3-D Ultra Pinball: The Lost Continent is an adventure pinball game that actually pulls you into the action and gives you the feeling of participating in some grand quest set in an exotic and atmospheric prehistoric setting. The game begins with a video of a plane flying over the African continent that runs into a thunderstorm replete with lightning. One of the two engines is struck and flames out, causing the plane to crash land on a remote island.
The game features 16 unique levels, each with specific characteristics that deal with a portion of the overall story. Although you begin each game from a pre-defined starting point, during gameplay, when you've used the last of your balls, there is a continuation feature that allows you to begin a new game from the point you've reached. In this instance, all tables are reset and require completion before you can escape from The Lost Continent. This option is immensely satisfying in that you don't have to continuously restart at the very beginning and play the same levels repeatedly before getting to the later tables.
The story (see the description) is definitely a feature of the game. All the tables contribute in some way to the plot and have varying degrees of difficulty. A variety of possible calamities befall you as you work your way through the levels. A stampede of dinosaurs can be unleashed in one spot where you gain extra points for killing them off (hitting them with the ball). Another test my be attack by a savage prehistoric tribe or you may become frantic with the various multi-ball explosions that keep you desperately trying to keep them all in action, racking up bonus points. Draining a lake, rescuing a character or having a tyrannosaurus rex eat your ball are just some of the adventures awaiting you.
The adventure begins in The Valley Ruins. Again, certain features that add to the difficulty will be toggled on or off depending on whether the easy or hard mode has been selected. The Valley has six specific adventures (tables) beginning with The Valley of Mystery, a spacious playing field with the object being to open up egress lanes to two more levels. Level two is the lake scene, Woeful Waters, where you must hit specific targets in order to raise the floodgates, drain the lake and allow your characters to cross to the next level. Neeka's Rescue, level three, features pterodactyls swooping to bedevil the captured victim who is perched on a pedestal in a circular arena -- one of the easier tables.
Level four is Rex's attempt to hack his way through a dense jungle, a feat that can only be accomplished by repeatedly negotiating a couple of ramps, each time opening up more of the way for him. A Tyrannosaurus Rex, no kin to our intrepid hero, guards a cliff opening in level five in the T-Rex Attack. This can be slightly annoying if you happen to kill him so he falls in a manner that blocks the cave but that eventuality can be overcome. Finally, the most difficult level in area one is The Colored Chasms, a table that tests the player's skill at color-coded target shooting as Rex tries to hop from platform to platform and negotiate a chasm.
This last table on the first area provides an illustrative example of the difference between the easy and hard difficulty settings. In easy mode, Rex gets a boost as he starts out on the fourth of seven platforms leading across the chasm. There are four porticos on the playing field, each a different color and guarded by three barriers. You must eliminate the barriers of the portico that is the same color as that of Rex's next platform and then get the ball into that portico. At the hard difficulty setting, Rex begins his perilous journey at the beginning of the seven platforms.
The second and third areas are setup in a similar fashion as the one just described. All are true to the spirit of the adventure and contain aspects of the journey. Area two is The Lost Temple sequence, containing five specific levels. In a nutshell, level one, The Entrance Hall, is again a portal to two more levels, although there is an interesting side-quest in getting Rex across the temple as he swings from a rope. Level two has the characters facing The Walls of Doom that require a combination of shots and targeting to extricate our heroes from a tight spot.
Finishing up The Lost Temple, levels three and four, The Temple Guards and The Labyrinth respectively, are fairly self-explanatory and require the usual sequencing of target shooting. The last level, The Stegosaurus, requires you to lure the beast by lighting up fruit trees, then targeting T-Rex saucers, opening up an escape path for the party.
Finally, in the third area, Heckla's Chambers, suffice it to say that the going gets very dicey through a series of inter-linked tables focusing on the main antagonist himself. You'll have to negotiate four tough tables including Heckla's Lab (where he morphs people into dinosaurs -- and includes a surprise), The Robot Factory, Devilish Devices and Behold the Dinobot!. The final table is entitled Heckla's Final Stand, a level which can't be reached until all others have been mastered in a single game. Appropriately, this is the crowning glory of the adventure, the pìèce de résistance.
3-D Ultra Pinball: The Lost Continent is innovative, clever and well designed. With a raft of optional settings like game sounds, speech, ambient sounds and music, gameplay is diverse and challenging. Nice extras such as the occasional free ball when you lose one after little or no scoring, good practice tables and sparkling graphics abound. The only problem with this game centers on its addictive qualities. As with most of the more stylistic and better-developed pinball games on the market, knowing when to leave it alone isn't the problem -- actually doing so is.
Graphics: Excellent presentation with options for high resolution making the screen come alive.
Sound: Speech, music, sounds--oh my! A great combination, superbly done.
Enjoyment: Don't even start if you're a die-hard pinball player. Your quest to get to the end can be wonderfully time consuming and challenging.
Replay Value: Ultimately satisfying as you try and rack up the highest score, using fewer balls and the harder difficulty settings. Immensely replayable.
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