Ruiner Pinball

I've got to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of pinball, either simulated or in real life. I do have a couple of pinball games for the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast, but I only really bought them out of curiosity, and the pinball machine section at Play Expo held my attention for about 5 minutes before I moved on. That's not to say I don't appreciate the heritage of the humble pinball machine and the appeal that they hold for's just that pinball ain't my bag.

That being said, Ruiner Pinball on the Jag is a little bit special. There's not really any need for a videogame version of pinball to have a story or a message (other than the theme around which the table is based, I suppose), but Ruiner seems to be built around some form of moral tale which touches on the deadly nature of the Cold War, and how everyone who would be killed in a hypothetical nuclear dawn would end up in Hell. Or something like that, anyway.

The brief intro shows a city being destroyed by a mushroom cloud and then the menu screen allows you to choose a table based either on a sort-of 1960s Americana where you have to stop the USSR from blowing up your homeland; or a table based on a vision of Hell which is dominated by a very large purple-skinned demon-woman with glowing eyes and massive breasts. 'Odd' doesn't even come close to describing Ruiner.

That aside though, it plays really well. The paddles on the table are controlled either with the D-pad or the C and B buttons, and you can 'nudge' the table to the left or right with the 1 and 3 keypad buttons. There's a hell of a lot going on across both tables, and the graphics are bright, bold and beautifully drawn and there's so much intricate detail that it's a shame so few people will have actually played this game. The sound effects are a nice touch and very fitting, and the music (what little you can actually make out) is perfectly suited. On that note (ha!), one particular track on the Tower loading screen (with the two demons holding the coffin) is eerily similar to the music from the Kurt Russell version of The Thing. Just thought I'd share that.

I can't really say that I'm an expert in the field of videogames based on pinball, but I must say that Ruiner was a pleasant surprise. It's mad, colourful and enjoyable and there's a hint of a cautionary tale in there too: play with nuclear weapons and the big-breasted purple lady will come for your soul.

There is another pinball game on the Jaguar - Pinball Fantasies, but I know very little about it. If I ever see it for a reasonable price, I'll be sure to nab it and see how it fares when compared to Ruiner.

Gameplay video here, me hearties!

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