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Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball
Graphics: 7
Gameplay: 9
Sound: 6.5
Control: 8
Replay Value: 6.5
Rating: 7.4
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
Number Of Players: 1-2
Flipnic is a strange name for a pinball game, but considering how upbeat and peppy the game's presentation is, perhaps it's a fitting title after all.

At it's core, Flipnic is simply a pinball simulator... a very good pinball simulator. A PS2 controller may not be the same as a big square table, but the left directional and circle button fill in for the left and right flipper buttons just fine. The L/R triggers also activate a handy tilt move, but don't use it too much or the game will penalize you. The ball physics are weighty and sluggish, just the way pinball freaks like 'em, and there are enough flippers, bumpers, lanes, and spinners on the game's five tables to satisfy even the most diehard tabletop junkie.

The five table themes are biology, metallurgy, optics, geometry, and theology. Generally speaking, the tables start out easy and become more difficult as you advance through them. Also, there are five "boss" tables of sorts. They're nothing spectacular, just small areas with two flippers and a shape-shifting boss creature that you need to constantly wack. But, you do need to clear these boss tables in order to unlock the next main table.

To get to those boss tables, though, you first need to unlock them too. How? By fulfilling "missions" on the main tables. Each main table has anywhere between 20 and 40 missions associated with it. Some are as basic as "activate the multi-ball" or "hit all bumpers." Others are more complex, what the game refers to as "Super Missions." These bad boys are tougher, and usually chain into one another. For example, on the biology table, you have to hit all of the bumpers that freeze the stage to complete super mission 1, then smash the frozen waterfall to complete super mission 2, and finally scale the ball up a cliff to complete super mission 3. Once you complete all of the super missions on a table, you'll unlock the boss table.

Don't let the inclusion of missions scare you off. You don't have to complete them in one sitting or in any particular order. If you're the sort that just enjoys playing pinball, you'll probably accomplish the majority of missions during the course of your normal play regimen.

Purists may not like how the game's tables are setup, but there's no denying how large and varied they are. They're not the typical rectangular tables with one top and one bottom section that you'd see in most video pinball games. Instead, each table has multiple areas accessed by launching the ball through the various ramps. Each area is like a "mini" pinball table in its own right. You can stay put in one area racking up points and completing missions, or take a more adventurous approach and cycle between areas. All throughout, the camera seamlessly zooms in or pulls back in order to give you the best view of the action.

Ultimately, it's Flipnic's upbeat style that sets it apart from all of the other ho-hum pinball games out there. Short video clips and overlays play whenever you trigger a multi-ball, complete a slot machine sequence, or satisfy a mission goal. Although a few of these clips are downright serious, the vast majority are cute or downright nonsensical. The closest comparison in terms of overall vibe would probably be to Fantavision. At one point, I completed a slot sequence and was congratulated with a clip of a kid eating a birthday cake. When you complete a super mission, the camera will take a spin around the table and the table itself will often change in someway (freezing solid, shattering to reveal a new passage, etc.). Fairly often, when you activate a bonus, you'll be taken to a mini-game area where you have to use the ball to do things like smash UFOs, lure butterflies to bumpers, or bash a giant slug monster. In the meantime, the music is equal parts circus and techno. The male announcer that congratulates players for getting bonuses and activating mini-games is a nice touch also.

Few pinball games are ever any fun to play. Fewer still manage to set themselves apart from the piles of generic junk out there. Flipnic, with its solid physics, dynamic tables, and Fantavision-esque presentation is fun and unique. It's also budget-priced, which is never a bad thing.


8/4/2005   Frank Provo