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%% Usenet Review:  Pinball Fantasies AGA                 By Henry Norman %%
%%                                                (henryn@cpd.tandem.com %%
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PRODUCT NAME

        Pinball Fantasies AGA


BRIEF DESCRIPTION

        Pinball game simulation.  Four different pinball tables.


AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

        Name:           21st Century Entertainment, Ltd.
        Address:        Westbrook street
                        Blueberry, Oxfordshire
                        OX11 9QB
                        UK

        US distributor: Digital Illusions, Inc. ("DI")

LIST PRICE

        I paid $40 (US).


COPY PROTECTION

        Look up a word in the manual.  Prompts at startup time.
        Hard disk installable.


SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

        AGA graphics.  PAL mode (NTSC 1200/4000, boot system with both
        mouse buttons depressed, select PAL, continue boot).

        Pinball runs on NTSC, but important parts of playfield are not seen.

                [MODERATOR'S NOTE:  Previous reviews of the non-AGA version
                have not mentioned any problems with NTSC vs. PAL.  I
                suspect that either Mr. Norman purchased a PAL version of
                the game, or the AGA version has different requirements than
                the non-AGA version.  - Dan]


MINI-REVIEW

        I bought Pinball Fantasies for my son's Christmas pleasures (yeah,
right!).  Since he's away skiing for a few days, I installed the game and
took it for a spin....  Wow!  *Now* I know why I upgraded to AGA!  If you
haven't yet seen this game, check it out!  It is your classical "Williams"
type pinball setup, with a playfield about three screens high (with
absolutely smooth scrolling), offering four different "machine layouts" (DI
calls them "tables").  They have the typical pinball gizmos, with bumpers,
bounce areas, buttons to hit, flippers, all *very well* done.  The really
slick thing with this game, nice graphics aside, is the uncanny realism the
authors (a bunch of Swedish programmers) have achieved in ball action:
you're there!  It is absolutely amazing (to me) to play this kind of
pinball!  This game should have some "addiction" government warning label on
it....  Ask your C= dealer if you can check it out on their A4000 demo
machine.  Get this game.  (No, I'm in no way affiliated with Digital
Illusions.  I'm just excited that in the midst of an avalanche of substandard
games, here's a *real gem*!)

        For some reason, DI "front-ended" the game proper with a module that
attempts to stop unpaid-for copies of the game to start circulating ("yeah,
right" again):  you have to look up keywords from the manual and answer a
question properly before you can begin shooting for those million point
bonuses.  This sucks.  Especially considering that one only has to copy a
few pages from the manual to be in business anyway (it is made thicker by
making it a four-language manual :).  But then I realized that this scheme
forced me to read something from the manual every time I start Pinball...
maybe it's not such a bad idea after all?

        Pinball is following the AmigaDOS rules, and behaves well.  Even
though it takes over the machine completely, it gives everything back in
order when it's done, and returns gracefully to AmigaDOS (as some put it, "it
multitasks well".  IMHO, multitasking has nothing to do with it:  it is a
simple matter of coding the darn thing properly).

        I don't know if it is true for all Pinball Fantasies boxes sold, but
the copy I picked up (at HT Electronics, Sunnyvale) didn't work right at
first... a substantial portion of the playfield wouldn't show on the
screen.  No clue in the manual...  When I saw all the Swedish names in the
list of game contributors, I figured maybe this should run on a PAL machine
to work right?  So I booted my A4000 as a PAL machine, and lo and behold:
the game came up with *all* of the playfield displayed (and with better
vertical resolution!).  It runs "semi-OK" in NTSC, but on my A4000 the
crucial lower portion of the playfield is hidden (including most of the
lower flippers), so it's hard to control the ball action -- the extra hassle
of PAL booting is well worth it!

        My only complaint is the sound effects:  the vendor could have spent
some more time and effort (MHO) on the noises emitted from a real pinball
table.  As it is, only some of the actions the ball experiences have audio
(I really miss that metallic rolling sound of the ball, especially when it
runs up and down these steel railings...  Oh well!).  This flaw is "hidden"
in a cacaphony of "game music" (which can be toggled off by hitting M).
However, the super realistic ball simulation more than adequately makes up
for this:  it is truly amazing!  If this is only a forerunner of AGA
productions coming out the pipeline, it's going to be expensive for me...
(HaHaOS :)).

        As Beavis and Butthead would have put it: "hehehe, dude, this game
is cool...  yeah, it kicks a**!  hehehehe, pinball rules!"

Merry Christmas to y'all!

  Henry Norman