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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.

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