Pages: 1 2
Review by: David Laprad
Published: June 12, 1998
Although keeping pace with the ever-pressing advance of hardware is a constant source of frustration for insolvent game players, game developers must be pleased with increased horsepower. It enables them to mold and shape unprecedented visual splendor, but just as important, faster CPUs and more RAM gives them power to inject hard-core science into their code. No genre has gone untouched, including the humble pinball simulation. Case in point, Microprose’s latest release, which simulates the physics of real-world pinball with painstaking perfection. In fact, the only things missing are the smoke-filled air and hazy lights.
Contained within the shining package is an even glossier game, one with slick, rendered graphics, consummate physics, creative, well-designed tables, and sounds that shut out the world and place you before a towering pinball behemoth. If it were not for a few, nagging inconsistencies, which I will discuss later, this would be the ultimate simulation. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me enumerate the good stuff first.
Computer game designers have two choices when they sit down to create a pinball title. One, they can dig out their high school physics manuals, tear apart a number of real-world machines, and get to heart of what makes a pinball machine tick. Then, they can write code that simulates the dynamics of actual machines. It may sound easy, but the execution is anything but a leisurely walk in the park. Or, two, they can take unfettered liberties with respect to science and engineering and create a game that could not exist in the real world. Team 17, an innovative design group, did both with full-blown enthusiasm, creating two tables with impeccable, stutter-free physics, realistic ball mechanics, and well-executed flipper action, and injecting these formalities with trademark zaniness and over-the-top gadget animations. The work obviously brought out the child in the designers, and their excitement spills over into the game.
The team draws inspiration from past titles, tapping into their vault of classics to establish the theme for each table. The first table is World Rally Fever, based on the game of the same name. The objective is to reach the final race by increasing your RPMs and shifting to higher gears; you do this by completing numerous challenges and multi-ball variations. You will love the challenges, which include jumping a bus by gaining speed from hitting loops, drag racing, and shooting lit ramps to become King of the Hill. The four multi-ball variations involve hitting jackpot shots to score big points. My favorite is Red Light Mania, in which the traffic lights above each ramp cycle through their colors. You must shoot the ramps when the lights are red to hit the jackpot. The quick-fire action is intense, the way pinball should be.
The second table, Worms, is based on the popular turn-based artillery game of the same name. Just like the original, this table brings all the fun and action of parasitic death to the computer. This table makes good use of its theme, fleshing out the design with nods to fans of the series, and cramming the game full of missions and submodes that derive from the original. There are three main goals, the first being to complete ten missions by performing “kills,” which are rewarded when you hit a four shot combo. After racking up the required number of kills, you might travel to the Arctic to defuse dynamite, or go to Hell and battle the Prince of Darkness. Don’t sweat it, though; if you hit the right series of shots, you will take him down. The second goal is to collect all the weapons by making skill shots, and the third goal is to become a Four-Star General by shooting the victory ramp.
After all objectives have been completed, Total Wormage ensues. Yes, it involves even more killing, and is quite fun. I am forced by sheer fanaticism to mention the Super Sheep video mode, which is part of the “trademark zaniness” that is not possible on a real-world table. In this special mode, you guide a kamikaze sheep through a side-scrolling landscape searching for worms and picking up awards. It must be seen to be appreciated.
Each table is bustling with dozens of flashing lights, moving ramps, and mechanical gadgets that transport the ball to new locales. The targets and table-circling ramps are well-placed and provide excellent flow and movement, though there is quite a bit of empty space in the tables, an aberration that often slows the pace. It is all so whimsical, yet if you look closely, you will see the nuts and bolts that hold the components in place, and if you listen, you will hear the whirring of gears as ramps raise and lower. Not only that, everything looks so real. This is an impressive feat that deserves praise. It is as close as a computer game has ever come to simulating the look and feel of real-world pinball. After this, further innovations in the genre will come from the design side. Yet there are those nagging inconsistencies….
Pages: 1 2