PC pinball simulations were a popular genre at one time, with
several companies devoted exclusively to replicating pinball
tables on the PC. As the years came and went, the number of
pinball developers dwindled down until there were two: Empire
Interactive's Pro Pinball series and Sierra's 3D Ultra Pinball series,
which continues with the release of 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrill Ride.
Thrill Ride is the third in the 3D Ultra Pinball series, following up
on Creep Night and NASCAR. It offers an arcade fun-filled romp
through a complete amusement park. The table is crowded with
roller coasters, water rides, snack stands and other amusement
park facilities. The objective of this particular table is to complete
a series of tasks required to reach the final event, Lights Out. You
need to ride all the amusement park rides, complete the Thrill
Zone, complete the Fun Zone, start the Multiball events and the
Nighttime Fantasy event and collect 10 items from the Snack Bar.
Sound complicated? Well, it really isn't that difficult at all, which is
one of the problems with Thrill Ride, it's not difficult in the least. I
was able to complete half of the events in just my first game.
Thrill Ride events are opened when the letters that spell out
THRILL are lit up in the middle of the table. Once open, you'll get
to enjoy the current ride in the Thrill Zone found just to the left of the
table. There are five rides in all: The Great Bear, The Lightning
Racer, The Sidewinder, The Sooper Dooper Looper and Tidal
Force. Once one ride is complete, the next ride will take its place
on the table. When you've riden all five of those rides, the Thrill
Zone objective is complete. The Fun Zone Events are unlocked when you hit the
ball into the Fun Zone when the yellow arrow in front of the zone
is lit. The Fun Zone events comprise of: The Kissing Tower,
Bumper Cars, Canyon River Rapids, Virtual Coaster and The Flying
Falcon. Some of these Fun Zone events, such as the Kissing Tower, appear
directly on the table, while others are played out in the form of a
sub-game, where you get transported to that Fun Zone for the duration
of the event. Once you've been through all five Fun Zones, that particular
objective is also complete.
The rest of the objectives are fairly simple to obtain. I won't give all the
little secrets away, but collecting 10 items from the Snack Bar is probably
the easiest objective considering the Snack Bar is located right above the upper
right paddle, so it's rather simple to get the ball into the Snack Bar. The
Multiball events require a little more skill, since you have to knock the balls
into the three permanent rides on the board (rollercoaster, water ride and carousel)
at the same moment that the amusement park attendees are riding them. All in all,
the objectives are unique, well implemented and definitely add excitement to
The audio and visuals in 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrill Ride are spectacular. The rides themselves are all unique and well
designed and it's fun watching the balls travel through each of the rides. The table is full of the sights and sounds you'd
expect from an amusement park, such as the screams of the patrons and the musical interludes of the carousel. The Nighttime
event, when unlocked, features a fireworks display and provides a great evening atmosphere on the table.
Besides being too easy, Thrill Ride also suffers from the obvious lack of
pinball tables. Offering only one table (nothing new these days), the sub-games and rides have obviously been
thrown in to keep the game fresh and exciting, but its appeal only
lasts so long. Once you've played Thrill Ride for a few hours, it's
sure to become repetitive. This is perhaps one of the reasons why
pinball games slowly disappeared over the years, as gamers have
come to realize that it's hard to replicate pinball experiences on
the PC and sustain the action. The 3D Ultra series tries to overcome such issues by
creating over-the-top tables and Thrill Ride is no different, but you
shouldn't expect too much out of this game.
Think of 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrill Ride as that new rollercoaster that
just opened up at your local amusement park. It features lots of
twists and turns and you can't wait to give it a whirl, so you pay
your fare and hop in the seat. A few minutes later, the ride is over.
Now imagine having paid $30 for such a short ride... a little hard to swallow.