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3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride 1.1

Meanwhile, 3-D Pinball was wowing the crowds, almost supplanting previous favorites Solitaire, Freecell, and Minesweeper as the world's premiere desktop time waster. It was about this time that someone at Sierra had a light turn on somewhere: 3D pinball games were a market ripe for the picking.

3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride 1.1

In addition to the pinball action, Ultra has a sort of mini strategy game buried beneath the surface. In Play All mode, completing certain bonus modes and entering the construction building will allow you to build and upgrade structures in the Colony. In doing so, it is possible to eventually build and launch a starship, which effectively wins the game. Otherwise, these buildings really only serve to enhance bonus points and enable some extra modes. Bonus modes often involve extra targets being added to the table, either warping in or folding out of the table like transformer robots. The modes are usually pretty simple; just smack whatever just appeared a few times with the ball and then hit whatever target the game specifies for you (through speech samples and a bulls-eye target).

With as much depth as Ultra has, it's almost inexcusable how bad the ball physics are. The ball floats all over the place like a balloon filled with air, never really feeling like the heavy steel ball that it is. When struck with a flipper, the ball seems to go in almost random directions, making it near impossible to even attempt to aim your shots. The ball has an alarming tendency to get stuck between two jet bumpers for a second or so, which scores a lot of points but makes a horrible racket. Most flipper tricks like juggling do not work due to how overly powerful the flippers are, though it is possible to hold the ball (if it's not already moving too fast by the time it reaches your flippers). It's certainly a helpful gesture, though, that the game will offer you a "bozo ball" if you fail to score any points after launching your ball. Perhaps most aggravating to established pinball players is the uselessness of the table bump feature - meaning if your ball is out of reach of the flippers and about to go down the outlane, you're screwed. One thing 3-D Ultra Pinball does seem to have going for it, though, is its kindness to players with disabilities: you can play the game entirely with two mouse buttons.

Even as far as sound quality, 3-D Ultra Pinball doesn't seem to have a lot of polish to it - the flippers make a boring little "pop" noise instead of the mechanical clank that a pinballer might be used to. Targets make silly laser sounds, and the table speech tends to repeat itself, which might be good or bad, depending on how good you are at deciphering what the announcer is saying over all the gratuitous echo effects. The music is played through Windows MIDI, which if you're just equipped with a Sound Blaster like most people did back in 1995, has an infuriating tendency to get notes stuck in the middle of a song, resulting in a constant, irritating hum. The only way to stop this is by turning the music off, then back on, then back off again to give the MIDI driver the kick in the teeth it badly needs.

The previous two 3-D Ultra Pinball games were quite a success, even if not among the pinball-loving crowd. So of course Sierra, being a great fan of profit in the name of pleasing their fan base, created a third game: The Lost Continent. This game is essentially a combination of Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and pinball. What this essentially means: dinosaurs, dinosaurs, and more dinosaurs. The Lost Continent seems to be the only game in the series to attempt to have a story, as the game follows our three protagonists: Rex, an intrepid (and smartalecky) adventurer; his girlfriend, Mary; and an archaeologist, Professor Spector. You'll rarely actually see them in the game outside of a brief glimpse in the introduction video, but their voices are what guides you through the game's various modes.

Some deviations from standard pinball have been added; on some tables, the plunger is replaced with a swiveling cannon that is constantly swinging back and forth, allowing players to aim their first shot. The ball can actually land on the various ramps and tracks if the player's aim is good (or lucky) enough. Where most tables would give you a "replay" credit for reaching a certain score or completing certain modes, The Lost Continent actually puts these to use as continues. If you run out of balls, you can continue at Level 1 of whatever table chain you're on. This does reset your score, though, and only your last score counts, so if you got a really high score before continuing, you might want to say "no" to the continue prompt if you have any intention of saving that score.

The Lost Continent uses the same pinball engine as Creep Night, so the game still runs at 640x480 and recommends 256 color graphics, with the screen scaled to fit at higher resolutions. The 256-color dithering doesn't look quite as bad as in the original, and is helped along by a somewhat more limited selection of colors, though the dithering does add some texture to the sandy and rocky portions of the tables.

Thrillride returns to a somewhat more traditional pinball feel, with a more standard style auto-plunger for launching the ball instead of The Lost Continent's swiveling cannon. The goal here is not so much the quest as getting a high score, since the "metagame" is reduced to simply being a vehicle to switch tables. That's okay though, as it makes Thrillride a more accessible game for casual players.

Here's one for the "weird ports" file: Sierra gave Thrillride an adaptation for the Game Boy Color two years later, developed by Left Field Productions (one of only three Game Boy Color games published by Sierra, the other two being casino and card games under the Hoyle license). The Hershey references are made slightly more prominent, and the table layouts have been completely changed to fit in the GBC's smaller screen. Since the GBC is obviously not capable of the "3D" aspect of 3-D Ultra Pinball, the game is instead presented from a scrolling overhead perspective, similar to Pinball Dreams. The table elements still retain their stylish looks, though, with bumper cars being used as pinball bumpers, roller coaster tracks as ball tracks, and park booths like the snack bar being used for ball catchers. The table-spanning metagame is still present, and table switching is yet more frequent than in the original PC version, since the extra tables along the sides of the "main" table obviously couldn't make it as they were. That's certainly not from lack of trying, though, as Left Field obviously put a lot of effort into converting every aspect of the PC version, even down to the cute GBC-style remixes of the original music. Overall, it's actually quite good, even if it's almost nothing like the game on which it's based.

Amazingly enough, NASCAR lends itself quite well to the world of pinball, with the various drop targets and bumpers being replaced with piles of tires, tool boxes, garage jacks, and track walls. Your pit crew will talk to you on the radio as you play, telling you about where your ball should go next, as well as teasing the player if they bump the table too much ("Take it easy, it's only pinball!"). Since the tables are actual locations at a NASCAR track (the garage and the track itself), table bumping becomes a bit absurd, since you're essentially bumping an entire mass of land instead of a mere table.

Outside of pinball, Sierra used the "3-D Ultra" brand for various other games, including 3-D Ultra Minigolf, 3-D Ultra Radio Control Racers, 3-D Ultra Cool Pool, and most bizarrely, 3-D Ultra Lionel Train Town, a virtual train set based on the Lionel line of model locomotives. The 3-D Ultra brand name was retired in 2001, following Sierra's acquisition by Vivendi Universal.

It has been launched into the market this innovative pinball game: 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride.The game play takes place in an amusement park, next to roller coasters so that the player can experience all the excitement and adventure of a real thrill ride, as is very well depicted in the game name. 041b061a72


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