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).
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 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.