|System: Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: TopWare||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SouthPeak Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Pinball is one of the best and most rewarding kinds of arcade games, and it's older than you think! The first version of a pinball-like machine was created in the 18th Century by the French and was called Bagatelle. There had been other kinds of table-based games since the 15th Century, always inspired by classic games like billiards, bowls, and croquet. The first actual pinball machine was created in America in 1969 by a British inventor named Montague Redgrave. Who knew pinball had such a history? Ever since then it's done nothing but evolve.
In the 1970s and 80s, despite its somewhat repetitive gameplay style, people couldn't help but keep feeding these quarter-devouring machines, hoping to watch the ball go through hidden passages and bounce around until they set new records. The goal is to achieve high scores and play for as long as possible with bonuses and extra balls.
Time has passed, however, and that sort of entertainment has been replaced by other social activities like bowling and mini-golf, and indoor pastimes like video games. Even though you can still find new pinball tables made for the few, surviving arcades, they're definitely not as prevalent as they used to be. It's gotten to the point where it's much cheaper to make a pinball video game than a real one, plus the video game has more chances to reach a wider audience.
Dream Pinball 3D is an attempt to bring fantasy and adventure back to the old-school arcade game. Real pinball tables have been created with different themes for years, hoping to keep the gameplay fresh. This new pinball video game has been designed with six interesting themes and plenty of power-ups, special combos, multipliers, etc. Each table is different: the bumpers are placed in different locations, as well as the ramps, kickers, targets, etc. The designs are inspired by medieval battles, dinosaurs, seascapes, monsters, and haunted mansions, etc.
As interesting as the various designs sound, they don't look too flashy or slick on the DS. This game was designed for PC, Wii, and DS, and the DS version is obviously the most unfortunate in the graphics department. Of course, you can see the different elements on the table, especially when the camera zooms in, and you will even perceive the intended three-dimensional look. However, the small DS screen is not quite enough to showcase an actual 3D game. Despite having two screens, the game utilizes the top screen to show the backglass area, which contains the score, the name of that specific table, and a drawing of the corresponding theme. Everything else happens on the bottom screen, where it looks crammed and jaggy. The camera tries to follow the ball as it bounces back and forth, and a few times while I was playing, the camera wasn't able to follow it and the ball ended up invisible for a few seconds outside the screen!
The game is played exclusively with button controls. You won't even be allowed to travel through the simple menus with the stylus! You'll control the flippers with the left and right shoulder buttons, and that's about it. When you're selecting options in the menu interface, you'll move up and down with the d-pad and select something with A. I didn't find much of a problem in using this classic control style, as it'd be difficult to imagine playing actual pinball with the stylus. However, I did encounter the aforementioned problem with the camera, which means the game is not entirely flawless. The physics might be more advanced on the PC version, but they're not quite there on the handheld counterpart.