ProPinball gets lost in its own web.
When the Intellevision was the king of the home console systems, I was addicted to a game simply called Pinball. I still play that game every now and again. True, it’s graphics are blocky and it had some obsession with yellow dogs, but it was fun and inventive. Ever since then, I have longed to find a video pinball game that could bring out that kind of devotion.
What does any of this have to do with empire Interactive’s ProPinball for the Saturn and Playstation? Very little, but it seemed like a good way to explain all that’s lackluster in this pinball simulation. While a sim cannot be expected to perfectly mimic the feel and play of a true pinball table, ProPinball falls far short of that goal.
Basically, there is but one table design in the game, and that is simply called “The Web.” It is never really made clear why empire would choose to give the table that name, as nothing else except some funky bumper decor smacks of anything webbish. There are motorcycle racers, rocketships, space stations, and skyscrapers throughout the game, but no spiders and no webs to speak of. At first, I thought the name of the table was a reference to that oh so trendy references of references, the Internet, but the game failed me in that detail, as well. The is not to say that the graphics are bad. In fact, some of the visuals are pretty impressive. The ball reflects the pattern of the table so realistically, that you think that it’s actually real. ProPinball has some of the most realistic graphics of any video pinball game out there.
In lieu of several table designs, the programmers put in lots of “missions,” as they call them, ranging from games of find the spy to shoot the shuttle. Nothing has anything to do with anything else, and the whole game has a feeling of disjointedness. Seeing that the entire game could only takes up about 100 megabytes on the CD-ROM it comes on–and most of that is probably music–the designers could have well afforded another couple of table motifs in the package.
“Only one table!?” was the mantra I kept repeating over and over in my mind. I kept thinking back to Kaze’s Last Gladiator’s Digital Pinball for the Saturn. That game had four tables. Mind you, none of them were as complicated as the one on Propinball, but they were all a lot of fun. They, too, had missions that you had to beat, but those missions followed a coherent plot that was different with each table.
The best thing about any good pinball game is the truism of the physics involved. The physics of a pinball simulation is key, for it separates the big boys from the wannabes. In any pinball game, real or video, when you held up a flipper, the ball slowed down to a stop for accurate shots into the ramps. Not so in ProPinball. It is remarkably hard to stop the ball on this table, making most pinball strategies moot.
Yes, ProPinball looks nice from a graphical point of view, and that counts for a lot. But take the game out of the packaging, and you get a whole other perspective. I guess I’ll go home and fire up the old Intellivision.