Pro Pinball Ultra is here, with a new version of the classic Timeshock table that was built from the ground up. Time for a review.
The pinball videogame genre has evolved with leaps and bounds when you look at the past 30 years or so. After some crude attempts in the mid to late eighties, the genre took a leap forward with Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies – which kept with the trend of using a top-down, scrolling 2D overview of a pinball table. The main difference was in the quality of the animation as well as the audiovisual delivery of pinball, which was far better than games had done up to that point. Once Pinball Illusions (the final game in the series) came out, it was the mid-nineties. Two newcomers appeared on the scene that propelled the pinball genre into the 3D realm, Tilt! and the Pro Pinball series – and the latter has now been re-introduced with an ‘ultra’ version.
It’s been twenty years since the first Pro Pinball game though, and the genre is now dominated by two or three franchises that have all released a ton of tables to choose from and play. Pinball FX2 and Pinball Arcade are favored on Steam, with Zen Pinball being the premier choice for consoles. The most striking difference with Pro Pinball Ultra is that Ultra currently only has one table for you to play, and that’s Timeshock – originally the second one in the series.
Don’t let that deter you though, since there are a few other major differences between Pro Pinball Ultra and the aforementioned pinball games. While those collections are geared more towards the casual pinball enthusiast, the attention to detail in how the game is simulated is far more elaborate in Pro Pinball Ultra. This can be seen in how detailed the game’s graphics are – especially when played at ultra high resolutions – but is especially apparent when you observe how lifelike the (ball) physics in this game are. For a game that’s not based on a real table, it’s amazing how Timeshock feels more ‘real’ than most (if not all) other pinball videogames.
Because Timeshock wasn’t modeled after a real table but instead designed as a videogame, it wasn’t restricted by what’s possible and what’s not possible in a table. This means that Pro Pinball Ultra has some exciting features when it comes to the table’s theme and even background story – yes, there is one. In this case, it’s all about time travel – and completing objectives allows you to travel between different time zones.
It’s this kind of table design that gives Timeshock much more variety than your average table, and to this day we haven’t gotten bored of it and we haven’t stopped figuring out new secrets and ways of scoring either. The game’s physics model also helps in making this game feel like it’s very much skill-based, where practice makes perfect and luck (and thus frustration) doesn’t play into it all that much.
We can confidently say that Pro Pinball Ultra’s Timeshock is the ultimate pinball simulation available on any system right now. If you love videogame pinball and take your hobby seriously, you owe it to yourself to grab this game. It’s held back by the perceived higher value for money that other packages offer, which is why casual gamers will have a tough time paying the asking price for Pro Pinball. Just remember that this one table is far better than any table in those collections though… and you won’t regret buying it. Sure, we too wish that more tables were included, but that’s just because this one is so good.