National Pinball Museum – Baltimore, MD – March 2st, 2013

I write this entry with a little bit of sadness.  The National Pinball Museum is closing its doors today, March 3nd, 2013.  In the link below, a letter detailing its troubles.

http://www.nationalpinballmuseum.org/whats_new/Notice%20of%20Closing%20to%20Public.pdf

The bottom line is that their landlord wants to raise their rent due to the premium inner harbor location and being a non-profit organization, they can’t continue with the rent increase.  It’s really a shame because it is a really nice place in a nice location (right next to a Ruth Chris Steakhouse, pinball never smelled so good).  Hopefully they will find an affordable location so everyone can appreciate the 60 or so pins they have to enjoy.  The 1st floor has a history of pinball exhibit that is very informative (no photography allowed) and the 2nd and 3rd floors have a variety of games from the early woodrails to an Stern Avatar.  I got to put some quality time on a plethora of machines and had a great time doing it.

Machine #76: CAPCOM BIG BANG BAR

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The main reason I went to the National Pinball Museum was to play Capcom’s Big Bang Bar.   This is an original prototype, one of 14 original machines manufactured by Capcom and it is in beautiful shape.  The artwork on the playfield and cabinet is fantastic, rich blues and greens throughout.  The game also features great DMD animations and I dig the alien bar theme.  The audio is a bit annoying (the woman moaning is a bit much).  The game plans very fast and I found difficult.  Locking the balls for multiball is not an easy task (on the upper right side of the playfield there are 4 captive balls in two rows and you have to move the balls from the left to the right or vice versa to light the locks and then shoot the ramps to lock the balls).  The modes also start by shooting the ramp.  The hurry up extra ball shot is one of the hardest shots in pinball.  It’s located to the right of the pop bumpers and it can be hit with a perfect shot with the left flipper up through the small opening on the playfield to the right of the drop targets or you could get a lucky bounce off the pop bumpers, which might be easier.  I played about 15 games of this and watched another 40 while I was there and no one could hit it.  Does the machine live up to the hype?  In a word, Yes.  My reason is tri-fold.  It is rare.  It looks great.  It is hard.  I’m looking forward to putting more time on it in the future to get deeper in the game and to hit that extra ball target!  GRADE: A-

Machine #77: ALLIED LEISURE SEA HUNT

Machine #77: ALLIED LEISURE SEA HUNT

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Sea Hunt is like no other pinball machine I’ve ever seen.  It is called a “Shaker Ball” machine (the 1st of its kind, the other one is called Spooksville) and the flippers are controlled by pressing the buttons on the two joysticks.  You play by looking into a mirror the reflects the playfield located in the lower cabinet.  No plunger.  The ball rolls on a track above the rollovers and is dropped into the playfield when a joysitck button is pressed.  You can nudge the actual playfield by pressing up on the joysticks.  Nudge too much and you tilt.  The idea was that these machines would take up less space hence more games and more profit for operators.  I liked the novelty of it, but it was a pain looking in the mirror and on the actual playfield to see what was going on.  I just couldn’t look in the mirror like I was supposed to. I had to crain my neck and try to look at the playfield upside down.  Not a fan of the joysticks either.  Cool to see and play for a bit, but not something I’d want to own. GRADE: C

Machine #78: WILLIAMS BEAT TIME

Machine #78: WILLIAMS BEAT TIME

If Beat Time came out today, The Beatles would sue the company who made it.  I guess it’s like a Beatles cover band.  The game features a rotating target in the center with a 3 6 9 or 12.  Light the four numbers.  Score points.  It’s a good looking game, but is just an average player.  GRADE C-

Machine #79: GOTTLIEB SUBWAY

Machine #79: GOTTLIEB SUBWAY

Subway was made in 1966 and was the last Gottlieb pin to feature the manual ball lift which put pinballs into the trough to plunge.  This game features a very cool animation on the backglass of the subway doors opening.  This is a fine looking game with some nice artwork by Art Stenholm.  Rollover 1 2 3 or 4 and that increases the scoring for the quadrant.  Another way to score big points is to shoot the gate above the conductor.  There’s a decent sized gap between the flippers so this tends to be a drain monster.  What I’ve learned most when playing the tiny flipper games is to nudge the machine like crazy and you can’t get fancy with the pinball.  No dead stops or cradles.  Just Flip.  Keep the ball alive. Score more points.  GRADE: B-

Machine #80: WILLIAMS COMET

Machine #80: WILLIAMS COMET

Comet is the 1st pinball machine to feature a one million point shot.  It can be hit by lighting the 1-9-8-6 rollovers (on the 3rd ball only) and shooting the the uppermost circle for the cycle jump (it’s the skee ball looking thing on the upper right of the playfield).  Sounds simple enough, but it is tough.  This is the 1st in the carnival themed trilogy ( followed by Cyclone and Hurricane).  This is a good game with a lot to shoot for and I really like the corkscrew and cycle jump shots as well as the comet ramp shot.  I’m personally partial to Cyclone because it’s what they had at my arcade when I was younger, but this game gets better each and every time I play it.  GRADE: B

Machine #81: CHICAGO COIN GOLDEN GLOVES

Machine #81: CHICAGO COIN GOLDEN GLOVES

What the???

Golden Gloves is a woodrail from 1949 and it features backwards flippers, the 1st game of its kind that I ever played.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but basically you are trying to shoot the GO-LD-EN GL-OV-ES targets along the left and right sides of the playfield so they make sense.  The skill shot is cool as just the right amount of force puts the ball in the small ring with the pop bumper which can turn into big points.  Shooting the 200,000 point kick-out hole in the center of the playfield is tough with the backwards flippers.  Really amazing to see how many boxing themed pinball machines there are.  GRADE: C+

Machine #82: WILLIAMS OLYMPICS

Machine #82: WILLIAMS OLYMPICS

I made my way over to Olympics and started a game, shot the kick-out hole and the ball didn’t kick out.  I thought it was broken.  I asked my buddy Gary about the ball being stuck and he said it was a “trap hole” where you lose your ball for big points.  I didn’t like the sound of that at all.  Making the shot and losing your ball.  That doesn’t seem right.  But the more I played these types of games (I played a handful more at the museum this day) you can be rewarded with free games for filling the trap holes or in certain patterns.  The bottom line was more $$$ for the operators. For me, I tried NOT to shoot them.  Enough about this.  Back to Olympics.  Really nice artwork and back glass.  Backward flippers still weird.  Not a fan of trap holes.  GRADE: C

Machine #83: WILLIAMS NINE SISTERS

Machine #83: WILLIAMS NINE SISTERS

Nine Sisters is a pinball machine from 1953 that features not 1, but two kickbacks, shown in the 3rd photo.  The ball rolls into the left outlane and is shot into the upper kickback around the “Whirligig” (loop) and onto the playfield.  Pretty awesome for a game that’s 60 years old.  It also only features 1 flipper (not so awesome) and “trap holes.” (see above post on my feelings on trap holes)  Cool gimmick that elevates this game above similar of its era, but not really much skill involved here.  GRADE: C

Machine #84: WILLIAMS PERKY

Machine #84: WILLIAMS PERKY

Perky is another “Trap Hole” game that has a bit more going on for it.  Hitting the different targets can light the special.  It’s tough because the big point targets are in between the trap holes.  Super big middle drain (this one was missing the triangle Perky’s are supposed to have so you can nudge the ball from draining).  Once again, another pinball machine with beautiful artwork and color scheme, that would be cooler 50 years ago trying to win free games.  Loses a little set on free play.  GRADE: C+

Machine #85: WILLIAMS FUNHOUSE

Machine #85: WILLIAMS FUNHOUSE

The museum had a Pat Lawlor corner featuring a number of his games (Earthshaker, Whirlwind, Road Show etc.) and Funhouse, one of my favorite pins of all time.  It features a wisecracking animatronic head named Rudy and this game features the best audio callouts ever in my opinion.  When I was younger, Rudy’s taunting used to haunt my dreams.  The playfield layout and game rules are perfect.  Shoot shots to advance the clock.  Get to 11:30, lock at ball.  11:45 lock another ball.  Start multilball by shooting Rudy’s mouth.  The 1st game that I can think of to feature a timed mode (the superdog mode in the mirror).  I’ve been playing this game since it debuted 23 years ago and I will never get tired of it.  GRADE: A

Machine #86: STERN NUGENT

Machine #86: STERN NUGENT

 

Nugent  is an averaging playing pin.  It’s cool that the one at the National Pinball Museum was autographed by Ted.  The backglass artwork is from his album Weekend Warriors.  Never being a big Ted Nugent fan the theme didn’t really do anything for me.  It’s a shame that the technology wasn’t there to feature his music.  Instead of the music, they have the titles of his songs around the playfield.  The playfield features Ted jumping around and for some odd reason the pop bumper caps on this one said “Oui” on them.  Knock down the drop targets hit the spinner advance the bouns.  Vanilla pinball.  GRADE: C-

Machine #87: GOTTLIEB GAUCHO

Machine #87: GOTTLIEB GAUCHO

Gaucho features a roto target.  The rollovers in the upperhalf of the playfield increase the scoring for the roto target on the lower half of the playfield.  Decent scoring.  Huge middle drain.  Small flippers.  Average artwork.  Average game.  GRADE: C-

Machine #88: GOTTLIEB SQUARE HEAD

Machine #88: GOTTLIEB SQUARE HEAD

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I was really impressed with Square Head and it is definitely one of my favorite EMs and one of the best games overall that I played at the National Pinball Museum.  Made 50 years ago, it has stood the test of time.  Very unique rule set and playfield layout which features 9 pop bumpers and hitting them places Xs or Os (5 bumpers that place Xs or Os and 4 that switches the Xs to Os or vice versa).  Get a Tic- Tac-Toe and light the “trap hole” which awards you with an extra ball.  Only gripe is it’s hard to get it into the upper playfield once it’s come down.  Egg Head (hence the name Square Head) was made two years earlier is very similar and something I’ve got to find and play and compare.  A Formidable game.  GRADE: B+

Machine #89: GOTTLIEB CORONATION

Machine #89: GOTTLIEB CORONATION

Coronation was released in November or 1952 in anticipation of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd’s coronation which took place 8 months later June 2, 1953.  This game features 8 “trap holes” but shooting the top trap hole, the crown can lead to multiple free games which I’m cool with. I like the concept of hitting the pop bumpers number 1 to 7 in order to light a replay rollover.  I found it challenging and fun to avoid the trap holes and shoot the pop bumpers.  Good stuff.  GRADE: B

Machine #90: GOTTLIEB SLICK CHICK

Machine #90: GOTTLIEB SLICK CHICK

Slick Chick has a similar rule set to that of Coronation, but has more depth to it.  The objective is to spell S-L-I-C-K C-H-I-C-K in order which lights a rollover and then resets.  Do this 5 times and light 5 rollovers and shoot the gobble hole for a free game.  I was impressed with this game.  The skill shot is challenging and the targets help spot letters in Slick Chick.  The game features no outlanes, but has a pretty big center drain.  Artwork I can take or leave.  This is considered one of the best EMs and I can see why at least from a playing standpoint.  GRADE: B

Machine 91: BALLY SPACE INVADERS

Machine 91: BALLY SPACE INVADERS

Space Invaders is one gorgeous looking pinball machine.  It features a lit mirrored backglass that I believe is one of the best ever made.  The playfield also looks great with the dark palette of colors (similar to Centaur).  The game also features some sound effects from the 1978 Space Invaders arcade game.  The game play isn’t as good as how the machine looks.  The biggest problem is the flippers and their layout.  The ball bounces over the little flippers over 1/2 the time to the bigger flippers.  When you do hit the ball with the small flippers it’s difficult to aim and shoot correctly.  The game would be so much better without the small flippers.  The layout is good with a horseshoe shot in the center and a captive ball in the upper left of the playfield.  Incredible looking machine that plays just okay.  GRADE: B-

Machine #92: GOTTLIEB LOVELY LUCY

Machine #92: GOTTLIEB LOVELY LUCY

Lovely Lucy is another “trap hole” game that is average at best.  Shoot the pop bumpers to light the slingshot for 100,000.  Avoid the trap holes.  Artwork which is pretty mediocre some believe pays homage to Lucille Ball.  Better ways to spend your time.  GRADE: C-

Machine #93: GOTTLIEB FOTO FINISH

Machine #93: GOTTLIEB FOTO FINISH

Foto Finish (who doesn’t love mispelled titles) has a cool theme and is challenging.  Lighting A-B-C-D in order lights the gobble hole for special.  The same special will be lit if you can get all of the horses to the finish line.  You do that by shooting the top rollovers or the gobble hold in the center.  Very cool that they use real, classic horses like Seabiscuit.  Another game where you can score big points by hitting the gate above the gobble hole.  GRADE: B-

Machine #94: GRAND SLAM

Machine #94: GOTTLIEB GRAND SLAM

I enjoy baseball themed pinball machines greatly.  I think they lend themselves greatly to potential rulesets for pinball.  Grand Slam is no exception.  This is a tough machine because of the layout of the flippers (there are 5 outlanes between them) but you can nudge the ball along to safety most of the time.  I also like how the game scores runs as well as points.  Lots of ways to score a special (shooting 1-9 sequentially, A-B-C rollovers, and an upper rollover special that lights with 2 men on base).  Nice artwork as well.  Grand Slam is another great baseball pin iteration.  GRADE: B

Machine #95: BALLY WIZARD!

Machine #95: BALLY WIZARD!

Wizard! is based on the Who’s Rock Opera Tommy and the backglass is supposed to resemble Roger Daltrey and Ann Margaret.  That looks less like Daltrey and more like Elton John to me.  Maybe Ann Margaret’s neighbor?  The artwork is okay, but I’m not a fan of how red and YELLOW the game is.  The game play is decent. I really like the flip flag feature along the upper right side of the playfield which increases scoring for the spinner, pop bumpers, center target and double the bonus.  Nice layout and good shots, but pretty vanilla.  Shooting a spinner shouldn’t be the highlight of any pinball game.  GRADE: C

Machine #96: GOTTLIEB QUEEN OF HEARTS

Machine #96: GOTTLIEB QUEEN OF HEARTS

Queen of Hearts was made in 1952 is supposedly the 1st game to feature “Trap Holes.”  (I feel like this whole post revolves around them, but really it doesn’t.  It’s just my 1st experience with them)  The machine features one of my favorite themes, poker and cards and if you can make a straights, full houses or 4  or 5 of a kinds via “trap holes” it awards specials.  There are also rollover, rollunder (under certain lit gates) and point specials.  Many ways to get a free game.  The flipper placement is more similar to what we are used to today, so I appreciated that.  This one featured flashing LEDs which are really sacrilegious in a game like this.  GRADE: C-

Machine #97:

Machine #97: GOTTLIEB POKER FACE

Nothing says poker like Native Americans in headresses.  Poker Face is very similar in play to queen of hearts.  Score specials with gobble holes, rollovers and unders.  Ball bounces a ton off the lower slings and nudging is paramount. I like how theres slings near the pop bumpers, you can nudge a lot there, it’s just really tough to get the ball back up there once it comes down.  GRADE: C

If you didn’t get a chance to ever visit the National Pinball Museum I hope that they will soon be back on their feet reopening at a better and more affordable location so you can take an afternoon to play some pins with some like minded pinheads.

3 thoughts on “National Pinball Museum – Baltimore, MD – March 2st, 2013

  1. I agree with your space invaders comments. But that machine brings back many memories growing up and when I get my own basement this will be a pin I will try to get and never sell.

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