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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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Monday, November 14, 2016

The Journal of BLT


I have been playing Frankenstein quite a bit lately...I mean, A LOT. I find it incredibly difficult, and the challenge keeps me coming back over and over. I have not got a high score yet - you need over a billion points and my HSTD is only 915 million. However, I was able to complete both jackpots and the Frankenstein letters during 6 ball multiball, which means I earned 6-ball Victor! This allowed me to enter my initials, which now appear during attract mode and the first North Pole shot of the game on the journal that is shown on the DMD. Some wiseguy (or wisewoman) had entered POO as their initials, so every game I was seeing "The Journal of POO", but now every game I see "The Journal of BLT". My initials are in the game! Probably one of my most satisfying pinball achievements yet...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Frankenstein Comes Alive In The Barcade

IT LIVES!!!

I wasn't looking to add another pinball machine to the collection so soon after acquiring Fish Tales. I had also never seen or played Mary Shelley's Frankenstein before. But when I saw one advertised locally at a consignment shop, I thought, "what could it hurt to check it out?" After a few flips on it, I was impressed. The game seemed to be just as fun as many other games out there. I had to make a decision on the spot - the interest and demand that makes Portland a great place to play pinball also means there is a lot of competition for games when they come up for sale. There are many people in town who have 15-20+ pin collections and are always looking to add more titles that they don't already have. In that environment, if you want a pin, you can't afford to wait. So I put some money down and the pin went on layaway.

Later I went home and watched Youtube videos of the game. I noticed that the creature's head was moving throughout the game in the video, but to my recollection it never moved in the game that I had committed to buying. After doing some searching I read that the servo motor in the head frequently fails in this game. More problematic is if the chip in the servo board dies, because there is no way to replace it. Stern, who bought out Sega's pinball business years ago, briefly offered replacement chips. However, they pulled the chips when they were found to be corrupt. My hope was that the servo motor (rather than the chip) was bad, because it can be fairly easily replaced.

It might be a little dirty.
The game had been advertised as fully functional. The non-working head meant that the game was not as advertised, and allowed me to negotiate a lower price. We loaded the game up in the truck and brought it home into The Barcade. The first thing I did was remove the glass and gave it a quick cleaning; however, it's going to need a deeper clean, especially in hard to reach areas, which means removing ramps. I also adjusted some of the menu settings. The menu buttons are a little more awkward than the Bally/Williams version, but once I got through them it was time to fire up the game.

There are some really unique features I like about Frankenstein. The knife switch that launches the ball has a great steampunk look. I really, really like the ability to choose the music you want to play with at the beginning of the game - I like Edgar Winter's Frankenstein to a degree, but I found that after a few games it began to grate on me, and I much prefer the dramatic movie soundtrack. What's really cool is that each player can choose their own music! The main toy of the game is the large Frankenstein monster at the back of the playfield (he's hard to photograph thanks the reflection off of the glass). A ramp feeds balls into his upturned hands during certain multiball modes, and after a brief pause he chucks the balls across the playfield at you! Supposedly if you adjust his throwing strength in the menu to maximum, the balls will hit the glass. The monster's moving head, when it works, gives the impression that he is tracking the ball, although in reality it can't keep up with the ball movement. The large DMD is impressive, although it is expensive to replace. And that artwork - it's gorgeous! It's some of the best art Paul Faris has done, and that's saying a lot based on his legendary works such as Centaur, Space Invaders, Xenon, and Playboy. However, it still pales in comparison to his art on my Zombie Raid cabinet.

I also like some of the callouts and dramatic buildups. "Who am I?!!!" and "I'm not ready!!!" do get overused, while others are awesome like "Live! Live!! Liiiiiive!!!!!". The buildup for multiball is excellent, with great dramatic scenes on the big DMD and lots of orchestration. Note that even if the movie soundtrack is selected by the player at the beginning of the game, Edgar Winter's song still makes an appearance during some of the multiball modes.


RULES SUMMARY (courtesy of Hehman)

FRANKENSTEIN letters
12 (!) standups you need to light to start a mode. Don't worry, there are ways of spotting letters. Note that the 'F' is partially obscured from the right flipper by the left slingshot.

Geneva (lower) scoop
A generously sized scoop. As there are no under-the-playfield tunnels in Frankenstein, any shot into the scoop pops out from it. Geneva kickouts are very easy to catch, and shooting Geneva is a good way to pass the ball from the right flipper to the left one. Hit the Geneva scoop when lit to spell 'GENEVA' to start Geneva multiball. Geneva multiball jackpot starts at 20M, and is increased by 1M by shooting the Geneva scoop when not lit, up to a maximum of 50M. Geneva is automatically lit at the start of each ball and immediately after Geneva multiball. To light it yourself, shoot the left lane. Before starting your second Geneva multiball, the right inlane will temporarily light Geneva.

Bumpers
This is an area of 4 pop bumpers, similar in location to the pops on Jurassic Park. Bumpers start at 250K/hit, and the last one hit will flash. Hit the spinner (right orbit) from the left inlane to increase the flashing bumper value by 50K/spin, up to a max of 1M. There is also a random Ice Cave award which maximizes the flashing bumper to 1M. All bumpers reset to 250K after each ball and there is no way to hold values. Don't expect huge points here.

Left Lane
Make the left lane by splitting the bumpers. A strong enought shot will make it all the way around to the spinner at the right orbit entrance, and feeds the upper flipper. It also lights both the Geneva and Sarcophagus scoops. This is one of four jackpot shots.

Change Scene / Move Jackpot target
A circular standup which faces up and to the right, so it cannot be hit directly from a lower flipper. If no modes are active in single ball play, this changes the lit scene. During multiball this can change the location of lit jackpots (!)

Sarcophagus (upper) scoop -- (no relation to Stargate's sarcophagus)
Not directly shootable from the lower flippers, and kicks back to the upper flipper. Shoot when lit to collect the Sarcophagus value, which starts each ball at 10M. Shoot when unlit to raise value by 5M. If there is a limit on how high you can build the Sarcophagus value, it is at least 55M. Light Sarcophagus by shooting the left lane or right orbit. If you make the left lane to Sarcophagus combo (via the upper flipper), you are awarded twice the normal Sarcophagus value. Sarcophagus spots one FRANKENSTEIN letter.

Ice Cave
A mostly hidden hole accessable from the upper flipper, or by an extremely fortuitous pop bumper bounce. If the kickback is not lit, Ice Cave will light it for you ("Alive!"). If you are not in a mode or in multiball, a random award is given from this list:

5M points
10M points
20M points
Pop bumper maxed
Spinner at max
Geneva letter spotted
Double bonus lit (right outlane)
Spot three FRANKENSTEIN letters
Start Creation scene (mode)
Super kickback
Extra ball lit
Special lit (left outlane)
Ice Cave will also spot a FRANKENSTEIN letter and is a jackpot shot. The ball is kicked into the bumper area when finished.

Note: "Spot three FRANKENSTEIN letters" already counts the one that is always spotted. So it really only spots two extra letters.

Small Lane
A small lane connecting the very back of the playfield with the side of the Sarcophagus scoop. Partial left lane/right orbit attempts will sometimes dribble down this lane, and may enter the Sarcophagus. I have yet to see it do anything special.

Toy: Frankenstein's Monster
A big plastic monster which towers over the back portions of the playfield. The head moves about quizzically from time to time, and both arms are raised with spots for a ball in each hand. Creature 2-ball (more on this later) is the only time in the game that the monster is used. If Creature 2-ball is started from the North Pole VUK, the ball is popped to the left hand (left from the player's point of view, not the monster's). Once a second ball is launched, the monster half-heartedly drops the first ball into the bumper area. This is very unexciting. But after Creature 2-ball is completed (and a ball is popped to the right hand), the monster hurls the ball at the lower right flipper in a much more impressive manner. Not as impressively as the Raptor Pit in Jurassic Park, but this is probably a good thing.

North Pole
Leads to a VUK which feeds the right inlane via a lengthy habitrail. This shot is in the back center of the playfield and is roughly in the same place as 'Start Mission' on STTNG. Shoot when lit for extra ball. If no mode/multiball is running, it spots two FRANKENSTEIN letters. The North Pole is also a good (but slow) way to get the ball from the left to the right flipper. This shot can be used to start Creature 2-ball when lit, and serves as the lock during Creature 2-ball. This is also a jackpot shot. The first time you shoot North Pole in a game to spot FRANKENSTEIN letters, you will see a book entitled 'Journal of XXX' where XXX is someone's initials. See the Spoilers on how to get YOUR initials there.

Ramp
The only ramp in the game, and it takes a reasonably solid shot from the left flipper to make it all the way up. Feeds the left inlane, so it is loopable. The ramp is a jackpot shot. Making ramp shots is the only way to light Creature 2-ball, the prelude to full-blown 3- to 6-ball multiball. This is important.

Ingolstadt Spinner (start of right orbit)
Normally worth roughly 100K/spin. When lit from the left inlane it is worth ~200K/spin and increases pop bumper values. A random Ice Cave award can maximize spinner value at ~300K/spin for the rest of the current ball. To answer the inevitable question, Ingolstadt is a medium-sized city in southwest Germany where Victor goes to study medicine.

Right Orbit
Shoot to feed the pop bumpers and light Sarcophagus. It's an alternate way of starting Creature 2-ball when lit.

Secret Diverter
Surprise! There is a diverter somewhere behind the North Pole VUK which, when active, will block right orbit attempts and feed the ball to the upper flipper instead. The diverter is active right after the kickback is used to feed the upper flipper, and also when:

The kickback is not lit
The spinner is not lit by the left inlane
Creature 2-ball is not lit

This right orbit, under these conditions, is the preferred way of feeding the upper flipper for the Ice Cave to relight the kickback. It is really a shame that this diverter is not active more often, and that the player has no hints of when it is active, or even that it exists. In general the game does a rather good job of pointing out what shots the player should go for, and this is the sole (but glaring) exception.

Right Outlane
Awards double bonus when lit. As the name suggests, this doubles your end-of-ball bonus. Double bonus can be lit by a random Ice Cave award.

Right Inlane
Lights Geneva temporarily until your second Geneva multiball. Then it doesn't seem to do much at all.

Creation Scenes
These modes are started by completing all 12 FRANKENSTEIN standups or via a random Ice Cave award. Remember that letters can be spotted by shooting the North Pole, Sarcophagus, or Ice Cave. Letters are spotted starting with 'T' and moving right, wrapping around the word if necessary to find an unlit letter to spot. Note that the FRANKENSTEIN letters in the bottom center of the display indicate which letters are lit and unlit. This is amazingly handy, as you would otherwise have to scan the playfield for 12 individual lamps.

You are awarded 20M points for starting a scene. All points collected in the scene are awarded immediately. With the exception of "Light Extra Ball", your scene total is displayed once the scene is over. Note that this total includes 10M of the 20M you are awarded when you start the scene.

Depending on how far you get in a given scene, you can be awarded a CREATION letter. This is very desirable, and is the ultimate goal of each scene. Your question now, of course, is "what happens when you finish spelling CREATION?" Check the spoilers if you really must know what the CREATION letters are good for. But I recommend figuring it out for yourself.

There are eight scenes indicated in a circular pattern on the playfield. "Frankenstein Millions" is always the first lit. You advance clockwise one spot by ending a mode or by hitting the "Move Scene" target.

Starting at the 6 o'clock position and moving clockwise:

Frankenstein Millions
Shoot all 12 FRANKENSTEIN letters within 30 seconds. You can spot a single letter by shooting the North Pole, Sarcophagus, or Ice Cave. You are awarded 6M each for your first six letters, 8M each for the next three, and 10M each thereafter. Once you have finished spelling FRANKENSTEIN, the letters reset and you can spell it again, with 10M per letter. Note that letters collected in this mode (or any mode) do not help towards starting the next one. Shoot all 12 letters within 30 seconds to collect a CREATION letter. This is worth 100M + 10M * any extra letters you hit.

Stoning
A frenzy for 30 seconds with all targets worth 500K each. After making a certain number of targets, values increase to 750K, and after some more they increase to 1M each. The right orbit has a spinner and leads to the pop bumpers, so many switches can be triggered with this shot. Scoring in this mode tends to be lower on average than most of the others. Shoot a total of around 50-60 switches to collect a CREATION letter. This is worth about 51M + 1M * any extra switches you hit.

Creature Feature
You have 30 seconds to spell CREATURE by shooting the ramp eight(!) times. The ramp awards 20M, 30M, 40M, 50M, 50M, 50M, [?], and [?] respectively. Ramps shots in this mode do not count towards lighting Creature 2-ball. I imagine that a CREATION letter would be collected by spelling CREATURE with 8 ramp shots, but I don't know of anyone who has actually done it.

Lynch Justine
Shoot the Left Lane for 3 consecutive hurry-ups. The first starts at 60M and counts down 1M/second until collected. After shooting it, the second starts at 60M, and once that is collected, the third starts at 80M. The mode ends once all 3 have been collected or 20 seconds have elapsed. Collect all three hurry-ups for a CREATION letter. This is worth 210M - 1M/seconds elapsed.

North Pole
Shoot the North Pole VUK for a hurry-up starting at 90M, counting down 5M/second down to 20M before expiring. One shot ends the mode and awards a CREATION letter.

Light Extra Ball
Extra ball is lit at the North Pole. The 'mode' ends immediately. A CREATION letter is automatically awarded!

Voltage Mode
Shoot the ramp for 20M, then the North Pole for 30M, then the Ice Cave for 40M, then the Left Lane for 50M. Note that a voltmeter counts down your time left before an overload. Make all four shots in time for a CREATION letter. This is worth 150M.

Graveyard
This mode is (IMHO) the most fun one other than Light Extra Ball. Make a monster by collecting two arms, two legs, a torso, and a head from the various holes. Get arms from Geneva, legs from the North Pole, the torso from the Sarcophagus, and the head from the Ice Cave. You get 30M per body part, plus a 30M completion bonus for finishing your dastardly work. Complete the monster (6 shots) for a CREATION letter. This is worth 220M.

See Spoilers if you really must know what happens when you finish all the modes. But it's cooler if you do it yourself first.

Multiball
Multiball in Frankenstein is as complicated as multiball gets. Don't worry if you have to reread this several times to get the hang of it.

Shoot the ramp to advance towards Creature 2-ball. On most machines you need 4 ramps to light it for the first time, but this is operator tweakable. If you successfully complete Creature 2-ball, you will need an additional 2 ramps to light it again.

If you haven't completed Creature 2-ball yet, a ramp shot is spotted for you when starting Ball 2 and when starting Ball 3. It is not spotted when starting extra balls, earned or bought. If you only needed one ramp, Creature 2-ball will be lit for you.

There are two lamps at the ramp entrance, marked "Lock 1" and "Lock 2". Disregard the traditional meanings of Lock 1 and Lock 2. This is what these lamps are telling you:

Ramps needed to light Creature 2-ball Lock 1 lamp Lock 2 lamp
6 or more Off Off
5 On Off
4 On On
3 Flash On
2 On Flash
1 Flash Flash

Confused yet? Just wait...

Once lit, shoot either the North Pole or the right orbit to start Creature 2-ball. A ball saver is active for a few seconds at the start of this and all other multiballs. If you start it with the North Pole, the ball is popped to one of the monster's hands, which "throws" it while another ball is autolaunched. If you use the right orbit, another ball is simply launched.

Shoot the North Pole to lock a ball (the ball is popped to the monster). After a few seconds a big '6' appears on the display and numbers start to count down. The jackpot value starts at 69M and counts down to 30M. Quickly shoot the North Pole, Geneva, the ramp, or the Sarcophagus to stop the countdown and start multiball. The first number in the resulting jackpot value indicates how many balls you will have during multiball (3, 4, 5, or 6). If you cannot lock the second ball before the countdown expires, the locked ball will unlock. You then have to relock a ball at the North Pole and try again (the jackpot value will again start at 69M). During the countdown, the pop bumpers will increase the jackpot value by 1M/pop, up to a maximum of 69M. If you drain either ball before starting 3-6 ball, Creature 2-ball is over.

A good strategy here is to catch a ball on each flipper. Shoot the North Pole from the left flipper. WAIT A FEW SECONDS until the big '6' appears, and then shoot the Geneva scoop. If you miss and are feeling greedy/risky, you may opt to wait out the countdown before trying again in order to go for more balls and a higher jackpot.

Really confused now? It gets better...

Once 3-6 ball is started, the appropriate number of balls are launched and the monster releases any balls he is holding. Two jackpots shots are lit, the ramp and the left lane. The jackpot value of each starts at the countdown value from Creature 2-ball, and can be increased by the FRANKENSTEIN letters, 2M/letter. To make life more fun, the location of the jackpots is subject to change via the "Move Jackpot" target. The jackpot shots shift from the left lane -> Ice Cave -> North Pole -> the ramp -> left lane. Completing both jackpots adds a ball if fewer than six are in play. At the same time, complete all of the FRANKENSTEIN letters for 20M. There is no way to spot letters; you have to hit each standup. Having 6 balls bouncing around makes this much easier.

On some machines (I'm guessing this is operator settable), if you fail to make either jackpot during 3-6 ball, the North Pole is lit for a second-chance multiball. Shoot the North Pole quickly and multiball restarts with the jackpots equal to the Creature 2-ball countdown value.

Now once you've made both jackpots and spelled FRANKENSTEIN, the ramp is lit for a 100M Creature Jackpot. This value can be increased by 1M per spin at the spinner. After collecting the Creature Jackpot, hit the Sarcophagus to light the Super Jackpot. The Sarcophagus is also worth an alleged 50M, but this is not exactly advertised.

Once lit, the Super Jackpot cycles between the four possible jackpot shots. I am told that after getting the Super Jackpot, you start all over again, except you have to hit all four jackpots and spell FRANKENSTEIN. The insanity ends once you are down to less than two balls.

Geneva Multiball
Spell GENEVA at the Geneva scoop to start, as described in the "Geneva" section of the Playfield description. A 3-ball multiball is started immediately, and all four jackpots are lit for the Geneva jackpot value. There does not seem to be a way of increasing this value during Geneva Multiball. Once all four jackpots have been collected, shoot the Geneva scoop to relight them, and repeat until less than two balls remain. The "Move Jackpot" target has no effect in Geneva Multiball. After Geneva multiball is over, the jackpot value reverts back to 20M.

Starting Multiball During Modes
This is complex and confusing enough to merit its own section. Ramps made during modes count towards lighting Creature 2-ball, except during "CREATURE Feature". Once Creature 2-ball is lit, the North Pole and the right orbit will always start it. The mode ends immediately, and as described below, sometimes a CREATION letter/extra points are awarded.

Shooting the Geneva scoop when lit during a mode will award a GENEVA letter, except during Graveyard before both arms have been collected. Geneva multiball will start once all letters have been awarded, and the mode ends immediately. I'm not sure, but I think that multiball will start even if Graveyard is running and less than two arms have been collected. This needs double-checking.

Once multiball starts, the mode ends and the scene total is displayed. Under certain conditions, extra points are awarded as if you had completed additional goals within the mode, and sometimes a CREATION letter is also awarded. Bear in mind that the scene total and CREATION letter animations are sometimes pre-empted. Here is what I know so far:

Frankenstein Millions
No extra points are awarded, but a CREATION letter is always given. You should try to complete the mode normally if you are good at shooting standups, because letters are worth 10M each after spelling FRANKENSTEIN.

Stoning
You are awarded 51M and a CREATION letter if you have not already gotten them on your own. Even if you are a pro at the spinner shot, and the spinner and pops tend to trigger very often, you won't be able to get very many extra points by doing the mode yourself. This is a very good time to light and start Creature 2-ball.

Creature Feature
You don't get anything other than what you've already done.

Lynch Justine
The currently lit hurry-up is collected at its current value. If the third hurry-up is lit, the CREATION letter is also awarded.

North Pole
You get a CREATION letter and the hurry-up at its current value.

Voltage
You are always awarded full credit for the mode (150M) and the letter, so there is no advantage whatsoever in doing it yourself. This is another good time to start Creature 2-ball.

Graveyard
This is weird. For starting Creature 2-ball, you are given the head, torso, arms, and one leg. If you already had at least one leg, you get the CREATION letter, otherwise you don't. I'm not sure about what happens if you start Geneva multiball, or if that makes any difference. This needs more study.

Miscellaneous
There is a distinct lack of any kind a grace period anywhere, not with the ball saver, the mode awards, or the multiball jackpots. Multiball in particular ends the INSTANT that the second-to-last ball is detected in the trough, which is very frustrating if the last ball is a split second away from triggering a jackpot. This is particularly frustrating in that the ramp switch is on the return part of the path, so it is very possible for a ball to be safely up the ramp but not count as a jackpot because another ball drained in that instant. Ack.

Sometimes if you have a mid-to-low scoring Ball 1 and have not received an extra ball yet, the scene indicator moves to "Light Extra Ball". If this happens, the Ice Cave will always award Light Extra Ball if you shoot it before starting the Light Extra Ball mode. This can be very handy to know, as you could end up with two quick extra balls. I am guessing that this is somehow connected with extra ball percentaging. I have seen this happen after Ball 1 with a score as high as 415M.

Also, I have seen Special lit at the start of ball 3 during an especially low scoring game. I am guessing that this is somehow connected with replay/credit percentaging. It is interesting to note that whenever Special is lit, the kickback is also lit. So when you get a special, you always get the ball back too. Weird.

In order to be asked if you want to buy in, you must press the Extra Ball button hidden below the start button DURING THE GAME, before the final bonus count leads to the match sequence. The machine I play is set to One buy-in, and buying in does not seem to disqualify you from making the high-score chart. You may consider getting in the habit of pressing the Start button and then the Extra Ball button every time you start a game to avoid missing opportunities to buy in.

Fun With Bonus
Only shots made during the current ball count towards bonus. There is no way to hold bonus. Only actual standup hits count towards FRANKENSTEIN letters, spotted letters do not apply.

A) Ramp Bonus
Multiply ramp shots by 1M.

B) FRANKENSTEIN Letters
Award 1M for first 20 FRANKENSTEIN letters, and 500K for each additional letter.

C) Shot Bonus
Take sum of shots to Geneva, left lane, Sarcophagus, Ice Cave, North Pole, and right orbit, and multiply by 1M.
Your bonus is A + B + C + 1M, all multiplied by 2 if you get "Double Bonus". I don't think that you can double your bonus more than once.

Bugs
After ending 3-6 ball multiball, sometimes the 'Shoot Sarcophagus to Light Super Jackpot' message stays on well after multiball is over. Same thing with 'Shoot Geneva to Relight Jackpots' in Geneva Multiball. It fixes itself after you do something which uses the full display, like spelling GENEVA or spotting letters at the North Pole.

Also, I have witnessed a scenario in 6-ball where the ramp was the sole jackpot left, and I hit the "Move Jackpot" target several times, but the display continued to instruct me to shoot "THE RAMP". The correct jackpots flashed in turn after every hit and the ramp was no longer flashing, but the display was never updated. I have since seen the same behavior with "NORTH POLE" and "LEFT LANE".

Cows
No cows. But there are four hedgehogs; one on the display during attract mode, and three under the glass somewhere.

Spoilers
For those who haven't finished all the modes or found the other Easter Eggs mentioned above, stop reading now if you want to savor the experience of discovering these things for yourself.

Stop reading! Go away and start playing!

For those with absolutely no patience:

Completing both jackpots and FRANKENSTEIN letters in 6-ball multiball makes you 6-ball Victor! Your initials will then be shown on the Journal cover in attract mode and upon the first North Pole shot that doesn't do anything special. Actually, I haven't been able to rule out that just the jackpots are enough... anyone know? You don't seem to get 6-ball Victor if you also got a high score.

After finishing all eight modes, the scene indicators all flash. Upon starting the "ninth" mode, you are awarded 100M times the number of CREATION letters you have collected. Extra ball and double bonus are lit. Then a 6-ball multiball starts where all switches are worth 1M points each, with the North Pole worth 10M and the ramp worth 20M. You also get 100M each time you spell FRANKENSTEIN. Any drained balls are relaunched, and Super Kickback is active. After 60 seconds, all balls drain and your CREATION multiball total (I think this includes the 100M times CREATION letters) is displayed. Then a single ball is plunged and you can start collecting modes all over again. Super Kickback will remain active for the rest of your ball (yay!)


MY THOUGHTS SO FAR

Wow! Those are some seriously deep rules. No wonder my best score is only 600M to date, although to be fair I've just been flipping to get a feel for various shots like the Geneva Scoop, North Pole and the ramp. I can make the North Pole shot consistently, but the ramp shot is proving more difficult - the angle is unusual, kind of like the Stiff in the Coffin shot in Scared Stiff - and I should be able to make the ramp shot more consistently with practice. At times it feels like the flipper doesn't have enough power to drive the ball up the ramp or move balls around during 5-6 ball multiball. The playfield is in excellent condition, and the scoops have very little wear. Everything except the monster's head seems to be functioning properly, with no burned out bulbs. I will likely swap in some LEDs under the inserts and in the backbox to reduce the voltage load and heat. I have already bought some Cliffy protectors for the Geneva and Sarcophagus scoops, some new balls, and two motors - one to replace the current non-functioning one, and one to keep in reserve. This game will look great next to Creature From the Black Lagoon, and it would be great to put a Bram Stoker's Dracula next to it in the future to continue the "monster" theme.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pinball Machine Parts And Update

Now with the sale of my house complete, I have been able to focus more on the Barcade, the pinball machines, the virtual pinball simulator, and Zombie Raid. I'm making some good progress on them. Here's what's happening:



Fish Tales
The machine was only running for a week before a problem reared its ugly head. One of the game's plastic pieces broke off, specifically this piece pictured to the right. When a ball travels down the wire ramp and falls into the reel, as the reel spins the ball falls out into the playfield instead of remaining captive. It seems that the plastic actually helps to keep the ball in the reel. With the reel unable to keep the ball locked, it may still be possible to start multiball, but the balls won't physically be in the reel. A close examination of the plastic reveals that it had been broken before and was superglued back together. An even deeper examination of all the game's plastics shows that a second piece was also broken and re-glued - a blue piece next to the pop bumpers. So I ordered a complete plastic set. However, when I unscrewed the star post holding the broken plastic, I found the screw had stripped in the playfield due to the tension of the rubber pulling on the star post. So Fish Tales is now down until I can repair the playfield.


Scared Stiff
I really blew it here - I lost the keys to the coin door and backbox on Scared Stiff. The coin door should have been easy to get into, but it had a round lock on it that proved impossible to pick. After buying a cobalt bit set, I began to drill out the lock. Cobalt works best because titanium bits are too fragile - most of them are cheap steel that have only a thin coating of titanium, and they break rather easily when encountering resistance. After this ordeal I decided to move to a keyless thumb lock instead (see photo to right). Once I got into Scared Stiff, I installed new spider web balls which look pretty cool. How do they affect game play? I have no idea, because the Start button died and I had to order a new one. I took the opportunity to order 2 green Start buttons: one for Scared Stiff to replace the yellow one, and one for Creature as well.


White Water

I ordered a lenticular 3-D translite (see photo to right). The first 3-D translite manufactured by these guys was for Medieval Madness, and though it contained a flaw that gave some people fits, it proved to be very popular. White Water was the second game to get one, and they took extra care to make sure everything looked right. Supposedly Fish Tales is the next game being worked on. They are produced in Europe but are now being carried by Planetary Pinball, which is where I ordered mine from. My initial impression upon removing it from the box is that it is definitely unique but doesn't pop as much as I hoped it would, and some areas look a bit fuzzy (like the bear on the rocks). I held it up to a lamp, and backlighting does improve the appearance greatly, so it should look better when installed in the game.


Creature From The Black Lagoon

I ordered 2 Pinsound cards, with one designated for Creature. If you haven't heard of Pinsound, it is a hobbyist creation that has turned into a viable product which can enhance the right machine. Imagine subbing in real banjo music, like Earl Scrugg's "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" for Fish Tales, instead of early 90's synthesized banjo...or how about changing some of the sounds in White Water or the music in Monster Bash - all while improving the sound to true stereo? I wanted to acquire one of these for Creature because the 5 synthesized songs in the game do tend to get a bit stale. Instead, I would replace the original score with actual songs from the 50's, which is when the CFTBL movie was released and shown in drive-ins. I want to use energetic songs to keep both the pace and excitement level high, so I've chosen these songs so far: The Great Pretender, That'll Be the Day, Don't Be Cruel, Yakkity Yak, I Wonder Why, Tequila, The Book of Love, Come Go With Me, Mister Sandman, Little Darlin', I'm Walkin', Whispering Bells, Lollipop, Oh Boy, Shake, Rattle and Roll, Twistin' the Night Away, A Lover's Question, Sugartime, Shout, Dream Lover, Broken Hearted Melody, and The Happy Organ. That's 22 songs, which might be enough variety, especially if I add the real versions of the stock 5 songs in the game. I'm not sure what I'll do with the second Pinsound yet, I bought it mostly for future capabilities. I also acquired a set of teal colored bumper caps, which I will install while removing the red ones as I attempt to add lights to the bumpers - bumper lights do not exist on an original Creature.


Virtual Pinball
I finally was able to order replacement PC parts - yay! Here are the components I ordered:

Motherboard:  MSI Gaming 990FXA 
Processor:  AMD FX-8350 8 core 4Ghz AM3+
Memory:  GSkill Ripjaws X Series 8GB DDR3
Video Card:  EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
SSD:  Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB SATA 3
Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H105 Liquid CPU Cooler
OS:  Windows 7 64-bit

Reasonable prices for all components made the decision easy. Although the AM3+ is now a "dated" processor, it has more than enough juice to power the virtual pinball system. The components arrived and I am pretty much done assembling the motherboard. The next step is to install the setup into the virtual machine and test everything out. Progress!


Zombie Raid
I wanted to set the machine to free play, but the dip switches on the Jamma board do not have a free play setting. However, there is a credit service button inside the machine. I should be able to re-wire this to a button, and there just so happens to be a hole drilled in the front of the cabinet that could facilitate a button, although it needs to have a 1/2" wide shaft, which is proving to be hard to find. I also replaced the fluorescent light fixture behind the marquee with an LED one. This was fairly straightforward. Finally, the left (player one) gun had a working trigger but the targeting was not functional. By setting the dip switch to enter test service mode, I was able to go through the manual alignment and re-calibrate the target system. Problem solved!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fish Tales Is Reeled Into The Barcade

During my last trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas a year ago, I left feeling that either Stargate or Fish Tales would be the next pinball machine added to the collection. When an opportunity to purchase a Fish Tales from a local contact materialized, I jumped at the chance. Over the next several months I'll be adding more machines to the collection. My goal is to have 10 to 12 machines in total (counting the virtual machine).

Per Wikipedia, Fish Tales was produced by Williams in 1992. It is one of the top 20 most produced pinball machines of all time, selling more than 13,000 units. The game's theme is fishing, with a general goal of catching as many fish and telling the biggest lies about their size possible. The machine's backglass is topped with a plastic fish that thrashes its tail when the player achieves certain goals, and the players launches balls with an autoplunger shaped like a fishing rod.


Rules summary (courtesy of Keefer's Guide to Fish Tales)
The machine's rules present the player with three main objectives:

Multiball - Like most games of the era, large point awards are found in multiball. Shots to the Caster's Club "lock" (hold onto) balls. Three locks starts multiball.

Catching Fish - Two sets of side targets allow the player to catch fish. When at least one fish is caught, the player has about 10 seconds to shoot a spinner to "Stretch The Truth" about its size, from 1x-5x actual size (points for the catch multiplied accordingly), or a "total lie" which awards the player nothing for the fish. However, completing the "L-I-E" rollovers at the top does remove the lowest value from "Stretch The Truth" and advances the bonus multiplier.

The Boat - The center of the board contains a captive ball area in the shape of a boat. Successful hits to a lit captive ball give the player increasing awards, from Hold Bonus to Instant Multiball, and then increasing point awards leading to a "Special" (free game).


Other objectives:

Monster Fish - Shots to the lit criss-crossing center ramps light "Monster Fish" on the spinner, a "Hurry-Up" that can be worth 20 to 50 Million points. Some players regard this considerable easier than the jackpot combination. I purchased a Monster Fish mod that is actually a Scooby Doo action figure modified with LEDs for eyes.

Feeding Frenzy - Four caught fish light the two ramps and two loops, for 5, 5, 5 and 20 Million if completed in a short time.

Rock The Boat - A captive ball award, it gives the player 10 million for ramp shots for a short time.

Video Mode - Another captive ball award, the player plays a video game on the dot-matrix display where the player has to shoot down waterskiers for points and a possible extra ball. Hitting 15 boats gives 10 million extra, hitting all 20 boats awards 20 million bonus (totalling to about 42 million).

Fish Finder - A random award achieved by shooting the top scoop after passing the right inlane next to the slingshot (Multiball and Extra Ball are only awarded in non Tournament Mode).

Extra Balls - They are found in three places: Rock the boat, Fish Finder random award and Video Mode.


Scoring
Scoring levels on Fish Tales are more geometric than on most games, meaning that the difference in scores between beginner and expert players is greater than it is on other machines. Replay levels on most machines tend to be in the mid 8-digit range, and most early awards in the game tend to award between 1 and 20 million. High scores found on publicly playable machines are usually 200-500 million.

However, the game's multiball gives the player potential for far greater scores. If the player achieves three jackpots, the captive ball is lit for a Super Jackpot worth 100 million points. Once scored, future multiballs start the sequence again with all scores multiplied by the number of times the player had completed sequence, up to six. Moreover, when the super jackpot is lit, it stays lit for the rest of the multiball. This means that, potentially, a player can light the captive ball for endless repeated shots of up to 600 million points. As a result, scores in the billions are not uncommon among expert players. At the Pinburgh 2001 tournament Glenn Wilson achieved a score of 12,724,506,740, and this was on a machine set to much harder "tournament settings" (most importantly meaning that no Extra Ball can be achieved).

The playfield is in excellent condition, with no insert wear, planking, or other damage. The cabinet is a bit rough, with some fading and gouges and scratches, but I care very little about the cabinet except for the front, since that is primarily the only part that will be seen on a regular basis. The backglass is in great shape. No bulbs are burned out, and the previous owner installed LEDs under the bumper caps and in the feed lanes to the bumpers. I will be adding strategically placed LEDs under the inserts and in the backbox. I'd also like to light up the fish topper and add a Color DMD. For now, the machine appears to have made the move with no issues...it is playing great and is a lot of fun. I think I've got the multiball shot and boat ramps nailed down, but the captive ball between the boat ramps seems to drain down the sides quite a bit. I can see how the redneck aspect might become tiring after awhile to some people, but I have a feeling it won't bother me too much. I'll have a full review of the game in the near future.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Barcade Update 9-2-16

I'm pretty busy right now with work and the pending sale of my house, so I don't have a lot of time to post or explore pinball locations. But I can provide an update on the home Barcade I posted about in early August. One month later, the exterior is nearly complete, with only painting, re-hanging gutters after painting, and ground leveling remaining. Here's a shot of the last of the siding going up:



Now on to the interior: the bottom floor will house the bar, pool table, bar signs, beer tap handles, juke box, pachislos, and the Zombie Raid arcade machine. Here's a look:






The upstairs, as I mentioned previously, will have pinball machines, video games, pachinkos, and horror/comic/movie/tv memorabilia. I've started to move my Steampunk Time Machine Virtual Pinball parts up here where there is plenty of room to work on it. White Water will be moved up next so that I can work on it, too. The other machines will probably not move up until the insulation, drywall, and flooring is complete. For flooring I originally wanted laminate, but it looks like we may go with carpeting instead. Up in the rafters, you can actually stand upright in the center, so this will make an excellent storage location. Here's a look at the unfinished upstairs area:




Although it's going to be a lot of work to finish the interior, I'm really looking forward to the finished product and being able to play pinball again!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Portland, Oregon: A Place For Pinheads

I've lived most of my life in the Portland area, and I've admitted that prior to my trip to Ground Kontrol in 2013, I hadn't stepped foot inside an arcade since the early 90's. After my trip to Ground Kontrol (and my return a year later), I had spotted a post on Pinside talking about the best places around Portland to play pinball. What I didn't realize was exactly how big Portland is regarding the pinball scene. So after doing some digging, what did I find out?

It's pretty freakin' huge.


PORTLAND PINBALL MAP

That moment of realization came when I finally decided to go to Pinballmap.com. I had heard about this site from Pinside, but although it has been around since 2009, I had never checked it out until recently. Per their website:

"PinballMap.com is a crowdsourced pinball locator, showing all the public pinball machines in select regions of North America. Pick a region to find pinball machines to play near you! Help keep your map up to date by adding and removing machines from locations, and by submitting new locations that aren't already listed."


So when I first pulled up the site, I wasn't sure what to expect. There was a list of regions, with each region reporting the number of locations that have pinball machines and also the total number of machines. As I looked through the list or regions, I was impressed by the number of locations and machines in some areas...the Bay Area was truly impressive with 257 locations and 602 machines, but it is a huge area, and traffic is crazy, making it tough to get from some places to others. It also includes the Pacific Pinball Museum with its 86 machines. Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Seattle also have an impressive number of machines, and Wisconsin has a ton of locations, but it's a listing for an entire state. But then I got to Portland, and my jaw dropped.


293 locations, 711 machines.

Wow.

Here are the top 5 regions for "number of locations" on PinballMap:
Wisconsin - 312
Portland - 293
Bay Area - 257
Chicago - 204
Los Angeles - 190

And the top 5 for "number of machines":
Portland - 711
Bay Area - 602
Pittsburgh - 522
Chicago - 504
Wisconsin - 491

Portland is the 28th largest city in the U.S., but it is beating every city that is bigger than it is, in both locations and number of machines, and is beating entire states with big numbers (Wisconsin, Colorado) in number of machines.

So I started looking at where these machines were located to help me focus on where I would like to visit to do future writeups. Some locations are on the coast, some are in Salem, some are across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, and a few are in the Columbia Gorge/Mt. Hood areas, meaning they are a good 30-60 minutes or more from downtown Portland. Even with those 100+ machines subtracted, there are still about 600 machines in the metropolitan area, which is incredible. If that's not enough, there are also 3 other regions listed for Oregon - Eugene/Springfield, Southern Oregon, and Bend - so Portland is not the only location for the state.

Oh, and one more thing about about PinballMap: it was developed by a couple of guys named Scott Wainstock and Ryan Gratzer, who live in - you guessed it - Portland.


PINBALL LOCATIONS


Unsure of where these machines in Portland were located, I decided to take a closer look at individual locations. On PinballMap, once I had selected Portland from the main screen, I clicked on the "city" button, then used the pulldown to select Portland, and for kicks I used the other pulldown to select only the locations with 5 or more machines (which was the maximum I could sort by). It returned a good sized list, so I decided to sort that into a top 5 by number of machines:


Quarterworld Arcade: 31 machines
Ground Kontrol: 26 machines
C-bar: 15 machines
Blackbird Pizza: 12 machines
Pinball Outreach Project (POP): 12 machines

I eliminated POP as an immediate potential destination because it mostly features electro-mechanical and early solid state machines and primarily focuses on children. I replaced it with Scoreboard Sports Bar, which has 11 machines. I then wanted to see what the closest and largest destination near me would be, as I'm about 45 minutes from most of these locations and Vancouver (Washington) is much closer. Unfortunately the pinball scene in Vancouver is not quite as robust. Only two locations had 3 machines, none of which I wanted to play. The rest of the locations had only 1 or 2 machines.

So instead I asked myself, which machines would I like to play that I have never played before? On PinballMaps, instead of clicking on the City button, I clicked on the Game button. From the dropdown menu I could then choose specific games. In alphabetical order, I looked up the following:

America's Most Haunted (The Lovecraft Bar)
Congo (Quarterworld)
Demolition Man (Quarterworld)
Game of Thrones (Apex, Blackbird, Quarterworld, Scoreboard)
Ghostbusters (Apex, Quarterworld)
The Hobbit (Apex)
Independence Day (Lion's Eye Tavern)
Pinball Magic (Trillium Cafe in Hood River)
The Walking Dead (C-bar, Ground Kontrol)

The Trillium Cafe is too far and Lion's Eye isn't worth the trip just for Independence Day. So I decided that my next destinations to explore will be Quarterworld, C-bar, The Lovecraft Bar, and Apex. Although Apex doesn't have a lot of machines, the ones that they do have are on the list above - and I'm eliminating Ground Kontrol since I have been there twice already and want to check out something new. In addition, Apex, Blackbird, C-bar, and Quarterworld are within minutes of each other.

Another great thing about using PinballMap: if I wanted to open a pinball destination, it shows me what areas are starved for pinball, and what games are missing from the local area. Hmm...


PORTLAND PINBALL ORGANIZATIONS

Portland is home to multiple pinball organizations:

Crazy Flipper Fingers are an intense, passionate pinball gang (not a club!), most of which are great pinball players. Joining the gang means sacrificing your initials - when members get high scores they are required to enter "CFF" on a machine - which explains why machines all over town feature the initials "CFF" on their high scores. However, in return they get cool nicknames, like "Spinner", "Orbit", and my personal favorite, "Deathsave".

Rose City Pinball is a group that promotes pinball in Portland. They organize local tournaments which primarily take place at C-bar, which are IFPA sanctioned events, and have a bounty hunter program, where they name the machine and you try to claim the prize by earning Grand Champion on the machine.

Portland Pinball League is a pinball league promoting social and competitive pinball play in Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding areas. They play pinball every Wednesday at various locations that have 4 or more tables.

Flip City hosts weekly pinball tournaments in a casual, friendly atmosphere where all skill levels are welcome.

PDX Pinball is a Facebook pinball group.

Belles & Chimes PDX is a women’s pinball league based in Portland that was inspired by the original Oakland, CA league.

Pinball Outreach Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children by sharing the history and excitement of the game of pinball. They bring pinball directly to children in hospitals, schools and community centers, make pinball accessible to children by offering a family friendly venue to play free pinball, and provide a free space for non-profits to host events that benefit children in need.

Portland Retro Gaming Expo: a non-profit cooperative organization dedicated to creating awareness of and appreciation for classic video and arcade games through the presentation of events and conventions that celebrate the historic contribution video games have made and continue to make in popular culture. They have organized a yearly convention every year since 2006.


TOURNAMENTS, EVENTS, AND ROSE CITY PINBALL (RCP)

Portland has a number of tournaments and events occurring throughout the year. They are as follows:

Flip City (weekly): casual, friendly tournaments for all skill levels
C-bar Brewers Series (monthly): tournaments sponsored by craft breweries and Rose City Pinball
Portland Pinball League (weekly): very casual tournaments open to everyone
Super Selfie League (monthly): $6/month, submit selfies with high scores to qualify
Portland Pinbrawl (yearly): top players in high level competition at Ground Kontrol
Portland Retro Gaming Expo (yearly): a tournament held at the annual PRGE convention


WRAP UP

Well, there you have it. Portland has a thriving pinball scene and culture that seems to be growing stronger every week. Although I'd love to play competitively, even as an average player, I just don't have the time, especially for the distance I'd have to travel. What I did learn during my research for this post is that there are some great places to explore when I have time, and I also acquired some other information to file away for future posts...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Zombie Raid Joins The Barcade

I always thought that I'd add a video game cabinet to the Barcade at some point to go along with the pinball machines. I had a small interest in a MAME cabinet, but actually preferred an original game, so my choices were looking like one of my favorite arcade games of my youth, such as Galaga, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, or Battlezone. Or possibly building my own Dragon's Lair/Dragon's Lair 2/Space Ace cabinet.


Sometimes, however, you have to jump at an opportunity when it presents itself, especially a local one that doesn't involve the hassles (and damage potential) of shipping. In this case it was a Zombie Raid cabinet that Kelly found on Craigslist. Here's a little bit of information regarding Zombie Raid from The International Arcade Museum:


Name: Zombie Raid
Manufacturer: American Sammy
Year: 1995
Type: Videogame
Class: Wide Release
Genre: Shooter
Orientation: Horizontal
Type: Raster: Standard Resolution
CRT: Color
Conversion Class: JAMMA
Number of Simultaneous Players: 2
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Joint
Control Panel Layout: Multiple Player
Sound: Amplified Stereo (two channel)


There's a really good summary of the game (along with lots of screen shots) over at hardcoregaming101.net, which concludes their summary with "Zombie Raid is an overall amusing and high-energy game which any horror lover can enjoy."


We drove to Portland to check the game out. It powered right up, had keys to the coin door, and the game went into its standard demo mode. I started a game and took a few shots with one of the guns to make sure the game was functioning properly. The cabinet has some dings and scratches but is still great-looking for a game that's from 1995. And that cabinet art - wow! It will look great next to the Scared Stiff and Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball machines. Loading was relatively painless thanks to the seller's pallet jack and ramp, but unloading was a pain - anything using particle board always feels like it weighs a ton, and though it has wheels on the back, that doesn't exactly help get it 3 to 4 feet down from a truck bed.

The game features two awesome light guns shaped like shotguns, complete with pump action reloading. One of them is not working but a replacement was provided, along with some other spare parts. A look inside the cabinet reveals it is relatively clean, although the power board looks a bit nasty and will need to be cleaned up. The marquee at the top did not light up but appears to be just a burned out fluorescent bulb. The tube TV and mirror are in good shape, too. I found a manual online; I also found another manual that allows the Midway Terminator 2 game to be converted to Zombie Raid. I'm not sure if the reverse is possible - it would be fun to play T2 as well as Zombie Raid - so I'll be looking into that in the future.

Gun games are always popular during parties and the graphics are pretty good for the time period, so this game should get a lot of attention once it is set up. I'll follow up with some posts about cleaning, maintenance, and gameplay in the future. The price was fantastic compared to what the last few on eBay have sold for, so it looks like a great addition to the Barcade!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Barcade Takes Shape

My roommate Kelly has been my best friend for about 25 years. We are like brothers, and he helped get me my current job. In a previous post I mentioned he found the White Water on eBay that I ended up buying while he was living in my house. He got sucked into pinball through my addiction and we pooled our funds several years ago to buy Scared Stiff and Creature From the Black Lagoon. He bought his own machine, Popeye, outright. He's just a casual flipper, but appreciates the beauty of the machines and is attracted to theme instead of difficulty, depth of rulesets or manufacturer.

Later he bought a house and our roles reversed as I roomed with him and rented out my house. Kelly has a lot of property, and for years we have dreamed of building a bar and game room to house our beer collectibles, jukebox, and pinball machines.

That dream is now becoming a reality!

Work has begun on building a two-story, 2400 square foot detached bar and game room on the property that we have started calling "The Barcade". What I really find exciting is the entire upstairs will be devoted to pinball machines and video games, with space to work on them and also on my Steampunk Time Machine Virtual Pinball system. After drawing up the plans and acquiring the necessary permits, we broke ground a few weeks ago. Once the excavation was complete, gravel was delivered and a concrete slab was poured. The bottom floor walls went up fast, and now the upstairs floor and walls have been started. After that will be installation of the trusses and roof, shingles, windows, and siding. Of course the interior will need insulation and drywall.

Here's a photo montage of the progress so far:

Excavation Begins


The Concrete Slab Is In!


Boy Those Walls Go Up Fast!


The Floor Joists Are Hangin'

More to follow...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 2016 Update

Due to some personal issues, I was forced to take a long hiatus from not only the blog but also pinball in general. I had to pack up my machines and move them twice, and haven't played them in well over a year, but hopefully that will change soon. None are set up to play at this time, as I'm lacking the space, but I'm hoping by October to have, at a minimum, Scared Stiff and Popeye up and running in a permanent location.

In the time that I've been on hiatus, my two favorite pinball blogs, Credit Dot and Pavlov Pinball, seemed to have also flatlined. I thought I'd better get a post going in support of pinball blogging and to try to get my posting momentum built up again.


White Water Restoration

I bought a restored upper playfield. This will give me a chance to practice my own restoration skills on the old upper playfield without the fear that a fatal mistake will ruin it. The entire machine has been moved into an area where I can access it and work on it more readily, avoiding the "out of sight, out of mind" status.

Creature From the Black Lagoon
I have not started the speaker panel mod yet, as there are too many problems with this machine and I want to finish White Water first. I was able to get the Snackbar lighted mod that I mentioned in a previous post.

Steampunk Virtual Pinball Machine
I'm actually going backwards with this project. My home PC tried to die and I was forced to cannibalize parts from the Virtual Pinball Machine to replace it. To make matters worse, the SSD died, which had all my tables, setup files, Hyperspin, and more stored on it. I have all the tables backed up, but it's still a pain, and I'm not happy with the short lifespan of the SSD, I will definitely steer towards a more reliable model. For now, this project is dead until I can replace the computer parts, which will probably not happen until later this year.

Return to the Pinball Hall of Fame
Last Labor Day weekend I had the pleasure of returning to Las Vegas to see my friend Alan and make another trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame. This time I dragged along my friend Kelly as well. If you recall from my earlier post, I had hooked Alan on pinball, and he had considered buying a machine. Little did I know just how much the pinball bug would bite him...he is now the proud owner of Scared Stiff, Elvira and the Party Monsters, and a 1978 Bally Playboy. On this occasion we only spent half a day at the PHoF instead of a whole day, and I was happy to find a large selection of Gottlieb/Premier machines I had never played before - obviously the Museum rotates games on to the floor. We were bummed to find that the large head to head machine, Challenger, which we had enjoyed so much on the last visit, was nowhere to be found.

What follows are my standard "quick takes" on the games I played. As before, games I've played before are in green, and games I've never played before appear in red.

Bad Cats
An awful, annoying game that I passed my free game on to my friend Kelly. He soon tired of it as well. The less said about it, the better. I would not be kind.


Rocky and Bullwinkle
I loved this game! It had a great flow and there are a lot of things going on. Though I'm familiar with the title characters, I don't know all the other characters that much; however, that didn't affect my enjoyment of the game at all. And that animated backglass is so unique! I wouldn't mind owning it someday as the price is quite affordable.


Surf 'N Safari
This was the first Gottlieb machine I ran into that I hadn't played before and I'm glad to have had the chance to play it. However, it seemed more suited for kids, with the colorful theme and fairly simple gameplay. I moderately enjoyed it but I couldn't see it having any staying power in a collection.



Pool Sharks
I'm not a big fan of pool-themed machines and this was no different. It seems a bit "old-school" for its time, with no multiball and not many interesting features on the playfield, I was really bored with this one.



Jokerz!
I really liked the artwork and layout of the game, especially the backglass which is gorgeous, but I was annoyed when my center ramps shots would get airborne and fly off the ramp, instead of rolling around the ramp and into the ball drop. It was okay but seems like another game that lacks staying power.



Freddy's Nightmare on Elm Street
I loved this game. To me this is the second-best late-era Gottlieb game behind Stargate. The artwork is awful - I can't stress this enough, it is really bad! - but the gameplay was a blast, with the plunger skill shot starting multiball on every ball. I laughed at the Freddie callouts and when his head puked up the ball on to the playfield, accompanied by a "bleah" puking sound. I never quite got the hang of the claw save, and the glove flipper is a cool idea except that it is too fragile to be of any real use. Also the game lacks ramps to shoot. For all those reasons I wouldn't own it, but I also wouldn't hesitate to play it again, as it had what I would consider a fun "party" factor - great to play at someone else's place without taking up a spot in your own collection. Alan agreed that it was probably the most entertaining machine of the day, and for the rest of the day the phrase "put another coin in!" was imitated by both of us in our best Freddy voice.



Tee'd Off
It's strange that I don't remember much about this game after playing it, other than it being a poor clone of No Good Gophers. The gopher in the dome as a topper was a bit strange. Since I don't have any thoughts about the game, I must not have been impressed.



Cue Ball Wizard
Despite not being a fan of pool-themed machines, I really enjoyed this one, with the giant cue ball in the middle. It was fun trying to smack that oversized white ball into targets, kind of like a giant captive ball. Definitely unique.



Mario Andretti
This is an okay game, but I don't like it nearly as much as Indy 500. It was pretty to look at but it seemed rather sparse, like there wasn't much to shoot at.



Haunted House
I was really pumped for this game, since I've seen and heard a lot about it, and I wasn't able to play during my previous trip to the museum. It is certainly a beautiful game (love that backglass!), but the play was so-so. The three playfields looked intriguing, but the lower playfield was actually not much fun and felt more gimmicky. The ball moved really slowly across the playfield, making the game really boring. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to play it but it ended up being anticlimactic and somewhat disappointing.



Waterworld
I actually enjoyed Waterworld more than I thought I would, earning multiball and a free game. The rotating ship that locks balls for multiball is a cool feature, and the jet ski and crane diverter are good toys. That playfield, though...it is ugly and cartoonish as heck. Still, I thought the game was fun. The ship dumping the multiballs on the playfield reminds me a little of the Ark in Stern's Indiana Jones.



Starship Troopers
This game was terrible and boring. It's also ugly and doesn't make good use of its toys. Yuck!



Dr. Dude
This is a Dennis Nordman design that I wanted to try on my last visit but it wasn't working. You can see elements that Nordman would incorporate in a similar fashion in White Water and Scared Stiff. I think the theme really holds this one back from being a good game - I can appreciate the "comic book" look when it is well-done like Judge Dredd, but this one was just a little too "kiddie" in style. This is the first Nordman game to disappoint me, but it laid the foundation for his other great titles so no big deal.


Flintstones (giant redemption pinball)
I saw this weird looking huge game at the end of the aisle and decided to give it a play. The flippers are giant clubs, which is appropriate because it has to smack around a plastic, oversized white ball. The overall affect was quite strange, as the ball didn't behave like a normal pinball, the club flippers were awkward, and the ball time was short. But it was kind of cool from a "you don't see that everyday" kind of standpoint - a truly unique experience for sure.



Wizard of Oz
I had to play it again. I did okay this time, but my game was still over all too soon, especially for the cost per play...


Star Trek
This was the premium version and looked gorgeous. It was also faster than hell but I did pretty well on it for only my second time playing it.


Cactus Canyon
I played this once before and since it is so rare I decided to give it another try. What I blast! I had an amazing game that was a lot of fun. I'd love to own the Cactus Canyon Continued version for sure, but the price makes that a pipe dream.


Tales of the Arabian Nights
I did terrible the last time I played, but this game was much better and restored my faith in the fun factor of the machine. This will always be on my wishlist as one of the best pinball games ever made.


Stargate
I wanted to evaluate Stargate again as I have been seriously interested in acquiring one. I was not disappointed, what a blast to play and I love the Egyptian theme, I always liked the movie too despite the 80's cheese factor. This is one I will definitely acquire sooner rather than later.


Safe Cracker
The rare game reviews continue with another "crack" at Safecracker. Like my previous play on the machine, I was disappointed and think of it as more of a novelty than anything.


Pinball Circus
If you've read my previous trip to the museum, you know I really loved this game, so I just had to give it another play. I didn't do nearly as well as the last game, but I still love it. I've read that it's being re-manufactured, but the price is out of my league, which is really a bummer.


Fish Tales
I have played this a couple of times in the past and I really like it. I think Mark Ritchie is one of the most underrated designers in pinball. I left feeling like this game or Stargate is the next one that will be added to the collection.


Elvira and the Party Monsters
Okay, so this wasn't at the Museum but was instead played on Alan's home machine, which is in beautiful condition and has some mods and LEDs installed. I was eager to give it a try since I love Scared Stiff and I had played EATPM once before, but the machine I played on was so badly broken I don't really count it. Like Dr. Dude, I was struck by the similarity of certain elements to SS. I also noticed that the sound was terrible compared to SS, and it's funny how big of a difference the DMD (or lack of one) makes - I have become so accustomed to having one. I enjoyed the gameplay, although not as much as I had hoped. After a half dozen games on it I managed to get my name on the high score list. Alan was still giving me crap about my initials being up there!

 So that's all the news I have for now. it might be a couple of weeks before I have anything more to report, but I'll try to not be gone as long this time...