While it's a fairly decent game, 3-D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride, by Sierra Attractions, doesn't do anything special to further the pinball genre. In fact, at times it seems like just one huge advertisement for Hershypark, the theme park located in Pennsylvania. Because it's pinball, there is no story per se but you do have an objective besides getting as many points as possible -- send your ball on all 15 rides before the park closes and be treated to a special fireworks display.
You collect points by hitting bumpers, lighting up words, completing different rides and visiting the snack shop. The snack shop is actually a bit funny -- when you enter, you're treated to any number of Hershey treats, each one giving you a different number of points.
As a standard pinball game for the computer, 3-D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride has its flaws, the most important of which pertains to controls. Unless you have a joystick or some other type of controller, you can't really use the nudge features and are limited to using only the left and right flippers, the plunger and one of the nudge buttons. Using only a keyboard as the controller draws your attention away from the ball. Without access to all the nudge features, it can be a bit difficult getting your ball to go where you want or need it, especially when required to send it up a certain ramp or to a certain area.
Another problem is tracking the ball with the default 3/4 top down view. There are several rides and attractions that the ball can go behind and when this occurs, it becomes a white outline that can easily get lost within the graphics. That, in conjunction with the multi-ball aspects, can really put a damper on things. Yet another annoyance is the occasional slowdown, which throws off your timing and can possibly cost you a ball.
The graphics and sounds are nicely done and the rides are interesting to look at. When you reach the point where you can enter the fun zone, special attractions magically appear on the board or you end up in a different part of the park. One of the rides is a huge revolving restaurant-like structure that you must hit to make it spin and go to the top. Another deals with bumper-cars that uses specially colored balls -- you have to match the ball color to the bumper car to move it down the board before time runs out.
Other parts of the park include a special virtual coaster and a "rapids" ride each with its own objective. For example, in the latter you must clear rocks from the river's path by striking them with the pinball so rafts can get through. A rather unusual feature is located in the Vault area where you can watch a video of Hershypark -- it's actually no more than a huge advertisement for the park.
Up to four players can take turns on the same machine so it's important to set up the key commands to everyone's liking. Overall, 3-D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride is a good pinball game but has nothing new to offer other than a blatant advertisement for a real-life theme park.
Graphics: The images are nice to look at and very smooth but could have been a tad more colorful.
Sound: The voices are pleasant and the sounds of the pinball machine are realistic. Even the flippers sound real.
Enjoyment: Since you really need a control pad to use the nudge functions, playing with a keyboard doesn't give the game much of a pinball table feel. Certainly not as much fun as playing the real thing.
Replay Value: Replay is directionally proportionate to the user's enjoyment. There are, however, a few secrets that need to be unlocked.
People who downloaded 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrill Ride have also downloaded:
3-D Ultra Pinball, 3-D Ultra Pinball: Creep Night, 3D Ultra Pinball 3: The Lost Continent, 3-D Ultra NASCAR Pinball, Addiction Pinball, Absolute Pinball, Microsoft Pinball Arcade, Adventure Pinball: Forgotten Island
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