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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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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

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