Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Time Cruise


You'd think game designers would've realized that a Turbo pinball title couldn't afford to seem bland, not when arriving on the heels of the thematically compelling Crush games. Actually, many PCE development teams probably believed that taking on a pinball project would've been a wasteful endeavor, futile in the face of a series that is considered by many even today to be the paradigm of its mini-genre. Well, Face's intrepid programmers accepted the challenge but missed the notice regarding the unacceptability of blandness, producing a sim that I'd always thought would be unenjoyable due to its dull brown-brick surface architecture. But Time Cruise proves itself worthwhile, even when pitted against the Crush brothers, with its fast and lively soundtrack; its competent manipulation of physics; and its massive (if brown-bricked) playfield, which hosts plenty of passageways, bumpers, and ball-gulping time machines.

Aforesaid time machines transport you to bonus rounds, where TC really earns its keep. Some of these side-screens feature typical pinball play but actually emerge as the package's most enticing assets thanks to wonderful music (the sword-stocked medieval chamber) or impressive visuals (the parallax-sporting prehistoric riverbed).

Other bonus opportunities present themselves in the forms of ball-rolling mini-games that shun pinball's traditional whack-with-a-flipper arrangement. You have to force the orb into specified openings by toying with gravity effects, tipping ramps, or playing a round of caveman golf. In truth, these aren't the most enjoyable side-events in gaming history, but they're interesting enough in theme and clever enough in construction to hold appeal as novelties.

Dull surface visual work doesn't offset the heart and creativity that went into most aspects of Time Cruise's design. It has more to offer than Alien Crush in the way of main-field elements, and it provides more variety than Devil's with its enormous play-area and wacky bonus segments. Truthfully, all of that may not be enough to propel it to the Turbo pinball pinnacle; cool demons go a long way. But it's worth a purchase (and more than just a few plays) nonetheless.

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