Putting a new spin on pinball,
Sierra Attractions has combined the excitement of a theme park adventure with a simulated pinball arcade game through 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride. 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride is the latest pinball adventure in Sierra’s 3D Ultra Pinball series.
3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride offers virtual rides based on 15 different amusement park rides found at Hershey Park located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. From the Main Menu screen, players can click on the Pinball Vault button to reach a link to the Hershey Park Web site to learn more about the park that inspired the game. Players can also access a Hershey Park video from the Pinball Vault, as well as an instant link to the 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride Web site.
Players can learn about game hints by accessing the Read Me File or learn how the game is played by clicking through the step-by-step Table Help Mode instructional tutorial also found in the Pinball Vault Menu.
Right from the box, the installation process for 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride is quick and almost effortless. Once a few simple key strokes are mastered, players of all ages can participate in game play. Parents will appreciate not having to read through a manual before allowing younger players to play. And parents don’t have to be concerned about violence or disturbing language either. And pinball masters can adjust the game to simulate authentic pinball physics.
This title is made with families in mind, offering four levels of game play — Easy, Medium, Hard and Custom — as well as easy-to-use controls. 3D Ultra Pinball can be played using the keyboard, a mouse with two button controls, or a game controller. The adjustable skill levels can be set prior to game play, but cannot be changed while a game is in session.
Because up to four players can participate, 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride is also a great game for family game night — providing you don’t mind seat-hopping. The majority of the game play action occurs on the main pinball table, although there are plenty of surprises to be found here. As the ball bounces, sputters and spins across the table, players can often only guess where it will end up.
From the main pinball table, players can reach five permanent rides: the Wildcat wooden roller coaster, the corkscrew-looped Sooper Dooper Looper coaster, the Coal Cracker boat ride, the Ferris Wheel and the flying-chair Wave Swinger ride. Visiting each of these rides will allow for various added point values, with some of the rides offering access to multi-ball play and brass-ring bonus points.
Each time the ball passes into the Chocolate World Snack shop, players are rewarded with snacks or gifts of various value points, extra points, increasing or holding the bonus multiplier or an extra ball. Occassionally, players may get to play a bonus game of Hide and Seek with the candy characters.
Sending the ball through the passageway of the Fun Zone (located just under a waterfall) can lead to a surprise of one of five different rides, three of which pop-up on the main table: Bumper Cars, the Kissing Tower and the Flying Falcon. When the Bumper Cars are in play, players use the ball to hit each of the four bumper cars in order to push them back into targeted areas to earn points. With the Kissing Tower, players need to aim the ball at the rotating tower to force the passenger car towards the top while earning points. While playing the multi-ball Flying Falcon ride, players try to position three colored balls into matching sections located on the base of the ride as it spins in order to earn points.
Through the Fun Zone, players can also reach the Canyon River Rapids and Virtual Coaster rides — both of which appear on separate play tables. The Canyon River Rapids feature a river raft ride where players need to knock boulders down using the pinball in order to allow the rafts to pass through the water course. While riding the Virtual Coaster, players can move the pinball to hit each of the designated posts which represent a turn or dip on the roller coaster ride screen. The Fun Zone rides are short-lived, lasting only until the ball loses steam or about 30 seconds. Completing all of the Fun Zone rides allows players to participate in the Lights Out challenge.
Players can access one of the five Thrill Zone rides by hitting the red, green and blue posts to light the letters THRILL. Players can then ride one of the surprise roller coaster rides: the Great Bear, the Lightning Racer, the Sidewinder, the SooperDooperLooper or Tidal Force. These rides last only about 30 seconds or until the ball drops outside the Thrill Zone.
When all of the letters to the word THRILLRIDE located in the center of the table have been lit, the Nighttime Fantasy game begins. Players try to ride all of the rides before the 30-second timer runs out. Players can earn points while turning the target arrows to yellow and the ride target arrows to red. Each time a red arrow is hit the timer also resets, allowing for more game time. Once all of the red arrows have been hit, players can watch a quick fireworks display before the park returns to daylight.
After riding all of the rides, collecting ten items from the snack bar, completing the multi-ball events and the Nighttime Fantasy Event, players will watch the remainder of the Hershey Park pinwheel lights located at the center of the table turn on as the challenging Lights Out event begins. The lights from the rides allow players to view rest of the pinball table. Players aim to hit each of ten light bulbs scattered across the game table until the table goes dark — leading to a special multi-ball event. Once all of the rides in the Lights Out event have been ridden, a fireworks display will appear.
After playing a game or two, players can compare local scores by clicking on the High Score list from the Main Menu. Players can also compare and post high scores over the Internet by clicking on the World Scores button.
Our criticism of 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride is similar to other products in the same series. The game does an admiral job of giving players a unique, arcade-style experience, but it doesn’t recreate the real feel of a pinball game. The tactile sensation of keeping that ball in play right at the edge of keeping the machine from tilting just can’t be recreated on a computer. If you’re a pinball fanatic, you might find unsettling some of the liberties the game’s designers take with game play.
But recreating an authentic pinball experience wasn’t the goal of 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride’s design, and the popularity of the series is undeniable. Like its predecessors, 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride offers great fun for the family or individual looking for some casual gaming, and provides enough variation to keep players interested for a while. At the very least, we recommend checking out the playable demo
available for download from Sierra Attractions’ Web site. It’s about 22MB, so if you’re on a slow Internet connection, be prepared to wait a bit.
3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride is available now through major software retailers for the suggested retail price of US$29.95. System requirements include: PowerPC, 233 MHz; OS 8.5.1; 32 MB RAM; 95 MB hard drive space; 4X CD-ROM drive; and 800×600 16-bit display.