I think it's safe to say that everyone who had Windows around the millennium played the version of Full Tilt! Pinball that was bundled with it. I know I did - it was a nice break from Minesweeper, and if you got into a stride you'd find yourself saying 'ah, just one more go...' more times than you should have.
Pinball Dreams is a different game, though, but it's still pinball and it's still worth a look.
It's worth a look, but by God did I have a tough time of getting into it.
Pinball Dreams sounds like a winner. A simulation of pinball complete with whizzy ball physics, flippers and tilts, on one of four distinctive tables, each with their own theme, music, and sound effects.
It doesn't have to do anything big or complicated or give a myriad of options to the player, it just has to be consistent in its physics model and dangle enough of a carrot in front of the player to want to try again when they inevitably lose their balls to the abyss.
I lost a lot of balls.
It didn't help that I started off like a blithering idiot and forgetting that sticky keys are a thing. You don't have many keys to remember - left flipper, right flipper, new ball and thwack the table for seemingly no reason (it's never worked as a tactic for me, but then my pinball technique is nonexistent), so once you're set with a comfortable layout, away you go to watch a white blob slide across the screen, hopefully scoring points.
As games went on, I got more and more used to the way the game works, but I still found myself a bit bored by it all. Switching up the tables can mix things up a little, as you notice details and hear sound effects that surprise or delight, but those feelings are short lived because you've probably slipped up and lost another ball already.
The four tables are nice, though, spanning space, the age of steam engines, hideous 90s rap and a graveyard. You'll likely find at least one of these floating to the top of the most played list, if not for its look and feel then for the fact that it's just easier for you to score points on, and scoring points is where you'll be getting your kicks from - if you don't, you won't play the game, would you?
Pinball Dreams found plenty of ports and sequels for itself over the years. The SNES port jumped out at me, though I wish it hadn't. By default, the entire d-pad controls the left flipper, with all the face buttons flipping the right flipper. Whoever designed that should tilt his controller a little to see the flipper-like shoulder buttons on its top...
I'm obviously not a fan of Pinball Dreams, but probably only because I didn't get off to a good start with it. I was playing the deluxe version, which adds more tables, so there's plenty of content to try out, and should I ever want to play a pinball game, well, Pinball Dreams will probably be high on the list.
It's not a terrible game by any means - I'm just grumpy. If it was good enough to be bundled with some Commodore systems (what is it will bundling pinball games with computers?) then it's good enough to give it a few of your balls in an attempt at a high score.
Despite being called 'Nightmare' in the menus, the 'Nightmare' table appears to be called 'Graveyard' in-game.
Pinball Dreams, developed by Digital Illusions CE, first released in 1992.
Versions played: Pinball Dreams Deluxe, DOS, 1994.
SNES, 1994, via emulation.