3D Pinball for Windows - Space Cadet
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9  |  Space Out With Space Cadet
Darryl B. , 1/16/2006 1:42:54 PM
With no matter how many advances there are -- and will come -- in video games, with no matter how much memory a gaming rig has, however many people can play the game online at once, however long a person can play a single game for ages and ages/years (until his mommy kicks him out of her basement), etc., etc., sometimes nothing beats an old-fashioned game of pinball.

And that's especially true when you have something like 3D Pinball Space Cadet, since it nicely meshes together elements on pinball machines that you would typically find on pinball boards in the 70s and 80s (which I'll get to). Best of all, if you've purchased a new computer in the last several years, chances are you've already got this game as it is.

Yep, my mom got a new computer last week, which I think I had played this game before on my sister's computer several years before (and, yeah, hopefully I may finally ALSO have a new computer sometime in 2006 myself, rather than mooching off the family!), but I hadn't had a chance to go over it in depth until now.

Right off the bat, though, is one of the few gripes that I'll get out of the way, is the game only having two flippers (which most people will probably notice immediately). During my first few games, I kept on thinking that there was an extra flipper or two elsewhere, higher up on the table, but of course that was just wishful thinking (plus just about any *real* pinball game made from the 80s on up has more than two flippers). This is still a pretty good game as it is, but I'm used to pretty much any pinball game having three or more flippers. Oh well.

Anyway, there's some kind of rollerover target in the upper left area of the playfield that I haven't seen, style-wise, on a machine since probably the 70s, but Space Cadet also has a raised ramp (don't know the exact pinball term for those; see photo near the left flipper) that started appearing in pinball games in the 80s, and of course, in order to get all kinds of bonuses and all, text messages appear on the backboard (actually the "backboard" is on the right in this game) telling you what you need to do to advance through the game (which also started appearing on real pinball games in the 80s or 90s).

In order to advance, there are certain targets or bumpers to hit with the ball, and usually the ramp in the lower left of the table is used to launch a mission. Other areas of the table will upgrade your weapons or engines (dunno what scrap heap of a Ford Pinto of a spaceship I had to start with, but upgrades are always good) and complete your missions, which will cause you to advance in rank as well. I've only made it up to Ensign so far, but I've had quite a bit of fun doing so in the process.

The graphics are pretty good -- although you can't play this in a full-sized window -- as are the sounds, since even just pressing one of the flippers produces a "thunk" sound when the flipper goes up, just like on a real pinball machine! There's also a soundtrack for the game, which is kind of cheesy-sounding, but not bad (in my opinion), but you can turn it off if it gets on your nerves even more than developing a bad stomach ache in space, a la the Alien movies (if you've seen any of 'em, I'm sure you know what I mean).

But of course, THE main thing in a pinball game is if the physics work well, which, yes they do indeed, the ball bounces around the playfield pretty much like on a real pinball board, rather than doing odd things and moving like molasses on video pinball games of the past.

The only real slight problems I have with this is the aforementioned only two flippers being included, plus having the pause key being F3 means you could hit the wrong button for it; why not the letter P (like on other games) or several other keyboard keys that aren't used? Granted, you can just use your mouse to click on anything other than the game that's on your desktop to pause it, but that could mean losing the ball in the meantime in case you have to get to the phone or whatever. That, plus there's no multi-ball either, unless that happens once you start climbing in the ranks, but I doubt it.

Still though, this is a pretty fun game, which I really applaud the people behind it for incorporating pinball elements from the 70s and 80s into it, plus you can't beat the price of being free...or just being a tiny fraction of the money that you spent on your computer rig for it.

The only thing, though, is why does it say "Cinematronics" at the bottom left of the screen? Are they trying to bring that classic name back? Strange.

Anyway, not much else to say, other than this game made me into a true "space cadet" as I've played it. 9/10

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