The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 8 of 10):Ultimate Pro Pinball


By: Krooze L-Roy

Click HERE for the Rest of the List

#3: Ultimate Pro Pinball

Now here’s an innovative new feature exclusive to Krooze’s Haunt – reviews of games I’ve never even played. Nowhere else, folks. Nowhere else.

Here’s the thing; When I originally picked the order of the games on this list I was really smitten with a little game called Pro Pinball: Big Race USA, and placed it in the coveted #3 spot. But with time, the game’s flaws and shortcomings began to annoy me more and more until I no longer felt it deserved a position of such honor and veneration. My list thusly reached an impasse. Laziness had absolutely nothing to do with it; this site hasn’t been updated for over two months due to my rock-solid principals, dammit.

Which brings us to Ultimate Pro Pinball, which, while being somewhat deceptively titled, does have enough merit, fight and gumption to claim this spot as it’s own. At least I hope it does; Like I said before, I’ve never actually played this one, though I have played all the games contained in this collection.

I should probably explain why I say this game is deceptively named. You see, the Pro Pinball series is four games strong, and each game was originally a stand-alone release for the PC, eventually receiving console ports during the 32-bit generation. Each of these four games featured a single excellently designed table, which was unfortunately stuck in a non-excellently designed interface. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This collection only features three of those games. Excluded from the package, for some nebulous reason, is the first game in the series; The Web. This is truly unfortunate, because The Web was probably the second best game in the series, second only to the previously mentioned Big Race USA. So calling this collection “Ultimate” is the very definition of a misnomer, since it’s clearly only 75% ultimate. Note: There was also a Dreamcast version called Pro Pinball Trilogy, which is a more appropriate title.

This misgiving aside, what is contained in the collection is uniformly excellent. The lucky gamer will receive Timeshock, Big Race USA, and Fantastic Journey for their trouble. All are worthwhile on their own, but together they form a Triad of power that’s hard to beat.

No other video pinball games are as realistic as the Pro Pinball games. It’s almost like owning a real pinball machine, albeit one that’s stuck in your 13 inch television quite permanently. Most anything that can be done with a real table can be done with these virtual machines. Lights and bumpers can be tested at will, which is cool despite serving absolutely no purpose other than being cool. Almost all options can be changed and tweaked, from number of balls, amount of wear on the playing surface, and other things that are probably best left to the defaults. It’s mostly pointless stuff, present only to make you feel like you truly own the tables in the same way you would own a real table, minus the massive expenses.

What isn’t so immersive is the inelegant way in which this is all put together. The front end of the game is a bit tedious to work with, and thus you probably won’t be spending much time tweaking the options. There are also a few flaws that no amount of tweaking can seem to rectify.

Most annoying is the HUD, which, while authentic and well-done on the design side, always seems to be right in the player’s face. You can adjust it’s placement, but it’s always a nuisance and a distraction. It’s redeemed quite a bit by the cool minigames that play out on it, but it really would have been nice if the designers had come up with a way in which it wasn’t so conspicuous all the time.

However, the most glaring grievance i have with the games are the camera angles. All are completely usable, but none quite feel right. I know it sounds rather nitpicky, but I want a camera that fits like a glove, and pans around the table just as my eyes would naturally pan around a real table. None of the available cameras in the Pro Pinball series can replicate this feeling. But I suppose some slack must be given to games that are nearly a decade old.

I know that all I’ve done so far is bitch, but the fact is that most of the people reading this will already be familiar with the series, and are likely already big fans. I’d go more into why the games are great, but I fear this review is getting a bit long in the tooth, for the reader and writer both. I will say that the series has probably the best pinball physics of any game to this day, and that the table designs are just as intricately detailed and well-balanced as most real-world pinball tables. But I’ll leave it to the player to experience the specifics for themselves. Again, not because I’m lazy.

Sadly, neither Ultimate nor Trilogy were released on American consoles. Those interested must either import or obtain the PC version. And of course, you’ve always got the option of buying the games individually, as I have done. Regardless of the route you choose, don’t sleep on the Pro Pinball series. They’re some of the best, most realistic pinball games around, even today.

Best Table: Big Race USA 
Also Check Out: Pro Pinball: The Web for the PS1, Saturn and PC.  Don’t overlook the original just because it’s not included on the compilation.  As I said, it’s the second best table in the series.  The physics aren’t quite as tight as the later games, but they’re still quite realistic and a blast to play.

Click HERE for the Rest of the List

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on January 15, 2008.

2 Responses to “The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 8 of 10):Ultimate Pro Pinball”

  1. The more you know about site

  2. A well made pinball game can be alot of fun. But there are so many out there that you can get caught up with the generic, single table spam-a-thon. We had a crack at creating a pinball game called ‘Monster Pinball’ . Check it out if your interested in seeing a different take on the pinball genre: http://www.matmi.com/blog/index.php/monster-pinball-still-getting-rave-reviews

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