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Activision Inc
Arcade: Pinball
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

Other Links

David Wilson
Chris Bourne

So you didn't win the fabby full size pintable in our compo last month, eh? Never mind, 'cos here's the next best thing!! it's Time Scanner from Activision. A rather brill computer pinball game.

What we've got here is a colourful, noisy viewed-from-overhead pinball simulation in which you get to play on four different, but equally fabby, pintables. One gripe (but it's only a little one) is that each of the four levels is a multiload. Yawn. Still, when you get onto a new level, if you then lose the game, you do get several 'credits' to keep playing on that particular table. So length of play isn't too much of a problem.

Each table top is made up of two screens, and as you go from the top half of the table to the bottom, the screen freezes and scrolls down, and vice versa. There are all the usual features seen on the best pinball machines, with ramps, those spinning gate things, the traps that hold your balls, ooh, and loads of boingy bits. The ball and flippers move very quickly and the animation has a lovely realistic 'feel'. At certain points in the game, you win yourself bonus balls. But with three balls in play the ball and flipper movement becomes considerably slowed. This doesn't detract too much from the playability of the game however.

Time Scanner has a nice line in sound, with the dear old Speccy doing a good impression of the extra ball, match replay and all the other funky pinball noises. It also plays a different tune for each level. Level Three gives a fab rendition of that formative 70's hit from Eruption. 'Choo Choo Train, A Chuggin' Down The Track!'. (Shut up! Ed)

The graphics could perhaps have been clearer. But they are colourful and have some nice touches. On some screens, especially the second level, they almost give the impression of being unfinished. The actual area around both flippers is devoid of colour and when the ball travels down at speed it is hard to see what's going on. However, as you progress into the table, lighting more and more features, part of the main table diagram starts to appear in colour. On the last level, there are even some Arkanoid-type bricks for you to clear!

The main drawback with Time Scanner is the number of levels... four. Yes, that's right, four. Shame really. But it still warrants the coveted Megagame status in my books!

In essence then, what we have here is an excellent pinball simulation that is marred by its small number of levels. It isn't just because of the Speccy's memory either - the 16 bit versions only have four levels too. Despite this, I can see it being one of those games that you could quite happily keep coming back to. It is eminently playable, even though the controls are so basic - left and right flippers and nudge. But it certainly had me hooked, just like the real thing, but not as heavy!

A splendid, realistic pinball simulation, a trifle limited in game size, but eminently playable.


Banner Text

Pinball, as its name suggests, originated from bagatelle boards. You know, a bit of wood with rows, cups of nails tacked in and a marble.The introduction of the coin slot was the first step toward the modern pintable. Next came the introduction of electricity.

The first pintable in the 30's used to pay out cash prizes. This caused a lot of problems with the strict gambling rules in America at the time, and many states outlawed machines or imposed restrictions on them.

Flippers didn't appear until 1947! Before that, the table had to be nudged and tilted in order to control it. Weird, eh?

The three main manufacturers, Gottlieb, Bally and Williams, came into their own in the 60's - in effect, the pintable's heyday.

With the advent of video games, the table started to lose its popularity. But at the start of the 80's it made a comeback utilising a new arcade technology. Instead of the electro-mechanical machine, we had an electronic one with digital read-outs, digitised speech and loud computery noises. Although, at first it wasn't so brilliant, recent improvements have helped it regain some of pinball's former glory.

Screenshot Text

This is the first level. See the volcano in the middle of the lower half of the screen. Well, it you do the right things, like shooting your ball around the circular ramps emanating from its crater, it sort of erupts and chucks out two extra balls!

Here is the pintable on the final level. Up the top we have a block of Arkanoid-type bricks to be destroyed. The bottom of the table features two ramps which will re-access you at the top, though the computer randomly decides to shoot your ball up or down the table.