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    Timeshock
    Reviewed by shiva

      Developed by
    Empire Studios

    System Requirements

    - Pentium 60
    - 8Mb RAM
    - 10 MB hard disk space
    - CD-ROM drive
    - 1MB SVGA graphics card
     

    Features

    • Screen resolutions of 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024, and 1600x1200, all at 256, 65,000 and 16.7 million colors, depending on available RAM and graphics RAM.
    • Digital sound support ranging from basic 5 kHz mono 8-bit, to CD-quality 44.1 kHz stereo 16-bit output
    • Choice of 4 table viewing angles
    • Musical score written and performed by Jake Burns and Bruce Foxton (ex. Stiff Little Fingers and The Jam, respectively).
    • Over 30 tracks of music played direct from the CD for optimal audio quality
    • "I do not know exactly what time you presently inhabit, so I cannot tell in what dark age of pre-science you dwell, but you probably don't even know that time is crystalline. It flows from the future and crystallizes at the door of the present. The future is fluid and changeable. The past is solid and cannot be altered.

      But it can be shattered. And my work on the fluid future threatens to destroy the solid past.

      I have created God help us a shock wave of anti-time which is traveling back to the dawn of history. The wave has nearly reached your time already.

      We must return to the beginning of time and bring together the crystal fragments from the future to create a counter-shock wave. My time machine is crude - the best I could do in the circumstances - but it needs two to pilot and navigate. My copilot has...gone, and I am stuck in this time.

      My past has gone already, but if we succeed, we can save your past...and your future."

    Click to enlargeAh, Pinball. The love and the bane of my life. Who knows how much money I have spent over my life playing the Silver ball addiction in my local Arcade. It can be argued that I love Pinball over Arcade Games any day of the week, and it's true. If I see a old Pinball machine and a old Video Game together, I will always play the pin. Why? Maybe because a Pinball game is never boring, every game is different, and it always challenges you with every game, while Video Games often result in learning "patterns" which can be quite boring after a while.

    So, when I got Pinball Madness 2 as a birthday present last week, the first game I loaded up was Timeshock, developed by Cunning and released by Empire Interactive back in 1998. The reason was quite simple, I have heard so much about how good this game was, that as soon as I got my hands on it, I had to try it out first. And my first impression was of utter amazement. You have to remember that I play all the latest Pinball releases for the PC, and none of them hold a candle to the quality of Timeshock.

    Click to enlargeThe first thing that greeted me was the Main Menu option, with not just the ability of playing the game, but also came with a vast array of options. Most notable is the Advanced Operators Menu, which not only allows you to configure the type of game you play, from Novice to Normal, but also has a "Challenge mode", for multiple players to "share" game features and memories among all players, so you can steal the other players lit features. There is also a "Tournament" mode, which disables certain adjustments for comparing scores on different machines. The Operators Menu has several other unique features as well, including changing the number of balls, the settings for some of the features, and the "Arcade Operator" settings, like bookkeeping, game settings, and even diagnostics! It is almost exactly what the Arcade versions have, and though it's a little on the useless side, it just shows how detailed this simulation is. To add to all of that, a lot of these features have to be "unlocked" by advancing through the game, so the better you get at the game, the more features will unlock. A very nice touch to continue interest in the game.

    Click to enlargeAfter setting my options, I started a game and was surprised by the tremendous graphics that this pin sports. It was very close to a actual Arcade Pinball, and seemed to favor the Williams Electronics style of design. The playing field artwork were extremely well done, and like all good pinball graphics, not to overpowering to distract you from the game itself. As to the table layout, I had to play around with the 4 separate "views" before I could work out the design, and what I needed to shoot at before I played. Though the design is quite good, I wouldn't put it in the same league as the Arcade Pinball games of that era, and they also crammed so much into the design, it may take a few plays just to figure out where everything goes.This in fact may be my only complaint about the design. It's way to cluttered and it makes things very hard to make out, even on a 600 by 800 screen. Though there are some very satisfying long shots, and some unique features, I found myself just hitting the ramps and long lanes rather than going for the center portion of the table. Since the center is "closed off", it lost a bit in ball movement and speed on a missed shot, which is something I personally don't like in a table design. But still, you can't get much better than this in a computer simulation design of a Pinball machine. The shots were very interesting, and though I have had this game for a week, I'm still discovering new things about it every day.

    Click to enlargeThe game is based around a Time Travel theme, where you travel to different parts of the "world" looking for crystal pieces to collect. Collecting each piece allows you to access various special timed features and bonuses. There are many hidden secrets within the game as well, that can be reached by lighting different bonuses and grabbing crystals. As you complete each "exploration", more features are added, till you reach the "Dawn of Time" feature. In other words, this game is as complex as a modern Arcade Pinball, with sub-bonus and timed bonus periods. The only thing I didn't like is a timed feature that if you fail to prevent the "Shockwave of Time" from reaching "The Dawn of Time", the game is over. This can be very annoying, and I can't think of a arcade table doing this to a player.

    The Table is dominated in the center by a big green toy, which is actually a Time Crystal. This can be activated during play, and is just one of the "toys" that this machine has. The Time Crystal actually plays a very important part of the game, is is central to the theme. There is also a "Time Machine" toy, found on the bottom left side,which is used to lock balls for multi-ball play, and also a "Time Travel" feature, (of course) which uses a real nifty arm to grab the ball to lock. As well, there are various doodads scattered around the machine to add to the enhancement of the game.

    Click to enlargeBut where this game really shines is in the physics of ball movement and angles. In physic's terms, The work-energy principle in Pinball machines can be described as the amount of kinetic energy put into an object by a force, with the mass and the angle of the force added to the angle, mass and energy of the object. Since the "force" is a ball, spin and weight also has to be taken into account. This is the reason why so many pinball simulations have failed in the ball movement/mechanical area, the physics required are very complex and time consuming. Even if they get the right mix in the physics equation, a slight mistake in the formula may result in strange ball movement. As for Timeshock, quite simply put, this is the best Pinball engine ever used on a computer game, and it shows. The ball has none of the sudden speedups or false bounces common with a lot of computer Pinball games, and moves very realistically. It's so real, it apes the movement of a real pinball machine perfectly, which is all you ever want in a Pinball simulation. The mechanical features of this game, like the thumper bumpers, ramps and the flippers also showed the same attention to detail to the physics. I could even do the old "tricks" with the flippers, like dead catches, just like on a real Pinball Machine. In other words, it's perfect.

    The sound effects are just as good. They ape the normal mechanical sounds perfectly, and by adding the use of carefully planned electronic sounds and voices, they add to the theme and enjoyment of the game. Unfortunately, though the soundtrack is by music artists, I couldn't get it to work due to a compatibility problem with my sound card, so it's very hard to rate the soundtrack.

    Click to enlargeThere is no doubt that Timeshock is in a league all it's own. This is about as perfect you are gonna get in a computer pinball simulation, or at least till I can scrape up money for their latest release. This is not a easy game though, it takes time to learn and to play, but it obeys the first rule of all games... it's fun to play, and makes you want to play another "just another round". And in that respect, Timeshock succeeds as a computer game. Because of the age of the game, you can still find it in the discount bins, and also it has been re-released as part of a new package called Pinball Madness 2, released by Encore Software. It's well worth the purchase.

    The real funny thing about this game is that it was released in 1998, and yet, this pinball game is STILL the best Pinball game you can buy for your PC. To put it very simply, this game rules.

    Empire has just released a third game in the Pro-Pinball series, (The first one called The Web), called Big Race U.S.A., which features more improvements and a unique Head to Head mode playable over the Internet. There are also plans to release a fourth game, called Fantastic Journey.

    << Rating: 90 >>
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