Heeeyy Aaaabot! There's a big scaaaary ghost in there!!
There are also ghouls, goblins and Frankenstein's monster. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Wolfman. Taking their place is a big silver ball (no its not the one from Phantasm). It's a pinball! Creep Night is the second installment in Sierra's 3D Ultra Pinball Series.
Before we go any further, you should remember one thing: Pinball is a very specific genre, if you don't like pinball, you won't like this game no matter what grade I give it. With that said, let's pull back the plunger and launch BALL #1!
Creep Night has 3 tables to choose from (or you can challenge all 3 at the same time). There's a haunted castle, a dungeon, and the laboratory. A hidden 4th table also lurks somewhere in the game, but I haven't found it yet. Each of the tables is split into 3 smaller tables arranged horizontally on your screen. The bottom of the screen is taken up by an information bar for your score, specials, and number of balls left.
The graphics look quite good with a kind of cartoonish 'Disney Haunted House' quality. Although they did get a little blocky when the screen was blown up to fit my 17" monitor in full screen mode. Aside form the accurate movement of the ball and flippers et al, there is also plenty of eye candy to go around. The bumpers, columns and barriers are all suited to the theme. Bash the bottom of a tower and flames spurt out the top. Ghosts and bats dart around and circle the ramparts. Rats and goblins scamper into the playing field, daring you to hit them with the ball.
This is probably the best part of 3D pinball. Unlike other video pinball games such as Crystal Caliburn and Last Gladiators, Creep Night takes advantage of the fact that it is video pinball and includes things that would be impossible on a physical pinball table (i.e. the ghosts, goblins, rats, etc...). One special segment has a little goblin driving a go-cart around the table, another brings out a hungry ghost who will eat your ball if he catches it.
The sound is excellent, with perfect little digitized voices, taunts, clangs, wails, moans and other spooky effects. The music is good, but is also an obvious rip-off of Danny Elfman's Tales from the Crypt intro. There were occasional hiccups in the sound when it tried to do too many things at once (even with a Sound Blaster and a 6xCD), as when the wraith appears and sings her haunting melody.
Unfortunately, Creep Night is not without flaws. The info bar at the bottom of the screen is quite large, taking up what could otherwise be valuable pinball area. Its especially large when you see how little info it displays. Sometimes it shows your score, sometimes it flashes messages, but there is more than enough room to do all this at once. The most irritating thing is that it hardly ever shows you how many balls you have left, a potentially useful piece of information.
Another flaw is the inclusion of some little mini-games. There are dimensional portals that you can hit that will send you into a different game altogether. These games are poorly designed and not fun. The worst of them was a bad 'Simon' clone where you had to make little animated goblins ring bells in a particular order. It wasn't only boring, it was SLOW. I often 'killed' myself on purpose just to exit the mini-game (giving up millions of possible points).
Even so, the good points of Creep Night outweigh the bad. It chock-full of ramps, specials, bonus levels, and that elusive hidden table. The wonderful animations, sound, and the focus on making a fun game and not an exact copy of a real pinball table push this one ahead of the pack.