Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball

We take classes in biology and metallurgy, Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball style.

Scheduled for release in North America next month, Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball is an SCEI-developed, PlayStation 2-exclusive pinball game that's quite unlike any we've played before. The game features five themed table environments, and we recently had an opportunity to spend some time playing the first two of them: Biology and Metallurgy.

The Biology environment is undoubtedly Flipnic's showpiece, with all its mostly pinball-style gameplay taking place in a lush jungle setting, complete with waterfalls and wildlife that can be interacted with in some quite interesting ways. Like most of the tables in Flipnic, the Biology environment comprises numerous small gameplay areas connected by a complex series of ramps and rails. There's eye candy aplenty, but even the most indulgent sequences that play out as you travel between areas offer some interaction in the form of a flipper that will take you to another area, or to a spot where you can make your ball jump to collect coins. Your goal in Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball, unsurprisingly, is to score as many points as possible. And you'll find that the best way to do that is to complete various missions scattered throughout each of the game's environments. Some of the missions are relatively conventional for a pinball game, simply requiring you to hit a number of targets within a time limit, for example. Others, however, are far more complex and unusual.

It's pinball, Jim, but not as we know it.

One of the most interesting sequences in the Biology table, for example, requires you to complete multiple missions that transform a large portion of the environment, thus affording you access to previously unseen areas in the process. Beating the first mission in the sequence will freeze a large portion of the jungle environment so that when you find your way back to the picturesque waterfall, you find a wall of ice in its place. Repeatedly hitting the ice wall will cause it to fall down, at which point you'll realize that there's an unusual vertical pinball table hidden behind it. This hidden table features numerous flippers and tunnels for you to negotiate, and if you make it to the top, you'll get into what is arguably the most unusual area of Flipnic we've seen thus far. But we'll let you be the judge of that when you find it for yourself.

One of the Biology areas that you'll inevitably spend a lot of time in is a table that features a slot machine, of sorts. You'll hit bumpers under each reel to stop them, and if you manage to make a winning line, you'll get to play one of a handful of different minigames with names like UFO Quiz Show, Hungry Monkey, Color Puzzle, and Lucky Flamingoes. The minigames are every bit as varied as their names suggest, and the animations that introduce them are as stylish as they are amusing. UFOs are a recurring theme throughout all of Flipnic's environments, incidentally, and while having them abduct your balls can be very irritating, you'll get plenty of opportunities for revenge, particularly on the Metallurgy tables.

The Metallurgy environment looks slightly more conventional for a pinball game than the jungles of the Biology tables, but its gameplay is every bit as unusual. Much of your time in Metallurgy will be spent moving between small tables that are arranged in a circle surrounding a Spaghetti Junction-like mass of ball rails. Your balls will regularly be shot at by passing UFOs, which can cause them to drop down the table quite unexpectedly if they get hit. You're far from defenseless, though, as some of the Metallurgy minigames actually let your balls shoot back.

UFOs are a pretty common sight in the Metallurgy environment.

One of the most unusual features of the Metallurgy environment is a large area where you move your ball around a series of translucent platforms by firing it between small cylindrical objects that move vertically between the platforms. There are a number of missions that require you to visit the area, and to succeed at any of them (or even just to avoid firing your ball off the edge of a platform and into oblivion), you'll need both quick reflexes and some kind of capacity for puzzle-solving.

In addition to its single-player options, Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball will feature four head-to-head competitive minigames. We've not had an opportunity to check any of them out yet, but the names Foosball Striker, Basketball 1-on-1, Vs. Bagatelle, and Triple Paddle should give you some idea of what to expect. We'll bring you more information on Flipnic: Ultimate Pinball as its July release date closes in.

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