Video pinball is one of those quirky, strange categories that only appeals to a select audience. The Pro Pinball series has always set out to achieve a realistic pinball experience: no Crue Ball-esque floating alien heads, no impossible shots - nothing but regular video pinball. The Pro Pinball games have achieved that level of realism, but as a result the games have suffered a bit in the value department. Sure, they're realistic, but even if the pinball table created for the game is great, how much could you possibly play it? More importantly, is a game with limited replay value really worth $39.99? The newest game in the series, Big Race USA, solves the latter problem by joining Take 2 Interactive's $9.99 budget PlayStation line.
The cool part about Big Race USA is its accuracy. Not only does it look, feel, and act like a real pinball machine while you're playing it, but it also has a detailed operator's menu, which pops up on the machine's dot-matrix display and lets you alter several different settings, such as number of balls, game language, replay score, match percentages, and more. You can even go through detailed switch tests, just like the real thing. On top of the realism factor, the table is fun, has lots of different modes and challenges, and can be quite addictive.
The graphics are nice and sharp, so there's never much of a question as to where your ball is on the prerendered 2D playing field. Occasionally the dot-matrix display gets in the way, but not enough to become a detriment to gameplay. The music and voices are all done nicely, and the machine sounds exactly like a real pinball machine would, right down to the loud clack of ringing up a replay. The control is easy to pick up. By default, the shoulder buttons are used to nudge the table, but you can also use the Dual Shock's analog sticks to move the table around in all directions.
The very small niche market of die-hard pinball fans this game is designed for should be extremely pleased with Big Race USA. But even if you're not well steeped in the world of video pinball, the game's $9.99 price makes it well worth checking out.