Dream Pinball 3D offers players a choice of six multi-level tables, seven camera angles, and four difficulty settings. The themed tables are as follows: Knight Tournament, Spinning Rotors, Monsters, Dino Wars, Aquatic, and Two Worlds. The latter features artwork from the action role-playing game of the same name, released on both PC and Xbox 360 platforms in 2007. One of Dream Pinball 3D's more distinguishing elements is the inclusion of six ball types with individual characteristics and physics. In addition to traditional steel balls, the game introduces balls made of oak, walnut, marble, ivory, and even gold. The action can be viewed from a fixed perspective or from one of six dynamic views that automatically scroll and zoom as the ball travels across each table. Up to four pinball wizards can compete in the game's multiplayer mode.
What would be your dream pinball game? If it's a handful of generic tables with poor ball and flipper physics, SouthPeak games just made your dream come true. Dream Pinball 3D gets the tables right but completely misses the boat in how it controls. The result is a poor approximation of how pinball is supposed to feel.
The table collection here consists of a bunch of clichés and one ambiguous fantasy game. You've got your medieval table, your monster table, your dinosaur table... They're well thought out with the usual secrets, combos, and special modes, but they aren't inspired. The one machine that isn't easily described is Amber Moon, which appears to be a mishmash of sword and sorcery themes. A sexy witch/vampire lady adorns the table's artwork. Overall, the sound in Dream Pinball is pretty well done. Each table has its own soundtrack, appropriate sound effects, and a voice over giving you commentary.
The first thing any pinball wizard will notice about this effort is the flippers are terrible. They aren't governed by physics at all. There are simply two flipper modes: up and down. Flipping them doesn't result in any movement; they are transported from a resting position to an upright position. This denies the player the ability to finesse their shots with varying degrees of strength.
Also disappointing are the ball physics. The orbs don't feel like they have any weight to them. Each table has a "ballchange" feature that switches the material of your ball from steel to things like marble or walnut. The manual claims this will alter the weight and handling of your orbs, but in practice they don't feel any different. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like the ball is making contact with the flippers.
If this is supposed to be our dream, I guess we don't have a very active imagination. Beyond playing each table and saving your high score, there aren't any other modes or secrets to unlock. You can play with up to four people, but this only consists of taking turns with other players. There are seven camera angles, but none of them really provide the best view. They all seem to be either too far away or too close to the action.
Dream Pinball is capable of one special effect: a lava spray. This technique is used liberally on every table -- even the underwater Aquatic. The back of the box boasts fancy High Dynamic Range (HDR) Technology which is supposed to provide a greater dynamic range of light and dark areas. But it's hard to spot this tech in the game. When you zoom in close to the tables you notice some pleasant details, but the game's visuals aren't all that dreamy.
Dream Pinball 3D fails at reproducing realistic physics, rendering it pretty much useless. Even if the player was given a sense of the weight of the ball and the flippers reacted like they should, you'd still have some pretty generic tables.
With the heyday of pinball simulations on the PC ping, ping, pinging in my noggin like it was the mid-90s all over again, I really wanted to love Dream Pinball 3D. Forget that its title still hypes the fact that it's "3D" well over a decade after 3D cards became standard operating equipment. Forget that Future Pinball, a beautiful, well-made pinball sim and table designer, can be downloaded for free. If Southpeak is charging for this collection of six all-new tables, then it must be pretty special, right?
Not really. To be fair, drab assortment of generically themed tables in Dream Pinball 3D is a major let-down. There's the listless Knight Tournament, which looks like it was completely designed with medieval clipart; Monsters, an oh-so-creatively titled table about, um, monsters; Dino Wars, the requisite dinosaur board; and Aquatic, a deep-sea diving table with some oddly un-aquatic sound effects (is that a bird cawing?). Somewhat better are Spinning Rotors, a helicopter-themed table equipped with a rotating propeller smack-dab in the middle of it, and Amber Moon, a sword-and-sorcery riff that features a translucent upper mini-table.
Dream Pinball 3D's worst transgression, however, is its lethargic physics implementation. It's like every ball is out for a leisurely stroll, limply colliding with bumpers and sensors along the way. And though you may be tempted to turn on graphics settings like glass reflection and light bloom, don't - the exaggerated effects are far more distracting than they are realistic. Expecting interactive minigames or other technological enhancements to standard pinball? Look elsewhere.
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