>> Friday, August 10, 2007
This game was developed by ISG Productions in association with Philips Interactive Media of America. Very little is known about the history of Plunderball except that it was featured in various catalogues by Philips as was the case with many unreleased CD-i games. When show cased to the public for the first time at Classic Gaming EXPO 2002 it certainly was one of the strangest CD-i games ever to grace the system. Probably best described by the games abstract ripped directly from the CD featured below and described by R.W. Creative Director of OlderGames as Wing Commander meets Pinball. This is a great game that surprised all who tried it.
One of Devin's favourite CD-i games, this is one of his only reviews available on The Black Moon Project. Currently, the Game Pages are 'under construction'. Information about Plunderball on CD-i is rare, and Devin may be the one who knows most about it!
Plunderball is a three-layer pinball simulation which combines the thrill of an action game with the depth of an adventure game. Beyond conventional pinball fixtures such as flippers, bumpers, and drop targets, Plunderball features lock wells that activate DYUV movies which provide clues and tell a story.
The story combines a futuristic space warfare theme with a pirate adventure story line. You are a space pirate who has been secretly courting Princess Sarina of Cayden. On the journey to ask her father, Clanlord Braith, for the Princess's hand in marriage, you discover that she has been kidnapped by Cayden's arch-enemy Scorpion. The Clanlord promises his kingdom to the one who rescues his beloved daughter, sending you on a perilous journey through uncharted space to Steeleye's heavily armed armada.
This particular release from OlderGames has come as a bit of a surprise. With prototype games you would expect some problems however small, yet 80% of the game has been tested on various CD-i systems with no problems. All in game and title screen menus work fine. Two out of three pinball tables have been extensively played without any problems and all in game movies play fine. We did suspect a hang up on one scene when a movie was prompted to play, although after waiting 10 seconds it did eventually play. This is not a problem and did not affect gameplay in anyway so it's looking good for Plunderball. As time permits and we get better at Plunderball the third table will be fully tested and as soon as the ending credits roll up it will be given the thumbs up as a full version game!!
Reviews in the present day about games we enjoyed in the past hardly seems fair. Inevitably replaying an old classic that memory views through rose tinted glasses inevitably disappoints trying to recapture those first emotions playing the game for that first time. Although opinions differ from various schools of thought on the subject this is my personal unabashed asessment of what I think about the game in question. Hopefully it'll entertain as you read my musings and maybe you'll learn something in the process... however remote a chance that is!
Consider Pinball Dreams and its' colourful sequel Pinball Fantasies, both solid, playable offerings arguably at the peak of there game. Then look at CD-is' meager attempt with the unimaginative "Pinball", limping from one cliche level to the next. Need examples, well okay with a selection of four tables lets have a futuristic setting ala "Cyber", not forgetting the war in "Dog Fight", throw in "Spring Break" and "Melt Down" then we have a complete set. Slap it in a case and hope for the best! The genre on CD-i seemed doomed to live the rest of its' days in the drawer of mediocrity.
Then something completly unexpected, an emerging retropublisher called oldergames releases Plunderball on CD-i gamers at 2003s' Classic Gaming Expo held in Las Vegas. Although potentially I was the only CD-i fan present at the event (outside of oldergames!), a smattering of videos and images kept most amused waiting for that package to hit the mail box, it was obvious Plunderball looked a little ridiculous...
To quote oldergames description, "What do you get when yoiu mix drugs and game design? If you said E.T. for the Atari 2600 you'd probably be right. If you said Plunderball for the Philips CD-i we'd say that you're in line with our best guess.", they were obviously as clueless as the rest of us! Although to their credit they did encapsulate the core mechanic of this game in six words, "Real Life Space Drama. Pinball Style". Yes you heard that right, a pinball game with a storyline! Incorporating a feature called "Video Drop Wells", when activated a small DYUV Movie plays introducing the crew of a spaceship called Blackcore fighting Scorpio to rescue the kidnapped princess. Cliched, you better believe it, the plot is hammier than hammy the hamster.
Thankfully these clips can be turned off but the sadistic gamer in us all would leave them on, not only to see the predictable conclusion but also for hints to progress through each of the three pinball tables. Bumpers, Side Bars, Flippers, all the regular pinball fixtures are here so nothing special right? Wrong, surprisingly Plunderball forms a tight highly playable game owing much to the pinball physics gamers on other platforms would take for granted. It may come as a shock this game was developed by none other than ISG Productions, one of the same company that created Video Speedway.
Each table consists of three distinct zones of play, without spoliling things too much we'll be taking a look at the first table only. However we can say each table progresses the storyline with an appropriately themed design, the catch... after the time and trouble getting to that next level various traps can just as easily dump you back to square 1 of the previous table. This said it's possible to save the game at any given stage, just make sure you have plenty of pinballs in stock as this is a one slot game save function!
Firing the first pinball into play you discover a large round bumper in the form of a planetary body, Kaden. A name you'll grow tired of very quickly as the engineer harks, "We've decayed into Kadens atmosphere" each time a pinball slips through the flipper and side bars. Although the table is not without forgiveness, for example destroy the lunar body orbiting Kaden and another large moon obstructs the pinballs descent through the flippers. It's even possible block the side bars by rolling over small lights embedded in the table. Achieve this and it's quite easy to activate all the EXTRA letters giving you a free ball and the chance to carry over any bonus's you've achieved including multipliers increasing your high score. Moving into the second zone your presented with Kadens sun and two destroyable Mercury/Venus like planets. Playing much like the previous zone with the opportunity to activate an extra ball, shields can be engaged blocking the pinball from falling back to the first zone. Wheras the first zones video drop wells set the scene, the second progresses the storyline. After you become used to the subtleties of the pinball table it becomes more of a challenge than an annoyance. Using the tilt function, judging the right time and position to strick the flipper... this is the way pinball is meant to be played.
By Devin, The Black Moon Project