From the title alone, it's easy to assume that Pinball Tycoon allows you to compete in pinball tournaments and parlay your winnings into a lucrative business empire. In truth, it's just a straightforward pinball video game with a handful of tables and not much else.
On its face, Pinball Tycoon does a nice job of re-creating the look and feel of tabletop pinball. The graphics are crisp and the four tables all have a theme from a different period in American history. For instance, you can collect gold nuggets by launching the ball into bumpers on the California Gold Rush table, or watch five scenes from a gangster film on the Hollywood Mogul table. As you play, you'll notice that the sound effects for the plunger, flippers, and bumpers are recordings taken from an actual pinball table.
The table designs and physics, however, aren't as inspired. Three of the four tables don't have bumpers in their lower sections, which means that there isn't anything going on unless the ball is near the top of the table. The variety of ramps, rails, bumpers, and animated displays is more than adequate up top, however. Golden Chance is the table players will probably spend the most time with, since it has the most even distribution of bumpers and bonus items. The ball physics are OK, but not perfect. The reaction of the ball off the flippers and along the lanes is right on, but rebounds tend to occur at unlikely angles. If you're a casual pinball player, you won't care that the physical dynamics are imperfect, but it's the sort of thing that die-hard pinball fans look for from their pinball video games.
In the end, Pinball Tycoon is acceptable for what it is--a plain pinball video game, and nothing more. But GBA-owning pinball fans would be better off with either the delightfully crazy Pinball of the Dead or the more authentic Hardcore Pinball.