Arabian Nights Pinball
© Copyright 2002
By John L Patton, tiltjlp
Littlewing Pinball claims they took two years to create the new Jinni Zeala Solid State game, which became available on May I, 2002. I would say that the time was well spent. They have gone far beyond any their four previous games, Crystal Claiborne, Angel Egg, Looney Labyrinth, and Golden Logres. I do have a fondness for Golden Logres, which is themed on the King Arthur legend, but Jinni Zeala tops them all.
That isnít to say that Jinni Zeala is flawless, because it isnít. The music can be annoying, looping as it does. This may happen because Iím the worldís worst pinball player. A better skilled flipper jockey might experience a wider set of sounds, but Iíll never know for sure. This isnít quite irritating enough to keep me from playing this challenging game, but a random soundtrack would be nice.
The 3-D playfield is loaded with interesting and colorful animation and endless special effects that remind me of a neon sign without the telltale hum. Each animation is keyed to one of five bonus stages, and when unlit, fades into the background. When active, more and more of these neon lights glow as you hit targets and rollovers. The more the table is lit, the closer you get to collecting bonus points which are tracked be an animated Genie on the right side of the screen. The score is displayed on the left of the screen.
Littlewing offers a very neat and complete package, making it easy to set the game up to your personal liking by way of the game menu which you access by pressing your Esc key.
You can change the flipper and plunger keys, from the Z and / keys to the Shift keys, which at least Iím so used to in most of my other PC pinball games. And of course you might also want to turn those music and sounds off, and reset the nudge keys to your liking. Now if there were only a skills enhancement key, Iíd have it made.
Maybe the nicest feature of Jinni Zeala, and there are many very nice touches, is the Lollipop, or easy setting, which allows you to play in easy mode, to learn the game play. I do have my pride, so I play tested Arabian Nights in all of its most difficult glory. But once I complete this review, I will be licking the game, thanks to the Lollipop switch, which will give me a slower ball speed, plus outline ball-savers. The game can be quite unforgiving otherwise.
For some reason, at least on my Pentium 4, the animation is set at medium, but itís much more interesting with the full Monty. There is also an auto-demo setting, which I turned off right away. Otherwise, if you begin a game but wait to fire the first ball, it begins a demo game. Itís no biggie, I just prefer it off. Once you download the demo version, which has a 90-second time limit, you can purchase their unlock code later, but if you like the game at all, I have a Yen youíll spring for the code quickly. They might make more fans, and sell more games, if they would offer a three minute demo, but why give away more than you really have to in order to snag sales. Iíll let you have the fun of trying to convert your currency into Yen.
There are five Bonus Stages, Palace, Cave, Felucca, Oasis, and Zeala, plus the ultimate bonus stage, Flying Harem. In order to reach any bonus stage, you need to shot four drop targets in order, three times each, and then shoot the ball into specific kick-out holes. This triggers a timed period where switches earn big points for either 30 or 40 seconds.
What is interesting, and sometimes confusing, is that you can enter any or all of these bonus stages at any time, and you can earn multi-balls while in any or all of these bonus stages. So, action often gets very fast and furious with little or no warning. But theres more, lots more. While in a bonus stage, if you repeat everything needed to earn the bonus stage a second time, you collect three bonus items, and if you hit the kick-out hole a second time, you receive bonuses upon bonuses.
Now take a second and see if youíve got all that straight. If you do, letís continue. Once you have survived all those multi-balls and earned those five bonus stages, youíll then need to see the Fortune Teller, which the game doesnít tell you how to trigger. Once you have seen the Fortune Teller, you enter the Flying Harem bonus stage, which the game once again keeps a mystery. Sound confusing? Just picture a dog chasing its own tail. Pretty hectic, right? Now picture ten dogs closed up in a small room, all chasing their own tails and every other dogís tail. Now you have an idea how dizzy Jinni Zeala can make you. You may be exhausted after your game, but youíll want to recover quickly, so you can give it another try. You may well be confused while playing this game, but you will never be bored.
Now everything good has a down side, and Arabian Nights is no different. Some things are maddening, especially when you compare them to the VP tables most of us have come to appreciate so much. But then, Jinni Zeala will make you see what all is lacking in VP table play, too. If someone could combine VP and Littlewing, we just might have us the best of all pinball worlds.
The tables from Littlewing are about 75 % the size of what VP tables are, with many more features stuffed into that smaller space. But since it uses solid-state neon lighting magic, it usually doesnít seem nearly as crowded. But ball size is a drawback, being closer to the size of a BB shot from an air rifle. And that music, nice as it is, does tend to get old, although it doesnít seem as distracting when you earn the fifth highest score, as I did once.
But maybe the most frustrating thing about Jinni Zeala is the way that the ball seems to drain, right off solid hits to some targets. Nudging might help avoid some of this, but as a lousy player, I have a hard enough time with flipper action, much less mastering the tricks of the nudge. Those outlane drains are even worse, since it almost seems that they are a designed glitch, occurring even when they donít seem probable. Youíll understand my ire the first time you see a ball that is headed toward a return lane toward the flippers pop into reverse and enter the outlane.
With so much going on, Iíd like to have the gameís voice be a bit helpful, and tell be which bonus stage Iíve entered, or what bonus Iíve already earned. It would be a nice added touch, but itís not that big a deal. So, if we add the pluses and subtract the minuses, the best advice I can give you is to point your browser toward the link for www.littlewing.com, and download the demo. Try it out a few days, and if youíre like me, youíll surely get a Yen to own this interesting, fun, and infuriating game. If you are good enough, or just lucky, and reach the Flying Harem Bonus Stage, will you e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me in on the secret?