As with the Pinball Fantasies port, the controls are pretty easy to use. You press Select to change the view from Landscape to Portrait, and then after that most of the controls differ depending on what view you’re in. I like Portrait as you get to see the whole table at once, but some people might prefer the controls in Landscape and be quite happy to put up with the table scrolling up and down.
While pinball is inherently chaotic by nature, strategy and skill play a big part in how well you score. Building on your skill and strategy is fun and ‘one more play’ addictiveness certainly kicks in while trying to achieve the high scores.
Although there’s no multiplayer mode in minis as such, you can add up to eight players on each table before you start playing, so that you can ‘hot seat’ with your friends and compare high scores on the leader boards.
The game features high scoreboards on the flip side of each table icon on the menu screen, and this constant reminder when I load the game makes me think I won’t be satisfied until I have a high score on each one, though once that’s achieved it’s possible that the game won’t interest me as much.
The music may not be to everyone’s liking, being very authentic and old-school, but to me it’s all part of the great memories that the game evokes, taking you right back to the amusement arcades and pinball parlors.
To sum up, Pinball Dreams is a solid port of a solid game. If you were a fan of the original it’s definitely worth taking a trip down memory lane. For newcomers, it may still be worth a look, especially if you are a fan of pinball, but don’t expect anything revolutionary.