About This Site

Welcome to Pinball Intrigue, where I indulge my fascination with the silver ball. Here you will find posts regarding my pinball experiences, pinball machine repairs and mods, a virtual pinball build, and links to other pinball sites.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

New Blog Name and Address

Update: I was unable to change the blog address since the one I wanted was already taken. So I have changed the header and theme only.

Starting in 2019 I'll hopefully be providing a lot more content on a regular basis...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Shopping White Water, Part 4: Pre-shop Condition

I bought my White Water off of eBay back in 2004. The game was 12 years old at the time of purchase. Like many "pinball newbies" at that time thought, eBay seemed like the only place to buy pinball machines. Bally/Williams had closed, and Stern was barely hanging on. Craigslist didn't exist yet. The reality was that many of the games sold on eBay were "junk pins", re-imports that were badly abused, with sellers looking to flip them by hiding their true condition.

I bought mine from a seller named Ronnie Miller, or "tilyous" on eBay, who advertised the game as "nice" and "shopped". Do a search on the rec.games.pinball group on Google for Ronnie Miller to see what other people thought of him. I found Ronnie to be polite and quick to respond, but I think his auction page was a bit misleading, and his advice on fixing the machine was ultimately unhelpful. His insistent claim was this: "that was the best looking WW that I have seen so far, in person." Here are the initial problems I diagnosed in an email to Ronnie after 9 days of use and generally looking around (I had no idea what to thoroughly look for until years later):

  • the lights in the topper stopped working
  • the DMD was garbled and unreadable
  • the increase volume button inside the coin door didn't work
  • 3 Boulders in the playfield were cracked and 2 had gaping holes in the top
  • 15 lights around the playfield either did not work or were completely missing
  • the ball did not always eject to the plunger and the machine had to be tilted to get it out
  • there were two screw holes on the outside of the cabinet on the right-hand side
  • there was a big chip in the playfield in front of the Lost Mine kickout
  • the spring was almost gone on the left flipper and it would frequently stick
  • the inside of the cabinet was dirty, smelled like cigarette smoke and had broken glass in it

Some of these issues were minor, and some possibly happened during shipping. But some of them were inexcusable for a "shopped" machine. The reset problem appeared about 4 months later. I would estimate that I had put less than 40 plays on the machine in total, since I had purchased it, before every game would reset and I finally gave up. It went into storage in early 2005 and I focused on Scared Stiff, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Popeye, and Junkyard over the next several years, as they were mostly functional (although I later found that Creature also had its share of issues and it was an eBay purchase too).

A new Mirco playfield!
In 2013 I started taking apart the machine to clean and repair it, which I documented in this post. I found a damaged upper playfield, abused ramps, and broken mountains. I also found playfield planking, which discouraged me from moving forward. Planking happens when the plywood of the playfield swells and contracts due to temperature and/or humidity changes. Wear on the playfield will actually accelerate this process, and for some reason, as others have pointed out on Pinside, White Water is especially prone to planking. If this condition affects only the finish, it can be fixed, but if the underlying wood is affected, it is a very difficult to near-impossible fix. Mine was down to the wood, so I abandoned the shop job and the game continued to languish in storage.

It wasn't until I found out that Mirco was making reproduction playfields that I saw a ray of hope. I saved up some money and bought one, so the shopping of White Water began to move ahead. As I pulled items off of the old playfield, I couldn't believe how poorly this game was maintained, and it looked like it had never been cleaned. Remember, I only played a few dozen games, so these conditions were pre-existing to my ownership. Here are photos of the condition of some of the playfield parts:

playfield planking

more playfield planking

wear around inserts

more insert wear

mountain filled with hot glue, stuck to ramp

electrical tape holding a mountain together

dirty, cracked ramps

bottom of whirlpool blown out

dirty subway ramp

cracked ramp

cracked topper

 Next I'll cover the work I did during the shop job...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Shopping White Water, Part 3 - Mountains

One of outstanding qualities of White Water, in its attempt to create a tiny world under the glass, are the plastic mountain pieces. They help give the feeling of the rugged terrain one would see when rafting down a rushing river. While the attempt worked wonderfully, durability was not a factor during design. The plastics used to make the mountains are thin and cheap; when combined with the heat of lamps in the bumpers and airballs, they are easily prone to cracking, breaking, or developing holes. This is something you don't see to the same degree with the diorama-like features of other games such as the town & castle in Dracula or the buildings of Bedrock in The Flintstones.

Years ago it was hard to find replacements. Even now, though they are easier to find, they are expensive, forcing many owners to live with the damage.

The mountains in the game are as follows:


Left Mountains. The second longest mountain piece, it is found under the Insanity Falls ramp, stretching 3/4 down the length of the playfield to cover the Lost Mine area. There are two flashers in this mountain, plus a waterfall decal. Often it is the long, skinny tips where this mountain breaks thanks to the location of the screw mounts.

Back Mountains. The biggest mountain piece in the game. It extends all the way across the back of the playfield, with some "fingers" that extend out over some of the ramps. There are also two flashers in this mountain. This mountain piece is likely to be intact, since it is held pretty securely and is not subject to receiving ball impacts based on its location far above the playfield.

Bigfoot's Cave. A smaller mountain that sits above the Bigfoot ramp. It is usually intact thanks to its high location.

Right Mountains. Similar to the left mountains, these are found under the wire ramp used for the ball launch. They bulge out a bit to cover the rightmost bumper.

Boulder Garden. This mountain sits above the Bigfoot Hot Foot targets and covers the leftmost bumper. It is almost always damaged...the incandescent light from the bumper underneath makes it fragile and sometimes leads to holes near the peak, and airballs from the flipper can strike the front and crack the mountain at its mounting points.

Extra Ball Boulder. This mountain sits above the Extra Ball target and covers the lowermost bumper. It is also in grave danger of being damaged for the same reasons as the Boulder Garden mountain.

Cliffy makes a Boulder protector set - a sound investment! They sit under the mountains and protrude out a little past the mountain edge, absorbing the blows of airballs launched from the flipper. It does not solve the incandescent bulb heat issue, which can be solved by using LEDs.

There are two extra aftermarket mountains that are done extremely well. One is called "Missing Mountain" and the other is "Skull Mountain" (or if you prefer, "Skull Rock"). Missing Mountain is a must have...placed in the upper crook of the Insanity Falls ramp over the entrance to the Spin Chiller, it helps to hide a couple of switches at the back of the machine that you can see when playing, and is so well-made, it makes you think it should have been part of the game all along. Kelly and I are planning on creating our own "missing mountain" mod that will incorporate some cool features found in the game's artwork.

Skull Mountain doesn't cover up anything unsightly - in fact, it actually blocks part of the sign that says "Insanity Falls Lights Whirlpool". That isn't a big deal, however, because the upper sign above the Insanity Falls entrance basically tells you the same thing. The eyes light up and stay lit throughout the game, which I wasn't sure I liked. A Pinsider suggested tying the light to the No Way Out insert so that the eyes light only when the insert is lit, so I'm going to look into that.

That sums up the mountains that make up the "world under glass" in White Water. Next up I'll share some photos of how terrible the condition of the game was and how poorly it was maintained by the previous owner...

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Shopping White Water, Part 2 - Ramps

Note: I originally wrote this entry back in 2013, not long after Part 1 which discussed removing the upper playfield. With the recent re-build I did to my White Water, I thought it would be appropriate to ressurrect and finish this post and then move on to describe the rest of the work I did...

It's no secret that White Water has the most ramps in pinball. They are, from left to right:

Waterfall (Insanity Falls) Ramp - a huge ramp running the length of the cabinet. Jackpots are scored by hitting this ramp on the upper playfield during multiball. Usually the ball moves down this ramp with such velocity that it strikes the glass as it catches air. However, if the ball somehow slows down, there is an open space in the ramp about halfway down that can drop the ball onto the playfield. At the bottom it curls around and feeds into the left inlane. My Waterfall ramp is in good condition with no cracks or breaks, just the "ball trail" - standard wear that is created by friction (and worsened by dirt) as the ball moves down the ramp and some scratches. I'm not replacing it for now.

Lower to Upper Ramp - a shot to this ramp moves the ball from the lower playfield to the flipper on the upper playfield. My Lower to Upper ramp is in okay, it does have a small piece broken off but is barely noticeable. I still may replace it in the future.

Whirlpool Ramp - this ramp sees a lot of action because Bigfoot blocks a lot of balls with the log diverter he is holding as it comes off the upper flipper. My Whirlpool ramp looks horrendous, with the bottom channel of the Whirlpool blackened and split into pieces. This was replaced with a new one.

Suicide Canyon Ramp - this is simply a loop ramp that can be reached from the right or left entrances of the ramp, and lies underneath most of the other ramps. Like the Lower to Upper ramp, mine has a small piece broken off and may also be replaced down the road.

Bigfoot Ramp - the only way to get down this ramp is by giving Bigfoot a hotfoot so that he can't block the ball. If that happens, the ball travels down this ramp instead of down the Whirlpool ramp. This ramp was in the worst condition of any ramp in my game. It had a boulder glued to it, it was cracked near the entrance, and two screw holes had broke. The previous owner "fixed" it by drilling new holes in the ramp and attaching them with baling wire. This ramp was also replaced with a new one.

Upper to Lower Ramp - when a ball falls past the upper flipper, this ramp carries it down to the right inlane. Mine was in poor condition thanks to two deep gouges in the ramp surface. Not sure how that could happen, maybe when the previous owner was "fixing the machine". I tried sanding out the gouges with sandpaper and succeeded, but now the ramp was cloudy with fine scratches. I tried Novus 2 and 3 and it was better. It's usable but is a future candidate for replacement.

Subway Ramp - this runs under the playfield from the Whirlpool to the Lost Mine kickout (also referred to as the Whirlpool Eject or Exit). Mine was filthy with dirt, but cleaned up rather nicely.

There are also 2 wire ramps - one that sends the ball from the No Way Out tunnel to the upper playfield, and the long one on the right side that starts at the plunger and delivers the ball to the upper playfield. Since my wire ramps got a quick wipedown and look good, I'm going to focus on how to improve the condition of my acrylic ramps. I'll not focus much on the Whirpool and Bigfoot ramps, since those were replaced with new ones.

For the rest of the ramps, the first order of business was to remove all switches, then wash them. I used hot water and Dawn liquid dish soap (I prefer Dawn because it is the best soap for cutting grease). I followed that with some Novus 2, then a repeat of hot water and Dawn.

I could have stopped there and called the ramps good, living with cloudiness and fine scratches. But I really wanted to try a technique I've heard mentioned on some sites: flame-polishing. However, that will be a subject for a future post...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018 Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show Report

On Friday June 8th I attended my first Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show. I had been trying to go for years but the timing just never worked out. This year my vacation lined up perfectly with the show, and my roommate Kelly and I made the 2.5 hour drive from my home to Tacoma. We were there about 2 hours after opening and there was a fair amount of people, but probably not quite as many as attended on Saturday or Sunday. Unfortunately my photos of the show floor turned out blurry - I guess I wasn't keeping the camera still enough, which caused all the game lights to blur. Instead I will just share the photos I took of some of the machines I played that I hadn't played before. These are games that I can now cross off my bucket list.

Things I liked about the Show:
  • All machines set to free play
  • Over 400 machines
  • Some very rare machines as well as new machines not on the market yet
  • Wait times to play a game were short (with a couple of exceptions)

Things I didn't like about the Show:
  • Some players were hogging machines
  • Could not hear overhead announcements
  • Could not hear game music or callouts
  • Not much merchandise available to purchase
  • Houdini raffle tickets were expensive ($20/ticket)
  • Some rare machines I was hoping to see (Alien, Big Lebowski) weren't there

Unfortunately I had to leave after only a few hours because I was having some serious knee pain, so bad that I couldn't stand for too long. But here's my impressions on the games I did get to play...these are games I had never played before, so using my previous format of game evaluations, these titles are listed in red to signify that...

Houdini - this game was the Show's grand prize for the raffle. The shots are very tough to hit, but boy is this a beautiful game. I wish I would have done well enough to see more features, but what I did see I really liked. Even Kelly, who had not been impressed by Youtube videos, had to admit it's intriguing, but not enough in his opinion to acquire over a Wizard of Oz. My personal preference is I'd like more plays on it but I'm now leaning towards upgrading it on my wishlist from a possible maybe to a strong maybe.

Speakeasy - Though it's been around for ages I've never seen this early solid state game from Bally. There isn't a lot to shoot at...the playing card drop targets in the middle of the playfield are the main focus...but I thought the roulette wheel under the playfield was a neat feature. According to IPDB the Speakeasy playfields are made of resin instead of plywood! It was not bad, but it's hard to evaluate fairly when you are spoiled by modern machines.

I wandered over to the Jersey Jack booth, where the new Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) was on display, as well as a Dialed In! (DI), a Hobbit Black Arrow Edition (THBA), and a Wizard of Oz (WOZ, I don't recall the edition). The line to play PotC was the longest of any machine at the show, and unfortunately I didn't have time to wait to play it, but I'm sure it will be picked up by some local arcades and I'll get some time on it then. Despite the issues involving the spinning wheel and the chest being open all the time, the game looked gorgeous and people were having fun playing it. I liked the idea of picking a character from the start and all the variations in gameplay.

I was really disappointed that DI, THBA, and WOZ went largely unplayed for the few hours I was there. Hopefully that changed Friday night and over the weekend.

Dialed In! - I had no idea what I was doing and my game was over pretty quick. It feels like another solid game from Jersey Jack, and it's designed by Pat Lawlor, I just didn't care for the theme. I'll play it again in the future to evaluate it further.

Maverick - I'm glad I got to play Maverick. It's okay but not great and I didn't like it as much as my Frankenstein, but it was still fun. I love how the boat's paddlewheel turns, but otherwise its an underwhelming toy. Lots and lots of drop targets! This was Data East's last game; Sega took over Data East and continued production.

Monopoly - I finally got to play this Pat Lawlor game and it was very fun! Some of the shots remind me a lot of the shots in Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Maybe that's why I had a great game on my first flip, getting a high score and earning a free game. The backwards spinning flipper is pretty wacky, and I thought the LED marquee was a nice touch, and this thing, like all Lawlor games, is simply loaded, with 6 bumpers, 3 flippers (not counting the spinning one), the marquee, several ramps, and a bank vault that opens. Shooting the ball into the open bank vault is a great feeling shot. If it wasn't for the theme (I really hate the board game), I would love it. That's probably why I like Twilight Zone and RBION more, I really dig the themes on those Lawlor classics.

Next I wandered over to the rare, one-of-a-kind custom pinball area. These homebrew machines were pretty damn awesome...I'm impressed with the creativity and ingenuity it takes to make this happen.

Steampunk Royale - This game looked absolutely stunning, from the cartoonish art in the picture frame side panels, to the giant metal octopus with glowing green eyes between the ramps that look like staircases, everything in this game suggests an attention to detail and a flair for the dramatic. And of course I love steampunk as my virtual machine can attest to. Though it played like an EM with a somewhat bare playfield, which wasn't super, I still loved every minute of it and feel lucky to have gotten a flip on it.

Proto - I didn't have time to wait around to play this, but I watched a game being played and it looked really cool. If it's back next year I definitely want to take a long look at it. I'm adding it to the bucket list.

Pabst Can Crusher - I was a bit bored with this game and let the third ball drain. I hate tiny flippers, but I can see the appeal to those who love EM games, as it is a throwback to that era. Supposedly the callouts are great but I couldn't hear them.

Fire! - Pressing the credit button would not award credits. I had never played this and was intrigued. Maybe I'll see one in the future; for now it is still on my "unplayed" list.

Iron Maiden LE - This was, frankly, the highlight of the show for me. IMLE is awesome! Everything about it just felt great...the angles of the shots, being able to pass the ball from the lower flippers to the middle flipper and then to the upper flipper, the gorgeous Egyptian-themed art...I was blown away. And that's without any understanding of the rules or being able to hear the music and callouts! On my one and only flip, I had an epic, 10 or 12 minute game, scoring over 212 million and entering my initials as high score #2 on the machine. Maybe not a huge accomplishment - it was the first day of the show, after all, and there were something like a dozen machines at the show - but I glanced at other players from time to time and it seemed like they didn't have anything close to that. I would love to own one, and maybe someday I will.

Thunderbirds - This is not the greatest theme for me, but I was willing to overlook that to give it a try, as it features several toys and some nice lighting. Unfortunately the flippers were too under powered to make many of the shots, and I walked away disappointed. I'd like to try it again with some better flipper power as I think it might be a lot of fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy - I enjoyed the clean, open feel of this game, and it is quite colorful. I love the theme, too, and had a good game. But I swear I only got two balls to play instead of three. The Groot head is disappointing to me, it's nothing new and is essentially the same toy as Rudy in Funhouse, Gene Simmons in KISS, and a few others that I can't recall. It's a fine game and fun to play, but not memorable or unique to me in any way. I wouldn't own it for sure.

Other games I didn't get to play
Jersey Jack PotC (lines too long)
Lexi Lightspeed (player hogging the machine)
Total Nuclear Annihilation (didn't see the non-tournament machine)
Stern KISS (not enough time)
Dirty Harry (in tournament area)
Police Force (not enough time, low priority)

Overall I enjoyed my first Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show and I had a lot of fun, but I wish my aching knee would have given me more time to play - I could have easily spent 8-10 hours there otherwise. Oh well, there's always next year!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

2018 NW Pinball & Arcade Show

I'll be attending the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show on Friday while I'm in Tacoma. This will be my first show, so I'm curious to see what it's like. I've tried to make it in the past but something always came up to derail my plans; this year everything worked out amazingly. I'll be looking at parts and talking to distributors. I'm also looking forward to playing some of the new machines like Iron Maiden, Guardians of the Galaxy, Total Nuclear Annihilation, Thunderbirds, and hopefully some others that are on my bucket list.

I'll have a report with photos next week...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Update 5-25-2018 This Week In Pinball and Other News

NW Pinball and Arcade Show
I'm planning on attending my first ever show! I'm not sure how many days I'll be there, possibly just one, but it should be fun.

White Water rebuild
The White Water restoration is finally full steam ahead! I had been bummed out about the planking that materialized on the main playfield, but after the purchase of a Mirco replacement and ordering most of the other parts I need, I have a long vacation coming up and I'm focused on getting the machine running again. After that I'll turn my attention to Creature, which has many, many problems.

Steampunk Virtual Pinball Time Machine
I will also be focused during my vacation on getting my Virtual Pinball machine fully operational. Some of the steampunk features can be added later, I just want to get this thing flippable.

This Week in Pinball
This Week In Pinball has become one of my favorite new websites to visit. I check it constantly for any scraps of news or new content. The site has hit some real home runs lately, especially an in depth look at Heighway Pinball that was riveting. Also the rumors about which machines might make it into production are exciting to follow.

This leads in to my next bit of news: we will be adding at least one and maybe two more brand new machines to the Barcade. One for sure will be the new Elvira pin that Stern currently has in development. Both Kelly and I agree that picking up that one is a no-brainer. There's a little more uncertainty about the second machine. It is rumored that Stern could be developing The Munsters as soon as late this year. If so, the game is an automatic add to the Barcade as Kelly is a HUGE Munsters fan. Although I am not quite as big of a fan, I think it would be a great game and have no problem adding it. However, I told Kelly that if he gets to add a dream game, I should be allowed to add one and he thinks that fair. The only issue could be space, as 3 machines would bring the total to 14, not counting the simulator. Well, money is an issue too, but I'll set aside that concern for another day and commence with dreaming.

So what would my dream game possibility be out of all the new games or those rumored to be in development or design? Let's take a look at what's out there:

Guardians of the Galaxy: I'll admit I like the theme, but I wasn't impressed by game play videos that have shown up on Youtube. I'll get in a few games in the near future and form a better opinion, but right now this is leaning towards a No.

Iron Maiden: Love the theme and artwork with its Egyptian inspiration, and I like some of their music. But like AC-DC, Kelly is totally opposed to heavy metal pinball themes. Hey, I get that. This is a No.

Deadpool (rumored): based on the comic book and not the movies? Definite No.

Jersey Jack
Wizard of Oz: A strong possibility. The game looks beautiful and the code has become amazing. This is a Maybe.

Dialed In: These things are selling like hotcakes and it seems like the game is in arcades everywhere. I'd like to play one before I make up my mind. Final Answer: Need More Data.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Sorry JJP, but I've got the Stern model already and I like it. I don't like the recent chest and spinner changes JJP made to their design, either. I sure don't want two of them. So, a definite No.

Toy Story & Willy Wonka (rumored): both could be great games - Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version) seems like a great fit for Pat Lawlor. But neither theme really appeals to me on a dream game level, so definite double No.

Guns N' Roses: Really?! That band does not deserve a second machine. This would be a big mistake for JJP, and for me is a definite No. Even though I'm not going to buy a heavy metal themed pinball, Rush, Ozzy, Def Leppard, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Dokken, or Heart would all be better choices. Or better yet, my dream music pinball theme: Pink Floyd (Welcome to the Machine!)

Chicago Gaming/Planetary Pinball
Medieval Madness Remake - Definite No.

Attack From Mars Remake - Man I love this game, but I'm looking for something I haven't played a bazillion times already. Most likely a No.

Monster Bash Remake, Cactus Canyon Remake, Theater of Magic Remake, Big Bang Bar Remake (all rumored) - I won't lie, I'd be very interested in Big Bang Bar, the rest not so much. But I wouldn't want to wait around for Big Bang Bar to maybe get made someday. So this a most likely a No to all.

Rob Zombie - I liked this game, but I'm concerned about quality. Most likely a No.

Total Nuclear Annihilation - I know nothing about this game...Need More Data.

Alice Cooper - Definite No.

Houdini: I'm intrigued by the magic theme, but the game has been described as very challenging. I'll take a good look at it at the NW Pinball & Arcade Show. For now, let's say Maybe.

The Pinball Circus: This would be my top choice out of everything listed here, but production has shifted to Kingpin, and with only 12 Pinball Circus machines initially planned, holding out hope for one of these seems like a pipe dream. Still, I'm not going to exclude it completely so let's put it in the Maybe category.

Kingpin Remake: I would need more data on this one but it most likely would be a No.

Coming Soon: documenting the White Water rebuild...