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After a quick incursion in the third dimension with their last title, Total 3D Pinball (3D Pinball VCR in Europe), 21st Century Entertainment is back to a more traditional look with the recent release of Absolute Pinball. As a huge fan of both, Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Illusions, I was expecting this new title to be at least as good as its predecessors, and maybe even better. Having discovered the graphics for the tables a few months ealier, I couldn't wait any longer to give this new pinball game a try, which promised to have a brilliant future.
The first thoughts that came to my mind after a few minutes playing with the game were in order, disappointing and not fun. I had maybe put too many expectations on that one, which often leads to dramatic desillusions, or with time, I may have forgotten what the game play was like for Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Illusions. To be certain, I had to re-install both games, and start playing again. Two hours later, I was happy to see that despite they were over a year old, they had nothing to envy the newest pinballs. I was playing over and over again! So what was wrong with Absolute Pinball?
Curiously when I re-installed the two games, I noticed that both were designed by Digital Illusions, and programmed on the PC by FrontLine Design, contrary to Absolute Pinball which was developed by UDS (Unique Development Sweden). Still, it wasn't explaining much, and there were other things to investigate before reaching a conclusion.
At first sight, the four tables had nothing wrong with them. They all had an original design with miscellaneous themes based on the Paris-Dakar rally (Desert Run), Hollywood (The Dream Factory), scuba diving (Aquatic Adventure) and baseball (Balls and Bats). In fact, graphics were slightly better than any of the previous titles, with more details and vivid colors that catch your eye. On each table, the several lanes, bumpers and targets were decorated by dozens of multi-colored and multi-form lights and arrows. You could even see the light reflection on the metallic surface of the ball. Backgrounds were ornamented with plenty of theme-related scenes showing, for example, the Oscar celebration, or the rally lay out on a map. Undeniably, a great deal of work had been done to make the graphics irreprochable. What a pity that you couldn't really appreciate them when playing. As a matter of fact, the four different graphic modes ranging from low VGA to VESA were badly spoiling the game play. With the low resolution mode, the scrolling was so fast that you could barely see where your ball was on the table, and shooting at targets was nearly an impossible mission. On the other hand, the high resolution mode solved the scrolling problem, but unless you played on a 21" monitor, you would need a magnifying glass to play. Finally, the intermediary mode (320 by 400) made the table look like if someone had wanted to squizz it in to fit the screen!
Regarding sound effects and music, Absolute Pinball didn't compare to either Pinball Fantasies or Pinball Illusions. The audio tracks featured on the CD were only audible from the main menu and when the game was waiting for players to start. Although the music was pleasant and entertaining, it didn't add anything to the gaming experience. At least in Pinball Illusions, the special modes of each table had their own CD soundtrack. Even Pinball Fantasies that didn't feature audio soundtracks while playing, had a better sound environment with plenty of sound effects. Just try the "Stones n Bones" table to see what I mean! Now, I'm not saying that the sounds in Absolute Pinball were bad, but they sure missed something. The tunes at some point made me think of PC and Amiga demos where graphics were the priority of the programmers, and music was left out to a second importance.
Except for that, there were still some nice features that could draw you into the game such as the special modes with the small arcade games played in a window at the bottom of the table. With up to four of these modes per table, it definitely made you want to continue further and discover them all. To add to the fun, you could also play with up to eight players and try to place your initials among the highest scores. Additional features included multi-balls, possibilities of nudging the table upwards and to the right, volume control for sounds and music, etc.
Written by Frederick Claude
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IBM-PC 486 DX2-66 Mhz (if running under MS-DOS), Pentium 75 Mhz (if running
under Windows 95),
Min 4Mb memory (560 Kb free conventional memory required),
MS-DOS 6.0, Windows 95,
Hard drive required with at least 8Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive faster,
SVGA video graphic card (VESA local bus video card recommended).
Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, Sound Blaster 16/ASP, Gravis UltraSound (512 Kb versions and above) and 100% compatible Sound Blaster sound cards.
Keyboard, Thrustmaster Wizzard Pinball Controllers and Philips Virtual Pinball Controllers supported.
Web site: Unique Development Sweden
21st Century Entertainment,
P.O. BOX 415,
Webster, NY 14580.
Web site: 21st Century Entertainment
Email address: 21st Century Entertainment
21st Century Entertainment Ltd.,
Blewbury, Oxfordshire, OX11 9QB
|Technical Support:||+44-(0)1235-851533 Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:30pm GMT|
Email address: 21st Century Entertainment UK
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