The first new Stern pinball release of 2009, CSI made its debut at Shorty’s recently and we were thrilled to finally get a chance to check it out. The first thing you will notice when seeing the game is the fairly unexciting back glass, which is just the television show’s logo and the faces of the various characters from the show. Unless you are a fan of CSI they are just a bunch of regular looking people looking back at you sternly. But that doesn’t matter since unlike other television and movie based pins the game itself isn’t about the characters but is actually about investigating a crime scene.

On CSI pinball there are different shots, such as the spinners, that will compare various finger prints or compile composite mug shots. Going to the pop bumpers is the equivalent of taking photographs of the crime scene, while hitting the scoop will take you to the Ballistics Lab where bullets are examined, or (if the drop targets have been hit) strands of DNA examined. Like other recent pins, starting these modes usually light up different shots on the playfield that are designated by flashing arrows that you then have to shoot for, all with the purpose of (supposedly) solving a crime. And of course, getting points.

There are lots of easy ways to get multi-balls on this game and the most obvious one is the big skull in the upper left corner. The only way to get to the skull is by going up the (only) center ramp, and once you’ve done it enough times the balls become trapped in the eye sockets and begin a multi-ball. If you are at a crime scene, there’s usually a dead body involved so that’s where the skull comes in. It’s nice to see a big skull in a pinball machine, even if it’s a sort of flat looking one. Too bad they didn’t put that on the back glass: a big skull (that’d be cool)!

The second obvious way to get a multi-ball on CSI is the centrifuge which is in the middle of the playfield. While the centrifuge is used for spinning blood samples on the show, in the game it’s for spinning (surprise) pinballs! Shoot the ball in the centrifuge and watch it spin around a bunch of times (a la Pirates of the Caribbean). Do the shot over and over, and when the centrifuge counts down to zero you’ll get a multi-ball. Just watch out for when the ball comes out of the centrifuge because it often drops straight down the middle. It’s a good idea to nudge the game a bit just as the ball is leaving the centrifuge because, while there is a center post just below the flippers, it rarely seems to work well and should only be relied on if you’re feeling lucky.

The third way to get a multi-ball is by shooting the microscope which has different colored flashing lights and a looping lane under it. Sometimes the ball just shoots through the lane and back to the flippers quickly! At other times a magnet stops the ball and begins a mode where different shots light up on the playfield that you need to hit in order to collect evidence. There are three different sections of evidence to collect that are designated by the different colors and once you’ve collected all of a particular color you get a multi-ball! The evidence collecting is our favorite because it mentions interesting things like insects, gun shot residue (GSR) and bite marks. It almost makes you want to watch the show!

The first shot of the game is of course the skill shot which is quite easy to see and figure out. It’s similar to the Wheel of Fortune skill shot because you have to shoot the ball just barely to the top of the playfield for it to drop back into the designated spot. Shoot it too hard and the ball goes to the pop bumpers and if you do it too softly it falls back to the flippers. One nice difference from the WoF skill shot is that when you shoot it too softly and it falls back to the flippers, you can let it drain without hitting anything and the game will let you do the shot over and over until you either make the skill shot or hit something that gives you points (like the pop bumpers). It’s a nice way to practice doing a skill shot, especially for people who don’t play pinball very often.

All in all the game was better than we expected it to be. While CSI isn’t as engagingly fun as Family Guy is with its Chicken Fight, Stewie Pinball and Farting, it does have multi-balls that are either easy to get or at least easy to figure out; the crime investigating theme is interesting; there’s a third flipper which hasn’t been seen on the past few Stern releases; and the looping lane adds a fun twist. There’s lots of animations that appear on the screen that are nicely done and the game gives you a bit of time to check them out before shooting the ball back into play (when it’s in the Lab). Plus there’s a big skull and that’s always cool! Did we already say that we think that Skulls are cool?