Pinball plays an important role in the lives of the AF team. When the going gets tough around deadline week, a goggle of writers, techies and artists are often to be found grabbing a half-hour break croded around a Terminator, Twilight Zone or Creature From the Black Lagoon Table.
And when the deadline has passed and another excellent edition of AF is rolling off the presses, you'll find us in celebratory mood, crowded around an Indiana Jones, Lethal Weapon or Jurassic Park machine. Playing the silver ball is relaxing, invigorating and alluring and most of us are hooked.
So, when a new pinball game arrives, there's always a buzz of excitement at the office. But the reaction provoked by The Ultimate Pinball Quest was not so much of excitement as curiosity bordering on bemusement.
Quirky, that's the word. Or is it bonkers? Or maybe dire? No, Pinball Quest is a decidedly quirky game. In Arcade Mode you have a choice of three tables - Wasteland, Heavy Metal and Antarctica. The last two are extremely average, but Wasteland is fun because you have to work your way up the table through a series of flippers, which can become a frustrating and fiendishly addictive exercise.
You can also select the bonus tables, so you can play these levels without having to go through the rigmarole of shooting the bonus holes.
But it's the Adventure Mode that suggests that Pinball Quest was created by somebody with a healthy disregard for the normal conventions of games and, for that matter, pinball. In Adventure Mode you're back on the Wasteland table, but there's an animated intro sequence featuring some old greybeard, and three scantily-
Apparently the sun of Calypso has entered its third zenith. The three daughters of the river, who were mistresses of all destinies, have stolen the six elements of life that ensured temporal and ecological balance and you've go to find them.
The Adventure Mode is a splendid idea. Unfortunately, it's not entirely clear what you're supposed to do, but it's good fun pining from the ball around trying to find out. In this respect Pinball Quest is close to reality because nobody can understand the little game cards tucked under the glass on real tables - least of all, I suspect, the people who wrote them.
Including puzzle, adventure or shoot-em-up themes in a pinball game is the way to go - it's much more interesting than bland pinball-sims such as Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies, but the Ultimate Pinball Quest makes it too complicated.
There are other downsides: two of the tables are poor, and the third becomes tedious when you realise you're working your way up through the same three playing areas.
The graphics are naff, the music is drab - the Wasteland table has a peculiar accordion influence - and you only get one score displayed on screen at once, so it's never clear who's winning a multi-player game, there's far too much disk-
But hey, it's got flippers and a nice silver ball, so it can't be all bad.