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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games

Dream Pinball 3D

Reviewed June 2008 by Edmund Wong

Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
Developer: TopWare Interactive
Release Date: April 2008
ESRB Rating: “E 10+” for everyone 10 or older
Genre: Pinball
Price: $19.99

To create a pinball table is as much an art form as it is about engineering. There are hidden passages, flippers, kicker, ramps, artworks, themes and casings. The list goes on and on. The result is a meticulously created machine that is enjoyed by those who have the privilege to play it.

And then, there is the virtual counterpart. Ever since the introduction of personal computer many moons ago, there has been a healthy amount of pinball games on almost all forms of game consoles. Dream Pinball 3D on the Nintendo DS is the latest bouncing ball on the portable console.

Gameplay

Dream Pinball 3D consists of six different tables, each has its own themes, including medieval times, dinosaurs, seascape and even horror. To developer’s credit, efforts have been made to differentiate one table from another to keep the game afresh. Ramps, kickers, top flippers are in different locations, and there are plenty of power-ups and secrets to be discovered. Of course, what would a pinball game be without multi-ball? That's like having a New Year party without the fireworks.

The game is solely controlled via the shoulder buttons, and rightly so. I cannot imagine how it would work with a stylus. The shoulder buttons control the flippers, while the rest of the buttons control the tilt or the camera angles. By default, the action takes place on the bottom screen. Top screen is reserved for the table artwork. I'd much prefer the table to have extended across two screens, rather than relying the camera to provide us with the action, and I know I’m not alone in wishing this.

There are seven camera views to choose from, one fixed and six dynamic. In dynamic mode, all of them look roughly the same. The camera follows the ball closely, and a lot of times, it is very difficult to tell where the ball will land. In one dynamic mode, the camera zooms so close to the action that it causes the screen to move violently. The result is a great deal of motion blur. The ball moves a lot faster when zoomed in and many times it missed the flipper and fell straight into the pit.

There are several difficulty settings at the start of play. Easiest mode provides more balls and other aids to ease of pain of seeing the ball disappears into the depth of the abyss, while in the hardest mode, you will only get one ball. Ball physics is satisfactory. One thing I like about Dream Pinball 3D is the ball change. Once certain conditions are met, the metallic silver ball that you start out with can change into one of the several other materials, ranging from wood to iron. Each material behaves differently. For example, you can hit wooden ball farther and higher, while an iron ball will not go as far.

There are two modes to choose from in Dream Pinball 3D. Classic mode allows players to play the plain old pinball, raking up the combos and multipliers and so on to obtain the highest score. Mission mode is a timed challenge that tests the players' ability to complete objectives like a 10x multiplier, an extra ball, multi-ball, and so on and so forth. As each table has the same missions, it extends the replay value, but only if you are really keen to take on the challenges.

Graphics

Graphics in Dream Pinball 3D is fairly detailed. Each table has its own theme, and the palette used fits the theme quite well. When zoomed in, you will notice some of the nice details on the table. However, you are less likely to enjoy the view as you concentrate more on the ball's movement than anything else. The dynamic camera views move too fast and the fix angle is nowhere near close enough to reveal all the details.

Due to the excessive movement of the camera, the screen unfortunately feels very messy and crowded, making the ball very hard to see, especially when the camera zooms right in. It's just another reason why the use of the dual screen would have been more appropriate in this case.

Sound

One thing that this game excels in is the sound. Each table features its unique sets of sound, from the roars of the dinosaurs to the creepy cries of the ghosts, each brings life to the table as if you were playing the real thing. The sound effects are appropriate and presentable.

Replay

With six different pinball tables to choose from, there is certainly enough variety to entice players to replay the game. Much like every other game that has a high score board, there will always be the urge to be on top, or better a previous score. Dream Pinball 3D is no exception.

The classic mode allows the player to play pinball in good old fashion way, and the mission mode adds some challenges for players. And this is where most of the replay value will come from after all the top scores have been taken over in classic mode. Unfortunately they are not as rewarding as one would hope, other than seeing your own name on top of the score sheet. There is also a multi player mode which allows players to challenge each other for the top score. Players who enjoy competitive games with their friends will like this mode.

Overall

Dream Pinball 3D on the DS captures the essence of what pinball game is all about, but never really excels in providing an outstanding game.

The presentation is passable. Graphics is not half bad. They are detailed, albeit messy when panned out. But the camera angles left something to be desired. And it is here that it fails to impress. All different views are essential the same, some are better than others. Making full use of the screen estate would make this game much more playable.

The sound is crisp and fitting to each of the six tables. However, great sound alone does not make a great game. The mechanics overall is acceptable. The different behavior of different type of balls is certainly interesting.

Overall, Dream Pinball 3D is a decent effect in providing a gap in the genre for the DS. It won't match the feel and excitement of the real thing, but for those who crave for a pinball game on the go, this game might satisfy that urge.

Playing Hints and Tips

- Use the d-pad to tilt, but much like the real thing, don't do it too much.

- Camera #1 to #6 are the dynamic view, while Camera #7 is the fixed angle view. Default camera view can be changed in the option menu.

Screen shots:

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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

3D model adequate and detailed. However, let down by the camera angle that render it messy and crowded. You cannot always be sure of where the ball is. Better use of the dual screen would have solved the problem.

Sound

Crisp and enjoyable. Each table has its own unique sets of sound effects that fit nicely with the theme

Fun Meter

Standard pinball affair. Combos, multipliers, multi-balls, secrets, jackpots, etc. Plenty of things to do on each table.

Addictivity

Six tables to choose from, plus a handful of missions. Pinball fans will be delighted to try them all out.

Total Score= 3.1 Dragons, 62.5%



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