I like pinball, but I am not particularly impressed with 3D Pinball Express from Cosmi. Sure, the graphics and music are there, but the feel of a real pinball machine is not. I don't care how good a simulated pinball machine looks, it simply isn't fun if it doesn't play correctly.
First, there are the flippers. The flippers in 3D Pinball Express simply do not function properly. Unless you can get the ball on the smallest tip of either flipper, the ball is going to be launched sideways. I have played pinball before, and that's not how it works. The way the ball travels off the flippers in this game defies the laws of physics. That's not a good thing.
Second, there simply are not enough bumpers, spinners, or pegs on any of the boards. I realize that the developers wanted to leave plenty of space to show off their beautiful graphics, but it ruins the game. Because there is so much open space, you tend to shoot the ball into nothingness, repeatedly. Combine the freakishly large amount of space with the poor flipper control, and you've got a pinball simulation disaster.
The graphics are beautiful in 3D Pinball Express. It's too bad that the developers have tied them to such poor game play.
The sound is also very good. It reminds me of real pinball machines. Again, it seems wasted in a game with such a low enjoyment level.
I was pleased to see that the game supported joystick, mouse, and keyboard controls, but I soon realized that the keyboard was the way to go.
The mouse controls are very hard to use, because any mouse movement will nudge the machine. Too many nudges cause tilts, and I can't imagine using the left and right mouse buttons as flippers and not moving the mouse at all. I suppose players with trackballs will have an easier time.
I could not get either my joystick (two-button) or my game pad (six-button) to work with the game. I don't know if the problem was me or the game, but joystick controls were out for me.
That leaves the keyboard, which is not really a problem for PC gamers.
Overall, 3D Pinball Express is disappointing. It has great graphics and sound, but the game play just isn't there. Unless you collect pinball games, pass on this one.
Graphics: Each of the four pinball boards is beautifully designed.
Sound: The sound is a very good simulation of real pinball machines.
Enjoyment: The controls and the board layouts are beyond lame. The flippers do not work properly, and there is a great deal of wide-open space on each board.
Replay Value: The games get boring very quickly, despite the presence of multiple difficulty settings.
3D Pinball Express is a so-so pinball game from COSMI that is apparently one of the worst pinball games ever released, at least according to pinball expert Martin Mathis' review:
"Multi-table bargain bin package with four themes, each featuring three different table layouts. 3D table view selectable as scrolling or non- scrolling. Options to run in a desktop window or fullscreen in either "low-res" or "hi-res". Mouse, joystick and keyboard control. Keys and controls fixed. 3-way nudges. 3 or 5 balls per play. Top 5 highscores saved. On/off settings for music, sound and background image. Claims to come with free "The History Of Pinball" by Jay Gross, instead comes with a bonus game called "Lock Out". Abominable table design, ball physics, flipper control and menu navigation. Even for arcade-style pinball fans there is nothing worthwhile here. Flipper control is almost non-existent as the balls bounce around happily on their own most of the time. You may manage to flip one back into the maze of gratuitous bumpers and may then continue to watch as it occasionally also hits spots that appear to be randomly placed other targets of sorts. And that is only after you break through odd walls and laser barriers to access those table areas. The boards look like they've been placed inside craps tables, pits surrounded by high walls, ugh. Then, banners reminiscent of Commodore 64-era sprites scroll across the top of the screen to e.g. inform it's now time to "SHOOT BALL". I also love the "Loading please wait..." prompt, apparently a virtue the game itself does not possess: Don't start a game quick enough and the screen will wander off to the main menu, then to demo mode or simply change the background image at will causing another loading delay." Ouch. I'm hardly a pinball expert, but Martin's review seems to hit the mark judging from my 15-20 minute experience with the game. Avoid this one unless you simply must have every pinball game ever made.
People who downloaded 3D Pinball Express have also downloaded:
Absolute Pinball, 3-D Ultra Pinball, 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrill Ride, Addiction Pinball, 3D Ultra Pinball 3: The Lost Continent, 3-D Ultra NASCAR Pinball, Adventure Pinball: Forgotten Island, 4D Prince of Persia
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