3D Ultra Pinball: The Lost Continent
The thought of porting pinball to a computer monitor has always left me a bit uneasy. Pinball is as much a tactile experience as it is a test of your reflexes. It’s impossible to duplicate the satisfying thwack of hitting a falling ball squarely into a chute, or the near-silent rumble the steel sphere makes as it winds its way down towards a bumper.
On the other hand, there are some innovations (well-implemented here) that simply can’t be pulled off with solenoids and servos. In the third installment of 3D Ultra Pinball, you are stranded on an island suspiciously similar in premise to Jurassic Park. The beautifully-rendered boards (yes, multiple boards — I’ve been able to get to the fourth one, and I’m not sure how many there are) all have a geologically primitive theme to them, and even have dinosaurs pirouetting about, and even interacting with the ball on occasion. In one particular board, you must hit a T. Rex wandering across your field with the ball enough times to kill it (call PETD!). Make sure you don’t kill him in the wrong place, however, or he’ll be blocking your escape hatch.
In absence of body english, you have nudge controls which achieve the same result, though they fail to give you the workout that hefting a slab of wood, metal and electronics can provide. When everything fails, there’s also an interesting feature that lets you sacrifice a ball in order to remain at a table, or keep it and be demoted a level.
3D Ultra Pinball: The Lost Continent is a fairly good interpretation of a classic game of skill. Sierra has maintained a good balance by giving up on the things that cannot be duplicated and concentrating instead on those that cannot be done in a physical universe. If you’re a purist, you can save yourself a lot of quarters by not purchasing this game. On the other hand, taken as a another video game, 3D Ultra Pinball is a refreshing change of pace from the violent kill-or-be-killed packages that dominate today’s PC gaming market.