3-D Ultra Pinball is a computer pinball game for the IBM Personal Computer and Apple Macintosh. It was developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra in 1995, and is the first game in the company's "3-D Ultra Pinball" series.
Based loosely on Dynamix and Sierra's Outpost, the goal of the game is to build a deep space colony and launch a starship. This is done by playing pinball in three areas — the Colony, the Operations Center, and the Mine — each with a primary playfield and several connected mini-playfields. As Mission Control gives instructions, invoke various extra modes, warp between tables to complete challenges, and watch out for hidden levels. The game fully embraced its digital pinball heritage, and modes would feature wandering enemies, transform parts of the playfield, or temporarily change the rules of physics.
3-D Ultra Pinball used pre-rendered playfields throughout the game, offering detailed graphics and fast action at the cost of a fixed camera. Even so, some pixelation was present, as the game was originally designed for Windows 3.1, with playfields rendered at 640 x 480 resolution and 256 colors. But the title's biggest weakness was its physics engine — precision aiming is nearly impossible thanks to the very floaty ball and inconsistent ricochets, the table nudge is useless, and most Real Life flipper catches and ball passes aren't possible.
Despite these issues, the game proved to be a surprise hit for Sierra. The company followed it with several more 3-D Ultra Pinball titles, as well as a series of non-pinball "3-D Ultra" games, such as 3-D Ultra MiniGolf and 3-D Ultra Radio Control Racers.
3-D Ultra Pinball was sold both individually and as a part of the 3-D Ultra Pinball Power compilation set.
3-D Ultra Pinball demonstrates the following tropes:
- Anti-Frustration Features: If you launch a ball and fail to score before it drains, the game gives you a "bozo ball" for another go.
- Computer Voice: Various voices are used to give game instructions.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Operations Center level.
- Fixed Camera
- Hell Is That Noise: When run on Windows, the MIDI music for the Mine table can sometimes get stuck on a single note, making for an unintentional Drone of Dread.
- Machine Monotone: One of the voices is a female monotone.
- Minecart Madness: The Mine level uses minecarts to move the pinball between playfields.Mission Control: "Ride the rails, cadet."
- Mission Control: The male voice sounds like a snarky military officer.
- Numbered Homeworld
- Pinball Spin-Off: Technically, the game is part of the Outpost series, though just barely.
- Settling the Frontier: The premise of the game.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Used to warp pinballs around the "Colony" playfield.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: Most of the bonus modes involves repeatedly hitting whatever new menace appears on the playfield, then hitting a vulnerable target.