for CD-i

Mr Creosote:
Company: OlderGames
Year: 2002
Genre: Action
Theme: Multiplayer / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 3431
Review by Mr Creosote (2022-06-11)

Developed in the early/mid 1990s, Plunderball was shelved for unknown reasons until it was finally released after the commercial death of the Philips CD-i, but long before it became sufficiently “retro” to be interesting again. It is a pinball game, which – considering the completely awful nature of the only other Pinball game – would have been unrivalled on the system.

Activate shields!

Taking the genre crown may not have been a huge feat, but Plunderball is actually a decent game. It not only comes with a science fiction theme, but even an explicit plot. Rogue with a heart of gold saves the princess. While certainly not winning any prices and acting (yes, it features filmed actors in little video snippets) and props being amusing for rather unintended reasons, pinball tables building their target logic around a plot are exactly my thing!

The game spreads itself across three interconnected tables, each representing a different part of the journey to overthrow the baddie. Each table is further divided into several vertical sections, each with their own paddles. For example, the first table's bottom part represents the princesses home world, where the player can meet the king and stock up on resources (extra balls etc.). Shooting upwards, we orbit a smuggler's moon where in a seedy bar, we can learn the jump coordinates to move to. That jump (third section) is not all that easy to make, though, as an asteroid field is in the way. Finally, we enter hyperspace (i.e. move to the next table).

That was close!

Hitting specific targets triggers the aforementioned videos. They take the role of the ticker area of other pinball tables, giving information on the current state, bonus awarded, hints where to aim next etc. The clear advantage, apart from their inherent entertainment value, is that they freeze the actual pinball action, i.e. the player can actually pay attention without fearing immediate punishment.

Ball physics are overall alright, though not up to the standards set by the best of the genre. The ball feels a bit light. All tables feature moving targets, or rather obstacles spicing things up a bit. What I'm personally not a fan of at all is large bumpers right in the centre of the table. Apart from those, layouts are solid, leading to good playability.

It is surprising that these two were the only CD-i pinball games. The system's capabilities, both in limited power to animate things and considering the standard controller, were a good match for this genre. Coupling it with videos, one of the CD-i's few strength, was a smart move. Plunderball will not shake anyone's world, but it certainly is good entertainment!

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