June 18, 2006
One of my favorite things to play on Verticade, our full size MAME arcade machine, is pinball simulators. There's something about the completely digital simulation of analog gameplay that fascinates me. Plus, it's easy to take five or ten minutes out for a quick game of pinball. No MMORPG time commitment necessary.
Of course, it helps to have the right controls; our SlikStik arcade controller includes the optional pinball kit: two buttons on each side for flipper and nudge, and a single button on the front right for the plunger. It may not sound like much, but as any Guitar Hero fan will tell you, sometimes the controller makes all the difference. There are some obscure pinball controllers out there, but a garden variety keyboard will do in a pinch.
Unfortunately, PC pinball sims are a dying breed. And of the few commercial pinball games that were ever released, only a handful can be considered true simulators, with realistic approximations of the complex newtonian physics at work on a pinball playfield. If you're a fan, here are three pinball sims you definitely shouldn't miss:
- Empire Interactive's Pro Pinball series is widely regarded as the best of the best. I agree. Start here:
The physics are reasonable enough in The Web, but starting with Timeshock!, they're impeccable. In Big Race USA and Fantastic Journey, you can even cause the ball to pop up off the table and hit the backglass!
- Team 17's Addiction Pinball is a very close second to the Pro Pinball series. The physics are slighly relaxed, but still quite accurate. And the two tables are a bit more forgiving as well.
- 3D Realms' Balls of Steel is also worthwhile if you're willing to forgo realistic physics entirely in favor of fun. This is probably the purest old-school arcade style pinball I've found.
I've played most of the tables in the top 25 of the Tower of Pin review rankings, and these three are head and shoulders above the rest. They're all true Windows apps that run fine under Windows XP and Windows Vista, too. Some of the others in the top 10 are old DOS apps that are painful to get running properly, even in DOSBox. Some of these games are fairly old by now, so they can be difficult to find:
- Pro Pinball on Amazon; Pro Pinball on eBay
- Addiction Pinball on Amazon; Addiction Pinball on eBay
- If you have a decent 3D card, these newer pinball sims offer the rough equivalent of Balls of Steel level physics, with much better graphics: Pure Pinball 2.0 and Dream Pinball 3D on Amazon
And no, the Space Cadet pinball bundled with Windows XP doesn't count. Although, if you like that style of pinball, you can pick up Maxis' Full Tilt! and Full Tilt! 2, which is where the Space Cadet table was lifted from.
The good news is that the community is picking up the slack in commercial pinball sim releases. I'm not really a fan of Visual Pinball, due to the wonky physics and strictly 2D gameplay, but the community around it is vibrant and prolific.
I'm much more excited about Future Pinball, which truly takes pinball sims to the next level-- no more pre-rendered playfields! Future Pinball is essentially an editor which lets you design your own tables in full 3D, and play them in hardware accelerated 3D, too. It comes with one so-so demo table that has a generic alien theme, but there are already a number of excellent community-created tables out there for Future Pinball.
And now we've come completely full circle to my childhood...
.. and the hours and hours I spent building my own pinball machines in Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Ah, this reminds me of Stunts. Was there ever a better racing game?
David's Midnight Magic rules!
Nothing beats the Digital IllusionsPinball Fantasies. I kind of don't like these isometric 3D pinballs, 2D was for me far more realistic(?), or should I say, more playable.
Tristan. That was a great DOS pinball game back in the early-nineties.
I agree Pinball Dreams on the Amiga was fantastic. Aaaah, the hours whiled away during my childhood playing that one...
Jeff...this is why I read your blog. When you refer to Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set and I've spent hours upon hours building my own pinball machines as well...I know you're my hero. :)
All you need is right there for PinMAME and Future Pinball:
It's nice to know I'm not the only pinball fanatic out there. Ignoring the good links you provided and turning to real world... was there ever a more perfect real life pinball game than "The Addam's Family"?
Just like R. Garner's post I'm going to stray off PC topic and give a thumbs up for that GBA Pokemon Pinball. I played the Gameboy Color version and while that had the Rumble, the GBA version was totally enthralling, seriously. It's pretty forgiving since the point is you "gotta catch 'em all". I had one game that went on for more that a week (including saves) with some insane high score. But I still didn't "catch 'em all."
Just avoid Mario Pinball for the GBA (frustration awaits) and it'll be alright.
How about Flipnic for the PS2? Anyone?
(to get back on topic) Sadly the only PC pinball I know is that free microsoft one and Pinball from the makers of Unreal Tournament (? Epic's Adventure Pinball?).
That Pinball Construction set with the Apple IIe bleeding colors gives me the horrific nostalgia feeling. Don't do it again. Besides it reminds me that I was the unlucky kid with the intro to circuits Apple IIe edutainment game complete with Atari 2600 Adventure-style circuit building (you're a block, and the circuits are arrows with holes on the other side, which pulse slowly with current). I can't recall what its called but bleeding orange and green colors just horrify me.
Some classics from the Amiga/PC days are:
1. Pinball Dreams (the Amiga version is great, the PC version is godawful): http://www.pcpinball.com/reviews/english/sims/pinball_dreams.html . It was one of the first pinball games for PCs, and in my book certainly teh first worthy simulator. Physics are not up to snuff with latest games, but the sheer attention to detail, music, graphics and board design make this a very enjoyable game. (Mobygames link: http://www.mobygames.com/game/amiga/pinball-dreams )
2. Pinball Fantasies: the "sequel" to Dreams (and yes, it's Digitla Illusions, not EPIC): http://www.pcpinball.com/reviews/english/sims/pinball_fantasies.html . This is in my opinion the best pinball game ever. The PC version is superiour to the Amiga-ECS one and is technically astounding (the demo group The Spacepigs managed a high resolution, full-framerate conversion on a 386). An impressive soundtrack by Olof Gustafsson, terrific graphics and flawless gameplay make this a definite classic. (Mobygames link: http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/pinball-fantasies )
3. Epic Pinball: Epic Megagames' forray into pinballs (the other was the cute but lackluster Silverball): http://www.pcpinball.com/reviews/english/sims/epic_pinball.html . Terrific graphics, great music and impressive coding. It's not quite as polished as Pinball Fantasies, but it has some very original ideas (the Engima table, for example) and has a lot of soul. (Mobygames link: http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/epic-pinball )
A minor but amusing game is Gametek's Starball: http://www.pcpinball.com/reviews/english/sims/starball.html . It's worth a try, but not a whole lot more than that.
All three games can be run under DOSBox and are heartily recommended.
And for pinball in your pocket, nothing beats GBA Pokmon Pinball. Two tables, lots of "off-table" levels, slightly "easy" feel but no worse for it. Thankfully not as Pokmon-centric as you might think :)
how come no one mentions KAZe's creations, for both the superpinball series and digital series? I am definitely not overexagerating if I just say digital pinball is better than all this existing pc pinball stuff listed here together.
Too bad the game is so rare there is almost no information to find on the internet, but keep it in mind. D-I-G-I-T-A-L P-I-N-B-A-L-L if you haven't played it, you are simply missing something.
Best one I've seen is Microsoft Pinball, they are REAL tables, like Haunted House which has 3 levels on the table itself, I remember playing it in the arcades. This game is as good as it gets to putting the coin in a real machine
I liked playing pinball sims, I enjoyed the Pro Pinball series and also Pinball fantasies and Pinball dreams on the Amiga. But now Pinball games don't seem to be getting made, certainly nothing along the quality of the pro pinball series of games on the PC which is a shame. With the power of PC's now, the potential of what could be made is mind boggling but software houses seem to see Pinball as a niche market. Now we have future pinball, I tried dabbling with the editor but couldn't make a quality table, the vast majority of future pinball tables are dross. There are a small handfull that standout though thankfully but even then these fall short of Pro Pinball standards, ok 'The Web' wasn't that great but the others were good. Recently I came acorss an underdevelopment pinball game which promised to be the best pinball sim ever, can't find it now unfortunately but if someone googles it and finds the site then please post the link.
The link below wasn't the pinball game i was thinking about, however it does look interesting, not sure I'd like to treat my keyboard like that and don't care much for the zooming in n' out, would give me a headache so hopefully an option to turn that off.
I really like pinballs.
The pinball i most really enjoy and i play most was judge dredd pinball, not comented here. It has a lot of minigames and that kinda stuff, i dont know how people missed it. maybe a little old but still enjoyable. I will never forget this one, neither the sound when you heard the scream "yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh", i actually use the expresion "dredd's scream" when something's going wrong playing other games with my friends (they played dredd pinball too, so they dont think im crazy :P)
The other pinball i like the most is avengers pinball, the videos are someway annoying in the middle of the game, but it has a lot of "missions", its very fun for me. Its usual that people miss this one, its not commented in gamespot or other game pages. Maybe its european or something like that?. anyway, its worth playing.
Big race and fantastic journey are good games, i still preffer big race. Its older but i really like when "taxi" word is said.
Other good pinball for me (not comented here) is the williams pinball classics, the "aladin" table is very fun, and the old fashioned one is very cool too. And all 4 tables are real tables. It's a pain in the ass that it doesnt work properly in my computer (maybe its xp compatibilities problem? if anyone knows plz tell me).
Another one i remember that was very funny was one with billiards theme. It was packed with more tables (one was a soccer one if i remember well). I tink it was written for dos, if anyone remember the name i cant thank you enought for it.
How could you forget SubLogic's Night Mission Pinball?! IIR - While Bill Budge's PCS was prettier, SubLogic's was faster, allowing you to make playfields with massive numbers of silver balls which would slow the paddle response to matters of seconds and take hours to completely drain.
(on a side note, I see the C64 version of NMP is on eBay for ~$150 now)
I'm a huge fan of Pat Lawlor's tables (Fun House, Twilight Zone, Addams Family...) That man had a true gift for table design.
Aah, Tristan Pinball. I spent countless hours on that one. It also had the tendency to really hang my machine, but it was damn worth it tho.
Goddamn you... goddamn you all to hell
*sighs and starts downloading all the tables he's ever played*
That's a LOT you know - I have a href="http://www.ujuju.com/"Lucky Ju Ju/a near me.
Has any seen/reviewed/played "Dream Pinball 3D".
It's not as smooth as Pro-Pinball's TimeShock which is IMHO still the best PC-pinball ever. Pinball Dreams on the Amiga was fun but TS still looks gorgeous today and plays better with every PC-generation. I can now play this stunning table on today's hardware (Q6600,2GB and Raden X1950pro) at fantastic resolution with all eyecandy (probably not the best term to desribe the few gfx options) at full settings.
Anyway to stay on track. It has no antialiasing on the chrome ellements like TS but it has 7 camera views. Including one which follows the ball!!! I dunno what kinda hardware you need to get that running smooth but maybe someone can tell me.
Pinball Fantasies for DOS was an amazing technical feat. They managed smooth-scrolling, never-a-frame-dropped, plus real sound out of a PC speaker, all on a 386.
I am looking for someone to help develop a PC Pinball game.
If knowledged and interested e-mail me or call 804-349-6242
Does anyone know where to get a copy of TSUMERA Pinball by the Lingo company?
Has anyone played the Two Worlds pinball demo? The balls change from steel to marble to gold, etc., giving them different mass and reaction. I don't know if the final game ever came out, but the demo is pretty damn good. Physics are pretty nice. Great graphics. It's definitely the best pinball sim I've played since the ProPinball ones. If you haven't checked it out. Try it.
I didn't get much out of Future Pinball. Tried several of the tables, and they were mostly crap.
Sad... you'd think a pinball sim would be cake to program compared to, you know, GTAIV or something. I'd think you could make a profit even if just a few thousand fans bought it. I'd certainly pony up.
Sorry... I just noticed EPDM asked basically the same question. Dream Pinball 3D is the same thing as the Two Worlds pinball demo, I think, only fleshed out with more tables.
Like EPDM, I'd be curious to know if anyone's played it.
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What about Crystal Caliburn(?) and Loony Labyrinth?
hi! i just want to ask you about future pinball,is it compatible with visual pinmame? anyway,visual pinball is great, you could make
Van If you want to develop your own PC pinball game I would start by downloading PCS pinball which includes the source code in turbo pascal. You can find the game by entering pcs pinball in any search engine.