Pro Pinball: The Web
by Empire Interactive/Interplay/Cunning Development (DOS/Win95 CD-ROM)
Pro Pinball: The Web Box Art

11/1996, 12/1996

Rating: 5 of 6Rating: 5 of 6Rating: 5 of 6Rating: 5 of 6

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Single-table package with a futuristic biker theme employing 90's-style ramps and targets. Non-scrolling fullscreen 3D view at three different view angles (plus choice of score display) and resolutions up to 1024x768 using delightfully rendered graphics in 256 or 32768 colors. Max. 4 players, 3 balls per game, 3-way table nudges (most realistic ones I've seen so far), keys not configurable (there go my already cracked CTRL caps). The lack of the usual configurable table parameters (speed, number of balls) is proper for a fair highscore contest and realistic as you would not walk up to a coin-op machine either and change its settings. State-of-the-art dot-matrix display and animations and excellent sound effects and various CD-quality soundtracks. Video mode. Records a variety of highscores: All-time, daily, buy-in and number of combo and loop shots. Awards replays on end-digits and highscores in the form of continues (max. 9 at a time) for buy-in competition. The publisher encourages and publishes highscore submissions using an authenticity code but does not offer prizes. The Web has been available in Europe for over a year and is finally distributed in the USA by Interplay. It is heavily mission-based (hit specific targets under time pressure) and your goal (other than staying alive) is to collect these tokens called "spheres". Completion of all missions leads to a high scoring, ultimate showdown mode whose scoring is dependent on the number of spheres. After that you start over but you get higher awards each time around and your tokens accumulate. The Web is currently the closest you can get to an actual pinball machine. Yet the ball physics, though very good, are not perfect, particularly a certain lack of flipper finesse and the way the ball often bounces from the sling shots. The table is generally hard to defend (outlanes) but makes up by making a lot of extra balls available. It also is generous with ball saves especially during multiball play (up to 6 balls, BTW). The designers definitely have a feel for pinball machines, table rules and details (they're even considerate of the music slowing down the PC when the ball is near the flippers). The game features a slide show demo so you can become more familiar with the target areas. Unfortunately, the manual provides only minimal guidance and omits an explanation of the complex rules and highly intelligent scoring system. Luckily, in-depth third party help is available on the Internet, including strategy and table secrets. Although the game excels in all aspects, I initially found it hard to get into. There is a learning curve and joy will come to the one who takes the time to master it. That said, Pro Pinball: The Web does live up to its claim, reputation and the anticipation and I am anxious to see the next one in the series: Timeshock. With the realism that The Web brings, I think the focus shifts from "how good of a computer approach is it" to "how good of an actual pinball machine is it". Now, if it only would support the ThrustMaster Pinball Wizzard (rumor has it that it works under Win95 with something TM provides)...

Where Found: Best Buy, Arizona, USA, 10/1996

Released/Copyright: 1996, Entertainment International (UK) Ltd.