Game Over Online ~ Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey

GameOver Game Reviews - Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey (c) Empire Interactive, Reviewed by - FitFortDa

Game & Publisher Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey (c) Empire Interactive
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 46%
Date Published Tuesday, December 14th, 1999 at 08:12 PM

Divider Left By: FitFortDa Divider Right

To the dismay of pinball fans everywhere, Williams recently announced that they were shutting down their pinball division. It is my sad duty to report the death of PC pinball as well: the latest Pro Pinball offering is a step backwards for the series. It not only fails to excite, but shows that perhaps there is just no more room for improvement in this genre. Obviously influenced by the works of Jules Verne, Fantastic Journey pits you against the evil General Yugov, who wants to blow up the moon. You are aided on the way by various steam-powered devices. None of this really matters, as the game does nothing to progress the story.

Here's a snippet of hype: "A revolutionary changing play field, where amazing steam-powered contraptions such as the Drill, Boat, Submarine and Balloon appear to change the gameplay." The key word here is APPEAR. The thing pops up, and then... you continue to shoot the same targets for points and combos. This is a really bland table. Two sets of drop targets, two ramps, some out-of-the-way bumpers, one spinner, and one set of flippers. Didn't we learn 10 years ago that at least two sets of flippers are necessary to maintain enough interaction to keep players interested?

Another aspect of PPFJ being hyped is the color dot-matrix display. Gee, that's great, but where are the display mini-games? Very few are here, and they're not that exciting. Indeed, "not that exciting" sums up the game as a whole. There's no sense of progression, and even multiball falls flat in terms of generating any kind of frenzy. Just look at the wide-open space in the center of the board. One well-placed bumper there would have done wonders to speed up the pace of the game. Instead, it's a total yawnfest. I had to force myself to keep playing.

Controls are the same as ever: left flipper, right flipper, launch, and 3 directions of nudge. There is one new control: Magnosave, which will occasionally save your ball from a quick death down the left-hand lane. Nice to have, but hardly revolutionary. The operator's menu gives the usual assortment of fine tuning options. Unfortunately, none of them allows you to turn up the "fun".

The few sound effects are irritating, but worse is the voice acting. After a few minutes of play, you'll be begging General Yugov and Professor Steam to shut the hell up. If I have to hear the Prof say "it appears that LUCK is lit" one more time, I will introduce him to a few steam-powered devices of my own design. The music as well is annoying pseudo-funk, a big letdown after the great music that propelled Big Race USA.

Despite Empire's new lighting engine, there are no noticeable enhancements in the graphics. The table is shiny and detailed, but prone to annoying patches of slowdown, particularly during multiball (6 ball maximum, as opposed to last year's 10 balls). The color dot matrix is not used well enough to be satisfying, and the "contraptions" slowly rotate to the surface of the board, and... well, do nothing except turn around once in a while. The ball physics are spot on, but this hardly saves the game. In fact, it's the only area where Fantastic Journey shows any improvement in the series.

Multiplayer is hot seat only. The head to head LAN/Internet mode is gone. Why? So they could spend more time working that really neat color dot matrix? Big points deducted for this.

Fantastic Journey is simply a disappointment in light of last year's Big Race USA, an amazing game that is still delightfully fun to play, the pinnacle of the genre. Empire Interactive really "dropped the ball" on this one. I recommend it only for those who must have every PC pinball game. The rest of us can skip it, and mourn the death of pinball.


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