Amstrad Action1st March 1991
Published in Amstrad Action #66
Ever since I was a young boy, I've played the silver ball. From Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all...
Oh yes. In the days before those new-fangled electronic games like Space Invaders (whatever that is!), people had to make their own entertainment in the coffee bars and pubs around the country. Gangs of Rockers and Teddy-Boys would spend hours at the ball table, getting phenomenally high scores, smoking balefully, then going outside and fighting each other.
Loriciel has taken it upon itself to emulate this original 'arcade' game on the CPC. But the company has added several features. The major one is that you must hit several lights (identified by letters) at different points around the table. When these are touched, they change colour. Hit them all and you can proceed on to the next table. Sounds easy? Well it ain't.
Once the ball is launched, the only control you have over its direction is offered by the flippers and the ability to tilt, or wobble, the table. Tilting is apparently what the old time Teddy-Boys used to do. It isn't cheating, because it only moves the table a degree or two, which isn't enough to change the direction of the pinball once it's decided where it's going. So in fact, tilting doesn't really help a great deal. It is possible, however, with a great deal of flipper practice, to steer the ball around the table towards the lights you haven't yet hit. Possible, but very, very difficult.
The best thing about Pinball Magic is its smoothness. The ball behaves as if it has real weight, and responds to the flicks with astonishing, accuracy. It careers around the playing area, being bounced off the pins and bells at a very satisfactory speed.
There are twelve screens of this action, each with different layouts and objectives. You get five lives per screen, and you'll certainly need them. The lives remaining after you have completed a screen are added to the next screen, so it's possible, if you're doing OK, to get your lives into double figures.
The graphics of Pinball Magic, as well as moving realistically, also look good. The screens are fortunately not over-burdened with flashing lights and baubles, thus allowing you to follow the progress of your ball with much greater ease. There are many nice details, such as an analogue-style score counter.
Sounds are also apt. There are bouncing noises, as well as bells when you hit the high-scoring portions of the screen. The sounds aren't much more than you would expect from a real pinball game; no continual tunes playing here.
All in all, Pinball Magic is an excellent implementation of a game which isn't perhaps a natural choice for converting to home computer. It's addictive and exciting, but also maddening and frustrating. This is the only fault; it's too hard. And it's a real problem. It is stupendously difficult to get further than the fourth of fifth screen. Considering there are twelve of them, this means you are effectively denied two thirds of the game (unless your name happens to be Tommy).It is possible to learn each screen so you're able approach it in the best way, and play through without losing too many lives. However, it is still unfeasibly difficult, and vents of rage and frustration spring forth as you try to get past the third screen for the twentieth time in a row. This is about the only thing wrong with Pinball Magic. But if you you're capable of beating it, then it's the game to get.
I wouldn't have thought it would be at all easy to program a smooth and fast pinball sim on the Amstrad, but Loriciel has done a fantastic job. Just as good as the real thing... no, better! You don't have to keep feeding it with cash.
First Day Target Score
Get to the third screen.
It could almost be the real thing, and there are twelve screens.
Beeps, bangs, buzzes, bells and whistles - all you need.
Grab Factor 86%
Start playing and you'll just keep coming back for more.
Staying Power 79%
You'll get better and better, but it stays very frustrating.
Frustrating, annoying, addictive - but just can't leave it alone.