Ever since I was a young girl, I played the silver ball...
Where I work (you think this pays the bills?), there stands a full-sized arcade pinball machine. My co-workers and I commonly refer to it as "crack". At any notice of a shift break, pulses race with anticipation. When given the word, we dash to our "crack " like horses from the gate. Trembling hands fight like sperm around an egg to drop quarters into 15 minutes of nothing but bells, lights, and the possible notion of victory. Don't get me wrong - I haven't mounted a miniature statue of Tommy to my dashboard (yet). I am simply caught up in the allure of that perfect shiny sphere, all sealed in a fiberglass casing. The poor, inanimate little guy, just waiting for you to pull back the plunger: To launch him into his manufacturer-given fate.
Of course there are other arcade games in the joint - but I don't like to drive 5,000 mph. I don't want to shoot masses of people. I desire the natural laws of physics on my side, not random chance all wrapped in fancy graphics. So, why the hell is 3D Ultra Pinball: The Lost Continent so appealing to me, you ask? Is slapping the sides of a steel box on four legs not pleasing to the "wizard" anymore? On the contrary. However, the wizard would find it most embarrassing to be found at the arcade in her pajamas, wanting to "pick up the pipe" for a game prior to bedtime.
As far as I am concerned, there just isn't much that can compare to taking a stance in front of such an immense instrument 'o fun. Throwing my weight into every flipper - Thrust left! Thrust right! Multiball! Thrust, thrust...(whoa , are we still talkin' pinball?). But if I can't be thrustin' like a monkey, I wanna be playing The Lost Continent. Despite some of its annoying quirks, it's a solid game (but not as good as crack.).
The Lost Continent incorporates a big budget plot. Explorer-types crash-land on (you guessed it) an island, stumble onto a villain who wants to rule the world via power derived from evil dinosaurs which were in fact, at one time, indigenous people transformed by the scoundrel himself in his oh-so-cleverly designed morphing machine. You know - your everyday mishap. And our intrepid explorer's method of saving the world? Why, giant dinosaur pinball, of course!
Thankfully, The Lost Continent doesn't stray far from its 3D Ultra predecessors by keeping the 'game' in video game. If you're lookin' for a hard core simulation game (like Last Gladiators), forget about it. On your way to stopping the evil Dr. Heckla, you'll encounter a slew of animated dinosaurs, moving-target shoot-o-ramas, and one hot honey mounted on a horned beast (Woohoo!) That is, if you have the patience to withstand the duration of the very first table. Apparently the designers of this one are under the impression that 'MORE IS BETTER.' In fact, the first table is perhaps the hardest in the game.
Which says a lot, seeing as how there are 16. However, be forewarned that only 3 of these are full tables - the others are smaller, goal oriented things. You mostly need to fulfill different requirements to get to the next board, such as hitting a group of plungers several times or nailing a couple of ramps. The 3 full tables provide a much harder challenge. It would have been nice if there were more of these, though it's hard to complain with this much variety.
The stationary graphics are well done and crisp. Sierra really has a good grasp on smooth and colorful design - even the disappointing 3D Ultra Minigolf had killer graphics. The same can be said here, with beautifully done bitmapped backgrounds and fluid animations. Unfortunately, there's that damn slow-down during multi-balls. The framerates got so bad at times that I felt less like a crack head and more like a morphine addict. This was also result of excess animation sequences during gameplay - little side of the screen cartoony happenings that furthered the plot, but slowed down the game. If it wasn't for the annoying slowdown, I'd give the graphics a crack-head seal of approval.
Beside the groovy graphics, there are other elements in the gameplay which even crack can't touch. One of which is the save or sacrifice option. If you lose a ball down the gaping hole of doom, you can save it by getting dropped to the previous table. I found it saving my ass on more than one occasion. Verbal clues given by your wacky survivor friends on every level are another bonus. By telling you what to aim for, they are especially helpful for those of us whose fixation lies entirely on keeping both eyes glued on that silvery orb of glee.
Not forgetting the auditory aspect of The Lost Continent, it would be a disgrace not to mention the excellent music. The soundtrack accompanies each level's theme suitably. I'm not going to buy the game soundtrack so I can listen to it in the car, but hell, as far as game soundtracks are concerned, it's one of the best I've heard.
Whether you are Janet Jackson or an avid gamer, control is a big issue. I'm convinced the 3D Ultra designers didn't sleep through their physics courses (no pool of spittle on those desks). The ball reacts to objects according to actual laws of physics, upping the realism factor. The flipper response is decent overall. There were, however, times during a slow-down when "the wizard" would have sacrificed a little 'pajamas in the arcade' embarrassment for some 'real' control.
So, it's not quite crack. Big deal. Until I'm rich enough to establish an entire arcade of full-scale pinball machines in the game room of my mansion, 3D Ultra Pinball: The Lost Continent will suffice. If it ran more smoothly, it would even be in competition with the big boys (if they were in my game room... Yeah. Right.).
Wanna see for yourself? Try grabbing the free download.