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Pinball for Windows (Impressions Software Inc.)

DoctorSpuds

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Continuing with my trend of reviewing old PC games I present to you what is at first glance the most unimaginative piece of crap you’ve probably ever seen. Pinball for Windows by Impressions Software is just one of hundreds of crappy pieces of software shoveled out for the ‘new hotness’ Windows 3.1. The box boasts ‘GREAT ANIMATIONS’ and ‘4 Pinball Tables’ to select, my goodness! I’m astounded! Seriously these guys are really trying to sell you on this like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Well if it isn’t obvious by now this was meant to be something you take to the office with you to play on your lunch hour, or as just a time waster, and Impressions really committed to this as all of the instructions and documentation are on the one floppy disk so you don’t have to sneak the whole box into work with you. I suppose this is a very early example of the manual being stored on the disk itself and very much foreshadowed the future of gaming, or the future state of instruction manuals at the very least.

 

Yeah, the box and documentation contained within is a fairly drab affair, with everything feeling like it was actually designed in Windows 3.1. The overall package design gives off a very ‘90’s office’ feel, like it wasn’t allowed to be too interesting lest it scare off all of the uptight business men. All you get for documentation is a small manual containing install instructions, warranty and license info, and info for technical support. The technical support section might actually tickle your nostalgia bone because it’s on-line technical support through services such as CompuServe, GEnie, Prodigy, and Dial-up of course. There is also a sheet of paper detailing a graphics fix if there are display problems, and it’s just a how-to on getting the game to display in 16 color EGA versus VGA. That’s it, the rest of it is on the disk itself.

Since there are four tables it only seems right to do a paragraph about each of them, so let’s go!

 

Table 1: Big Top

Do clowns scare you? Well if they do you’ll absolutely hate this table since there are two clowns staring directly at you the whole time you play. The graphics aren’t much to look at, apart from the marquee on the right half of the screen all you have are a bunch of clip art circus performers and a sad clown over top a basic two tone background. The table design isn’t too bad; there is a good emphasis on planning your shots to get the ball in the rollovers or into the bumpers for big points, the drop-downs are relegated to the bottom half of the table which I don’t really mind all too much since your missed shots have to go somewhere. The sounds are all right as well, there was no setup for selecting sound or graphics cards so I guess the game is just picking what it can find, but from what I can tell all of the sounds are highly compressed digital audio files.  The quality leaves something to be desired but it does immerse the player a bit more with actual sound effects versus what most other pinball games did which was use FM synthesis. Alright the first table is good apart from the clowns, how is the next one?

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I hope you like me leaving my cursor on every single screenshot!

Table 2: Jukebox

If big top was all table no background then Jukebox is all background and no table. This is just pathetic, three bumpers, a set of rollovers, a set of drop-downs, and a few stops, that’s it. Despite how sparse the table actually is the background decides to blind and confuse the player by being incredibly busy, almost to the point where I can’t tell where the ball is. The sounds are alright again, it’s just a bunch of digital audio files that fit with the aesthetic. I feel that this would also be a good time to mention that this game gas speed setting, from 1-100, you change the number based on the speed of your machine, with 100 being reserved for the slowest of machines and 1 being reserved for the fastest. Using DOSBox you’re automatically emulating a very fast machine (for the time) which means many older games whose speed is tied in with the speed of the processor will run astronomically fast, this is why the Turbo Button exists on some machines, to slow the processor to the original IBM standard. The speed setting is a good idea, since at the starting speed of 50 the ball instantly vanished into the drain, to get a playable speed I had to set the speed to 1, maybe 2 if I’m feeling lucky.  The reason I bring this up is because I quite often forget to set the speed when I’m starting a table which means I have an instant drain. Normally the ball would get beat around by the bumpers a bit before draining so I’d get a few points, not with Jukebox. Oftentimes I’ll only have the points from the rollover before the ball drains, that’s how sparse the table is, it won’t hit a single thing before draining. That sucked, next table.

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Emptier thatn my fridge

Table 3: Skeleton’s Key

Despite how basic the design is this is a very fun table. Due to how the bumpers are situated above the rollovers you’re liable to score big on this table.  Honestly this is just an exercise on getting the ball up to the bumpers as much as possible; you can quite easily ignore the rest of the stuff on the table and still have a good time. The background is probably my favorite, an evil looking skeleton unlocking an evil looking chest in an evil looking basement. The dark blues and purples are easy on the eyes and help to highlight the ball. When coupled with the sounds you have yourself a damn fun table.

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Spooky

Table 4: Starduster

Despite this table clearly having the most effort put into it, I find it to only be a step above Jukebox, here’s why. It’s boring, that’s the best and easiest way I can put it. All that happens is the ball gets juggled between the bumpers and rollovers. All but one of the dropdowns are at the top of the screen, actually 90% of this table is shoved all the way up in the top third of the screen with the other 10% being nearly impossible to hit. You see those red, green, and yellow targets off to the left? Well get used to just looking at them since you’ll never get the ball to get remotely close to any of them. This just makes me sad since this is one of the best themes in the game, Space, and they squandered it. The sounds are fine, the visuals are great, but the table design itself just ruins it for me, it’s just a bunch of juggling between the bumpers and rollovers with next to no player input, that table might as well play itself.

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I like the dog!

I really don’t know how to feel about this one, half of the tables are really good while the other half just suck. There’s nothing that will really draw you in either, it’s just a few pinball tables you can play in 3.1, and coupled with the fact that this game appears to not even exist on the Internet you really question if this game is even worth playing. How about this, I’ll attach a download for this at the bottom of the review and the four of you who can actually play it can tell me what you think. A warning though this will only play in Windows 3.1, so if you have DOSBox you might have a hard time, but anybody who’s got a real Windows 3.1/DOS machine should be able to play it if they have a spare high density floppy disk lying around. There is exactly zero sales information about this game so I can’t even quote you a price on it so I can’t even quote you a price, I paid 20 dollars for it so do with that what you will. Anyway this game goes to the Collector’s Zone for sure, it’s just a cheap piece of crap that has been forgotten by the annals of history.  

 

PINBALL.zip



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Huh, this was an obscure one! Not only do I have no own memories of playing it, my Google-fu is extremely weak in this context and beyond your blog entry, I only found a cracked version from 1994 which was what I wondered about, how old this game is. Given that the pinball genre got revived with Pinball Dreams for the Amiga (and an inferior PC port) in 1992 followed by an avalanche of similar pinball games for various computers and consoles, I was curious if this package predated it or not, but apparently it was another of "me too".

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