toru iwatani, developer of pac-man, was obsessed with pinball. before he created his signature game of dot-munching, he developed a series of games for namco which fused pinball physics and scoring with the paddle from atari's pong.

video pinball is enticing not only in that it is much more affordable than pinball machine collecting, but also in that it allows the developer to liberate the game from the constraints of real physics while making those physics serve the game.

the video, a mean pinball, hilights three of my most beloved video pins - and features music by variable unit.

devil crash, originally released by naxat for the pc-engine, is a gothic pinball game with chortling skulls and flame-spitting dragons. tiny creatures wander the halls of the game's mammoth three-level table (from which passages lead into seven single-screen bonus stages), interfering with the ball in ways that mimic the uncontrollable nuances of real pinball play.

the turbo grafx version is called devil's crush, and technosoft later ported the game to the mega drive (the genesis version is dragon's fury). devil crash preceeded naxat's alien crush and was succeeded by jaki crush on the super famicom.

codemasters's psycho pinball, released for the european mega drive, is gorgeous pinball gaming. one of the highlights is a dot-matrix display that announces events and bonuses in bright graphics, and facilitates several mini-games played with the mega drive's three controller buttons. three tables of varying sizes, and a fourth "multi-table" from which the player can travel to the others (under the correct conditions).

this pal game should run fine on ntsc consoles - i play it on a genesis 3, and the only problem i've encountered is a dark bar on high score screens and bonus games. the bonus games, though, can be turned off.

the only idea better than pinball with the devil is pinball with cthulhu, and this was the concept behind kaze's saturn video pin necronomicon. three tables of solid, single-screen pinball with lots of events and hidden bonuses. ridiculous multiballs reward the persistant player.

the sound design is particularly notable, and includes a narrator intoning lines like "far away a temple stands. far away in the dreamlands".