Devil's Island Pinball by Expert Software/Wildfire Studios (Win95/98 CD-ROM)
Devil's Island Pinball Cover Art

Reviewed: 03/2000

Rating: 4 of 6Rating: 4 of 6Rating: 4 of 6

Balls Of Steel

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Single-table package with a treasure hunt/jungle adventure theme initially intended to be part of Balls Of Steel but now released as a standalone game. Uses the same 2D planview as BOS in scrolling, single screen non-scrolling or auto mode. Improved graphics exhibiting crispier detail and increased 3D effects. Resolutions of 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 (latter two single screen only). Dotmatrix display available as small or large with additional selection of dimensions. VESA support has been dropped completely in favor of the more stable DirectX. One to four players with top five scores recorded in separate tables for the four skill modes: Novice (5 balls, extended ball saver), Regular (5 balls), Arcade (3 balls) and Tournament (3 balls, random elements standardized). Keys for flippers, plunger and 3-way nudges configurable via drop-down list. Audio options support 16-bit stereo and reverse stereo sound with volume sliders for music and effects. A parental lock can be set to suppress possibly offending voice effects. Options screen is accessed from the main menu. Several in-game function keys allow to toggle some of them on the fly, as well. Also on the main menu are the rules but look on the CD-ROM for a more comprehensive manual in HTML format. Installation requires about 100MB but the game can be run entirely off the CD-ROM without any negative impact other than slightly higher load time.
Things found on Devil's Island include a temple god called the "Big Ugly Head", a volcano erupting with pinballs, a witchdoctor, a burial ground, cannons etc. Players battle spiders and snakes, defend against cannibals, collect pirate gold and must complete other special modes to collect ingredients for a potion that will ultimately defeat the witchdoctor. A cute feature I noticed is the ball saver mode "Zombie Ball" which grants 60 seconds to revive a drained ball by completing a target sequence. Extra balls are awarded on end-number match in novice and regular modes, on score in arcade and not at all in tournament. There are several multiball modes and one video mode. Many of the special events are triggered by how many times the same scoop or ramp has been hit. The count is reset for each new ball which prevents the sense of accomplishment that can be gained by building a game across all available balls. There really isn't much else to say that wasn't already covered in the Balls Of Steel review. The ball physics are essentially the same, that is action- not realism-oriented. I find ball movement too aggressive and one is often defenseless against the brutal and unpredictable bouncing or gets frustrated trying to reasonably aim shots, especially under time pressure.
The table overall is attractive and the targets are a well-balanced mix of ramps, scoops, rollovers, drops, magnet locks and a third flipper on the upper left to feed targets on the opposite side. The software design is solid and technically superior to Balls Of Steel yet gameplay seems less rewarding. Maybe the game is just doing justice to its title though, a thought that reminded me of the Devil's Island Golf Course disk for Links 386 Pro from years ago. It was an intentionally "mean" challenge for the ones who cared for it. I gladly accept a pinball challenge but for some (valid or invalid) reason this one fails to motivate me. Devil's Island Pinball is probably best suited for dedicated BOS fans but at less than $15 it's a steal for anyone wanting to give it a try.
Note: This review refers to the CD-ROM hardcopy, an Internet download-only version is also available.

Where Found: Expert Software/Digital River online, 01/2000

Released/Copyright: 1999, Expert Software and Wildfire Studios