The game that time forgot.
Most paleontologists believe in the Alvarez Asteroid Impact Theory, which claims that a giant runaway rock caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Others point to the Volcano/Greenhouse Gas Theory, which suggests that a large volcanic eruption had eroded the ozone layer, leading to a devastating greenhouse effect. A select few even subscribe to the Arctic Ocean Spillover Theory, which involves some ribald bathtub analogies.
Now I may not have a Phd in Paleo-dinoconomics, but I think I can safely say that each of the above theories, while certainly compelling, is totally wrong. After much study and a few bottles of Merlot, I have discovered the real reason dinosaurs went extinct.
Giant, metal balls, folks. Giant, metal balls.
Indeed, these mysterious iron spheres cut a swathe through the giant lizards like a knife through butter. Where did the balls come from? Why were they there? I don't know. I told you I didn't have a Phd. Stop asking me tough questions.
But I swear this is how it happened, and I submit Adventure Pinball: Forgotten Island as proof. Sadly, this new one from EA offers an answer to the age-old debate, but it doesn't offer much more.
Oddly, this isn't the first arcade-pinball game set in prehistoric locations. Sierra's 3D Ultra Pinball: Lost Continent already marked that territory. Apparently, they didn't mark it well enough, since the folks at EA decided that the arcade pinball genre was fertile ground.
Pinball games inevitably fall into one of two types: hardcore simulation and arcade hi-jinks. Adventure Pinball is certainly the latter, opting for big, wacky tables and relatively forgiving physics. In fact, it forgoes some of the things that makes pinball, well, pinball, in favor of...well, nothing. Confused? Allow me to explain.
There's actually some retarded story here, something to do with a caveman named Ooga. Whatever. The bottom line is that you use flippers to smash a ball around prehistoric-themed tables.
There are 9 total levels (tables) to enjoy, though you have to 'pass' one before you can play the next. Each table has a goal, usually requiring you to nail a few ramps or drop targets and shoot the ball through a big hole. Then it's on to the next table.
Each table features different tiers. You'll hit the ball up a ramp, which takes it to another part of the table, complete with new flippers and whatnot. If you lose the ball here, it simply goes back to the last tier. This makes it easy to keep one ball alive for a long time, since you can only lose the ball on the first screen.
Adventure Pinball uses the Unreal engine, which leads to some really pretty moments. The particle effects are fantastic and the action is pretty smooth. Lots of cute little dinosaur animations pepper each level, and occasional cut-scene quality sequences of the ball rolling down a ramp to open up a new area help bring the environments to life.
Too bad it doesn't sound as good as it looks. There's actually an announcer, who repeatedly spouts such riveting lines as "Here We Go!" and "Great Shot!" (even when you hit a distinctly un-great shot). On the flipside, the 'ooga' sound during the menu screens is a gas.
Adventure Pinball makes a tragic mistake by only allowing you one camera option. The camera is fixed on the ball, which does make it more cinematic. Yet it also makes it hard to judge where you're aiming. When the ball gets moving quickly, things get a bit nauseating, and you can't pull out to a wider zoom and see the whole table. This gets really frustrating.
To make matters worse, the fixed camera means there is never a multi-ball...which is sort of a big reward in standard pinball. It's just you and one ball, eternally bouncing around the table in a solo dance of loneliness.
In general, the gameplay is inoffensive and basic. It's pretty much just weird pinball. Unfortunately, it's not weird enough.
Simulation games like Addiction Pinball and the Pro Pinball series rely on pinpoint physics and complex table designs to add replay. One table might have dozens of different multipliers, multi-balls, jackpots, etc. But an arcadey deal like Adventure Pinball needs to be heavily steeped in what I call the 'Sesame Street Factor' to succeed.
Remember those great pinball cartoons from Sesame Street? 1-2-3, 4-5, 6-7-8, 9-10, 11, 12! For those that don't they were basically 12 little animated shorts that helped kids learn how to count. A ball would be shot through a pinball machine and the theme would be a different number. The ball would travel down all sorts of weird paths, popping in and out of holes, sliding down ramps - sort of an 'incredible machine' experience. Very cool.
Adventure Pinball is borne out of the same idea, but fails because it doesn't take any risks. I mean, the game is on the Unreal engine - how about some added mini-games? How about being able to control the ball as it traverses through some of these wacky tunnels? Even real pinball these days lets you play some extra games for more lives or points, but you won't find anything of the sort here.
In fact, once you fly through the levels in Adventure Pinball (which should take you a few hours, tops), there's no reason to play them again. There aren't really any cool secrets and there are no multiballs or jackpots. It's a linear pinball game, if you can believe it, and when you're done, you don't want to play anymore.
Still, this game could get a recommendation if the price was right...but it's not. The game is worth about 10 bucks, but it sells for a whopping $30. That's just a brutal rip off, considering what you get - a subpar pinball game. But at least it's a great extinction theory.