In 3D Ultra NASCAR Pinball, Sierra has tried to combine the addictive game play of pinball with the thrills and excitement of NASCAR racing.
Unfortunately, it doesn't come across as anything more than a well produced, visually excellent, but slightly generic game with a novel twist. The point of the game is to play pinball on a table (Garage background) and to amass enough points to kit out your stock car with upgraded tires, brakes, and a tuned-up engine. Once that is accomplished, then you play, on a Speedway background table, as one of four well known (but not outside the United States) racing drivers in a full ten-lap race.
The graphics, ball movement, and sound effects are all very good. The main table, the Speedway setting that depicts a NASCAR race track, is especially detailed and looks impressive and three-dimensional. The crowd noises are very atmospheric and your backup team shouts at you throughout the game with hints such as "Keep Driving"...oh, okay, good idea!
But it's a combination of the formulaic game play and overall "borrowed" idea that takes some of the shine off this well put-together package. By its very nature, pinball can be a somewhat repetitive (yet addictive) game and the program does not add any real improvements to the balls and flipper experience. The NASCAR Turbo Racing theme could have been an excellent one but there just isn't enough variation within this theme to sustain interest.
Although the game is fun to play, it doesn't hold the player's interest for more that fifteen minutes at a time. 3D Ultra NASCAR Pinball will appeal most to pinball aficionados and NASCAR enthusiasts, although its competitive pricing will help its overall attraction.
Graphics: Good and detailed.
Sound: Authentic racetrack background sound and voices.
Enjoyment: Feels repetitive after a short time.
Replay Value: Fun for pinball wizards and race fans.
I love computer based pinball games. Ever since I played classics like Pinball Dreams and Epic Pinball on my old 486 I have been in love. Pinball challenges your hand-eye coordination and is incredibly addictive. I can't begin to tell you how many work assignments have gone undone due to computer pinball. As I said in my Pro Pinball review, the only blemish on the great record of computer pinball games has been Sierra's pinball games. Sierra pinball is not only unrealistic but the graphics are slow and the sound often lags. You can only imagine my surprise when I found Nascar Pinball by Sierra to be an enjoyable experience.
Nascar Pinball is still Sierra pinball in that its unrealistic but the graphics aren't bad and the tables are actually fun to play. In Nascar Pinball the point is to win the Nascar championship by winning four or five races. The game starts in the garage where you have to hit different targets in order to tune your car to peak condition. After the garage you progress to the main table which has four different ramps, each corresponding to a different turn. You go faster by hitting each turn in succession and taking the lead is done by hitting a specific target. It gets a little old after a while but it is still fun.
The graphics are mediocre. The table looks nice and everything moves smoothly but it lacks the realistic look of other computer pinball games such as Pro Race Pinball and Balls of Steel. The ball is neat in that it reflects the graphics of its surroundings but the edges look jagged and it's a bit too bright to be realistic. Since you are able to play as several different drivers each board changes to reflect this. Much like skins in Quake or Quake2 the graphics will change on the flippers and side panels but the actual board and targets do not change. On the outside of the main race board a pack of cars can be seen making laps and its neat to watch yourself move up in the pack as you overtake other cars. The most unrealistic part of Nascar racing were the special bonus rounds. Items that you were supposed to hit would just appear to float over the board and this obviously could not have happened on a real board.
Good sound in a pinball game is essential. Half the fun in playing a real arcade game is hearing the machine make all the bleeps and whistles as you hit targets. Fortunately the sound in Nascar Pinball was quite well done. Sound effects were clear and there was no skipping. The game also played the sounds on cue which is absolutely essential in a pinball game. Nascar Pinball also used a lot of speech effects. Normally I cannot stand speech in a game but it suited this game quite nicely. The announcer would comment on your performance and give you encouragement. The speech also helped to tell you where to shoot for next as it got somewhat confusing at times. Overall a surprisingly good job with the sound on Sierra's part.
The extent of multiplayer in Nascar Pinball is the ability to have four players alternate on the same computer. This is unfortunate because this game would have been fun over a network where each player could race each other.
Gameplay is the most important part of a pinball game by far. Nascar Pinball plays fairly well and has no huge flaws. There are however a couple of things that I didn't like. For one thing this game is way too easy. I was able to win the championship on my first try and I am not a pinball wizard by any means. The board was also not big enough at all. There were only four ramps and a complete lack of spinners or ball locks. In order to take the lead you simply had to hit one spot to get multi-ball and then proceed to randomly hit targets. Several of the bonus rounds seemed somewhat lame in that they were easy and stupid. One round consists of tires rolling down the board and you have to hit them. It's not very hard to do when you have four balls on the board at once. I also would like to see more drivers included as options. My favorite driver, Jeff Gordon, was not included which I found odd due to his extreme popularity. Fixing your car in the garage and in the pits is incredibly easy once you figure out at which RPM's to fire your ball. Overall not a bad job but not great.
Nascar Pinball is not as fun as computer pinball can be but it is still fun never the less. I liked the entire racing factor. If there was more than one board and the game wasn't so easy I think it would be a lot more fun. The game also became boring after thirty minutes of solid playing. This is unfortunate because this was a good effort at an odd concept.
My feelings are very mixed. I had fun playing this game but there was no challenge in it. The graphics aren't what they could be but the sound is great. Overall I enjoyed Nascar Pinball but I would rather play Pro Pinball Big Race Usa. Pick this one up if you're a pinball addict or you like the Sierra pinball series otherwise get Pro Pinball.
People who downloaded 3-D Ultra NASCAR Pinball have also downloaded:
3D Ultra Pinball: Thrill Ride, 3-D Ultra Pinball, 3-D Ultra Pinball: Creep Night, 3D Ultra Pinball 3: The Lost Continent, Absolute Pinball, Addiction Pinball, Microsoft Pinball Arcade, Adventure Pinball: Forgotten Island
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