I’m Having Pinball Dreams

If you enjoy modern videogames, you’ve probably heard of DICE – they’re responsible for much of the Battlefield series and Mirror’s Edge amongst others. If you were playing games back in 1992 you might know them for their Commodore Amiga titles, including the spectacular debut Pinball Dreams.

If I’m being honest, I would say that I’m not a fan of computerised simulations of pinball tables. They can be fun, but all too often the experience is limited by the fact you don’t have the physical table and tactile controls to truly enjoy the game. That said, three pinball games have stayed with me through the decades – Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Illusions. All DICE titles that I still play to this day.

Pinball Dreams was the first pinball game that really felt like pinball to me. I’d played variants on earlier computers but ‘Dreams was jaw dropping at the time and each of the four tables was truly a joy to play. More importantly for me, and the real reason that I played so often, was the music. The various themes demanded to be heard at the loudest volume my parents would tolerate! The presentation of the whole game was second-to-none, from the moment you first saw the Digital Illusions logo timed to the beat of a song, you knew you were about to play something special. The following longplay video on Youtube is definitely worth having a skip-through to see what I mean – it has a flare to it that shines brightly, and you can see a few of the demoscene sensibilities that imbue the game with a little more character than most.

Of the four tables, I played Ignition the most, solely because that table had the best music. Truth be told, I’d sometimes load up the game and let the music play out without me doing anything else. That’s something I still do today, though Youtube has replaced my need to load up the actual game!

This advert at the time tried to sell the game on it being a true multi-table Pinball simulator – yes, 32 colours, 50 FPS, upto 8 players – Fun, fast and furious, just like the real thing!

Pinball Dreams Advert

True fans know that this wasn’t the games only appeal though, and once you’d had enough of dreaming, you could move on to the fantasies…

You can take a look at the MS-DOS version of Pinball Dreams over at the Internet Archive. You can also find a superb HD update if you have an iOS device and a willingness to spend money.

Addams Family (Games and Pinball)

Around this time every year I break out several Halloween-themed games to play. The Addams Family lived every day as if it were Halloween.

According to MobyGames, “The Addams Family” was released for the following platforms: TurboGrafx CD, Game Gear, NES, Sega Master System, Amiga, Arcade, Atari ST, Genesis, SNES, game Boy, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, and the ZX Spectrum. Other games in the franchise include Fester’s Quest, The Addams family: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt, Addams Family Values, and The new Addams Family Series. There is also an Addams Family pinball table, which is one of the most desirable (and expensive) tables around.

Here’s some YouTube footage from the Commodore 64 version.

As a bonus, here’s a promotional video for the Addams Family pinball machine.

Happy Days Fonz Pinball

Happy Days Fonz Pinball Table

At every thrift store and antique mall I visit, I always search every nook and cranny to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I found this gem hiding in a back area that I had almost missed. The seller had just finished cleaning it up and had put a price tag on it moments before I stuck my head around the corner. It was a Happy Days Fonz Pinball table! I was enchanted.

happy days fonz pinball close-up

These Happy Days Fonz Pinball tables were made by Coleco and sold in the mid-seventies. While they were mostly plastic and of course scaled down in size from real pinball tables, what kid wouldn’t want to hang out with the Fonz while playing the silver ball?

Plus it gives you an opportunity to practice the Fonz special power over machinery. His near magical understanding of how the universe function has given him a special knock. He just taps a machine and it bends to his will.

With your very own Happy Days Fonz Pinball Table you can practice this for hours. I would suggest waiting to get it home first though. Tapping the merchandise while in an antique is generally frowned upon. Lucky, much like the Fonz, I am very charming. I just stuck out my thumbs, twirled around and said, “ayyyy.” Just like that all was forgiven.

Enjoy this classic commercial for the Happy Days Fonz Pinball Table


Odyssey Fun World

Last month while on vacation in Chicago, my wife, kids, and I made a detour to visit Odyssey Fun World in Tinley Park, Illinois.

We’ve been to Odyssey Fun World a few times now — it’s about a 10 minute drive from my Grandmother’s house. One of my favorite things about the front of the building are those smaller, “kid only” doors on the front of the building.

The ground level of Odyssey Fun World looks a lot like most other modern arcades, with ticket redemption games covering the majority of the prime real estate. There are a couple of small, kid-friendly rides inside, toward the rear is a giant jungle gym that costs a few dollars extra, and upstairs is an indoor laser tag arena. For the most part, everything else downstairs accepts tokens and returns tickets.

Above is a shot of the ground floor, taken from the upstairs level. What else is upstairs, you might ask?

One of the first things you come to is this line of retro fighting games. In case you can’t make out the titles, that’s (from left to right) Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 3, Tekken 3, and X-Men vs. Street Fighter.

The row behind those games contained Missile Command, Donkey Kong, a Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga combo cabinet, and several other classic games, including a dedicated Trog machine.

Yeah, baby! Unfortunately there were only two pinball machines, and the other one (Star Wars) was out of commission. I still had a good time playing a few rounds on this one.

And with all this retro gaming goodness around them, where do you think my kids were?

That’s them, drooling at the ticket redemption booth. Why they would rather plunk token after token into crane machines and kid-friendly gambling devices is beyond me. What could they possibly have worth trading in those tickets for?

A Tron Legacy movie stand up? For only 30,000 tickets? Excuse me … I have a few more rounds of Skee-ball to play.

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Odyssey Fun World again was that I heard that they recently purchased an updated set of the Rock-a-Fire Explosion animatronic band. Just my luck, the day we visited the band was “out to lunch” (read: broken). I did find this video of the band performing at Odyssey Fun World though. Maybe they’ll be back together the next time we visit.