Back for day 2 of the pinfest and not worrying about the Gold Record, I got there early and put some time on some games that I was interested in putting some time on.
Swords of Fury is a System 11 pin from Williams and it is packed with goodness. The game features 4 flippers, an upper mini-playfield (with timed drop targets which are a blast) and a ton of shots. The layout is great, all 4 flippers are crucial to the success of the game. There are 2 ramp shots and they are not easy. The flow of the game is different as it features not one, but two horseshoe lanes. 2 and 3 ball multiball modes which aren’t easy to achieve and scoring a jackpot is even more challenging. The artwork is a bit dark, so the proper lighting is imperative when playing the game. The audio is solid with great sound effects and music, but the “Lionman” callout is monotonous. They had 2 of these at Allentown. I got the chance to play both of them and they both played great. This is a sleeper that you should check out if you get the chance. GRADE: B+
Solids N Stripes is a hybrid of pool and pinball and your objective is to hit the 6 kick-out holes on the playfield which represent billiards pockets. There are rollovers and pop bumpers, but the main objective is to shoot these shots which will light the 8 ball shot which scores an extra ball and increases the value of “pocket shots” to 2,000 points. I had mixed feelings about the game when I was finished because these kick-out holes that you need to shoot for create major turmoil. They are very hard to actually the pinball into and many times hitting the edge of the kick-out holes would launch the ball into the glass. If that didn’t happen the ball would go traversing down an outlane. I liked the overall concept, and the idea to be different, but it wasn’t that much fun to play. I do like the retro artwork. Worth checking out, but not much more than that. GRADE: C-
Jet Spin has many pros and a few cons. The artwork on the backglass and playfield is extremely colorful and quite beautiful, except for the oddly place mug of someone that strikingly resembles one Ronald Reagan. It’s so bizarre and offputting. I like the asymmetrical layout and the use of only two pop bumpers. A third one would have cluttered the playfield and ruined the flow. The roto and vari targets are great, but be careful, those shots can lead SDTM. There are many ways to score specials and extra balls and build and score the bonus. The outlanes are wide and extremely rough as the wire guides are very low. A nice effort. GRADE: B
Toledo was trying to appeal to the romantics in all of us. A mariachi themed pinball machine, I’ll bite. The artwork is colorful and I like how the playfield resembles the face of a guitar. The gameplay is very simplistic as there is basically a bank of 8 targets in the upper middle of the playfield that you need to shoot along with 4 along the side. Light 1-8 to light special. Light AB for double bonus, Light ABCD or 1-7 to light an extra ball. Rollovers the advance the bonus. That’s it. There are two small upper flippers that help with your quest, but the angle is odd making it difficult and seemlingly unnatural. I forgot those upper flippers were there half the time. It’s a one trick pony, but it’s okay to put a few quarters into and good for the casual player. GRADE: C+
Torch was released in early 1980 and I’m sure it was in conjunction with the upcoming summer Olympics that were to be held in Moscow. Unfortunately, the United States and 64 other countries boycotted said Olympics due to Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan. Still I really like the colorful artwork on the backglass and playfield and the different flags are a nice touch. It also shows the global appeal of spandex. The layour is average with the main features being two banks of drop targets and a roto target. There’s a grid of 9 headed with A-B-C and the numbers one two and three. Knock down the left bank of targets to light A1 and C3, knock down the right to light A3 and C1. This offers different bonus multipliers. The rest is done through the roto target. No catching the ball in this game as if you try the ball will drain down the left or right outlanes. Decent sound for a Gottlieb system 80. GRADE: C+
Amazon Hunt is a decent effort from Gottlieb. I’m a fan of the artwork and it’s bright and colorful. The audio is a mixed bag with some crude but cool animal sounds and drumming which can get a bit annoying. The layout is pretty good. Knock down the two target banks to light the 50,000 middle target that reappears and hit the 4 stationary targets to boost the bonus and spell A-M-A-Z-O-N-H-U-N-T. There are two kickout holes hidden along the left and right side of the playfield that you can’t really shoot for, but nudge the ball into that can score big points and specials. Simple and fun. GRADE: B-
Firepower is classic Steve Ritchie and a game that truly used every bit of the technology that was offered at the time and is known for many firsts. It is the first game to have a flipper activated lane change, the first electronic multiball and the first animated displays. The game has exquisite artwork which is beautifully done. The lighting is excellent, even with the dark playfield. The sound is mechanical, but totally fitting transporting you to another realm. The game play is solid and still holds up today very well. The game has a good layout and you can see elements that Ritchie used in High Speed and Terminator 2. Shoot the middle six targets to light the locks. Lock the 3 balls (two of the locks are the same placement as T2) and start mutliball. Unfortunately, there isn’t a jackpot or any real purpose to multiball, but I am enamored with the countdown and outstanding light show for multiball. Firepower is important for the innovations that are standard in pinball today and is a great game. GRADE: A-
World Fair was released in conjuction with the 1964 World’s Fair that was held in New York and it features beautiful artwork from Roy Parker. It features a whopping NINE pop bumpers and a giant spinning wheel. The objective is to hit the red pop bumpers when they are lit which activates a spin which win spot a number that will light a ferris wheel car on the backglass. Light all 11 for a special. You can also light the numbers via rollovers. Lighting all 11 is not easy and sometimes can be maddening when you are just one away and you just can’t get the last one. My girlfriend collects World’s Fair memoribilia so I think that one day this will be in my collection. Considering it’s one of the best EMs out there, it would be a welcomed addition. GRADE: A-
I was fortunate enough to play Cactus Canyon Continued due to the wonderful generosity of James AKA TheCNYPinGuy bringing for everyone to enjoy at the Allentown show. A few years ago a pinball named Eric decided that he wanted to pay tribute to Cactus Canyon by replicating and adding to the game due to the fact that it was rushed out by Bally and the potential was there for more. He wrote a program in Python for a P-ROC board that expanded upon the original CC software. The layout is the same and nothing physically on the playfield has changed with the exception of a bit of the artwork (the stand up targets have characters on them). The cabinet and translite have been altered to reflect the Cactus Canyon Continued name. So much was added to the code. Here’s a link to his website so you can read about this amazing achievement. http://soldmy.org/pin/ccc/index.php?title=Main_Page
Many more modes were added, various multiballs including a drunk multiball, DMD animations, and bionic bart, who was mysteriously omitted from the original CC. Playing the original CC, you think what great potential the game would have in Bally would have gone all out. Well, Eric went all out and then some. It’s hard to put into words what a phenomenal job Eric has done realizing the full potential of the game. It’s something that really needs to be played to fully appreciate.
It opens the door to other pins as well, expanding them to create a better pinball experience. Similar to the custom color DMD, it would just take the knowledge and dedication of people like Eric to create their visions. Sometimes you play a game and say, “I wish had a multiball or a wizard mode.” The P-ROC board can potentially allow for this to happen.
Cactus Canyon Continued is really what pinball dreams are made of. GRADE: A+
I mentioned before gambling laws in different areas of the country forced pinball manufacturers to make two different versions of a game, a replay version and and add-a-ball version and at the pinfest I was lucky enough to play both iterations of this game. Domino is the traditional game and PlayMates is the Add-A-Ball version. I’m going to review them both together because they very similiar and their main objectives are the same. The differences are specials vs. extra balls, the scoring (the value of targets are more in PlayMates probably due high scores which award extra balls) and the domino layout on the playfield (see the pictures above for the difference). The game features a roto spinner in the center of the playfield that you can hit various dominos and light them. Lighting them all will award specials or extra balls. Hitting the * roto target awards an extra ball on PlayMates. Pretty much every shot will spin the roto target which helps you complete the domino sequence. Nice theme and good artwork make this a very solid EM. I liked both of these games, but I prefer when machines are on free play the Add-A-Ball machines. DOMINO & PLAYMATES GRADE: B
Bank-A-Ball was the 1st game to be released that featured return lanes. It was released in September of 1965 and although Paradise was the 1st game to be designed to feature return lanes, it was released in November of 1965. We take return lanes for granted and some machines feature double return lanes, but the return lane gives the player so much more control over the pinball. The return lanes allow you to trap and catch and pass and set up shots. Another pool theme pinball, but this one works well. The backbox has all of the balls lit when you start a game. As you hit the shots, the lights dim and a corresponding pool ball drops into view at the top of the backglass. A couple of really nice touches. Simple game play shoot the stripes or solids via rollovers or targets to light the 8 ball shot for a special. The artwork on the playfield is laughable as a blue haired nerd “chalks his stick” with a member of the Swedish Bikini Team. Bank-A-Ball is a game of historical significance and a good one to boot. GRADE: B
Casino is a woodrail designed by the great Harry Williams and has a couple of really nice features. The backglass is mirrored and shows you what’s going on as you make the shots. The game has really nice colorful artwork as well. This game is not easy. Making 4 deuces is almost impossible because it is very difficult to hit the top ones in the upper corners of the playfield and the other two you have to drain down the left and right side. There are two kick out holes in the center which spot Royal Flush cards and between them a gobble hole that when lit awards 500,000 points. You know my thoughts on gobble holes, but to sacrifice a ball for a half a million points makes sense when close to scoring a replay. Good stuff. GRADE: B
I just want to say thank you to whomever was nice enough to share their pristine condition Evel Knievel with everybody at the Pinfest. I couldn’t get over how nice this machine looked and played. It felt like it was new out of the box.
Evel Knievel is a simple, but solid game. It has beautiful artwork featuring the Red, White and Blues of Old Glory as well as buxom babes with braless bazooms. I like the symmetrical layout. Spell C-Y-C-L-E via rollovers and targets to light outlane specials. Spell S-U-P-E-R via the top kickout hole or the S-U-P-E-R target in the center of the playfield. Hit the spinners for big points when lit. Advance bonus by hitting targets along left and right side of the playfield. This game has rough outlanes, be prepared to nudge. It’s basic pinball, but it’s fun and challenging to best your high score. I’m a fan. GRADE: B
Cactus Jack is really like no other pin I have ever seen. The theme deals with a banjo playing cactus band and a group of audience members who dislike them so they throw personified food at the aforementioned super group. There are actual cacti with SUNGLASSES on the playfield that dance during multiball. I think potentially if you drop acid and play Cactus Jack it could go one of two ways. You will discover the meaning of life or have a trip so bad that you’ll feel like you’re covered in spiders.
All kidding aside, I like the game. It’s good for casual players and families, but challenging enough for pinheads. It has a solid layout with two well placed ramps and a two ball multiball that you can achieve multiple times a game. The audio is a bit hokey and annoying, but it fits theme well. The playfield lighting is abundant and I dig the light show (epileptics beware). I like the bright yellow cabinet and kitschy artwork. It’s Way over the top, but they went for it and for that I give them credit. GRADE: B
Corral is a decent effort from Gottlieb and has a once popular Western theme. I don’t know what happened to the Western and why its popularity has all but become extinct, but back in the 1960s, the Western was hip. The idea in this game is to light numbers 1-10 which score extra balls. You can do that via the 10 rollovers (1-4 on the upper playfield, 5-10 and the ball drains) or via the roto target or spot number target. It’s tough to light all 10 numbers. This game requires a ton of nudging as lower playfield features 6 outlanes and two little flippers and ideally you nudge the ball from an outlane post to a flipper to keep the ball alive and scoring. GRADE: B-
Sweet Hearts is the last Gottlieb game to feature a gobble hole a sign that pinball was becoming more skill oriented and less luck oriented. In this case, you want to shoot the gobble hole when you light 2-5, 6-9 or 10-A because you will score a special. Light all of the cards to light the gobble hole for 3 specials and it also allows you to score a special for every rollover you hit. The artwork on this machine is exquisite. Big fan of the card theme as well. Great layout with 5 pop bumpers in a V shape. The key shot for success is getting it up past the gobble hole into the bumpers to score the side rollovers. Love the illuminated backglass which shows your progress similar to Casino. Sweet Hearts is one of the top EMs out there. GRADE: A-
Raven is the first pinball machine to feature a photograph for a backglass or translite, an unassuming thing that led Stern to basically destroy the artwork on most of their machines. Who would want to pay an artist to design something when you can just slap a photograph on there? At least this one was specifically designed for the game and they used an actual film crew to capture this image (see flyer above). Also the helicopter in the picture was actually a crop duster. I think Raven gets a bad wrap due to how cheesy the translite is (see incredible alternate translite above), but I think there’s some good pinball here. It’s one of the first games to feature a playfield toy (a red helicopter with blades that spin when you hit the spinner). Hitting the moving lit target on the left and right bank which lights EXTRA and BALL is not easy. Designer John Trudeau said this was a tribute to Firepower and with the similar target banks it works. Also hitting the upper target bank to bring down the ramp isn’t easy due to the placement of the pop bumpers. There are also four stand alone “sniper” targets that randomly pop up and are timed similar to Cactus Canyon. The cabinet art is drab and the sound is pretty bland and annoying. A multiball and a jackpot shot would really make this a better game, but you can get one of these for around $500 and I think it’s worth every penny. GRADE: B-
Tee’d Off has a very good layout and a lot of shots. It has three flippers two regular and an upper center flipper used to shoot the pitch n’ putt shot and the volcano. I especially like the shot hidden behind the coconut drop targets. The best thing about the game though is the modes and some of them are phenomenal. The skins game mode is really innovative. You shoot the volcano which gives you a skins letter. You can take the 10 million points and get called a “chicken” or go for double or nothing. Not of the 10 million mind you, but of your entire score. It will then light a random shot which you have to make within 20 seconds. If you don’t, you go back to 0. Once your score goes back to zero a shot on the right side “recover points” will be lit for the duration of that ball. If you can shoot it, you will recover your score. The pitch n’ putt mode is great too as you try to shoot the ramp and score 10 million for every shot you get into the “mean hole.” There are 2 and 3 ball multiballs and two really good mini wizard modes “Raining Cats and Dogs” and “Anything Goes.”
Where I find it a bit lacking is the artwork, sound and callouts. It’s all a bit goofy and I find the NGG is much more refined and less cartoonish. The one I played at Allentown had a huge DMD from giantdots.com so there was no translite. I added the picture of it for the blog, but to be honest, I’m not a fan and prefer the giant DMD to the translite.
No Good Gofers was made 4 years later and it really took a lot of its ideas from Tee’d Off and improved them. The artwork, callouts and game play are more sophisticated. Still, Tee’d Off is a really fine playing game and if it wasn’t for NGG, and that Tee’d Off is a Gottlieb, it would get the respect it deserves. GRADE: B
Diamond Lady was the first pinball machine to feature the elongated backbox with the speakers and score display at the top of the playfield. It’s a pretty bad design which luckily never caught on. Who wants to glance up to the ceiling to check their score? Not this guy. I personally find the photo artwork to be repulsive. I’m not digging this goofy woman “Vanna Whiting” all over the playfield. The audio is very space age and the female callouts are bland. The game play is better. Big drop target game. If you knock down the diamond targets in lights a lock for multiball. If you can knock down all the diamond targets without knocking down any of the spade target, it double your score. Super tough to do, but fun to try to accomplish. The jackpot is achieved by spelling jackpot, but you knock down the 8 spade drop targets then shoot the left ramp (this is a timed shot as well) to light a Jackpot letter. Super rough to achieve. There’s stationary targets behind the drop targets which score points and eventually light an extra ball. A good playing machine, Diamond Lady is marred by its aesthetics. GRADE: C+
Travel Time by Williams is a bit of a gimmick, but I was definitely digging it. Time is your enemy in this game, something that Safecracker copied some 20 years later. You get an unlimited number of pinballs, but the game is timed. You can add time and stop the clock with a wide variety of shots. The game has a ball kicker in between the flippers which also starts the clock. Targets spell T-I-M-E and T-R-A-V-E-L for points and time, but basically you are shooting the shots to add time and to score. There’s an excitement to the game due to the time constraints. Fun stuff. GRADE: B
There are a lot of cool interactive playfield toys that shine on Champion Pub. There is a pinball jumprope that is activated by the flippers which rotates at different speeds. It’s magnetic and getting the timing down takes some practice. There is also a speed bad area where you use the flippers to operate plastic fists which score hits. There’s also a heavy bag and a big fighter that you challenge. Scoring shots against his body or head leads to potential knockouts and advancing through the boxing ranks. Multiple multiballs (Fisticuffs, Raid and Multi-Brawl) which are stackable, two video modes and an Ultimate Challenge wizard mode which I haven’t sniffed. This is a game where the ball can fly all over the place and there are a lot of death drains down the outlanes, so ball contol is essential. There’s a post in between the flippers that is up during fights and if you use it, you can easily hit the ramp shots which add combinations for your punches. Big fan of the artwork, the over 300 unique callouts by 6 different people and the ragtime music which fits perfectly. Champion Pub a unique pinball playing experience, one I enjoy even more with every play. GRADE: A
They had a tournament at Allentown, a $5 qualifier which I completely embarrassed myself on, and Tri-Zone was one of the 5 games which you had to play. I didn’t really know what to do or what to shoot for, it was my first time playing. I found another one on the floor and got to put some time on it and I liked what Tri-Zone had to offer.
The backglass and artwork are stunning. Great use of color and the futuristic look really works well for this machine. The music and sound effects aren’t great, but it works for the theme. The gameplay is pretty basic, but I found it challenging. Knock down the Z-O-N-E targets to light the spinner and to increase target value, score the A-B rollovers to advance the bonus multipliers and score the T-R-I rollovers for extra balls and specials. Repeat. Get high score. Solid Pinball. GRADE: B
All in all, Allentown was a blast and it keeps getting bigger each year. If even you are just a casual fan of pinball, I behoove you to check it out.