Adventure Pinball: Forgotten Island takes a familiar style of game--pinball--and pushes it beyond its ordinary limitations by incorporating colorful 3D graphics and innovative level design. The game uses the powerful Unreal engine, which was originally developed for use in first-person shooters, and the engine's roots shine through in Adventure Pinball's fast-paced action. The game's levels make good use of the freedom provided by the engine, and they include a number of creative gameplay elements. While the game at times relies too heavily on its frantic pace, and its graphics aren't very interesting, it does provide a fun new perspective on the traditional pinball game.
The game includes both a story mode and a single-table mode. The story mode lets you progress through the nine main levels featured in the game, while the single-table mode lets between one and four players compete for the highest score on any one of the tables that have been unlocked in the story mode. Each level has an objective that will unlock the next level in the story. These objectives often require the player to progress through a specific series of areas in the level, and occasionally they require a somewhat discouraging and difficult sequence of events in order to access the next level. While the game does include three difficulty settings, these settings only adjust the initial number of balls you have--the logic being, if you have more chances to accomplish a goal, the game is easier. This may work well for players that are familiar with pinball games or other kinds of fast-paced games, but it could prove frustrating for novice players even on the easiest setting.
The level design in the game is creative and often surprising. Most of the main levels include a number of hidden areas and other secrets, and they are often made up of several "tables" between which the ball can travel in a number of ways, including railways, blowholes, and even pterodactyls. Sometimes the level sequences can be somewhat convoluted, but they are enjoyable on the whole.
The most noticeable feature of the game is the fast camera movement. The game's third-person view is usually fixed in one direction (facing the table from behind the flippers) but keeps the ball in the center of the screen by scrolling around to follow the ball. This movement gives a great sense of action, but at times can be annoying, particularly when the ball hits a power-up that accelerates its movement and the movement of the camera along with it.
The graphics in the game do a good job of distinguishing between the different levels and areas, but they lack the crispness and smoothness you might expect from a high-end 3D game engine. Even on a fairly powerful machine, the game seems to run faster than its legs can take it, especially when the game deviates from the standard physics you'd expect from a pinball machine. At times this sensation is intentional, such as when the ball hits certain power-ups, but at other times it is just the result of the game's pacing and camera movement. Pinball purists may be disappointed by the game's reinterpretation of conventional pinball mechanics and physics. But those who come to terms with some of the game's quirks will find that the graphics and camera movement become fairly minor issues.
The sound effects and music do a nice job of setting the mood for a lighthearted and fast-paced game. Most of the traditional pinball game elements, such as flippers and bumpers, have an appropriate corresponding sound, while some of the more exotic elements like the tyrannosaurus rex let out short arcadelike sound effects.
The secrets and hidden areas in each level are a worthwhile incentive. While sometimes these hidden areas only give the opportunity to rack up more points and gain power-ups, at other times they play a part in the objectives for the level. The game also supports add-on levels--such as the bonus level posted on the official Adventure Pinball Web site--which add new challenges after the novelty of the original nine levels has worn off.
While Adventure Pinball has its faults, it is for the most part successful in adding first-person shooter flash to a traditional kind of game. Its fun level design and gameplay elements make up for its occasional graphical shortcomings and its departures from Newtonian physics. The game includes a good variety of levels that should keep most pinball fans entertained for hours, and its lighthearted storyline and nonviolent nature make the game suitable both for children and adults.