Sci-Fi Pinball by Fox Interactive/Gigawatt Studios (Win95/98, Mac)
Sci-Fi Pinball Box Art

Reviewed: 07/1999

Rating: 3 of 6Rating: 3 of 6Rating: 3 of 6Rating: 3 of 6

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Aliens, Predator, The Fly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer,
The Fly Retro (bonus)

Multi-table package with four franchised sci-fi/horror movie themes and an initially locked bonus table. Non-scrolling 2D planview at fixed 800x600 16-bit color resolution with tables occupying left half of screen and score display/video combination screen on right. Three skill levels (novice, regular, arcade) setting number of balls (5, 5, 3), ball save time and match game feature. Seperate highscore table per level with reset option. Configurable keys, 3-way nudging. One to 4 players. Only other options pertaining to audio volume. Video modes (called mini-games) and multi-ball play. Actual movie footage as dot-matrix anims and audio clips. "Floating ball-syndrome" but otherwise acceptable ball physics with decent flipper handling.
Sci-Fi Pinball reminds me of Balls Of Steel but with the charm of Star Trek Pinball. The concept is very similar to BOS using the same screen arrangement and floating objects and animated gimmicks but does not display any of the enthusiasm for design and detail. As with Star Trek Pinball, trademarks are used to cover a mediocre product. Sci-Fi's artwork appears cluttered with busy backgrounds and textures and fuzzy drawings mixed in with photo-realistic objects and images. The box art is misleading showing much crisper artwork. The tables resemble shooting galleries with the majority of targets being ramps and sink holes arranged side by side in the upper half. It's unforgivable that tilt warning windows obstruct a section of the table. Maybe the designers realized that the right-hand video display isn't ideal for conveying important messages. A "percent bar" simulates the plunger. The kickbacks have no save time and the initial ball save time does not apply to multi-ball drains. The '60s-style The Fly retro bonus table does not have an indicator which player is up (otherwise it is refreshing to see a table that is entirely different from the other four). The film clips add little to the experience and soon are just an interruption from gameplay. The table rules are straightforward and essentially the same across the four tables: Complete target combinations to activate features and levels, complete levels for jackpots and table advances, collect all and start over. Sci-Fi offers fairly instant gratification. I did enjoy the Buffy table - for what it's worth - because of the clearer layout and structure compared to the others. Sci-Fi has some entertainment value but it's evident to me that Fox is just trying for a piece of the pie with this marketing-driven unrealistic and simplistic pinball game (even according to the box all we have to do is to "make difficult shots and target combos to trigger cool animations, score jackpots and intesify gameplay"). It seems ridiculous that it gobbles up 70MB for a minimal install.
Sci-Fi requires DirectX6.0 which I have already installed so I unchecked the corresponding install option. To my surprise and outrage, the install proceeded to add countless link libraries to my Windows dir and a startling amount of entries to my already bloated registry (mixers, decoders, splitters, parsers and other cryptic stuff). Needless to say, I hate such intrusions with a passion. It remains to be seen how much the uninstall will manage to clean up. And uninstall I will, maybe after getting another quick fix or two first...

Where Found: online, 07/1999

Released/Copyright: 1999, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Inc.