Pinball Fantasies

The Jaguar doesn't have an extensive library of official titles. Since the console's demise, the homebrew community has been working overtime to put out new and interesting software for the system, but as far as officially released stuff goes...there's not a great deal of it. With that in mind, I find it odd that the Jaguar played host to two pinball games...but didn't have any tennis or boxing games, for example. To be fair, that probably had something to do with the relatively short lifespan of the Jag, but it's still a point worth making. One of those pinball games I have previously looked at. It's called Ruiner Pinball and is a pretty good virtual recreation of a metal ball being flicked around a table, even if it does try to ram a moral story sideways down your throat (it's a metaphor about the Cold War and everyone going to Hell or some such crap).

The other Jag pinball 'em up is this one - Pinball Fantasies, a port of a highly regarded Amiga game of the same name, and the sequel to Pinball Dreams. Not being an Amiga owner, I was fairly ignorant to the series' reputation; but after buying Fantasies and doing a bit of research I have discovered that the series really is critically acclaimed, and after playing for a while I cannot dispute the high regard the game is held in. That's because it really is a great game of pinball.

Everything works as you'd expect - the ball zips around nicely, the tables all have great variation and lots of features and the difficulty is just about spot on. Furthermore, I found myself playing Pinball Fantasies for quite a while - and I'm not really a fan of pinball games at all. As a pinball simulation, I can't really fault it - there are four distinctive tables to play, all with a different theme (Party Land, Speed Devils, Billion Dollar Gameshow and Stones 'N Bones), and up to 8 players can participate in a game, each taking it in turn to rack up the points before passing the controller on to the next player. The music is good, the gameplay smooth and the controls are good and responsive. Granted, there aren't that many - the D-pad operates the left flipper, the B button operates the right, C pulls the ball spring and A allows you to nudge the table - but it's all really responsive. Unlike Ruiner, Fantasies doesn't try to offer the player a background narrative - it is simply pinball. Choose a table, start the game, and try to get as high a score as possible. That's all there is to it, and it completes that task very well. As far as comparisons to other versions go, the Jaguar port is meant to be the best looking (it has more colours than the Amiga version), but it apparently has slower ball movement...but as far as I could tell the ball isn't especially slow so there are no complaints in that department.

The question is - is it better than Ruiner? That's a tough one as both of these games play a mean game of pinball, just like that deaf, dumb and blind kid from that song I've forgotten the name of. My honest advice would be to get them both. Ruiner looks nicer and has some really interesting details in the tables, whereas Fantasies is more of a traditional pinball sim. If you can only have one though, I'd go for Fantasies as it has more variety in tables and some great music. If I can take anything away from the experience of owning both Ruiner and Fantasies, it's this - the Jaguar has two really great Pinball games. Put that in your pipe, Jag haters!

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