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Game Over Online ~ Simon the Sorcerer Pinball

GameOver Game Reviews - Simon the Sorcerer Pinball (c) AdventureSoft, Reviewed by - Trip_In / Snipez / Prolix

Game & Publisher Simon the Sorcerer Pinball (c) AdventureSoft
System Requirements Pentium 90, 16 MB Ram, DirectX 5.0
Overall Rating 51%
Date Published Sunday, January 3rd, 1999 at 11:01 AM

Divider Left By: Trip_In Divider Right

Another day passes and another game is released. The gaming season, in general, seems to be slowing down again as the mad rush of games in the festive season draws to a close. With Christmas over and done and the New Year now in full swing, there doesn’t seem to be a lot left on the gaming horizon. This time around I get the opportunity to review something a little different from the normal gaming genre I’m used to, Simon and the Sorcerer’s Pinball.

Simon the Sorcerer Pinball (SSP) is the result of a joint venture between one of the best pinball game developers in the business and the masters behind the "Simon and the Sorcerer" adventure series. The creators of Simon the Sorcerer’s Pinball boast incredible features such as an "ultra-realistic ball moving engine", "state of the art graphics" and numerous other features. The main idea behind all of this is to give the player that all in one perfect pinball experience.

I thought I would begin the review by taking a look at the visual aspect of the game. Mainly because a lot of people like to purchase something that doesn’t just play well, but looks fresh too. SSP does give you that real arcade feeling. From the table to the video screen up at the top, overall a job well done. A nice feature of this particular pinball game is the ability to change between 3 high resolutions, 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768. There wasn’t much noticeable difference between them, just the usual smoothening out as you change up a resolution or two. There is also an option to change the depth of colors that your video card can use. You can swap between 8, 16 and 24 bit color. If you run it at 640x480 though, you can’t choose 24-bit color. All the graphics are nicely 3d rendered which makes for a nice change from the traditional 2d graphic engines of the past. There is also the addition of over 70 "dotmation" animations that add a little zest to the game. Although not stunning, they keep yours eyes briefly entertained while you enjoy your pinball play. I’d have to say that the graphics don’t quite live up to the standard set by Pro Pinball Big Race USA, but then again they aren’t too far behind. There is the lack of finish to the table’s edge that you would expect to see. I also found that the lighting effect of the shinny ball was edgy and slightly flawed. To view all of this, you’ll be required to use both DirectX v5.0+ & DirectX Media. A nice fast graphics card wouldn’t hurt either. It should boost the overall performance for the high resolutions.

This would have to my favorite part of a review. It allows me to break down the very essence of a game. Rip it to shreds and see how it holds up against it’s competition. Pinball games have often been a hit and miss thing, and in all the good ones out there gameplay is usually the key element to their success. The basic idea behind a pinball game (for those poor unfortunate souls out there who have missed out on the better years of their childhood down at the local arcade) is to bounce a silver ball around a box of whirling lights and loud sounds, trying to get as many points as possible. This pinball game brings together all the old ideas and adds a new story line to make things a little more interesting. From what I could tell, the basic idea was to free five of Simon’s friends. There are lots of special modes and hidden features such as Multiball and these two devils that either do good deeds for you, or evil deeds. An example of this is when you shoot the ball up into the devil’s area. They capture it, and decide whether they’re going to be naughty or nice. Giving you a bonus is a nice thing, altering your ball is a not so nice thing. The control is fairly basic. You have two paddles that you control. There is also the ability to "shunt" the screen. This can stop a ball from going down a bad spot. This is a very handy thing indeed. You can use either a keyboard or a gamepad to control the paddles. The one thing that stood out from a lot of other pinball games I’ve played was that if you lose your ball too early; you are given another free chance. A complaint by many pinball enthusiasts is the problem of a ball going between the paddles to easily. To make it a bit easier on the gamer, if the ball goes down; it generally bounces back out.

Now here’s a tricky one. There’s normally either too much sound in a game, or never enough. Getting the perfect balance of speech, sound effects and music can either make a game score highly, or put it out with the trash. A lot of games have great sound, but it doesn’t necessarily fit the game its in. The sounds in this game does fit within its context, but they aren’t anything special. Most of its sounds come from Simon the Sorcerer (the adventure series) with the exception of a few original samples. This could well be a winner if you liked what you previously experienced. If not, well I would give this one a miss. And for those, like myself, who never played the adventure games, I would have to say its not all that bad. In terms of quality of sound, you have a choice between 11 and 22 khz sound. Many of you would probably be thinking, 11 khz, now that’s got to suck. But no, you’re wrong. I played it in both and I really couldn’t notice the difference. Sound effects are clear and crisp, speech is sometimes humorous, but on the other hand it does get repetitive. The remix of the "Simon" theme music was quite enjoyable, and it was also nice to get a change of music when multiball came on. If you want arcade pinball sounds, this game has got it. My only bad point is that all the sounds became rather repetitive, rather fast. This made playing the game, rather tedious.

Well its traditional pinball isn’t it? The fact that it doesn’t allow for multiplayer via two or more computers is probably a good thing. There is no real need for it. You might as well swap scores via the net or phone. And for all of you that thrive man to man competition, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have some friends over and play this game as a social activity. There is the option of two to four player’s via the same computer, which is about all you need.

Fun Factor:
For all those people out there that don’t like pinball, I’m laughing at you right now for reading down to here. The fact that there is a point behind getting your ball into certain places and the voices telling you to do something did make me want to explore the game more and more. If not quite that, it at least kept me wondering what the whole point of the game is. This game was enjoyable, but only to a certain extent. But I have to say, pinball does kick some serious ass.

I’m sorry to say, but once again, another game comes before my firing squad. It wasn’t that it was that bad a game, it just doesn’t have that lasting appeal or show room shine that makes it worth a buy. It’s just a good old fashion pinball game given a make over. If its good pinball you want, I’d suggest you stay away from SSP. Don’t suffer the same fate as I have.

Graphics, first impression, easy to delete
It’s Simon the Sorcerer Pinball!


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Divider Left By: Snipez Divider Right

Simon the Sorcerer is a British adventurer who is not making his first appearance in this pinball game. Simon the Sorcerer has appeared in a series of adventure games by Adventure Soft. This particular game, however, is not a part of the ongoing series of Simon the Sorcerer games, though it relates to the two originals by using the characters. I think Adventure Soft made a grave mistake trying to make Simon into a pinball game, it feels like one of those stunts they pull to try and get some more capital at the end of a lousy year. For starters, the graphics are not amazing. Second of all, the in game speech does more distracting than mood creating, and the physics were just plain terrible.

Though this game is not very good, I did enjoy it a little. It is not what I would classify as "fun", or original. It’s enjoyable for awhile basically, but I would never spend money on a game like this. Apart from the major flaws, there were many minor bugs and graphic glitches. When you got down to the actual game, I was so turned off that it didn’t even become remotely interesting after a few balls. I hate games that are repetitive, and even though there is a slew of different tables to play from, they all feel the same. This game gets real boring, real quick, and has terrible realism. The tilting ability is the worst I’ve seen in a pinball game to date.

The game starts off with a very poor cinematic, then allows you to customize the game settings. Although there is quite a lot of options in a well presented manner, all you can do really is change the graphics. I didn’t notice any difference between the different sound qualities and even that was only supported on my one computer. The mood in this game is never set. I could only get to the third table in an hour of play and even then the new tables seemed oddly similar. Why can’t they make a pinball game that is a mixture of game types, like that sonic game for genesis? In that game you (sonic) are the actual pinball and you bounce around the levels. It was great fun. This game is lacking in the fun factor area. It is interesting for about ten minutes but it lost me completely at about thirty.

It’s a pinball game. There is nothing original in it, or special. Aside from the Simon theme it is like any other pinball game. It does feature Swampy, Calypso, Gerald and Max plus a whole host of other characters from the Simon the Sorcerer adventure games. Loads of special modes and hidden features such as Multiball and the amazing Swampy Stew Overload! When it comes to realism though, the physics in this game are horrible. You can hit the ball straight up off the side of your bumper!? In a genre that is completely dependent on proper physics, this game will make you scream for mercy. One of the few positive aspects of the game is the graphic customization, not the graphics in general they were terrible. It has support for three screen resolutions up to 1024 x 768. It features hi-color 3D rendered graphics that are not exactly special and don’t look new or very great. Over 70 ‘dotmation’ animations that were not well done at all, most are moving parts on the pinball machine and all the parts that were supposed to be human looked like raggedy dolls and were animated as such. The ball was poorly done, the "3d" graphics were just 2d graphics spiffed up a little. There were no polygons, no 3dfx and nothing more than a poor game with even poorer graphics. The most advanced graphics were probably the sky texturing in the background of the table, which looks remarkably familiar and does not really match the mood of the game.

The first time I loaded the game up, the graphics were scrambled and I could not make out what I was doing. It took me a few minuets to read through the help and fix it so it worked properly, and when it did it was still pretty bad. Not only did I get a couple of general fault errors later on in the game, the graphics were not very high-end and didn’t warrant these type of errors. While playing, some of the characters would become choppy and look awful, along with a few patches of what looked like garbled TV reception. This is not the first pinball game to be created. There have been some really nice games out there. Ones with good sound, ok graphics, and where every table would be unique. Why was this game so boring? I cannot say, it just felt so different from both Simon, the character the game is based on, and in comparison to any pinball game I’ve ever played in real life. This game is hanging on by the one thread that almost makes it decent, the ideas behind it.

The sound in the game wasn’t well done except for the re-mixed ‘Simon Theme’ music that brought back some old memories. There were loads of original samples that just felt like they were rejected from one of the originals. There was a ton of in-game speech from all the characters you interactive with, but they were irrelevant and very poorly done. They made you stop and think, "What the heck did he say?", or, "Why the heck did he say that?". Combined with poor physics and hard to figure out graphics, the sounds are quite distracting. The point of sound, last time I checked, was to help you enter into the mood of the game, or to allow you to further indulge yourself into it. The speech, music and sound effects did the exact opposite. It is fortunate for us that multiplayer was not included. I can barely imagine how terrible it would be to play this game versus opponents on the net! As if it was bad enough on my pretty high-end system, it would be disgusting on a modem or even on a higher speed connection. The game does offer the ability to play with up to four people on the same machine in a heart pounding sweat pumping battle for… highest score. Let me at ‘em.

Not only does SS Pinball bring nothing new to the genre, it makes all the other half decent pinball games look that much better. This game is packed full of levels, and probably started out with a very good premise, but utterly crashed with what must have been lack of effort on the programmer’s side. Perhaps if the programmers could have had a few more months to work on it, they could have tweaked several areas, but as is the game just isn’t any fun. They certainly needed to fix what could be the worst physics in a pinball game ever, and the many very distracting aspects such as poor speech. Stick to adventure Simon, and please don’t come back in pinball form.

The Good – Lots of levels.
The Bad – Poor physics, poor graphics, poor sound, poor gameplay, poor control, terrible all around game.
The Ugly – The face of all the original characters in a low resolution.


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Divider Left By: Prolix Divider Right

Pinball games haven't had their fare share of success stories on the PC, like most game genre's have. For the most part, developers keep churning out meaningless uninspired pinball games that couldn't grab the attention of a chimp. Unfortunately for pinball enthusiasts, Simon the Sorcerer Pinball doesn't break the mold. As hyped, Simon the Sorcerer Pinball features:

  • Support for three screen resolutions up to 1024x768
  • Hi-color 3D rendered graphics
  • Over 70 `dotmation' animation's
  • Remix `Simon Theme Music` and loads of original samples
  • Features Swampy, Calypso, Gerald and Max plus a whole host of other characters from the original Simon the Sorcerer adventures.

    Board design and variety between boards is the most important aspect of a pinball game I can think of. It’s too bad the creators of SS Pinball don't share the same opinions. After the cheesy intro, you’re given a hastily designed options menu with an amazing two options; resolution and 8 bit or 16 bit color. I ran the game in the maximum resolution of 1024x and noticed absolutely no slow downs or choppiness. The only board included is very poorly done, for example, the main center of the board is a poorly airbrushed demon. Amongst all the secondary artwork, there are a few little gems here and there. There are some areas of the board that were well done though. A wizard, for example, is very well animated and looks perfect.

    I absolutely hated the layout of the board. Consistently after hitting the ball onto the board I witnessed it slide down the sides, which is an indication to me of very poor layout and little thought put into the board. Most pinball games have an extensive variety of moving parts and things that happen on the board. However, Simon the Sorcerer Pinball has hardly any. There are four main ones I can think of, a spinning log, two devils, a magician, and a spinning pentagram. I personally would have liked to see more flashing lights and more animations. The sound effects are completely run of the mill and consist of a few devilish laughs and the babblings of an old wizard. The background music doesn’t really seem to fit a pinball game, but I suppose its right for this game because it was taken from the original Simon the Sorcerer games.

    Multiplayer is highly technical, it features up to four players on the same computer. No other types of connections are supported however.

    If your a bored individual looking to throw away some money, give me it, but if you don’t want to do that go ahead and buy Simon the Sorcerer Pinball. I can’t recommend this game to anyone at all, except diehard Simon the Sorcerer fans. Even pinball lovers will be disappointed by this release due to the lack of boards and inspiration.


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