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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, September 25, 2013

A Visit to the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum

The Pinball Hall of Fame (PHOF) is an essential stop in Las Vegas for anyone who has an interest in pinball. It's filled with over 200 machines, some of which are so rare you are unlikely to see them anywhere else. I arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday night, and set out to visit the PHOF on Friday a little after it opened at 11 am. I dragged my friend Alan along, who isn't a pinball player but he lives in Las Vegas and had visited the PHOF before with another friend. For more about the PHOF, you can see the website here. The following is a small blurb from the website that describes what the PHOF is:

"The Pinball Hall of Fame is an attempt by the members of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world's largest pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation was established to further this cause. The games belong to one club member (Tim Arnold), and range from 1950s up to 1990s pinball machines. Since it is a non-profit museum, older games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are the prevelant, as this was the 'heyday' of pinball. There are no 'ticket spitters' here (aka kiddie casinos or redemption). It's all pure pinball (and a few arcade novelty games) from the past. And since it's a non-profit, excess revenues go to non-denominational charities."

Located a few minutes away from the strip and the airport on 1610 E. Tropicana, the games inside are organized by era, with all the EMs on one side of the room and SS games on the other, and several newer Sterns displayed near the front. I had read that Arnold had been unhappy with Stern's build quality on some previous games, so I was very surprised to find a lot of the latest Sterns, including Metallica, AC/DC, X-Men, and Transformers (no Avengers, although there was an Iron Man). I was also surprised to find a Wizard of Oz at the far side of the room, hidden back by some of the novelty games and EMs...I'm not sure why it's not more prominently displayed. There are several change machines in the place, and game pricing seems to vary wildly...WOZ was $1, and most of the Sterns were 75 cents. Other machines ranged from 50 cents to a quarter, with some set up for 3 balls per play and others set up for 5 balls.

Like the Seattle Pinball Museum, several of the machines, most notably the Sterns, were not leveled, causing the ball to gravitate towards one side of the table, and making some shots almost impossible to hit. Other machines felt properly leveled and were more fun to play. Some machines did have playfield damage that caused ball hiccups. Also, some machines had note cards explaining some of the history of the machine, but many did not. I did not actually get to meet Tim Arnold, but I did talk briefly with one of the staff, who had to rescue a stuck ball for me, and he was a very nice guy.

The highlight of the trip was definitely The Pinball Circus, an upright pinball machine similar in appearance to a videogame cabinet, with an elephant ball lift, 4 playfields (!) and 7 flippers. Since only 2 machines were ever built, I was thrilled to find this working and not down for maintenance, and actually got a ball up to the top playfield and scored a jackpot. Alan and I were both very impressed by the design of this machine. It was a bit pricey at $1 per game, so I only got in 1 play.

Another highlight was Challenger, a head to head EM machine that tilts towards a player until a "goal" is scored, and then tilts back towards the other player. Each player has two flippers in front of their drain, and two smaller flippers at the top of the other player's play area, allowing you to try to shoot past has flippers and into his drain. There are also some bumpers scattered about. It very much has an air hockey feel to it, although it it quite a bit slower, and it was a blast to play. For not being a pinball player, Alan got into it and actually beat me, admitting it was pretty fun.

In fact, Alan stated that he had a very good time when he thought he would be standing around watching me play. Because I managed to win several free games, I passed those off to Alan, so he got to play quite a few games for free. He mentioned that the last time he was there, he didn't have much fun, but the family he was with was only there for about an hour...the kids weren't much interested in pinball and preferred redemption games, so they ended up going to a Gameworks for several hours. Note to parents: if your kids aren't much into pinball, this place may not be for them.

I had several bad games, in some part due to table leveling, but I wasn't really feeling it on some games. As I've done with other places, below are my quick takes on each machine played, with games I've played before in green and games I've never played before in red:

See description above. Slow but lots of fun!

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is the game that got me hooked on pinball, so it does have some nostalgia value, but since I've grown in age and in skill, it doesn't quite have the appeal it once did. It's kind of like when you see an old TV show you saw as a kid and you think, how did I watch that? I still played one game for old times sake, but I don't think I'd ever own it.

Orbitor One
Remember DJ, the guy that I mentioned sold me the empty Lethal Weapon cabinet? He invited me to try playing his Orbitor One, and that was the first time I had ever seen or played one. It was even wackier than I remember, with the ball rolling in broad circles around the playfield that it no way corresponds to the vacuum-formed terrain underneath. Very unsettling. I really don't like this game.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary
Not an awful game, but not among the best Data East games I've played.

Space Shuttle
I played this game a lot back in the 80s. I didn't have a good game and left it with the feeling that I don't like it as much as I used to.

I also played this one a bit back in the 90s, but I was reminded how much the callouts annoy me. If it wasn't for that, I might like it more than I do. But as it is, I can't stand it. I gave Alan my free game.

Game Show
This game was a little too easy, and the callouts began to annoy me by the second ball. I gave my free game to Alan.

Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball
I was thoroughly bored with this game, there just isn't much to do or shoot for. I gave Alan my free game.

Bride of Pinbot
Like Pinbot, I think this game is okay but not great. It has a lot more things to shoot at than Xenon does, and it has some sexually suggestive elements in the playfield and good callouts. I'm just not a big fan.

Gilligan's Island
Let's face it, you either love this theme or you hate it. I wanted to like it, and there are some neat playfield features, but I didn't love it, especially the repetitive music. I gave my free game to Alan.

Addams Family
I played one game, did poorly and moved on.

Dr. Who
I finally got to play Dr. Who! Although I didn't do very well, I saw some intriguing elements there. I need to give it more plays to form a better opinion.

Terminator 2
Didn't have a great game here, either, so I moved on. I would have liked to have won a free game for Alan as he likes the Terminator theme.

Last Action Hero
I wanted to like this game but it just didn't click with me. Maybe more plays would change my mind.

Creature From the Black Lagoon
Again another bad game that was over pretty quickly. I need to get mine up and running so that I can build up my skills.

Jurassic Park
I really thought I would love this one, because I really like the theme, but I walked away with a bit of a letdown. Maybe I need more plays on it, but as of right now it's off my wishlist.

Wipe Out
This was better than I expected, and I thought the ski lift was pretty cool. I had a good time with this one and Alan picked up the free game.

The Flintstones
I loved all the toys and sculpts on the playfield, there's a lot of detail there. But as far as actually game play I found this machine lacking. And the theme totally kills it, especially with the repetitive theme music. I also hated the movie, which didn't help my experience. A terrible machine.

Guns N Roses
I loved the music and theme, including the half-naked girls on the playfield artwork, and game play was pretty good. I wouldn't add it to my collection, but it was fun.

Indianapolis 500
I loved this game! The loops are well done and blazing fast. The game was leveled way too far forward, making it almost too fast, but it was a blast to play despite that. A very fun game for me, and Alan picked up a free game that he said was over pretty quickly.

Apollo 13
I was disappointed with this one. I put about 2 dollars in to try to get to the 13 ball multiball. During the first game the flippers froze and the game ended. This happened again during the second game. When I went to play the third game, that's when I noticed the "novice mode" on the DMD, which has a time limit. Although the game allows you to choose between novice and standard, novice was the default, so when I had pressed start on the first 2 games it was playing novice mode. I was really ticked off! I played a couple more games but couldn't get a rhythm going and walked away in disgust. I haven't played a lot of Sega machines (see Goldeneye below) but I can believe this is not one of their best.

Johnny Mnemonic
This game played incredibly fast and was over pretty quickly, so I didn't get a good feel for it.

Note: There are moments in pinball that have completely captured my imagination, such as the experiences I've documented with Xenon and White Water. Playing The Pinball Circus was another such experience.

Pinball Circus
I absolutely fell in love with this game. It's a shame that more weren't made, because I'd pursue this one very hard for my collection. It reminds me a little of the first Gravitram kinetic sculpture made here in Portland by Shab Levy in 1973 (which as a kid I would sit and watch for hours at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). I left with the feeling that after I complete my virtual pinball machine, I would like to try to build something like this.

No Fear
This was a pretty fun game, just not my favorite theme. Alan got a free game on this one.

This was in my wishlist despite not having played it. I was not disappointed, as it turned out to be a fun game. I can see why some players complain that multiball is too easy, as it seemed like I almost always had 2 balls (or more) going on the playfield. But I thought it was a cool game and would still like to own one someday.

Who Dunnnit
I liked this game, although at times it seemed a little too easy, but it was fun and Alan's free game lasted for awhile, so he must have done well too.

Safe Cracker
I really wanted to like this one as the Pat Lawlor design seemed intriguing to me - a timed countdown rather than a score. It was smaller than I expected, and unfortunately I walked away from it feeling disappointed. I think it was probably a lack of experience and not knowing the rules, so I'll give it more time if I ever get the chance again.

I've never played a Sega pinball machine in the wild before, so this was a first. Goldeneye is a great game with a solid feel, equivalent to anything Bally & Williams were putting out around the same period. It doesn't feel clunky like some Data East machines. And the 5 ball multiball was intense. Since this machine is fairly inexpensive, you get a lot of bang for the buck.

Tales of the Arabian Knights
I had a bad game and didn't even get multiball.

Scared Stiff
As with other locations, this was an attempt to compare a location machine with mine. This machine was pretty beat up, with the hinge pin sticking outside of the crate door, and the boney beast head missing, as well as several of the ribs. I put a couple of dollars in and played one game, thankful that I have one in good condition. I let Alan play the remainder of the games. He liked it so much, he talked about owning one, but the price of this game has climbed so outrageously high,  he will probably never pull the trigger.

The Lost World Jurassic Park (Stern)
Another solid feeling game from Sega, unfortunately the difficulty level seemed way too high, like The Shadow. I didn't really care for it despite loving the theme.

Cactus Canyon
This is another game I really wanted to like, because of its rarity and high price. Sadly, I don't think it's worth the price it commands. I had a pretty good game and handed a free one over to Alan. It was good but not outstanding.

Ripley's Believe It or Not
A poorly leveled game that was agonizingly slow as a result. I turned over my free game to Alan.

Harley-Davidson (Stern)
A boring game with boring music. Yuck.

Family Guy
I didn't care for this game to much, although some of the callouts are pretty funny. I gave the free game to Alan and he did better than I did.

Wheel of Fortune
I approached this game with some trepidation. Designed by my favorite designer (Dennis Nordman), I thought it would be tough to overcome the terrible theme. I shouldn't have worried, though, as WOF is a great game and another Nordman winner. I handed the free game off to Alan, although secretly I would have loved to take it for another spin (pun intended). I don't think I'd own it as there are others I want more, but it is a good game. I think it would have been awesome to have Nordman's face on one of the bobblehead contestants, so that it resembled Bigfoot in White Water. Now that would have been funny!

Batman (The Dark Knight)
I did just okay on this game, but the fact that it was unlevel didn't help. I got both Scarecrow and Joker multiball but just missed winning a free game for Alan. Oh well.

Indiana Jones (Stern)
Much to my surprise, I might actually like this machine better than the Williams version (I know, I'm crazy). I can see how it might get repetitive to hit each movie mode over and over, but I still think it's a blast to play and much more affordable than its Williams counterpart. I had thought that White Water had one of the best uses of multiball, but this is better...watching the ark tip over and puke out balls onto the playfield in 8 ball multiball was insane! Alan and I were still talking about how awesome that was the next day. This game is definitely being added to the wishlist.

Iron Man
Not a bad game at all, great layout and lots of features. Alan received a free game.

I didn't really care for this game much...I'm not a fan of the comic book characters with their goofy yellow and blue costumes, and the playfield magnets and spinner loved to toss my ball into the outlanes. Way too unpredictable ball movement. With more time on it I might change my opinion but this one initially seems pretty weak.

This game seemed pretty boring to me. I'm not much of a fan of the theme, but if the game play was good I could overlook it. I just didn't care for it much and let Alan have the free game.

I'm really liking this game more and more, especially since it functioned better than the one at the Seattle Pinball Museum, and actually had the train instead of a piece of plastic. Again I couldn't hear it very well, and Alan had to put his ear down next to the playfield to confirm the song was actually playing. But the game was a blast, and I hit multiball a couple of times. Both Alan and I loved ringing the big bell and we both talked up the machine the rest of the weekend. I think AC/DC might have been Alan's second favorite machine behind Scared Stiff, as he loves the band's music and got a free game in.

Wizard of Oz
This is probably the most beautiful game ever released. I liked it, but my game was over pretty quickly, and I was a little disappointed that I couldn't make some of the shots. I don't really understand the point of an LCD in the backbox - a DMD screen is hard enough to look at during play, let alone an entire TV screen, but the colorful images on it certainly add to the beauty. It was also expensive to play, being $1 per game. I'd like more time on it to form more of an opinion, but at that price that won't be any time soon. Would I pay $8000 to own one? Not unless I hit the lottery. But I think Jersey Jack has done a great job here and forced Stern to up their game.

Games Not Played
Haunted House
I wanted to play this game badly, as I've never played it before, but it was not working.

Q-Bert's Quest
I probably should have played it because I may not get another chance. But when I looked at the playfield, it just looked a little dull.

Banzai Run
I've always wanted to play this game, but it was not working.

Star Wars (Data East)
I've played this game quite a bit in the past but I don't really care for it.

Dr. Dude
This game was not working.

Party Zone
This wasn't working either.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I had no desire to play this due to theme.

Nightmare on Elm Street
Another non-functioning machine.

I had planned on playing this in order to compare it to mine, I just never got around to it.

Rocky and Bullwinkle
I ran out of time and didn't get to this one.

Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (Williams)
Down for maintenance.

Junk Yard
I owned this game and I've had my fill of it. No need to go down that road again.

Champion Pub
Not working.

Monster Bash
Ran out of time.

South Park
Not interested.

Terminator 3
No time available.

No time for this either.

Austin Powers
Not interested.

Definitely not interested.

I passed on this one.

I passed on this one too.

No time left to play, although I really wanted to.

Not a fan of their music, but I'd probably play it if there had been more time.

Games I had hoped to see that weren't there
Blackwater 100
No Good Gofers
Judge Dredd
Demolition Man
Elvira and the Party Monsters
Tales From the Crypt
Pinball Magic
Big Bang Bar
Black Rose
Strange Science
Independence Day

Lots of games to choose from
Prices are pretty reasonable - many games are 50 cents
Unique and hard-to-find games
Money earned goes to charity
Nice friendly staff
Great hours - open 7 days a week and until midnight on some days

Several games unlevel and a couple are in rough shape
No food or drinks on site
List of games on website doesn't quite match what's on the floor

Hours played: 5
Credits played: 42 (plus another 16 free games for Alan)
Drinks consumed: 0
Cost: total = $29

Final thoughts
I had a great time at the PHOF, despite leveling issues that led to some bad games. Alan thought he'd be bored watching me play a few games and then leaving, but he had fun. Even after 5 hours there were still several games I didn't have time to play. Maybe someday I'll go back again, but if not, no big deal - I can cross it off my bucket list now. Highly recommended!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Viva Las Vegas

I'm on my way to Las Vegas today. Tomorrow I'll be hitting the Pinball Hall of Fame. Should be a lot of fun! When I get back I'll share my impressions of the PHOF, and I've finished the Pinball Magazine #2 so I'll have a review of that soon...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Game Review: Stern - Batman (The Dark Knight)

Every so often, I'll stumble across a pinball machine I've never played before. Usually I don't review them, because I only get a few plays in and that's not enough to really form an educated opinion about the machine. This is why on my Ground Kontrol and Seattle Pinball Museum posts, I just give quick impressions rather than full-blown reviews. If I have an opportunity to play several games on a machine, however, I feel that's more than enough for an in-depth analysis. Such was the case with a Stern Batman that I encountered recently.

After returning from Seattle, I went out for pizza with my dad and grandmother, before my dad headed back up to Seattle. We went to Juliano's, a great pizza parlor in Vancouver. The last few times I went to Juliano's, the game was a Stern Avatar, which I think is a terrible game. Imagine my surprise to find Batman sitting there instead! I knew I had to take a shot at playing it, and since my grandmother hadn't arrived yet, I figured I had some time, and fed $2 into the machine to get 5 plays.

Batman (The Dark Knight) was released in 2008, and was designed by George Gomez, a former Williams employee who created games such as Johnny Mnemonic, Monster Bash, NBA Fastbreak, and the ill-fated Pinball 2000 concept of Revenge From Mars. Joining Stern after Williams shut its doors, Gomez designed Playboy, Lord of the Rings, The Sopranos, Batman, Transformers, and Avengers, and he is currently the head of design at Stern. The game has a 7.9 out of 10 rating on IPDB and is ranked at #50; on Pinside it has a 7.923 out of 10 rating and is ranked #38.

There are some great features in Batman, the foremost of which is the crane. Take the crane toy from Junk Yard (one of the best toys ever made), and move it around the playfield, and you have Scarecrow Crane, an incredibly fun toy and better than the one in Junkyard (and that's saying a lot)! As the crane moves across the playfield from point to point, hitting it enough times starts 2 ball Scarecrow Multiball. Each subsequent hit of the crane delivers a jackpot.

The Joker Multiball is also fun to get going. There's a drop target to hit (nice graphic of the Joker graffiti on it), then a special diverter that you have to move through in order to lock the ball, and it's in a very good spot, reachable by either flipper. It reminds me a lot of the crate shot in Scared Stiff, and like the crate, shots to the diverter during Joker Multiball award a jackpot. The joker toy is a little lackluster - it's simply a platform that spins to reveal an action figure, but it doesn't do anything else.

The Batmobile with the upper playfield (taken straight from Lord of the Rings) made no sense to me. Once you trigger this mode, a bonus countdown begins and requires you to shoot the right loop. This is a difficult shot that doesn't make a lot of sense, because 66% of the time the ball is working off the right flipper. I don't think I managed to make this shot once during play, making it a rather useless feature in my opinion. There is a drawbridge on the left side in which your ball races a Hot Wheel toy, but since I never activated this mode I didn't get to see it in action.

One final thought about the playfield: the bumpers and top of the playfield are partially obscured by other features, similar to Creature From the Black Lagoon or Popeye...some people hate this, and others (like me) don't really mind. There's also a ball lock at the top right above the bumpers that gives awards at certain points in the game. Finally, I loved the addition of a spinner (always like to see those!), the DMD animations were good, and the graphics on the playfield and translight are attractive enough...I usually don't like to see so many actors on the backglass because it adds to licensing costs (and thus game costs), but hey, it's Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, so I approve. Some of the voice callouts are terrible, though (no one can imitate Morgan Freeman). The bumpers are strange looking, with flat, unlit caps on them that allow the bulb to protrude, which was not very attractive. And on this game, one of the bumpers was working intermittently, one time causing an SDTM drain when it didn't fire.

So how did I do? On the 5 games I played for my initial $2, I got an extra ball on every game and a free game on 4 out of 5 games. On the 4 free games, I got an extra ball on every game, won another free game and matched for an additional free game. So total I played 11 games at 4 balls per game, for $2. Outstanding! Once the pizza arrived I had to walk away from it with 4 credits still sitting there, but fortunately no one else played it, so I resumed play after pizza. My high score was 92 million, so I came somewhat close to getting my name up (lowest high score was 120 million). Overall I think this is a great game, and one I would move up on my wishlist - I liked it better than Spiderman...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Visit to the Seattle Pinball Museum

In my recent trip to Seattle I looked for some places where I could play an assortment of pinballs. The two most intriguing were Full Tilt, an ice cream parlor/pinball arcade in Ballard, and the Seattle Pinball Museum in the International District. Due to events planned and the distance from my parents' house to Ballard (I had taken the train, so I had no car), I was able to work in a trip to the museum. There's a lot of great Chinese restaurants in the area, but many of them use MSG, which was a no-go for me since I'm allergic. Instead I picked up some Korean barbecue (Bulgogi) in the nearby Uwajimaya complex. Then I walked a couple blocks to Maynard.

First, a little background on the museum:

Charlie Martin and his wife Cindy opened the museum Aug. 29, 2010, after being selected to participate in StoreFront Seattle, a neighborhood support program which gives three months of rent-free store space to local artists and creative businesses. The Martins originally turned to pinball after getting bored of watching television after work. They bought their first machine, a 1976 model called Aztec, to play in their garage. That one machine soon spawned an obsession. With over 50 machines and a flat $13 fee for no re-entry (re-entry option is $20), there's a lot of pinball that can be played for the price.

Do pay attention to the hours of operation; although I arrived in Seattle on Tuesday, the museum was closed that day and Wednesday, and open briefly on Thursday. Finally on Friday I was able to take advantage of a longer time window.

The museum is located in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown, at 508 S. Maynard Avenue. A rather unremarkable entrance leaves you wondering if you are in the right place. But once you step inside, you are immediately greeted by two rows of pinball machines, with EMs on the right and newer machines on the left. It used to be reversed, but the museum has acquired more new games, and some of the old EMs are gone, so the machines have been moved. Also, their Facebook page states that Jersey Jack's Wizard of Oz (WOZ) machine is on site, but I didn't see it. I made my way to the back of the museum where the counter is, paid my $13, received a band to put around my wrist, and got permission to shoot photos.

Behind the counter, a small hallway sports a few machines (including Pinball 2000 machines) and leads to a set of stairs that takes you to an upper level, which houses 1980s era machines as well as a couple of arcade games. Each machine has a small placard above it that provides a brief amount of information on the game, and all are set to free play. The museum also has beverages, including microbrews. But on to the machines...like I did with the Ground Kontrol post, I'll list the machines I played, with those I've played before in green and games I've never played before in red. I'll also leave out the EM machines, as playing them was a more of a novelty.

It felt like almost every game had not been leveled from left to right (or side to side if you prefer). Balls that drifted to one side of the table, shots that weren't going where they should - it was very frustrating. I've played a lot of pinball, almost all of them on leveled machines. I can feel when a game isn't level. They must have moved the games around recently.

Pinbot (PB) (1 play)
This title is okay for me - I don't love it, but I don't dislike it either. But I've played it lots of times in the past and decided to move on.

Tales From the Crypt (TFTC) (2 plays)
I had heard this was one of Data East's best, and I was not disappointed by the gameplay. I really love the table layout, the wild multiball, and the shaker motor. Unfortunately the tilt was way too sensitive for this machine, as I noticed when the shaker motor kicked on it would set it off the tilt. I watched in horror as all the balls drained in multiball because of this! I played a second game and it happened again. I think I would really love this game, but the improper setup didn't allow for full enjoyment.

Twilight Zone (TZ) (1 play)
This was no fun due to how unlevel the table was.

Star Trek the Next Generation (STTNG) (1 play)
See Twilgiht Zone.

Tales of the Arabian Nights (TOTAN) (1 play)
I still really love it.

Scared Stiff (SS) (1 play)
See Twilight Zone.

NBA Fastbreak (NBAFB) (1 play)
I was pleasantly surprised by this machine, I didn't think I would like it but it was kind of fun, and there are ramps everywhere. I couldn't really figure out what was going on with the rules or scoring, but I was on the machine for a good 10 to 15 minutes on 1 play. The scoring is unusual, using basketball points rather than millions. Cool machine.

Metallica (MET) (2 plays)
I don't like the theme, but the gameplay was great, especially the electric chair multiball. I could barely hear it, though. Decent game for a late model Stern.

AC/DC (1 play)
I'm okay with the theme on this one, but like Metallica I could barely hear it, which is a big negative in a loud arcade for a music-based machine. I could see it being better in a home environment. Also I believe this was a cheaper model, which kind of suffered visually with the toys removed and replaced with plastics (like the train). I didn't get a good feel for game play, because like TFTC, this machine tilted on 2 out of 3 balls without any nudging.

Tron (1 play)
This is the first one I've seen in the wild and the first I've played. I had an opportunity to see DJ's (the guy who sold me the Lethal Weapon 3 cabinet), but that was a couple years ago. Leveling issues described above affected some of the enjoyment, but I sure like the machine. Visually it's gorgeous.

The Rolling Stones (TRS) (1 play)
I did not like this machine at all. Badly leveled and the cutout of Mick Jagger moving back and forth has to be one of the worst toys ever on a machine. The music would have redeemed it a little, but I couldn't hear it. Yuck.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not (RBION) (1 play)
I love this machine. It feels a lot like Twilight Zone and plays very well. You can tell it's a Pat Lawlor design. I wouldn't mind owning one, although I'd probably go for Twilight Zone instead.

Whirlwind (WW) (1 play)
I played this machine plenty back in the 80s, I like it well enough, although the spinning disks drive me crazy, especially when combined with the unlevel table.

Tommy (1 play)
I loved the airplane in the back and would really like the music if I could hear it. Game play seemed a little boring to me and the unlevel table really hurt. A below average game.

Monster Bash (MB) (2 plays)
This is my first time playing a real game...I've played the virtual version a lot. I really liked it, and the table seemed to be fairly level so I played a couple of games. It's fun and has tons of toys but the $10K+ cost that these sell for seems a bit overpriced. I'm not sure why anyone would buy this when you could get 4 other machines for that much money.

Champion Pub (CP) (2 plays)
I didn't like this very much at Ground Kontrol, but here I had some good games and thought it wasn't bad at all. I wouldn't own it but my opinion of it is slowly rising.

Black Hole (BH) (1 play)
Like Xenon, Gorgar and Black Knight, I played this game a ton back in the day. It was a lot tougher than I remember. And it sure is beautiful. Again, I wouldn't own it, but I love playing it whenever I get the chance.

Attila the Hun (ATH) (1 play)
This is the first Game Plan pinball machine I have ever seen or played. Designed by John Trudeau (who also designed Creature From the Black Lagoon), it's okay for an older machine - there just isn't much to shoot at. With LEDs in it, it's a very pretty game for sure.

Black Pyramid (BP) (1 play)
I'd never seen or played this game before, either, although I have played the virtual version. I liked it a little
better than ATH, and the graphics are gorgeous. Nice machine.

Tri Zone (1 play)
Another first play for me. Similar to ATH and BP. Perhaps no game in the arcade benefitted more from LEDs than Tri Zone. Unlit, it has an ugly red playfield, but lit up with LEDs it was just beautiful. Sorry for the blurry photo, but you get the idea...

Future Spa (FS) (1 play)
Another first play, another game beautified by LEDs, lots of girls in bikinis, drop targets, tons of bumpers, a kickout hole, rollovers, spinners - this was a great game, except the side drains were brutal. Some people hate widebody machines because they are slow, but that doesn't bother me too much. This game was notable because the artist of the backglass is different from the artist who worked on the playfield.

F-14 Tomcat (1 play)
A Steve Ritchie design, F-14 Tomcat had a couple of firsts in the industry: a ball save feature and a kickout that rockets the ball right back at the flippers. I played this game a lot back when I was in the military, since I was a jet mechanic (although I never worked on Tomcats), so it holds some sentimental value for me. I didn't do well here but it was still a fun machine.

The Simpsons (TS) (Data East) (1 play)
Between this game and The Simpsons Party Pinball, TSPP gets all the attention, and rightfully so. I found this game really enjoyable, though. For the price it sells for it's well worth the money. I've read that the ruleset is not very deep, but in a larger collection it's probably a great pin to play every now and then.

Games Not Played
Theater of Magic
It was turned off, so it was unavailable.

I really, really wanted to play this game but it was down for maintenance.

I've played this machine a lot in the past. I mean, A LOT. I might have played it if I had had more time.

Star Wars Episode 1, Revenge From Mars
Pinball 2000. No thank you.

Final Thoughts
Despite the leveling issues, I did have a good time. I'd like to return someday when the machines have been leveled.

Good selection of games
Some games have mods and LEDs installed
Very affordable
They teach pinball repair classes
People don't hog machines
Mircrobrews available and great restaurants within walking distance
Staff let me take photos
Great community presence

Unlevel tables and tilt settings ruined game play on several machines
Limited hours during the middle of the week
Could probably benefit from a larger location, but it's not likely to be moving

Hours played: 2.5
Credits played: 26
Drinks consumed: 0
Cost: total = $13

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sleeping in Seattle

I'm up in Seattle this week to visit family and have some fun. Although my plans to visit the Pacific Pinball Museum in California aren't going to pan out, I'll still be visiting the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in a couple weeks. And as a suitable replacement for the PPM, I'll be visiting the Seattle Pinball Museum instead while I'm here in Seattle. I'll post some thoughts about the Museum and the machines played. I should also have time to finish reading Pinball Magazine #2 and will post a review of that as well. When I return from Seattle, I'll have more posts on the shopping of White Water and hopefully I'll have some scale drawings for the Virtual Pin completed. Lots more to come!