Alien Crush and Devil's Crush set a standard for video pinball. Featuring traditional pinball with video game animation and playability, they were neither dull simulations nor contests with pinballing added as a side note. Rather, the Crush games were successful marriages of both, providing aspects that real pinball could never have and opening up video games to more traditional types of arcade fun.
What Time Cruise offers as new is merely technical and not conceptual: The play table scrolls three screens high and three wide. But, to clarify, the overall table is not 3 x 3. Instead, a central board, three screens high, has two tables (that are two high) connected to both its sides.
The game's theme involves sending the ball to a bonus level representing a time period, where points are scored for successfully performing challenges with the steel sphere. But the time-travel nonsense is pointless. The ball is putted like a golf ball in a level that's supposed to be set in a prehistoric age, except such expected motifs as dinosaurs, tarpits and erupting volcanoes are not to be found. Just water traps, bushes and rolling greens ... gee, a lot like modern day golf courses.
One bonus screen plays as a pachinko game and another requires the player to roll the pinball through a maze without dropping it into a hole. The remaining screens aren't worth mentioning, as they are typical contests where the ball is flipped to hit moving targets - and boring at that.
Actually, the pachinko and golfing are what are most fun about Time Cruise. The pinball play itself features only hitting bumpers and targets to spell words, and shooting the ball through gates and rollovers. It's traditional painballing, except hampered by ball movement so unrealistic that the ball jitters when it rests in place above a raised flipper. And it moves so sluggishly that the simulated incline of the table seems to be level.
Therefore, the ball meanders about the screen and rarely sinks past the lower flippers. Points are easily racked up, but this makes for tedious play. Pinball isn't about making ridiculously high scores; it's about getting to do something fun with it. Putting it or playing pachinko with it doesn't count.