Ah, Nightmare! It’s easily my favourite of the four tables from Pinball Dreams, and not just because of my gothic sensibilities. Well, actually, that is a large part of it!
But I just absolutely love Olof Gustafsson’s deliciously spooky music, ditties, and sound effects, which manage to evoke Michael Jackson’s Thriller as well as harking back to the campy horror flicks of the 1960s and 70s. There’s also a nice demoscene vibe to the music, which is not surprising given that developer Digital Illusions formed out of the Swedish demogroup The Silents (TSL).
Nightmare is also a fun, super addictive and well-designed pinball table. Billed as the hardest table of the four, it features an appreciable level of complexity and depth without being overwrought or overwhelming.
There’s a really nice flow to it, with just the right number of targets, ramps, traps, and minigames. A good run on Nightmare and getting a high score feels so incredibly satisfying, and the music and sound effects play an important role in heightening those feelings.
Pinball Dreams was originally published for the Amiga in 1992 by 21st Century Entertainment and was the first of Digital Illusions’ trilogy of pinball simulations. It was followed up by Pinball Fantasies in 1992 and Pinball Illusions in 1995.
At the time, the Digital Illusions games were easily the best pinballers around and still hold up amazingly well today. Aside from the occasional weird glitch, such as teleporting, the ball physics in these titles are pretty darn good.
I can happily still play these games for hours at a time and it’s because of this trilogy that I love playing on real pinball tables, not that you come across them very often these days (I guess I’m just going to have to buy one!). I would even argue that many modern pinball simulations could learn a thing or two from Digital Illusions’ designs.
Sadly, Pinball Dreams was the only game of the trilogy not to get a more colourful AGA version on the Amiga. But, despite it not being as visually polished as Fantasies or Illusions, it’s still my favourite of the trilogy.
All the tables in Pinball Dreams are fun, look good, and fit neatly into their chosen themes. There’s the space exploration of Ignition, the wicki-wicki-wild-wild west action of Steel Wheel, and the hip-hop culture obsessed Beat Box.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy or still play Fantasies or Illusions, I do, but I just feel that Dreams really nails it overall. That said, my favourite table of the trilogy is actually Vikings, which never made it into the Amiga version of Pinball Illusions. Back in the day, I played Illusions on the PlayStation and nowadays I emulate the MS-DOS version. Vikings is just fricking awesome!
Here’s a fun fact to end the article on. Digital Illusions eventually evolved into DICE, the EA-owned studio behind the hugely successful Battlefield and Mirror’s Edge franchises. Also, I thoroughly recommend checking out some of The Silents demos on YouTube.
You can checkout my classic video game music playlist on YouTube.