Tales of the Arabian Nights (TOTAN) is a hybrid electronic and mechanical pinball game. Bookkeeping, combo chain states, and scoring is managed by the electronic components while gameplay -- keeping the steel ball in play -- is managed by sloped angles, gravity and mechanical parts. TOTAN is ranked number seven of all pinball machines in The Internet Pinball Database. TOTAN gets interesting if you understand the goal and the various "side quests," and the subtle meaningful choices that designer John Popadiuk put in TOTAN. There are many ways to achieve your goal of rescuing the princess from the evil genie Saleem Bagazi. However because there is no tutorial for TOTAN (or most pinball machines), players cannot fully appreciate the intricate and clever game design. Even after reading the official manual (PDF), it is difficult to understand all the different scoring and combo options. Many players, unaware of specific goals, will play TOTAN by hitting random bumpers and other targets, and watch the pretty lights, unaware of the deeper gameplay.
TOTAN's backstory is based on the One Thousand and One Nights stories, better known as Arabian Nights in English. Matching the the theme, TOTAN has a blue genie bust, a revolving lamp, a magic carpet ramp, and more elements from the One Thousand and One Nights fables. The player must collect seven jewels that empower his scimitar to challenge the evil genie. The seven jewels are earned by completing seven quests or Tales, such as Sinbad and the Roc. Each quest requires that you hit specific targets, then launch into the Magic Carpet ramp. When all jewels are collected, you battle the genie in a tug of war: the princess stands between you and the genie, a strike to a specific target pulls the princess toward you. During this boss battle, you get four balls in play, and when the balls drain, they return to offer unlimited four multiball play until you or the genie capture the princess.
There are more ways to earn the jewels than hitting targets followed by using the Magic Carpet ramp. One of the interesting ways to earn jewels is to earn Wishes by spinning the lamp. The lamp stands on two legs attached to a loose dial. If you strike one of the legs, the lamp spins rapidly, earning you bonuses and a setup for a Wish. Wishes grant you either a long-term goal (jewels) or short-term goals (point multipliers). There are also various mid-range goals such setting up for multiballs, three balls in play simultaneously for mega point potential. Until this review, I assumed that pinball machines were simply designed, casual games. I now have great respect for pinball designers for packing deep gameplay in such a small package. I had no idea that pinballs have long, mid and short term goals, or story telling via an "action narrative." If you have not played pinball seriously, they require skills similar to those required by platformers. The steel ball is your avatar and you make precision jumps with your paddle. TOTAN even has secret recesses and entrances, similar to hidden areas in platformers.
TOTAN pinball machines are rare because of wear-and-tear on mechanical parts. However there is a digital port of TOTAN by FarSight Studios in a collection of digital implementations of pinball machines, The Pinball Aracde. TOTAN is one of several excellent pinball machines in The Pinball Arcade collection, available on multiple platforms: Android, iOS, Macintosh, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and XBox 360. On the iOS and Android, the pinball machines are sold individually and TOTAN is offered as a free demo for the The Pinball Arcade collection.