Tilt! (or Hyper 3D Pinball depending on where you’re from) is quite an extensive package for a 1996 pinball sim. Developed by NMS Software, this game features a whopping 6 unique tables to choose from, 2 camera angles and additional cut-scenes when you lock a ball in play. There’s a hell of a lot of pinball packed onto this disc, but is it all worth your time?
Sadly, there’s some key design choices that just manage to stop Tilt! from being a great pinball sim. The most noticeable is to do with the viewing angle. The tables in Tilt! are often presented as full-size pinball tables, with dimensions that are close to real-life pinball tables. This means they’re quite long and packed with a very large number of gimmicks. In order to see everything without obstructions, NMS Software have included a 2D, top-down, scrolling viewing angle. It’s a thoughtful addition but one that has a glaring problem in play: it’s easy to lose track of where the flippers are in correlation to the ball. This often leads to a lot of unnecessarily lost balls and makes for a frustrating play mode.
Thankfully there is a 2nd viewing angle which is more natural to the way you’d view an actual pinball table while playing. This static angle is clearly the optimal way to play each of the tables in Tilt thanks to being able to view the entire table with no scrolling, but because some tables are so heavy with gimmicks, certain elements are easily obscured. It becomes incredibly difficult to see what you’re supposed to be doing up the farther end of the table which means you often have to flick between the 2 viewing angles on the fly (which you can do by the simple press of a button) to keep track of everything the table has to offer. It’s not a game-breaking issue, but it’s certainly not the best design choice.
Secondly we have the cut-scenes that activate when you lock a ball in play. These flashy and unnecessary sequences away from the action absolutely kill the flow of the game and while they probably sounded nice on paper, their execution leaves little be desired. Thankfully these can be turned off but it just leads to the question as to why they’re there in the first place.
Finally, one of the strangest design decisions in the game is how each credit gives you 5 balls instead of the standard 3. This makes each play session on each table feel unnaturally drawn out and in the case of some tables like Star Quest with its incredibly low difficulty and easily earned extra balls, you find yourself purposely losing balls just to make the game end. When you’re wishing for a game to end instead of wanting to come back for more, that’s when you know you’ve got a pretty large problem on your hands.
There are some upsides though. The ball physics in Tilt! are well executed and despite some odd acceleration when the ball goes up a ramp, it generally feels fair to play and the ball never reacts in a way you wouldn’t expect it to. The tables themselves are incredibly varied and offer up a lot of unique gimmicks that are fun to mess around with. Funfair, Gangster and Star Quest are easily the most enjoyable tables of the bunch thanks to their more streamlined design and you can also save you high scores to the backup ram or a ram cartridge which is a simple inclusion that actually adds a lot.
It’s also a very nice looking game with the tables themselves being drawn in a high resolution mode that showcases the amount of detail on display. Sound effects and music aren’t anything to write home about but they’re functional and well chosen, suiting the action perfectly.
There is still plenty of fun to be had with Tilt and while its large, busy tables are often difficult to play due to the viewing angles not giving you a optimal way to play them, the action is fast, fun and dynamic due to the sheer amount of choice on offer. You may have to tweak the options to find the best way to play each table and there are some inclusions like the cut-scenes and being forced to play a single credit with 5 balls that feel a little unnecessary, but it’s definitely still an enjoyable pinball experience that’s better suited to a pinball enthusiast more than a first-timer.
Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark on 05/02/2017