To me, there are basically two types of pinball rule sets: the mode-based games and the points-based games. Lyman generally makes points-based rules where you can take multiple paths to build multipliers and go for big points as you progress toward the wizard mode. I find these games are less intuitive for a player to figure out what to do until they know the rules. Lawlor and Co. generally are more mode-based where you play through many modes to work toward a wizard mode (Keith Johnson rules seem like this too). These games seem easier for me to figure out initially and I enjoy them a lot.
I can sorta see how DI might be considered linear in a broad sense as you have the disaster modes to play through and work toward Armageddon and Showdown. You are on a mission to complete modes. A points-based game might have numerous paths to take to max out multipliers and whatnot, so there may not be a clear route to take.
But I love DI and it doesn't feel linear to me. I understand the rules and how to score and progress through the game. I like the modes and enjoy working through them. I had a Pinball Magic years ago and that was definitely linear - the same thing over and over. DI is way more fun.
Never played Houdini. Need a road trip to AYCE Gogi.