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We Love Spectrum!!

Spectrum is one of the coolest pinball games ever created!

The first time we saw Spectrum was at last summer’s Northwest Pinball and Game Room Show at the Seattle Center. It totally drew us in with its colorful playfield and back glass, and once we played it we realized there was a lot more to this game than we expected.

The first thing that comes to your attention when you play Spectrum is the fact that there is no plunger; instead, you hit one of the flippers, and that launches the ball from the drain area up into the playfield. The second feature that quickly becomes apparent is that there are no side drains, and instead there are hidden side lanes that, once the ball enters, prompt the game to eject a different ball just above the flippers.

While these two unique features are enough to confuse many people, it’s the object of the game that really makes this pin stand out. Unlike the typical way you get points on most games, with Spectrum the object is to figure out the secret color code that the machine randomly selects. Red, yellow, green, and blue are your choices, and you either guess correctly or not by hitting the appropriate targets on the play field. The more guesses you try before draining the ball determines your score.

Confusing? You bet! This game really opened our eyes to the potential of pinball and how most of the games we see and play today are just the tip of the iceberg. We look forward to all the other pinball machines we have yet to discover, both from the past and into the future. Spectrum kicks ass!

Spectrum Fun Facts:

Spectrum is based on the board game Mastermind.

Bally manufactured 994 machines, but due to low sales over half were dismantled.

Spectrum has a lot of speech programs that continually run while the game is played. Many clues concerning the hidden codes are given this way.

If you ever get a chance to play Spectrum, do it!

Originally published in Skill Shot issue 6.5, November 2008

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news & gossip reviews

What Comes Around Goes Around

By Bernard Boulevard

Picture this:  It’s Saturday night, and you’re out at your favorite pub with 4 of your friends, itching to play a few games of pinball.  You grab a couple of pitchers and head to the pinball area.  There are three games, and no one is playing them yet.  You and your buddies do the math:  There are five of you, and three pinball machines.  Since most pinball games have a 4 player limit, there’s no way you can all play the same game, unless you shuck the whole idea of playing traditional 3 ball games, and play the new Skill Shot game (patent pending), “Round and Round”!

Here’s how it works:  As in the above scenario, you’ve got three open pinball machines and five pinball-hungry friends.  Drop enough quarters or singles into one or more of the machines until each machine has enough credits for a 4 player game.  Press Start four times, and the game is on.  Whoever wants to take a turn goes next.  There is no typical “game” other than the ball you are playing, because, as is Skill Shot’s motto, “It Only Takes One Ball”!  Hop from game to game, ask one of your buddies if he’s played game So-And-So yet and let him go next, or play one ball for a half hour while your friends cheer you on.  It’s all about one ball, so don’t worry about high scores, getting your initials in, or trying to outplay your friends.  And setting up shots is great, because it can be fun to watch a newbie get the ball that you were the last to play and see him get multiball or extra ball or even Stewie Pinball (if you’re playing Family Guy).

Round and Round works with many combinations of machines and players.  Eight people can buy into one or more machines, while three people can play it on two machines.  The only time it won’t work is if two of you are playing one machine in a two player game (no matter what, it’s still a two player game, right?).  Playing Round and Round with people that are uncomfortable playing pinball (“I suck at it!”  Yeah, right.) can be awesome because each ball is like a clean slate, and it can be seen by novices as a practice session or a learning experience without the outcome of an embarrassingly low score.  Or it can be a way to include all of your friends in America’s Favorite Pastime:  PINBALL!  With Round and Round, it only takes one ball, literally.

Coming up next, another new Skill Shot game:  “Half and Half”! (patent pending)

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reviews

Why So Serious?

by  DJ B00M

In July, 1939, Robert Kahn created a character that would change the world forever. It would launch many careers and destroy others.  At the time, I doubt that Bob (Robert is too stuffy) Kane had any idea how far Batman would go: radio shows, television, movies, toys, clothing….

The latest incarnation of the Dark Knight comes to us in the form of a pinball machine. The black cabinet makes the artwork pop, with its glossy, book cover-like faces. While the game is called Batman, there can be no doubt that this is the Christopher Nolan flick. So, of course, there is a picture of Heath on the back glass and on the play field. Somehow creepy and sad.

The Mad Pub happens to have Family Guy right next to Bats. When it’s quiet, you can hit the flipper on Batman, and it will talk. Then hit the flipper on Family Guy, and it farts. Hilarious! Anyway, I have to say the voice work is pretty good, at times. The Scarecrow and Bruce/Bats sound a lot alike, which can be a little confusing when you’re given a shot prompt.

One of the easiest shots, at least for me, is the far left orbit. Hit that, the ball goes around and lands in the trap for Mystery. It’s a random choice, and you tend to get a multiplier bonus, but sometimes ya get extra ball. Yahoo! The other way to get extra ball is to collect two items from Lucius Fox, which will light extra ball on the play field. Then simply shoot the scoop to collect extra ball, which by the way, has some nice animation. Lucius  has an easy ramp, and it’s the same thing as Path of the Dead from LoTR.  So it’s easy to collect items from him. He’s got a funny sound bite here and there too.

“Careful sir, the Joker can be a tricky one.”  You got that right Alfred! I suggest using the left flipper to hit the Joker target. Another good feature is that the game lets you get Scarecrow and Joker multi-ball at the same time. Ka-ching! That comes in pretty handy too, as Bats isn’t a high scoring game, although you get 70 points when you hit almost anything. One of the nicer touches is during game play a large ‘drum’-like thing sits in the upper play field, and during Joker multi-ball it spins around to reveal a little toy Joker. I want one!

The game has this teeter totter in it as well, but it doesn’t really do anything. So I’m not going to talk about it. I like that Stern used the larger dot graphics display, like in the new Indiana Jones game (which I have a feeling will quietly go away soon, not one of Stern’s better games).  Batman, however, is pretty damn good.  Fast paced, check. Lots of pretty lights and sounds, check. Only two flippers, so no “how the hell am I gonna make that shot” issues, check.  Sounds like a pretty good game to me. Think I’m going to start saving my pennies and buy myself one. Now if only it had a peg in front of the center drain. . . . . . .

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reviews tips & tricks

Welcome to Champion Pub

by Geoffro

Welcome to Champion Pub, Kid. I hear ya fancy yerself a bit of a boxer – well, we’ll just see about that. We got plenty of fellas here waitin to knock yer teeth out. But if ya think ya got what it takes, Kid, I ain’t gonna stop ya. Let me show ya around a bit first, this place can get a little rough.

First off, yer gonna need to test yer skill shot. Hold down that launch button and see what ya get. I’d recommend the door prize, those can be pretty useful.

You wanna be the Pub Champ, I can see it in yer eyes, Kid. Well, to do that yer gonna have to go thru five of the toughest brutes around. I can’t say who’ll be here on a given night – might be Sir Winston Pounds, the English Gent. Maybe you’ll run up against old Knuckles O’Brien. Or maybe you’ll run into SteveO – I guarantee he’ll like ya real well, Kid.

Course ya can’t hop in the ring just like that. Ya wanna fight, ya gotta do a little trainin first. There’s the heavy bag, that’s in the middle there. And ya got yer jump rope up on the left and yer speed bag up on the right. Ya work on those a bit and hit Start Fight when it lights up.

That bag will spin around and you’ll be face to face with yer first opponent. Use the green hook ramps to land a few right on his kisser. Make sure ya don’t miss too much tho, cause he’ll be fightin back. That’s the general idea, Kid, but as long as I’ve got ya here, let me show ya a couple more things.

Ya got yer video modes. First there’s the poker night – that’s generally a door prize. If yer any good at cards ya might land yerself a multiball or even an extra ball, among other things. And then there’s the spittin gallery. Move that spittoon around and catch the spits. I’d recommend mostly holdin down the flippers, Kid, rather than just tappin em. And keep yer eye out for that extra ball.

Now don’t forget about yer multiballs. They can generally be stacked if yer into that. There’s the MultiBrawl, that’s pretty standard. Lock 3 balls and this pub goes ballistic! And then there’s the Fisticuffs multiball – that’s a 2 baller – just keep poundin the heavy bag fer that one. You’ve got Raid Multiball, that starts after ya win yer 3rd fight. Lastly there’s Champion Multiball – ya get that once you’ve become the Champ.

Well Kid, I’m running out of time. Ya gotta train and fight to be the Pub Champ. Ya gotta complete yer multiballs. But ya gotta remember to collect yer jackpots. Also, try out yer jab combos and see if ya can get a win by K.O. Ya do all these things and ya got yerself the Ultimate Challenge… I won’t even get into Cash Fights.

Alright Kid, I gotta run – this pub doesn’t run itself, ya know.

And hey… Kid… good luck.

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reviews

Sheriff Wanted

by DJ B00M

I never cared much for westerns as a kid. However, as an adult I can watch Unforgiven or The Magnificent Seven and appreciate the subtle acting, the beautiful locations and the straight forward “good versus evil” of the stories. But I think it was the “simpler times” aspect that drew me to Cactus Canyon.

Sure the game features four multi-balls, the pop up targets of the ‘bad guys’ (four in all), and even a shoot out at the OK Corral. But it’s the pacing, the sense of accomplishment that drives me to place dollar after dollar into the machine. Granted the game came out in 1998, and it was the last one that Bally/Midway made before the dreaded Pinball 2000 mess that was Mars and Star Wars. But it just has that certain something.

There are some pinball purists that will say that Cactus is nothing more than a toy, that it doesn’t have the true depth that a pin should have. True, it’s not that hard to play. True, the software has a few bugs in it. However, it’s also true that it has one of the best soundtracks I have ever run across, as well as some of the funniest dot graphics I’ve seen in a while. The playfield layout is perfect, and the art work on the machine draws you in from across the room. Then there is the voice work, which is worthy of any Paul Dini cartoon. This game is simply fun to play.

With over 20 modes, or stories, to complete this game always has something to shoot at. In fact, Rosie the barmaid says just that. “Honey, just shoot anything,” she croons. From saving Polly from the mine shaft to battling the Bart brothers, this game is a hoot! Sadly, only 903 of these games were made during the initial production run. A company in Australia is re-issuing the game, with a release date for later this year. But that’s what they said in ‘07.

Some people call it the best game ever or the Holy Grail of pinball. I just call it a good western.