Review by LS650FB2

Reviewed: 11/28/06

Video pinball just isn't real pinball...

Ruiner Pinball by High Voltage
There used to be a time when pinball machines were common, and one could find them in arcades, laundromats, and corner stores. You'd plunk a quarter into the big upright box, pull back on the plunger, and slap those flipper buttons to shoot the metal ball around the tableful of bumpers, chutes, and targets. The appeal was both visual and physical as you tried to get the metal ball to smack into targets with a noisy thunk. For years now, developers have tried to recreate the experience of a pinball table with computers and video game consoles, but somehow it's just not the same thing. These games aren't so much pinball simulators but video versions of pinball.
In the mid-1990s, Atari released two different pinball games for their Jaguar game system: Pinball Fantasies and Ruiner Pinball. Although the first is more common, I think Ruiner is the better game. Ruiner seems to catch the feel of a true pinball machine more accurately, and its graphics and sounds are more involved and realistic.
Ruiner has two completely different table layouts. Each table is several screens in size. One layout, "Ruiner", is set at the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s. The motif is made up of various icons from the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union: bombers, ICBMs, fallout shelters, etc. This table is two screens wide and perhaps three high. I think that the artwork of this table is somewhat busy and cluttered, and the colors seem to be garish and harsh. One positive is that this table has dozens of bells and whistles - maybe too many, in fact!
The second table, "Tower", has a mystical black magic theme. Although this table is just one screen wide, it's very tall, with three pairs of flippers. To my eye, the Tower's artwork looks a heck of a lot better than Ruiner: I suspect that a different artist airbrushed this table's background. These colors are quite a bit smoother and are nicely blended; however, the Tower table doesn't seem to have as many gadgets and isn't as 'busy'.
You can bump both tables, but it's pretty easy to tilt the machine and your use control of the flippers. Like most pinball games, there isn't much to the controls: pushing left, up or down on the D-pad toggles the left side flippers while the B button toggles the right side. Pushing the D-pad to the right (or using the C button) will nudge the pinball table, and the A button is used to launch a new pinball.
Besides all the standard pinball gadgets such as bumpers and flippers, both tables also have moving targets such as airplanes and bats. The screen scrolls smoothly as the ball zips around. Both tables have plenty of color, sound effects and wackiness - but Ruiner really doesn't seem to flex the Jaguar's 64-bit muscles. Honestly, it resembles pinball games on various 16-bit platforms. There isn’t anything happening in Ruiner that couldn't have been done on a Super Nintendo or an Amiga. Even the lowly Sega Genesis has pinball games that aren't much behind this one in terms of graphics and sound.
Ruiner is a decent enough game if you can find it on the cheap, but frankly it just doesn't stand out from the crowd. I'd rate Ruiner a 7 out of 10.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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