CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION
Welcome to this second part of our In-Depth Review of Stern’s CSI machine. In the first part we looked at the game’s exterior artwork, the playfield layout and examined how the various features worked.
Now we’ll explore the rules and consider how the other numerous elements of the game – such as the sounds, lighting effects and dot matrix display – combine with the art and the rules to create the completed game.
Finally, we’ll rank each of these elements and give our overall conclusion about how CSI compares to other machines. This review machine was running version 1.02 software. There have been a couple of updates since then but none of those changes made any difference to the game as far as this review is concerned.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (the TV series) began in October 2000 with a pilot episode on CBS and within two years had become the most watched show on US television. That success led to two spin-off series CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, both of which stick to the successful formula of the original and feature tracks by The Who as their themes.
The show was not just a success in the US though. It has been syndicated around the world and where the mix of crime solving and science has brought in audiences by the million.
The CSI pinball is derived from the original series based in Las Vegas, drawing on its popularity and featuring leading actors William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger. In the current ninth season Petersen has left the show but is still iconic enough to be considered one of the two main “faces” of CSI on the backglass.
The game is narrated by Robert David Hall who has played county coroner Dr Albert Robbins in the show since the first season, becoming a regular character in season three. He recorded custom speech for the game which is combined with appropriate sampled speech from both Petersen and Helgenberger.
There's no music from The Who though, so we get a mix of incidental tracks from the show and specially composed music for the game. The lack of "Who Are You" is both noticeable and a shame, but it's also understandable if the cost of licensing it was prohibitive and the money could be better spent elsewhere in the game.
So, we press the flashing start button and without the strains of Pete Townshend's ditty about drunkenness and disillusion to start us off, we begin our game.
The first ball is kicked out of the trough, into the shooter lane and as usual we have a combined manual/auto plunger to send it on its way.
This earns us a rather strange 55,190 points.
Conspiracy theorists may like to ponder the hidden meaning on 55,190 and how it is also the zip code of a part of St Paul, MN.
As you see, CSI continues the recent trend of using a split display with the scores and points earned on one side, and the current score, ball number, credits and all animations on the other side. Like the display, opinion is divided on this format but it's good to always have your score visible and the reduced area for animation should allow more and higher quality display effects to be stored in the limited memory.
Meanwhile, our first challenge is the skill shot.
The skill shot is reminiscent of the same feature in Dennis Nordman's Wheel Of Fortune game whereby the player has to plunge the ball with just the right strength to drop it into a special lane which gives an equally special award.
In CSI, the skill shot is at the top right of the playfield and consists of a short lane leading to the morgue up-kicker. Plunge the ball in here and you score 500K points, increasing by 100K for each successive skill shot in the same game.
You get the chance to shoot for the skill shot at the start of each ball and - if you are quick - following a skull or centrifuge ball lock. There's not much time for these latter shots though, since the game tries to auto-plunge the ball and you only get the skill shot opportunity if you get to the ball first.
If you miss the skill shot by plunging too hard, the ball will fly past the award lane, into the orbit and will hit an up-post which will send it into the pop bumpers.
Since the skill shot is given if the first scoring switch is the morgue up-kicker, there is still the possibility that the ball may miss all the pop bumpers and drop down to the mini-flipper below for a second chance to shoot the morgue up-kicker.
Although it's not very likely, if you do actually make it you can still get the skill shot award.
If you miss the skill shot by plunging too softly, the ball rolls back down the right orbit lane and lands at the flippers. This will normally arrive without triggering any scoring switches, so you can safely let it drain and try the skill shot again. And again. And again, until you get it right or plunge too hard.
If you make the skill shot, the ball is kicked up onto a wireform and sent down to the outer left inlane and the left flipper.
There are no top rollover lanes in CSI, but there are rollover switches in the three inlanes - two on the left, one on the right - which spell out C-S-I. These use lane change to move the lit and unlit lanes, while completing them increases the bonus multiplier by 1x and earns you 100K points for your trouble.
There is another, less obvious way to boost your bonus multiplier. After you've completed the C-S-I lanes, lab scoop is lit to add another 1x. The shot remains lit throughout the ball until you collect it and it relights the next time you complete C-S-I
Once you've collected the 1x award from the scoop, the right orbit is lit briefly to add an extra 3x to your bonus multiplier.
The bonus multiplier can play a reasonably significant part in the scoring, so it's useful to build it up if you're having a good ball.
The main rules of CSI are heavily biased towards the three multiball modes.
So we'll explore those now in the order they are arranged on the playfield starting with skull multiball.
This first multiball is progressed and started by shooting the game's only ramp. There is no qualifying necessary, so shooting the ramp over and over enough times will start skull multiball.
Skull has a couple of features which hark back to times when multiball was worth something and not a given in every game. First of all, there are dedicated inserts for light lock and each ball lock.
They're not the traditional green colour players associate with locks and they are a little hidden by the morgue up-kicker wireform but it's good to see three dedicated inserts used rather than a single generic "lock" one.
Then there are real ball locks - the ball is physically held while another is served up to the plunger. CSI makes a feature of this by displaying the locked balls in the skull's eye sockets which helps show how your target is to get both sockets filled.
With default factory settings, skull multiball is easy to start. Shoot the ramp and ball travels over the top of the skull as it rises to expose the skull entrance, ready for the next ramp shot to lock the ball.
The next time the ball goes up the ramp it drops inside the skull and rolls into one of the two eye sockets, held there by a clear plastic strip across the front.
A new ball is deposited in the shooter lane and - unless you get there first for your skill shot opportunity - auto-launched. The skull drops down and the sequence of first rolling across the skull and then dropping into it is repeated.
With two balls locked inside, skull multiball begins.
This is a three ball mode. The first two are released from the eye sockets when the skull rises even further and rolls the two balls over the top of the clear plastic strip. This dumps them into the top orbit lane and down into the pop bumpers. The third ball, meanwhile, is auto-launched from the shooter lane to join the other balls in the bumpers.
Skull multiball has four distinct levels, each level requires fewer shots than the preceding one to complete, but the value of those shots is multiplied by the level number.
In level one, all six of the yellow arrows on the major shots are lit for base jackpots worth 250K.
Each shot may only be collected one, so you aim is to collect all six shots - worth 1.5M - to advance to the next level.
Level two moves the action to the five bullet standup targets and the sixth bullet target which is actually the lab scoop. These are normally used for ballistic mode but during the second level of skull multiball they each score bullet jackpots worth double the base jackpot value - 500K.
There are six bullet targets (five plus the scoop) so completing these will get you 3M more points, which isn't bad. It also gets you onto level three.
The third level brings us back to the skull. A shot up the centre ramp drops the ball into the skull and scores three times the base jackpot for 750K.
Once that first level three jackpot is scored, a five second countdown timer begins.
Your objective is to get a second ball into the skull before the countdown expires.
In fact, there is a little grace period after the timer reaches zero in which you can still make the shot, so you have more like six seconds in total.
Get that second ball in the skull and you get another skull jackpot of 750K and move up to the fourth and final level.
This lights the morgue up-kicker and the right orbit lane for a super jackpot of four times the base value, making it worth 1M points.
Collecting the super jackpot also lights the skull multiball insert - one of the three inserts just above the main flippers showing your progress towards completing the game.
After the super jackpot award, you're returned to level one and you continue playing through the four levels again until you're down to one ball (or fewer) when skull multiball ends.
The next multiball in the sequence is centrifuge multiball. Like skull multiball, starting this mode involves shooting the same shot over and over until it begins.
The shot in this case is the centrifuge spinning disc at the top centre of the playfield.
Each time the ball enters the centrifuge, the disc starts spinning for a few seconds and because it has a rubberised coating, the disc drags the ball round with it. Each time the ball completes an orbit of the centrifuge it breaks an optical beam at the entrance which records one spin. After the disc stops, the ball's momentum means it carries on spinning a few times.
Each spin of the ball scores 100 points and counts down towards starting centrifuge multiball. This continues during skull multiball and since the centrifuge is one of the jackpot shots it is very common to start centrifuge multiball during skull multiball.
The first multiball takes about 120 spins which seems like a lot but each time the ball enters the centrifuge it racks up about 25 spins, so you only need to shoot it 5 times to start the multiball mode. If the disc starts to lose its grip though, that number may increase.
There's no player control of the centrifuge. It just does its stuff and you wait for the ball to be released, hoping it doesn't roll straight down the middle between the flippers.
If the countdown reaches zero, the ball is released but the centrifuge now becomes a ball lock.
The next shot inside will cause the up-post at the entrance to rise, trapping the ball inside. The disc doesn't spin so the ball just rolls back and rests on the post.
With your sole ball trapped in the centrifuge there's only one thing to be done - kick out and auto-launch another ball. This is your jackpot build time - 20 seconds during which each switch hit increases the centrifuge jackpot.
The jackpot starts at 100K and increases by 250 points with each switch registered.
You have a choice though. You could either spend the 20 seconds building your jackpot after which the trapped ball is released, or you can release it early and get an immediate boost to your jackpot.
It's worth noting that because the pop bumpers are a good way to rapidly increase the jackpot value, the timer does not stop when the ball is in the pops as you might expect, so it is possible for the timer to expire and multiball to begin before you get a chance to flip the new ball.
If you drain the ball during the build up, the multiball build-up ends and you're back in regular single ball play, ready to start the countdown towards another - hopefully more successful - centrifuge multiball.
If you don't drain though, and shoot the up-post in the entrance lane to the centrifuge before the timer expires, it knocks the locked ball, scores 100K points, adds 100K to the jackpot value, drops the post and allows the locked ball to exit for the start of centrifuge multiball.
In this two ball mode, all the major shots are lit for a base jackpot, worth whatever you managed to amass during the build up period.
Shoot one of the lit shots and the points are nicely animated on the display. In fact while we're here, the whole set of centrifuge multiball animations are worthy of a mention since they manage to convey a sense of speed and movement very effectively.
Collect one of these single jackpots and a lone shot is lit briefly for a double jackpot. You really have a very short time - about two seconds - to collect the double jackpot before it reverts to a single value.
From this point on the rules become somewhat confusing so this is our best take on what happens. After collecting a double jackpot, the shots are all lit again for a single jackpot which, if collected, is followed by a triple jackpot at one chosen shot.
Collecting a triple jackpot is the level at which you are deemed to have completed centrifuge multiball and the corresponding insert lights above the flippers.
But there is another award available during centrifuge multiball, collected by shooting the centrifuge itself.
This awards super spins, where each complete circuit of the ball around the centrifuge scores super spins. These start at 15K per spin and increase by 1,250 points each time you collect super spins. But there's more because a multiplier is also in effect which appears to match your highest jackpot multiplier since your last super spins.
So at the start, the multiplier is 1x.
The display shows the multiplier and the spin value on the centre line, while below that it shows the total score earned by this super spin.
As you collect a double jackpot the multiplier increases to 2x...
... and a triple jackpot bumps it up again to 3x.
But if you collect super spins at any point, it then resets to 1x until you collect another double or triple jackpot.
As you can see, a triple super spin can be quite lucrative, out-scoring the triple jackpot which preceded it. Even the double value super spin can be a worthwhile addition to your score.
As usual, centrifuge multiball ends when you're down to one ball in play.
Which brings us to the third multiball in the game; microscope multiball.
As you would expect, this mode is started by shooting the microscope loop lane.
Before you shoot it for the first time, the three coloured LEDs on the microscope cycle red/green/blue.
The first time the lane is shot, the ball is grabbed by the magnet at the top of the loop while the currently lit colour is announced and locked in.
The chosen colour relates to the traffic light inserts on five of the six major shots, which all light up in the indicated colour.
The ball is released from the microscope loop and you now have to collect enough evidence of the chosen colour to light multiball.
As you make a shot, you collect one piece of evidence and score points ranging from 60K for your first piece to 100K for the fifth. Your progress in collecting evidence is shown on the grid above the flippers.
Evidence is collected from left to right, so shots to the five shots lit up in blue will get you cartridge casings first and paper trail last.
As each piece of evidence is collected, the colour of the shot changes. Subsequent shots will collect more evidence but not of the correct colour. In practice it really doesn't matter which colour you choose, it's just a way to make you shoot around the playfield rather than making the same shot over and over.
When you've collected all five, multiball can be started by shooting the microscope loop again.
Unfortunately, evidence collection is suspended during skull multiball, so it's not possible to start microscope multiball with skull multiball running, like you can with centrifuge multiball.
You get 100K for starting microscope multiball which, like skull multiball is comprised of a number of levels.
Initially, all five shots are relit in you chosen colour for jackpots of 275K.
As each jackpot is collected, the traffic light insert goes out.
You need to collect all five to move on to the second level.
When the fifth jackpot is scored, we move to the second level where the focus is back on the microscope loop lane. The two shots in either direction round the loop are both lit for double jackpots.
Shoot the loop and you score 550K points.
Then the ante in raised as you have to shoot the loop in the opposite direction to collect a triple jackpot of 825K and move on to level three.
The triple jackpot is pretty good, but it leads to a quintuple super jackpot which is indicated by the big red arrows at the morgue up-kicker and on the right orbit.
Shoot either of those for a juicy 1.375M points and to move up to the next level.
With the super jackpot collected, things get tougher and the number of shots needed to finish level four increases.
The traffic lights on the five major shots relight. They are all initially lit in blue, but as you make a shot it changes colour, first to green and then to red.
Each shot scores a double jackpot of 550K and collects a piece of evidence.
Your task is to collect all three colours of evidence from all five shots to complete the evidence grid.
Get all of them and not only have you already scored 15 x 500K (or 7.5M) from those jackpots, but you also light the morgue up-kicker for a mega jackpot.
This scores 20 x the base jackpot, which makes the shot worth a whopping 5.5M points.
This takes you back to the first level but more importantly lights your microscope multiball insert just above the flippers.
Completing these three multiball modes and lighting their corresponding inserts is the game's main target and leads to the final feature.
When you've got to the required levels in the three multiballs and all three multiball inserts are lit, the inserts in front of the bullet scoop strobe to indicate something good is available there.
Shoot the scoop and you'll get a wizard points award of 50M.
Whether there was intended to be a wizard mode or not we don't know, but for now that's all you get for all your hard work.
Your 50M points are awarded, the three multiball inserts go out and you can work towards lighting them again.
It is somewhat disappointing but it's not entirely unexpected as it's something we've seen a few times in recent games.
The multiballs are the centrepiece of CSI but there are a couple of other modes, both of which are tied to the spinners on the left and inner orbit shots.
Each spin of the spinner on the left orbit scores 3K points and helps build a facial composite of a suspect. Different faces are shown - flip book-style - and the percentage completed increases by 2% per spin.
You might recognise some of those faces as current or former Stern employees.
After 50 spins, the suspect's face is revealed and suspect shakedown begins, earning you an immediate 500K.
This is a timed mode which by default lasts 25 seconds although that can be changed in the set-up menus.
All six major shots are lit and one of them captures the suspect. If you shoot a shot that's not the suspect you get 300K points, increasing by 100K each time.
Shoot the shot which hides the suspect though and you score 1M points in return for ending the mode.
Suspect shakedown is one of those features which is not really worth shooting for because it will probably happen by itself and the points available don't make it compelling. But it's an interesting diversion from the trio of multiballs.
Another such diversion is fingerprint frenzy which is started by the spinner on the inner loop shot.
Starting this is very similar to Suspect Shakedown - shoot the spinner to search through the finger print database for a match to your suspect's prints. Each spin scores 3K points and cycles through various different patterns while the bar at the bottom shows your progress.
When you've hammered the spinner enough, the bar will reach the right hand side of the display, a match will be found and finger print frenzy will begin.
True to its name, this is a frenzy mode where all switches score a fixed points value of 10K. It lasts 25 seconds and is best combined with a multiball or two, although hitting the spinners, the pop bumpers and the centrifuge can earn you a tidy number of points too.
Since the feature is started from the spinner on the inner orbit, the shot which starts finger print frenzy will usually end up in the pop bumpers for some easy points and you may also get some residual spinner spins to help your score along.
Finger print frenzy ends when the timer expires or when the ball drains.
The third non-multiball mode in CSI takes us to the lab to examine some bullets.
There are five bullet standup targets and as we saw earlier, they feature in skull multiball's second level. But their main purpose it to build towards ballistics mode.
At the start of the game all five targets are flashing. As they are hit, they light solidly and score 75K for the first four, or 250K for the fifth. The display shows your progress towards lighting them all, which can be done in any order.
When the fifth bullet is collected, the physical bullet over the lab scoop lights up and ballistics mode can be started by shooting the scoop, which is actually a sixth bullet shot as we saw in skull multiball.
Ballistics is a 40 second timed mode where you have to shoot the flashing bullet shots.
The first time you play it, all six bullet shots are lit - that's the five yellow standups and the lab scoop. In later rounds, only one shot is lit at a time to increase the difficulty.
Hit one of the shots and you get 500K for the first bullet, increasing by 50K for each subsequent one to top out at 750K.
You also get a nice display of an apple exploding as it is struck by a bullet.
Strangely, this animation doesn't fill the display and has an odd 4:3 aspect ratio, almost like it was some stock footage.
Each subsequent hit is displayed in the same way except for the score at the end.
Collecting the sixth bullet ends the mode.
You get 500K for starting ballistics and there is no bonus for collecting all six, so your total score for finishing is 4.25M.
So those are the main modes in the game - the three multiballs, suspect shakedown, finger print frenzy and ballistics. There are some other rules we haven't examined yet, so let's take a closer look at them now.
The three drop targets on the left side of the playfield are not used much in the rules but they do have some use in planning your strategy.
Each one scores 25K points when dropped and the display shows it falling to gradually reveal the DNA helix behind.
Like the bullets, the targets can be completed in any order but the restricted space and angle of the shot makes it difficult, if not impossible, to sweep all three in one shot.
With all three down, it's time to visit the lab scoop.
The scoop is lit and when shot it gives a very nice drill-down animation ending up at DNA level, at which point the award is shown at the bottom of the screen.
During multiball, the DNA analysis award can still be collected and, like the Alfred target in Batman or the Seamus target in Family Guy - it will tend to add another ball to the multiball if at all possible.
DNA analysis awards cannot be stacked but you can knock down two of the three drop targets before collecting an existing award, making the next one only two shots away.
At the start of each ball, the pop bumpers are worth 3,000 points per hit. When the first hit is recorded, a short clip of Grissom or Willows with a camera taking shots of the crime scene is displayed, overlayed with flashes containing the pop bumper scores.
The bumpers are quite active in CSI so it's worth increasing the pop bumper value if you can and fortunately there are two ways to do this.
Shooting the right orbit will add 1K to the bumper value.
The display suggests the value increases by 4,000 but in fact it increases to 4,000.
The second way to increase the pop bumper value is from a random DNA analysis award.
This also adds 1K to the value.
Why are we going on about the small change earned from the bumpers? Well, OK it's never going to be worth big points but there's a way to double your pop bumper scores and sometimes it's worth exploiting.
During single ball play, when the ball leaves the pop bumper area and drops onto the mini-flipper, the morgue is lit briefly for a photo points award.
The points awarded are equal to all the scores made by the pop bumpers on this visit.
So if you got 31 hits at 4K a pop, that's 124K earned which means the photo award is also 124K.
If the pops had been worth, say...
the same photo award value would have been 217K which starts to get interesting. It's a shot worth making anyway, since it returns the ball nicely to the left flipper, adding a C-S-I letter on the way.
But there's more good stuff to be found in the morgue up-kicker apart from the photo award.
The morgue also doubles as the AV Lab, so when you shoot it at any time during single ball play, there is an AV Lab award waiting for you. This is initially a points value of 250K but it gets better by giving out extra balls and specials.
After the first award, you need three shots for the extra ball award.
Now unfortunately this falls into the old trap of saying one thing and doing another, since what it actually does is light the extra ball at the lab scoop, rather than award it.
But hey, anyone can make a mistake. The important thing is not to repeat it.
Oh dear. This one's not a special either - it just lights special in the right outlane.
Still, with a multiball-heavy game like this, you're quite likely to collect it without sacrificing your ball.
After lighting extra ball and special, the awards return to points scores starting at 325K and increasing 25K each time.
We saw above how the AV lab can award extra balls and a little higher up we saw the extra ball award offered by the DNA analysis award. In both these cases, the extra ball is lit at the lab scoop.
Collecting it gives a twirling text animation on the display with some heavy kerning so it fits in the limited space available.
The replay animation simulates the point in the CSI show where they turn off all the lights and illuminate the walls with an ultra-violet lamp in order to find blood splatters or other evidence hidden in normal light.
That covers all the features in the rules so as the ball wends it's way down the outlane and into the trough it's time for the end-of-ball bonus.
There are four elements which make up the final bonus score.
First of all there's a points value, which is 125K for the first ball and increases by 125K for each subsequent ball, including extra balls.
Secondly, you get rewarded with 2,500 points for each item of evidence you collected on this ball, either in the build up to microscope multiball or during the fourth level of the multiball itself.
Then your reward is for the number of bullets collected during your ball. You get 5,000 points for each one.
Finally, you can add up those three numbers and apply the bonus multiplier.
This gives you your total bonus.
However, you may have noticed how the score didn't change throughout the bonus count. That's because, as with previous games, the bonus is not actually added until either the start of the next ball or the "game over" screen. If you should happen to get on the high score table, you won't know your score until you've entered your initials.
When the game is usually so fast at showing every point added to your score during the game, it's strange that this one vital piece of information is withheld in this way. In a close multi-player or tournament game this can be incredibly frustrating and it really should be fixed.
Finally, if it's enabled, you get your match animation which is a little like the replay one above, but using a misting spray to reveal the hidden numbers.
We've already mentioned the lack of the immediately identifiable theme from the show and it seems that Stern wisely decided not to impose an alternative strong tune on the game. Instead, most of the music tracks are relatively restrained in comparison to recent releases such as Indiana Jones and Batman.
You may have hear the main theme in the first part of this review but after playing the game you could be forgiven for not recognising it since it is downplayed in the game to make way for quotes and effects. Again, that's a good choice since it's repetitive nature could grate if brought too far to the front of the mix.
The methodical and steady pace of both the music and the game veers off at a tangent when skull multiball kicks in though. The display effect is more reminiscent of a Guns 'N Roses skull and the music leads the way here in giving a grungy, raw feel to this section of the gameplay. Have a listen for yourself:
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So apart from a couple of highlights, the music supports the gameplay rather than drives it which seems appropriate for a game such as CSI.
The sound effects work is very nicely done and it really complements the display and lighting effects. By and large, you're in no doubt when you've made a shot or hit a target, the only possible exception being the bullet targets which might stand up but don't stand out when hit, which is needed at times.
But the whooshes perfectly match the fly throughs on the display and the little musical stabs here and there never become repetitive.
The voice work is clear and precise with some nice humour in the quotes by Robert David Hall which helps lighten what could potentially be a gloomy game. The variety is good (if not exceptional like in Family Guy) and the emotions in the voice help convey the important and valuable shots.
Although CSI does contain some video clips from the show, their use is very restrained. So the vast majority of the graphics are rendered which seems the logical choice and helps prevent the Batman problem of an unhappy mix of drawn and live action clips.
With a consistent look, there are some excellent animations such as the ballistics and DNA analysis intros as well as the centrifuge multiball start and jackpot effects.
Each multiball has its own look and feel but keeps within the overall style of the game, having large clear scores, awards with mixing too many assorted fonts.
Although CSI doesn't use much video, it doesn't feel dated because of that. In fact it almost shows how video can be a negative as well as a positive. As though we've been through the video phase - been there, done that - and now we're out the other side, realising properly animated custom graphics are better than some blurry mess with text slapped over the top.
The ambient lighting levels are good with remarkably even illumination across the whole playing surface. Of course the lack of any high-level playfield parts such as mini-playfields, cranes or toy stones to block the general illumination helps, but even so - and in sharp contrast to just about every crime scene in CSI - everything is well lit. No torches needed here.
The downside to that is how it increases the perception that the game is very flat and two-dimensional. There's a certain truth in that, but having the ball adequately illuminated all the time is certainly preferable.
There are few stand-out moments for lighting effects. As you might expect, the multiball starts are the best of the bunch with microscope multiball being notable for its impressive use of flashers and turning off the GI lighting to boost the impact. Jackpots also use the flashers to good effect - something you'll see that many times in a game like CSI - but skull multiball and centrifuge multiball starts are less impressive than they should be and there's nothing like the Ark buildup in Indiana Jones to blow you away.
CSI is rather an odd theme in that it may be highly recognisable, but there are few iconic images you would immediately link to the series. Even the main characters are not exactly stars, so the artwork consists of a mixture of mood scenes for the exterior and classic crime clichés such as the yellow police tape, finger prints and the chalk body outline, mixed with the show's characters and logo.
The backglass is all about the characters from the show which, if you follow it, is fine for its purpose. If you're not a fan, it's neither offensive nor divisive and the logo is pretty much all you need to know.
While the outside is greens and blues, there's a lot more red when we get to the playfield, as the blues turn into purple and pink. The yellow tape persists at the bottom and half of the characters also make it into the central cityscape area.
The playfield looks busy and it is packed with little details and small areas of interest from the desert scene surrounding the skull to the photo montages on the bumper caps.
You could spend hours exploring all the details, trying to work out if there are any hidden messages or images in there. Clearly a lot of work went into the playfield art and although the end result is a little overwhelming, it provides some long-term interest and added value for home owners.
We're reached the final part of this review where after considering each individual aspect, we take an overview of the game and consider how it all comes together.
CSI seems like a reasonable theme for a pinball. Crime shows are still very popular and if you wanted to base a game around detective work, CSI is the most obvious franchise to utilise right now. The license does its job in providing that initial hook, a number of investigative methods, different departments, a role for the player and someone to narrate the story.
Your role as the players is a little vague and ill-defined. You have to visit the different areas of crime-solving - entomology, ballistics, audio-video lab, the morgue - and collect evidence, but to what end? Catching the perpetrator in suspect shakedown is only a sideshow to the three main multiball modes. Surely completing these should lead to a showdown with the criminal responsible?
The main toys in CSI are the skull, the centrifuge and the microscope. Of these, the skull is the most complex but it works well and since it brings back physical ball locks, it gets all the plaudits for that alone. The centrifuge is equally effective although of the three it has the most unfulfilled potential for player interaction. All three toys essentially require you to shoot them, wait for them to do their thing and then get the ball back. There's no nudging, control or choices involved.
Probably the biggest disappointment is one of the smallest features - the mini-flipper. It needs a reason to exist and shooting the two standups or the morgue is scant justification and the minimum of fun. The right orbit is a fun and satisfying shot and would benefit from having a higher profile since it does give some worthwhile rewards but hides its light under a bushel.
The two up-posts in the orbit lane are over-used and stop much of the game's flow. It's true they are needed in certain circumstances such as when mega jackpot is lit at the morgue, but other times they get in the way and slow down the game too much. They can be disabled completely but that's far from ideal too.
The rules are very much front-loaded with the three multiballs. These are quite complex and require perseverance to complete. Beyond those however, the game lacks the further depth required to keep advanced home owners interested.
Playing any modern pinball machine takes you on a journey down various roads that lead to different multiballs, assorted modes, a number of side features, all the time collecting awards to help you end up at your final destination of a wizard mode.
CSI is much like starting that trip in the home of CSI - Las Vegas. All the flashy glitz is there from the beginning. The three multiball modes are like three big casinos, all waiting for you just a few simple shots away. Their array of jackpot slot machines stretches into the distance, making it quite a journey from the entrance to the super or mega jackpots at the back.
But sooner or later you tire of those and want to start heading out of town on your journey of discovery, and that's where CSI rapidly turns into the desert. Beyond the three multiballs there's really nothing much to see.
Sure, you pass the occasional settlements of Ballistics, Finger Print Frenzy or Suspect Shakedown, but there's no compelling reason to turn off the highway to visit those.
So you keep moving towards that elusive glow in the distance, which gradually gets closer and closer until you realise... you're back in Vegas. You've just been in one big circle and the only road out of town lead back into town.
CSI is all about the multiballs baby, the jackpots, super jackpots and mega jackpots. Play them, combine them and get the payoff for completing them.
But leave the car - you won't be needing it.
To end this review we come to our ratings for the various different elements in the game. If you've read the whole review, first of all well done and secondly, none of these ratings should come as a surprise to you as they only support what's been written above.
Don't worry if they don't match your own personal opinions. They're only that - personal opinions - and we're bound to give different weightings to the various features.
Total score: 53 out of 70
Remember, these are proper marks out of 10 for each element of the game, so a rating of 8 means CSI is 80% as good as the best ever game in that category. No game is ever going to get 10 in every or indeed in many categories.
The rankings are totally subjective and are included only as a guide. Feel free to disagree with them.
If you jumped straight here, please go back and read the full review to see whether you agree with them and if you put the same significance on certain features.
Finally, a big thank you to the good folks at Electrocoin for their assistance.
With that we end this in-depth review of CSI. Thank you for reading it and we'll be back with our reports on the new "24" game in early 2009.
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© Pinball News 2008