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I remember seeing someone comment here that they considered Fantastic Journey second only to Big Race USA.
I found that interesting, because I rate them in exactly the opposite order: Timeshock > Fantastic Journey > Big Race USA. (I've not played The Web... here's hoping GOG can get their hands on that one as well).
For me, Timeshock could only get better if it had the enhanced physics of the later games, but the table itself is just sublime. I expect I'm biased through having owned this one for years and years, but this is simply the best table I've ever played. I honestly can't think of anything negative to say about it.
Big Race USA is fun, but I fail to deal with its propensity for draining down the centre. That annoyed me in the demo all those years ago (this was the reason I never bought the game at that point, in fact), and it frustrates me still. I mostly like the table otherwise, but unless the air bag is up it's just too punishing for me to get very far at all. Also, the video mode is disappointingly dull.
Fantastic Journey seems to have been designed in part to combat my biggest problem with BRUSA. It brings back the centre pin and magnosave features I liked in Timeshock, and then adds an additional 'ball rescue' feature (which is not always available) for the other side drain, and it even kicks off a temporary 'ball saved' safety net when you trigger certain gameplay features, so that you are guaranteed a certain amount of play time for it. Most importantly, though, the table design is simply much much less prone to dropping the ball down the middle!
There isn't as much to do in Fantastic Journey, and it seems like a slightly lesser table in some respects, and the manual is certainly lacking by comparison (or is that just GOG's version?), but for me it's a lot more enjoyable than BRUSA. Maybe some of the assistance is overkill for the real wizards, but personally I'm appreciating the hell out of it :)
So how do you rate the tables?
That was probably my comment - Big Race USA is the first in the series that I played, and still my favorite, although Fantastic Journey is quickly growing on me.
The primary reason that I like Big Race USA is that it feels like the most complete table to me - the most features, the most characterization, the most variety in modes. It was also the one in which the story behind the table was most realized. Each gameplay mode really felt like it fit with the overall theme, and there's a real sense of progression. Plus, with challenge mode, you can also get down to the game's later modes a bit easier. It is true that it does drain a bit easier than the other tables with the center pin, but even so, I don't really get necessarily longer per-ball play times on the other tables. And I would have to disagree - BRUSA's video mode is second-best to that of Timeshock in terms of interest, at least for me, with FJ's mode being little more than a glorified quick-time reflex event.
It is true that FJ is a very nice table, but it just doesn't feel quite as engaging for me, in terms of the story or the modes, although it is very adept at racking up incredible amounts of points. And, admittedly, it's a far more forgiving table, with the ball saver, more outlane save opportunities (although I've never successfully used a magnosave on this table), and extra ball opportunities seemingly everywhere. So, in that respect, I enjoy it a lot, but it just doesn't feels as fleshed-out as the other tables. It also only has two flippers, which means that the variety of different shots is reduced quite a bit from BRUSA or even Timeshock. Additionally, reaching the final game mode seems to be quite difficult - while I'm hardly a pinball pro, I can get to BRUSA's Big Race mode in under 10 balls, whereas I usually get through 1 vehicle journey in a FJ 5-ball game - based on that, even with the easiest difficulty setting, I don't anticipate seeing the final mode any time soon. Additionally, as FJ lacks challenge mode, you can't bank your progress with a multiplayer game - each player progresses independently, so there's no opportunity for co-op play.
Timeshock, I want to enjoy... except that it's simply too difficult to do much with. Unlike the other games, the difficulty is unchangeable until you've played the game some number of times to unlock the various modifiers. Plus, I still haven't got DosBox to run it correctly, and the ball goes at about 10fps with noticeable lag, making it a struggle to play. Additionally, the various game modes are generally more difficult to complete, especially compared to FJ. It is quite varied and seems to have a lot of promise - I just can't get far enough into it to tell for sure.
So, for me, it's BRUSA > Fantastic Journey > Timeshock. They're all fun tables, but I just can't get into Timeshock due to its difficulty and gameplay issues, and while Fantastic Journey comes in a close second, I don't feel that it can quite measure up to Big Race USA.
Post edited May 17, 2009 by somedude
Timeshock is my favourite. The Video Mode is fun, unlike BRUSA, which is incredibly boring. It's also over pretty quick. The music is fantastic and I love how the game works - collecting fragments, traveling through time, explorations etc.
No pin in BRUSA. So do we call it just a 'ball table? The airbag is annoying. Other than that it's alright, but I much prefer Fantastic Journey, even though it's more simple and the music can be a little annoying. Another thing I hate about the BRUSA table is the way the ball is released out into the open. Just seems too haphazard, unorganised, much prefer how Timeshock and Journey have it fall down a ramp, and roll onto the flipper.
So Timeshock, Journey, Race.
I just can't get into BRUSA. The music, the sound effects, the theme, it's just all so.... mellow. Which is a shame, because there's a lot to do on the table. I agree that the everything seems configured to dump the ball down the centre, which is a bit annoying since the nudge usually isn't capable of changing the outcome.
Timeshock is easily my favourite due to the table design and music. It is probably the most difficult table, but doesn't cross the line to unfair.
Fantastic Journey seems a bit sparse, and the ramps are pretty steep so I find that many of my ramp shots don't make it up and come flying back down. This table is a fast one too, I've lost more balls due to the speed than on any of the other tables.
The Web is a simple, but fun, table. Not nearly as much to do as on the other games, but the table is fair and you can play for quite some time. Video mode is decent (shoot the asteroids, don't shoot the points). Music is quite good, although nothing compares to Timeshock. This game only supports resolutions up to 1024x768 though, so it's a bit blurrier on larger monitors.
My order is Timeshock, Fantastic Journey, The Web, Big Race.
Out of the three, Timeshock! wins hands down. It's the most compelling and challenging table of the three. You really have to practice your shots for the orbits and ramps. The missions in each of the time zones are challenging too and rewarding when you complete them. Video Mode gets challenging on Level 3 and 4, and the layout of the table is well thought out. My best score was over a billion points some years ago. I am now trying to regain my PP Timeshock! chops with a couple of hours play each night.
I've played the other tables, but by far this is the finest pinball computer simulation I've ever played.
Three words - BIG RACE USA! Why? First, unlike Timeshock, all options in operator's menu is unlocked by default. Second, I like this Traveling & Racing my Taxi through USA theme. Third - I like this Darth Vader-like policeman. Basically, I like EVERYTHING in this game. Never played The Web & Fantastic Journey.