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Publisher: GraphSim Entertainment    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 601 @ 100 MHz    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 40 MB    8x CD-ROM    Graphics: 800x600 @ 256 Colors

Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey
June 28, 2001 | Michael Eilers

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On the Mac or PC (or Playstation) platform, it has long been the case that if you wanted to play a really amazing and extremely accurate pinball sim, you only had one company to turn to: Empire Interactive. Beginning with Pro Pinball: The Web and continuing with Timeshock and Big Race USA, Empire has practically been the only game in town for “pro” level pinball play, and with good reason -- no one else has been able to top their realism, quality of play and eye-popping graphics.

The goal of these “pro” level sims is simple: to re-create the coin-op pinball experience as authentically as possible with original concepts and designs. Along the way they have included many innovations (such as head-to-head Internet play in BRUSA) and some gorgeous eye candy, yet the games will run on a Pentium 90 MHz with a few tweaks.

As the fourth title in this series, Fantastic Journey has a lot to live up to; frankly, Timeshock and Big Race USA are very tough acts to follow. While Fantastic Journey retains the same flash and dazzle as the previous titles and continues the high quality of realism and “polish,” the developers seem to have gambled on the play itself by choosing to simplify the sim greatly -- perhaps as a way of attracting new gamers to the fading genre of pinball.

A Steam-Powered WHAT?
As with all pinball games from Mad Cats to Black Knight 2000, there is a paper-thin plot that provides the setting and theme for the table. In this case you are an anonymous assistant to Professor Steam, an inventor of steam-powered ‘contraptions’ who is trying to save the world from mad General Yagov. The General is holding the word ransom, threatening to blow up the Moon with a rocket; his secret island (doesn’t every villain have a secret island?) is protected by an impenetrable shield. The professor discovers that four special crystals can be combined to bring down this shield and save the day.

So, you must build four strange machines, defeat some bizarre obstacles (including a giant octopus and a fire-breathing dinosaur) to get the crystals, break through the shield and stop the General. As with all pinball plots, this translates into a series of increasingly difficult gameplay goals which result in increasingly larger bonuses and jackpots.

If that plot looks a little thin and haphazard to you, even for a pinball backstory, your suspicions are justified. While the worlds of Timeshock and Big Race USA were no less improbable and silly, at least they “held together” better and proceeded with a more logical chain of events.

The beauty of a Pro Pinball title is that even when it doesn’t measure up to a previous title, it is still one of the best pinball sims ever. They are just that good. Even with the flaws I noticed with this table, it still provides quite a few thrilling, sweaty-palmed hours of play.


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