Video Game: Pro Pinball: Big Race USA

"Oooh, taxi!" ...sorry, wrong game.

Pro Pinball: Big Race USA is the third digital pinball game in the Pro Pinball series. It was released by Cunning Developments in 1998 for the IBM Personal Computer, with versions for the Sony Play Station and Apple Macintosh. It was also available for the Sega Dreamcast as part of "Pro Pinball Trilogy".

Unlike the dark and edgy themes of the earlier Pro Pinball games, Big Race USA goes Lighter and Softer, featuring a cartoony taxicab racing across the continental United States. In the cities, you'll get chased by police, shoot down flying saucers, and deal with gridlocks and parking garages. You can build up your speed On the Road, but watch out for challenges from other vehicles. Look for chances to make a quick getaway, and earn money to buy useful stuff at Jay's Junk throughout the game.

The game engine is mostly the same as the one in Pro Pinball: Timeshock!, though there are more simulation controls available, allowing players to change game factors like the flipper strength, table angle, and the amount of wear on the playfield. It also has adjustable skill levels and improved graphics, such as motion blur and a subtle texture on the pinball.

Unfortunately, although Big Race USA is a solid pinball simulation, it falls a bit short in the gameplay department, particularly in its relatively modest ruleset, generic events, and lackluster music. Furthermore, the use of pre-rendered table graphics becomes a problem in this game, as some of the shots are obscured by the playfield toys, and the lack of a dynamic camera makes the game even harder as a result.

Pro Pinball: Big Race USA demonstrates the following tropes:

  • The Big Race: San Francisco starts this timed sub-wizard mode.
  • Cap: Done intentionally with your meter, which doesn't go over $1,000,000. When this happens, you can go to Jay's and buy the "Million Dollar Madness".
  • Combos: Not only do these award points, but they're also needed to get into Duels with other cars. You can even perform certain tricks when a specific pattern of shots are made.
  • Difficulty Levels: Choose from Extra Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard, or Extra Hard. They affect the game's complexity, as easier lebels omit some of the modes and spot advancement after a ball drains.
  • Hot Pursuit: Police Chase Frenzy.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the dark tables and and serious tones of The Web and Timeshock!.
  • Player Versus Player: Big Race USA allows playing against another person over the internet.
  • Sentient Vehicle: All of the cars on the playfield and backglass have eyes in their headlights.
  • Skill Shot
    • Shooting the upper-right ramp after launching earns $5000 and the Skill Shot value.
    • Hitting the big loop and then the right ramp in a combo is a Super Skill Shot, worth double the Skill Shot and $10,000.
    • Holding both flippers for two seconds before launching activates an analog plunger; a soft launch to the upper-right flipper and shooting the upper-left ramp is a Secret Skill Shot for triple the value and $15,000.
    • Using the analog plunger, do a soft launch, then shoot the mini-loop and then the left ramp. This rewards a Super Secret Skill Shot for 5X the Skill Shot value and $25,000.
  • Spelling Bonus: TRUNK lights the "Open the Trunk" saucer, which gives an award depending on the opposing car and the dollar amount.
  • Timed Mission: Most of the City Modes, as well as Speedway Mania. Also, the Speedway Challenges award more points for finishing them faster.
  • Video Mode: Drive your taxi on the road, hitting or avoiding other cars, and then defeat the police car that inevitably follows. Different rewards are given based on your driving and whether anyone managed to pass you.
  • Wizard Mode:
    • "The Big Race" is a sub-Wizard Mode that takes place in San Francisco. Compete against the four other cars in a five-ball multiball mode; you have 100 seconds to win the race, and the only way to win is to stay ahead of the others by making key shots.
    • "The Really Big Race" is the Wizard Mode, and is only available by completing six separate tasks and then paying $100,000 for the entrance fee. It's a six-ball multiball that lasts for 100 seconds, and to win you must shoot each car three times, shoot the police car twice, then get into the Taxi for a 500 million bonanza.
    • "Million Dollar Madness" is only available after reaching the meter's cap of $1,000,000. This is a ten-ball multiball mode, with everything lit for 1 million points. Complete all eighty-four lights to score one billion points.