RetroAhoy: Pinball Dreams

RetroAhoy: Pinball Dreams

Hello! This is RetroAhoy, and this – is Game
A retrospective on some of the less-well known
but still significant titles of the decades
past in gaming.
In this episode we’re taking a look at the
genesis of what might be the finest series
of pinball simulators of the 1990s … with
Pinball Dreams.
Released in 1992 on the Commodore Amiga by
publishers 21st Century Entertainment, and
developed by the then-unknown studio Digital
Illusions – Pinball Dreams was a foray into
the realistic digital Pinball Simulator scene.
21st Century Entertainment were founded in
1991, and had a few titles to their name prior
to the release of Pinball Dreams – such as
Rubicon, Zarathrusta, and Nebulus 2.
Digital Illusions can trace their routes to
Swedish DemoScene group ‘The Silents’, as
the four founders – Ulf Mandorff, Olof Gustafsson,
Fredrik Liliegren and Andreas Axelsson – were
all former members.
Pinball Dreams was their first commercial
effort, and the slick graphics, titling and
music synchronisation reflects the demoscene
Aside from the great presentation, the game
was also notable for its commitment to the
real pinball experience – rather than some
of the more fanciful features seen in other
pinball games, the intent with Pinball Dreams
was to emulate a real table as closely as
To this extent, the game was a success – the
tables were authentic enough, and the physics
behind the game – while occasionally floaty
or mildly quirky – was solid.
The game featured 4 tables total – each with
a significantly different theme and layout,
and offered a substantial alteration to gameplay
in each instance.
The first, Ignition, is a spaceship-themed
affair in which the ultimate goal is to travel
the solar system by collecting ‘FUEL’, then
hitting the launch chute.
It’s a wide open table with few major features
– fast paced but predictable.
Steel Wheel is the second, a wild-west American
Railroad themed table, in a suitably dusty
brown hue.
Here you collect new carriages and raise your
ticket prices to attain the higher scores
– running the repeatable ramps yields great
score bonuses as a reward for accuracy here.
The third, Beat Box, simulates your rise to
fame in the 90s music industry, as by hitting
targets and running ramps you can rise up
the charts and embark on global tours.
Most of the action is towards the bottom of
the table, requiring you to repeatedly run
routes in quick succession to unlock the higher
Nightmare, the final table – labelled as ‘graveyard’
on the backdrop, oddly enough – is a crypt-themed
table in which you advance the clock slowly
to midnight, and strive for the jackpot and
‘super jackpot’, with a multi-million point
yield sure to secure a spot on the high score
These four tables boast diverse gameplay elements,
with each offering a unique graphical style
and reactive music soundtrack.
Although there had been many pinball games
before, few had captured the essence of a
real table in the way that Digital Illusions
were able to.
Through fusion of slick controls, smooth scrolling
and good – realistic – table design, the pinball
experience was more authentic than most other
digital simulators at the time.
More importantly than that, though – the game
was actually fun!
Beyond the slick mechanics and presentation,
the table design was such that achieving the
higher levels and top scores was no mean feat
– but very satisfying when you were on a hot
The addictive gameplay was bolstered by the
persistent high-scores, with your previous
best efforts saved to disk as a future yardstick
to strive for.
It’s this combination of factors that made
Pinball Dreams a fitting tribute to what was
a fading cultural phenomenom – with the advent
of more advanced graphics and the increased
focus on home systems over the arcade, the
mechanical pinball machines of yesteryear
were starting to fade from popular culture.
Pinball Dreams was generally praised by critics,
with most scores in the high 80s, pushing
the 90 percent mark.
The engine behind the game went on to some
good use – and the same year a sequel was
released, in Pinball Fantasies.
This sequel offered a few technical improvements
– taller tables, a third flipper on some,
and a more advanced matrix display for backboard
1995 saw another sequel in Pinball Illusions
– which introduced support for the more advanced
graphics architecture on the Amiga 1200 and
on MS-DOS, and the inclusion of a ‘multiball’
‘True Pinball’ would be the last pinball simulator
by the developers – developed for the PlayStation
and Sega Saturn, it was essentially a 3D version
of Pinball Illusions, as it included the same
4 tables.
Some of the Digital Illusions developers would
join Liquid Dezign, who went on to produce
the last great Amiga pinball game – Slam Tilt,
also published by 21st Century.
Following the publication of Slam Tilt, 21st
Century would see few subsequent successes
– little more than a few rehashed pinball
games before the company finally closed its
doors in the year 2000.
Their name, along with their griffon logotype,
will be remembered for Digital Illusion’s
pinball series – but with the slow death of
the Amiga, Digital Illusions were set to move
onto greater pursuits.
In 2002 Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment
– now branded as DICE – embarked upon a new
franchise, some distance away from their pinball
games – with a military themed first person
Battlefield 1942 was the first in what was
to be a long-running series, published by
Electronic Arts, or EA.
Boasting a great multiplayer experience, the
game was a hit – and EA invested heavily in
DICE, buying 19% of their stock for majority
The series was followed by Battlefield 2 in
2005, Battlefield 2142 in 2006, And a series
of Bad Company Games developed from 2008 specifically
for the consoles.
By this point, the studio was purchased wholesale
by EA and became a permanent addition to their
stable, and have since been working on new
IPs such as Mirrors Edge, and the continuation
of the familiar Battlefield series with the
forthcoming Battlefield 3.
Pinball’s heyday has long since passed, with
the noisy, bulky, mechanical boxes edged out
in arcades by newer, more reliable, forms
of digital entertainment.
With the shift away from the arcade in the
90s, home computers would prove a more fertile
ground for game developers, sounding the death
knell for the coin-ops.
For those who missed the height of the pinball
era, the chance to relive some of the simplistic
excitement of a steel ball, tilted plane and
mechanical flippers was a welcome one – which
goes some way to explain the popularity of
pinball games in the early 90s.
Pinball Dreams, then, is a homage to the old
guard – a cultural echo of a fading treasure,
a memory of bustling arcades and pinball wizards
of time gone by.
Join me next time, as we cover another entry
in the history of gaming – as we explore the
roots of the shoot-em-up, with arcade title
Until then, farewell.

100 Comments on “RetroAhoy: Pinball Dreams”

  1. How does this guy not have over 20m subscribers? His production value is so good, better than most larger YouTubeers… Love this channel.

  2. I loved this game!
    Please do more Amiga games! I don't know why but something about that era of gaming is so fascinating to me.

  3. So halfway through I was wondering if he was talking about DICE when he said the developer was Digital Illusions, and sure enough!

  4. It was back then the best pinball simulator, still the ruleset was not even close to any of the real Williams or Bally pinball machines – those simply had much better knowledge how to make a great and fun ruleset.

  5. With all due respect to Digital Illusions' fare, the finest pinball simulation series of the 1990s (and perhaps of all time) is the Pro Pinball series by Cunning Developments.

  6. You guys summed it up! One thing that (in my humble opinion) didn't get the attention it deserved was music, namely the theme music in Pinball Dreams / Fantasies (not so much in Illusions or Slam Tilt). If you ever do an episode about .mod format ( H I N T ! ), I am sure these two will be shining examples of the versatility of the format… or the people behind it. P.S. Bjorn Lynne, Martin Iveson etc.

  7. i guess that is why I LOVE pinball fx 2 "serie" … (and i play more pinball fantasies than pinball dream back in the day)

  8. Forthcoming Battlefield 3….sheesh, how time flies, we've had BF4 and now heading to BF1. Happy I found your channel, really like your videos, very informative.

  9. Hello. I'm an aspiring game designer/programmer. Being born in 1994 I've missed a "little" of gaming history. I've got to say that your videos are some of the best video game documentaries ever made. Keep up the fantastic work!

  10. anyone remember the unreal pinball tables by cunning development? timeshock was my favourite…
    also does anyone know the name of a particular pinball game where one of the tables (only one you could play on the shareware version) involved trying to turn on this blue android, most of the table was yellow if that helps.

  11. I never played Dreams, but loved Pinball Fantasies and played it a huge amount in the early 90s. Both on my friend's Amiga 500, and then later also on my own PC. I still remember the cheat code EARTHQUAKE which allowed unlimited "tilts" – a tilt jerked the ball a bit, simulating slamming a real pinball machine with your hand to try to cheat. And EXTRABALLS was the other I think, to get 5 balls (lives) instead of 3. I was never great at the game but loved playing all the same.

  12. Anyone know of any good pinball games you can get today? I'm looking for either an open source pinball game or one with lots of levels, specifically with a lewd nature.

  13. Probably the game i spent more time on back then… Pretty much always on the Nightmare table trying to unlock the super jackpot. It was amazing from the intro… And the music, omg it was reaaly fantastic.

  14. I love how you didn't let on right away that these were the same people who would go on to make the Battlefield games. I'm serious. Good on ya! 🙂

  15. Pinball games… to fucking first-person shooters. I know life is unpredictable and takes you to lots of unexpected places, but damn. What a twist of fate!

  16. I played the crap out of Pinball Dreams on the Amiga with my friend many nights, and play the crap out of the BF series. Who knew they were related ?! Awesome

  17. Ok, I feel the need to comment on this.
    Pinball was not dying in the 90s (or at least until the very end of the 90s.). The best selling pinball machine released in March of 1992. (Addams Family) Some people consider the 90s to be a golden age of pinball, and for good reason. Over half of the top 10 games voted by the community on Pinside are from the 90s, with 4 of them in the top five. Medieval Madness (1997), Attack From Mars(1995), Twilight Zone(1993), and Monster Bash(1998) being the top 4 in order. PAPA was founded in 1991, and hosted the pinball world championships from 1991-1995, and in 1998. They took a hiatus from here to 2004, and continue to host them to this day.

    Perhaps the popularity of these games may not be from a decline of pinball, but rather, an addiction.

  18. Ah, Slam Tilt was awesome. I remember my highest score was on Ace of Space – 6,144,000,000. After that came Pinball Prelude, I think. It was nowhere near as good as its predecessors.

  19. great video ! thanks 🙂
    perhaps you should have mentioned the amazing trick Digital Illusions did use for multiball : they exploited one of the unique capability from the Amiga at this time : use several screen resolutions, at will on screen. When multiball was triggered, the game switched, in real-time, from 200/256 vertical lines to interlaced mode using 400/512 vertical lines in order to display a more global view, with much less scrolling, of the pinball table. I cant remember other games using such insta resolution change in-game (except for transition screens). It even caused troubles when trying to promote the original 15 KHz signal on more recent 31 KHz crt monitors because the later where not designed to switch from resolution without delay, so you ended with a black transition screen of a few seconds when the resolution change occurred making you loose all the balls 😉

  20. Some of the youngins' in the audience might not know Windows used to come with it's own version of Pinball, that's how popular it was back then!
    When I was but a wee lil' lad on my dad's computer you couldn't play anything without Floppy-dicks or CD's aside from Solitaire and… 3D PINBALL: SPACE CADET.

    You get 3 guesses as to which one was the more popular choice for me and similar kids. x)

  21. just 1min in .. but i was a part of the demoscene arround that time .. and digital illusions became the world famous dice .. but ill guess you will bring that up anyway! one more thing .. in those days .. it was blasphemic for a scener in general and for someone who was seen as an "elite" scener (thats what the best of the sceners called themself there where only "lamers" and "elite" nothing in bewteen 😉 ) .. to programm games! "games where played by lamers .. childrens and idiots .. demos is where its at" was the motto! but ill guess the dice proofed the scene wrong big time ill guess. comparing me ( a guy thats broken .. broke and living on wellfare) to the guys at dice 😀 but hey .. at least ive kept it real didnt i ? i mean cmon .. i am broke af .. but i didnt do no lame shit! real ppl die broke right :D:D:D:D (please dont burst that bubble .. thats all thats left for me!)
    all ive got is this uninterresting story to share .. and proof the world .. that i knew about some guys .. years before you got the know them. ill guess thats why ive stopped the video to write this comment! before it mentions DICE .. which it will ill guess! because if it does .. then i feel that i somehow lost again in this life of mine!
    but besides all of my jealousy "hands down .. the silents" where some of the best groups arround that time and every crew was happy .. some (me)even proud .. to mention them in their greetings!
    ps: ive loved pinball dreams (but please dont tell nobody .. you know .. games are for lamers 😉 )

  22. Randomly skipping through your videos and letting you talk for a second or two each time produces very odd results.
    But the video itself was super cool! <3

  23. Except the 90s greatest pinball simulation series was Pro Pinball, developed by Cunning Developments and published by Empire Interactive.

  24. I had my A500 hooked up to my double cassette deck boom box, and I can remember recording the table theme songs on tape 'cause they were super cool. Instead of starting the the game, just open the highscore list for a table, and you'd get the theme song playing.
    Side note: I'm pretty sure I also have the game on PSP Vita.

  25. Your timeline re: Pinball's fade from popularity is actually slightly off–1992, when Pinball Dreams was released, was actually right when pinball was making a resurgence, with the Addams Family table becoming the all-time best seller in pinball history and the game enjoying a new spurt of popularity. It wasn't until about 1996-2000 that pinball's popularity started to fade and die out.

  26. OMG, I played Pinball Fantasies so much back then on my Amiga 500! This is the first time I've seen or even thought about it for 25 years. What a blast from my youth. Thank you, Ahoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *