There is certainly no question that the Wii has become the casual gamers system of choice. What is amazing is that is also slowly becoming the prominent home to all things pinball. After the superlative Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection we are now given access to the superciliously titled Dream Pinball 3D from SouthPeak and Topware Interactive. Instead of making a collection of classic tables though, this time around we are greeted to six various tables that are entirely original, but would feel right at home in any arcade.
The range of tables is varied if not predictable. There is a monsters table, an underwater theme, dinosaurs and our personal favorite a Two Worlds themed table complete with artwork and sound effects. Sound is easily what separates each table as the narrator for each one is distinctively different. Granted some of the voice work feels forced and cheesy at times (there is a Two Worlds table mind you) it all does a nice job of engulfing the player into each theme. The visuals are one of the highlights of the game as each table looks nearly realistic complete with reflections and a snazzy lava effect on the ball when it hits certain scoring parameters.
Not everything in Dream Pinball 3D is visually pleasing. For starters the menu system is archaic at best. Flat, lifeless menus accompany an otherwise exceptional round of presentation. The second culprit is the camera system. It seems as though the developers couldn’t find a nice balance between being too close to the action and being too far away. What we are left with is a view that hinders regardless of your positioning.
There is also a color filter that when turned off creates a palette of blurry textures and takes away from the game’s otherwise vivid flare. However, with it on you have the reflection effects which make seeing the action that much more difficult, so it quickly becomes a choice for the player. Suffer with less than acceptable visuals or simply learn to maneuver the ball with the restrictions. Either way it takes some getting used to.
Of course visual fidelity is only part of the battle when it comes to pinball action, the proof lies in the game play. Dream Pinball 3D suffers from two problems that players will notice right out of the gate. First off ball physics feel weightless. This creates a sense of disconnection between the balls and flippers and really detracts from the sense of playing a real table. The game claims to have various levels of consistency in the orbs such as steel and marble, but at the end of the day they all feel disappointingly similar.
Another point of concern is the flippers themselves. Anyone who has played a real pinball table knows there is a certain art to tapping the flippers at certain degrees of pressure and angle to score big points. Sadly Dream Pinball 3D feels flat in this aspect as the flippers only have two range of motions; up and down. This takes away from the finesse found in real pinball and makes the game more about chance than skill.
While all of this is purely dependant on how much you value the art of real pinball the lack of features and modes are not. The game literally only allows you to play each table and save your high scores. No online leaderboards, no special modes or features and absolutely nothing to unlock makes this a novelty title at best. There is a four player mode, but this really only consists of taking turns with a single Wii remote after losing a ball. Even with a budget price tag you will feel like there simply should be more here to see and do and there just isn’t.
Controlling Dream Pinball is as simple as you could imagine. If you were lucky enough to snag the aforementioned Pinball Hall of Fame you will feel right at home. The Wii remote and nunchuk setup mimics that game in that you use the corresponding Z and B buttons on each controller for the flippers and you launch the ball by performing the motion on the Wii remote. Everything works pretty well, if not a bit simplified. There is also an option to flip the Wii remote horizontally and play it old-school, but that completely defeats the purpose of owning the game on the Wii.
While there are a lot of issues with Dream Pinball 3D it is hard not to recommend it to fans of the classic arcade game. There are six tables to tool around with and for $20 the price is certainly nice. A lack of online leaderboards and modes certainly hurts the overall package, but not quite enough to steer gamers away. If you are a fan of pinball then DP3D should be on your list. It will be a nice addition to your game library right next to Pinball Hall of Fame.