Finally there is an Amiga pinball game that has broken the mold. Until now flipper games have either been perfectly-scrolling, good-looking and ultimately boring reproductions of The Real Thing (Pinball Mania, Illusions) or they have been quirky, curious things (Pinball Prelude) or they have been crap (Thomas The Tank Engine).
Actually, there is a fourth category for surreal French pinball games. It has one entry - Ultimate Pinball Quest.
And do you know something? For years, people who choose silver balls and flippers as their favorite stimulant, have been muttering: 'Why can't they get it right? What we want is an Amiga pinball game that does not try to replace The Real Thing, but develops it - we want sub-games, and video sequences, and loads of top technical trickery".
In short, pinball games that try to imitate The Real Thing are stuff and nonsense. Real pinball machines have been trying to introduce a video game element for years. Slam Tilt at last says: 'Hang on, I am a video game. Maybe I should include some little video sequences...'. It is a cunning plan. And in this case it works rather well.
Slam Tilt is not an unqualified success, but it moves the Amiga pinball genre on so far that you can safely ignore most of the previous games: The future of Amiga pinball starts here... So what have we got then? Well, Slam Tilt is a huge game, there are too many features and video modes to look at all of them, but let us take a peek at each of them, starting with...
A seafaring theme. Some might say nautical, but nice. But not us. A similar table to Mean Machines in that it is a bit fussy and the video modes are intriguing rather than adrenaline-pumping. The process for activating the video bits can be a bit of a yawn, too. It involves firing the ball up the lane just to the left of the top-left flipper and then, when the ball lands on the top flipper, hitting it up the mode chute. Here are some of the good things on offer:
Shark Attack: A simple, if chilling scenario. You will be eaten by a large-finned beast unless you can hit enough ramps and loops and things to put 34 seconds between you and the big fish. Those with a keen sense of the morbid might enjoy the 'being eaten' sequence.
Kinfe Throwing: Throw knifes, avoid canon fire keep the ball into play, sweep the floor. This one will keep you busy. Or not if you cannot do it. You do not really have to sweep the floor, but you are supposed to dodge cannon balls by using the flipper keys and lob knives using the Return key.
Crocodile Multiball: Easy-peasy two-ball multiball made all the more worthwhile by the hilarious music.
Overall: there is loads more to this table, but do you really want to dally on it when better things await?
NIGHT OF DEMONS
A simple, indeed sparse, table compared to the clutter of Mean Machines. But Night Of Demons comes a close second to Ace Of Space in the list of top Amiga pinball tables. Some players might find the squelching noise made by the stake-on-flesh in the Exterminate Vampire mode, a tad uncomfortable. But you can always turn the volume down. The best bits are:
Bat Butcher: A simple plan. After shooting the appropriate ramps to activate the mods, a bat flutters around the video screen. By firing the ball up more ramps, you can unload a double-barrelled shotgun at it, Crude, yet worryingly addictive.
The Mega Mutant Meatball: Hit the right ramps to leg it from the hideous meatball beast. You would be foolish not to.
The Bumpers: The sight of the poor chap on the video screen pummeled as the ball hits the bumpers is one of the game's finest moments.
Werewolf Video: As the gruesome beast lurches towards you (you released it from its lair by hitting the Werewolf Trap below the right ramp), you have to tap the flipper keys as fast as you can to shoo the fast approaching werewolf and thus avoid all sorts of unpleasantness.
Overall: Simple, yet fiendishly effective.
ACE OF SPACE
Possibly the finest pinball table in the history of the Amiga. This is the only computer pinball table I have ever played where I have used the Space Bar nudge to desperately (and, in this case, successfully - phew!) try to keep the ball in play. Let us face it you usually only really hit the Space Bar to see how far you can push the table before it tits you. A fantastic table, it is simple, yet compelling. All you have to do is whack the ball into the Space Station on the bottom left of the scene and hit the appropriate mode start. But you can have loads of modes lit at once! You breathlessly, finish one and another is upon you! Crikey! Here are the best bits:
The Death Planet: Brilliant. In video mode, you are hurtled at walls and have to dodge them using the left and right flippers. It is the same theory as the Formula One malarkey on Mean Machines. But that was a bit dull and this is white-knuckle mayhem. Ridiculously simple. Very exciting.
Blam!: Blast video targets - including a banana, a space station and a cyber cow - by hitting the appropriate ramp. The mechanics are identical to many of the features on some of the other tables. This way it is just a lot more fun.
Walker: The same theory as Shark Attack from the Pirates table. But more laughs. Put space between yourself and a bad alien thing hitting the right targets or suffer the (quite horrible) consequences.
Overall: Expertly crafted table. The best.
A smart-looking table with loads of ramps and flashy things, Mean Machines looks better than it plays - it looks fantastic and plays very well. As with all the tables, the object of the exercise is to go for the multiballs and the video mode. You could just play for points, but you would be a rather and sad individual if you did.
Tonk the ball into the hole at the top-left of the table to activate the video mode and sling it in there again to start it. The highlights of the video modes include:
Formula One Race: Use the flippers to steer your car around the track. If you are totally brilliant, you will do this six times, collect the incredible riches of a maximum bonus and an extra ball. If you are a mere mortal, you will crash after a few seconds, swear a lot and suffer the added indignity of No Score flashing up on the screen.
Offroad Race multiball: a three-ball multiball, the object of which is to hit the car lamps to overtake your rivals and collect a nice fat points bonus.
Chicken Race: You are in a head-to-head race with a psychopath who has probably got no license and been drinking heavily. The clock counts down and the later you leave it before confidently shooting the trap on the left of the table, the more points you get. Should you fail to hit the trap before the time runs out, your car is totaled by the psychopath and you climb from the wreckage a humiliated player.
Overheat: A curious and slightly unnecessary thing. While you are doing something far more important, you notice that your car is overheating and eventually explodes. You can prevent this happening if you stop what you are doing and hit a few lights. Or you can watch your car explode, which is far more satisfying. Do not worry, you have got plenty more.
Overall: Good, in a methodical and mechanical kind of way.
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