Star Trek Pinball by Interplay/Sales Curve Interactive (SCI) (DOS/Win95 CD-ROM)
Star Trek Pinball Box Art

Reviewed: 02/1998

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

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To Boldly Go, Qapla', Nemesis

Multi-table package with three licensed Star Trek-themed tables. 3D fullscreen view at 640x480 or 800x600 resolution. Fixed table angle and color depth. 5-ball play for up to four players with top 10 highscores recorded (with the exception of Nemesis which pitches two players against each other - more about that later). Keyboard control with configurable keys including left, right and upward nudges. Sound effects, voices and CD soundtrack from the original series. Adjustable sound volume and graphic contrast. Animated dotmatrix display. Multi-ball up to 8 balls. Questionable ball physics and movement - read on.
Now that I've given a shorter overview of features than usual, I want to spend more time on the prose and say that Star Trek Pinball is an utter disappointment. It uses the Hyper-3D engine and stays right back in 1995 without attempting to improve. Right down to the pop-up plunger panel, the ugly 3-color dotmation, the annoying "Quit, Really?" prompt and the general lack of feel for pinball, it's all there and too deja-vu. Although Star Trek Pinball is not a sequel to Hyper-3D - I don't know about a connection between NMS Software (Hyper) and SCI (ST Pin) - I'm sure an effort could have been made to give us something more worthwhile. The way it looks to me, a pinball engine needed to be obtained to cash in on the Star Trek license and name. My two major issues are ball physics and graphics, two core ingredients whose ante has recently been raised again by Pro Pinball: Timeshock! (not to mention that Pro Pinball: The Web already was superior to Hyper-3D and still is superior to Star Trek Pinball). Even at 800x600 'high' resolution the graphics remain pixelated, grainy and hardly anti-aliased. The ball movement is far from realistic. Just watch how the ball rolls when you cradle it on the flipper. At times it briefly sticks to the flipper when you shoot. It manages to enter ramps at impossible angles (jackpot ramp on Qapla') and sometimes defies gravity and gets sucked right up. On one hand the ball can bounce off a slingshot and go straight up a ramp, while on the other hand a solid flipper shot barely gets it up the same ramp. Nudging does not visibly shake the table and has a very unnatural, unrealistic impact on the ball: You can actually "pull" the ball halfway across the table more like a magnet was activated than that it just received a jolt - and you can nudge about a dozen times before the table tilts. The return lane acceleration is not quite as bad as it was in Hyper-3D but it can still trick you. Then there are the minor issues. There is no feature to examine the tables up close and explore the upper areas in the form of e.g. a slide show. There are some upper-level platforms where the game switches to a close-up view during play. There are 'silly' features like randomly picking a tribble before ball launch for extra points or 'smash ball' where a ball slowly crawls down the table while you have to hit it with another ball. The voice effects get repetitive soon to the point where they are annoying (especially Nemesis). Bumper action is poor, a blur of a few quick bounces. The table rules are complex but to the point of confusion rather than challenge.
To Boldly Go lets you play on the good Federation side, Qapla' on the bad Klingon side and Nemesis is a two-player competition for 'points' or 'sets' between the two sides on a unique double-table with two identical halves of the screen for the two players. Network play is advertised for this feature (otherwise two can play on the same keyboard) but inside the box you will find a note that it has been disabled due to last-minute problems and will be provided later as a patch (Interplay's Web site currently makes no mention of the fact).
I've been ranting on because too many negative things about this game became obvious from the moment I opened the box. First of course are the high expectations. Then the note about the disabled network feature - not that I have a LAN handy in the house, but anyway. Then the sales pitch for an upcoming Star Trek game in the form of a fullscreen video that I thought was a) absolutely dazzling but b) had absolutely nothing to do with pinball until c) I realized it HAD nothing to do with the game (it only plays once after the install. Hmm, maybe those resources could have been spent on working out the network bugs before shipping). Then the DOS sound setup copyright 1994 that gives you this feel of something arcane. Surely they didn't work very hard. Then the realization that we have Hyper-3D Star Trek edition here with claims on the box that are just not there. Lastly, that it's really only a DOS game that happens to run under Win95 until you accidentally minimize it and crash your system. If you're a Star Trek fan and you must have it, go ahead. There's a pretty pinball intro and the price is within reason.
Back to more objectivity, I only give Star Trek Pinball 1/2 point less than Hyper-3D for the lack of anything new under the hood and the absence of ethics while honoring that at least we have another attempt at non-scrolling 3D with the novelty of a head-to-head table.

Where Found: Best Buy, Arizona, USA, 02/1998

Released/Copyright: 1997, SCI (Sales Curve Interactive) Ltd.