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news & gossip reviews

Skill Shot # 5 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot issue 5, August 2008

Curiously, both Shorty’s and the Madison Pub replaced their Lord of the Rings with the new Indiana Jones pinball machine! Since both places were having problems with LotR, we guess it wasn’t a big surprise, though the Pub did take the new game as an opportunity to raise the prices of all their pinball machines to 75¢! They also recently raised the price of beer, and we’re left wondering what’s next: pay toilets?

While we are speaking of the Madison Pub, it has come to our attention that Stern’s new Batman pinball is going to be there soon. It’s going to be a classic Marvel versus DC (comics) battle, and it looks like DC is going to win! Apparently there’s some kind of delay at the factory because the game was originally supposed to be released in time for the new movie. Another thing that’s been delayed is the return of Gilligan’s Island to the Lava Lounge. It’s been gone so long now that people are beginning to think that we made it up, and that the Fish Tales has always been there!

And speaking of Fish Tales, there’s a new one in Seattle at the Comet Tavern! The Comet’s one of the oldest bars in Seattle, and back in the day they had a bunch of games, so it’s nice to see that pinball is back. Especially since the other pin they have is No Good Gofers, which we love. Meanwhile next door, the King Cobra has recently been put up for sale; let’s hope whoever buys the place keeps the pinball!

Did you go to the Northwest Pinball and Game Room Show at the beginning of the summer? It was a big success, and there are already plans for another one next year! Read our complete review of the show below. The next big pinball event in Seattle will be the 11th Annual Pinball Tournament at Shorty’s on November 9th, so mark it on your calendars now! And we’re not just saying that because they bought our back page ad either.

The Northwest Pinball and Game Room Show

June 6 -8 at the Seattle Center

The first annual NW Pinball Show was great fun with over 100 pinball machines all set at free play! It was only $25 for the weekend and we certainly got our money’s worth after being there all three days. The pins were from the 1960’s up to the most current Stern releases, with lots of both classic machines and some rarities (but no flipperless pins which we were hoping to see/play).

As soon as you entered the hall there was a long row of older electro-mechanical machines and it was really neat to see so many of these pins set up together. Their bells and buzzers and old school back glass art work were exciting to see and gave a cool first impression. Another area of the show that had older games was devoted to Silverage Silverball, owned by Dominique, who had a home-built machine opened up to display the mechanics involved. He also purchased the Sure Shot pinball machine to put into the Sure Shot Café in the U-District!

The show had many newer games that are not currently available to the Seattle public such as Star Gate, The Shadow, and Godzilla, as well as more accessible favorites like Guns N’ Roses, Centaur, No Fear and Attack from Mars. Older solid-state classics such as Eight Ball Delux, Firepower, and Black Knight were also represented throughout the hall.

While the new Indiana Jones and Shrek pins were understandably popular, the busiest part of the hall was the section that had the awesome line-up of Monster Bash, Theater of Magic, Medieval Madness, Tales of the Arabian Knights, Cactus Canyon, and Bay Watch. In this group, Bay Watch was the biggest curiosity for us because there isn’t one around town, so imagine our surprise when we got a “special” and saw the babes wiggling out of their pants on the dot matrix display: Hilarious!

Classic video games were also represented (Tron, Galaga, Asteroids, and of course Donkey Kong) and Steve Wiebe from the movie “The King of Kong” made an appearance during the weekend with a short talk and answering questions.

Steve Richie (currently at Stern) also had a well attended seminar about his many years working in the pinball industry. Mr. Richie is responsible for designing many classic games, most of which were grouped together at the show. Airborne Avenger, Flash, High Speed, Hyperball, and No Fear are among the games he worked on. Apparently Richie is working on a top secret pin due out in 2010. Rumor is that it will be based on the television show 24, but anyone who knows at this point is sworn to secrecy.

Another exciting part of the show was the IFPA Pinball Tournament that attracted players from around the country and Canada. Royal Flush, Harlem Globetrotters, Funhouse, Whirlwind, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Indiana Jones, and (Black Costume) Spider-Man were the games used for the contest which was won by Keith Elwin from Carlsbad, CA (the pro division) and 9 year old Garrett Dubofsky (in the novice tournament).

There were many raffles during the weekend, with the two notable ones being for Stern’s Pinball machine (won by a very excited woman) and a Black Spider-Man game won by our friend Keith Nelson! But one of the best things we saw this weekend were all the little kids playing pinball (some of them even carrying around their own stepstools: cute!). All in all the future of pinball is looking mighty fine after this great event.

Other notable Pins at the show:

Banzai Run had a motocross theme and a playfield that ran straight up the back glass.

Safe Cracker is a time based game; it would give you an unlimited number of balls as long as you could keep adding to your clock, so even if you didn’t drain the ball your game could still end if you ran out of “time.”

An Atari wide body Superman pinball (designed by Steve Richie) that had a ton of drop targets!

The Devil Riders was a game suffering on and off again malfunctions, and its playfield glass even shattered at one point.

Spectrum seems part pinball and part Master Mind (the board game). It didn’t have a plunger and the playfield was ringed with various color banks and ball traps. It’s a very unique and challenging game that we would love to play again (and again).

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reviews

Free Spin, Use It Or Lose It!

By Bernard Blvd.

What do Pat Sajak, buying vowels, and a generous “Free Spin” ball saved feature have in common? Wheel of Fortune pinball, that’s what! WoF is a recent addition to the Stern repertoire, and man, is it ever fun! It is a lot like the television show, which is fast-paced and exciting without being too cheesy… Well, maybe it is a little cheesy, but hey! Who cares when it is so flippin’ addictive?

The playfield is bright and colorful, and, of course, has a huge spinning prize wheel near the top. There are 3 contestants in the middle of the game towards the top, named Keith, Maria, and Lonnie. When you hit one of the characters, they make an attempt at solving the current puzzle by guessing letters, and the results are displayed on the screen. The best contestant is Maria, who is from California and shouts her letters like she is screaming at her mischievous kids. When she says “A!” it sounds like someone across the room is yelling “HEY!!!” Pretty funny.

The aforementioned Free Spin ball saved feature is awesome. The Free Spins are located under each side drain, and there are 2 on each side. That’s 4 possible saved balls! To light the Free Spins, you have to hit a drop down target or make the mini ramp when Free Spin is lit. If the ball goes down one of the side drains, if one or both of the Free Spins are lit and the ball rolls across that switch, you get another ball! This creates great suspense when one Free Spin is lit, because there is a rubber post that, if you shake the machine just right, can bounce the ball over the switch with the lit Free Spin. But WoF giveth and WoF taketh away: The center drain has a column of rubber posts right in the middle, and while it is useful for bouncing the ball back into the playfield, this feature creates a slightly larger drain hole between the flippers, and leaves 2 chances for the ball to go straight down the playfield and into the drain. This happens a lot when hitting the contestants straight on from the flippers. Unique feature, but is it fair? You decide.

Categories
news & gossip reviews

Sure Shot Classics

By Geoffro

Originally published in Skill Shot #4, Summer 2008

Maybe you’ve got a Jones for some pinball but you’ve already been down to Shorty’s three times this week. Or maybe you want to shoot a game or two and it also happens to be time for your once-a-month departure from Capitol Hill. Maybe you’re looking to drift back to a time before games took $5 bills and scored in the bazillions. Or maybe you’re just bored, dammit. In any case, a trip to the U-District for some pinball is never a bad idea, and the first games to head for are the 3 vintage pinball machines tucked away in the back room of the Sureshot Cafe.

You’ll find this coffee shop just off the corner of 45th and University. After purchasing a cup of Joe, wander on back to the game room. It is home to a number of classic arcades, as well as the occasional extra table or chair, but the centerpieces are definitely the pinball machines. On the far left is Wizard, originally manufactured by Bally in 1975. And yes, it is based on the movie Tommy. Wizard’s stand-out features are 4 flip flags on the right side of the playfield. The general idea is to flip these flags, primarily by hitting their corresponding stand up targets. After flipping as many flags as possible, shoot for the kick-out hole in the upper area of the playfield. Then merrily watch as it punches the ball down the right lane, resetting the flags and activating their various bonuses. Just one little quarter gives you 5 chances to do this as much as you can! Up to 4 pinball wizards can play at a time.

To the right of Wizard is another game by Bally from 1975, Hocus Pocus. It’s the only 2 player game in the room, and also unlike its counterparts, yields just 3 balls per game rather than 5, but it is possibly the most fun. The goal in Hocus Pocus is quite straightforward. There are 4 lit lanes in the upper playfield – A, B, C, and D. Once the ball has rolled down a lane, the letter goes out (various switches and targets accomplish this as well). Get A, B, C, and D all unlit and they reset, while you collect your prize. This can often be an extra ball or even a replay! A particularly satisfying feature of Hocus Pocus is going “over the top” (scoring 100,000 points), and listening to the machine buzz loudly for 5 to 10 seconds. Simply magical!

The third machine in the room is Space Mission, made by Williams in 1976. The central feature of Space Mission is obvious. It’s the “swinging target” plopped smack dab in the middle of the playfield, and the game revolves solely around it – like the earth around the sun… Also somewhat unique to this machine are the two ball kickers just outside of each flipper. Any ball that falls in one of these is immediately shot back out towards the swinging target, for better or worse. At times, hitting the target will cause “Extra Ball” to become unlit. Most of the time, however, hitting the target – without draining – yields positive results. Mastering this is the key to Space Mission.

All three games are nicely restored and, generally speaking, very well maintained. They’re refreshingly simple, and there’s something very pleasing about their primitive ticks and dings. In a city of ever-breaking and disappearing machines, it’s nice to know that these 3 relics continue to stand the test of time.

Sureshot Café is located at 4505 University Way NE

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reviews

A Family Affair

By Bernard Blvd.

“It seems today that all you see is violence on movies and sex on TV…” And in a pinball game! It’s Family Guy pinball, distributed by Stern. If you are familiar with the show that the game is based on, you are in for hours of fun with Family Guy pinball. If you aren’t familiar with the show, watch Fox on Sundays to see new episodes of the show that got cancelled and returned years later due to the demand of fans. The whole Griffin family is here: Peter, Lois, Meg, Chris, Stewie, and Brian. Many other characters show up to play, even Quagmire. Giggity-giggity!

The playfield is fun and very animated, with each family member represented by a plastic model that denotes their area of the game. Lois stands next to a ramp entrance that has a spinning picture of her face. Peter stands on a bumper behind Brian, who is on top of a Pawtucket Patriot beer can. Chris is directly next to his dad, behind the ramp that threatens to start the “Evil Monkey” feature. Stewie of course stands near Lois and Meg is alone on the left side, and if you hit the target beneath her, she usually gets hit in the face with something on the display and whines about it.

The game has four main features: TV modes, Beer Can modes, Fart Multiball, and Stewie Pinball. The TV modes are shown directly above the flippers, and include “Sexy Party” and “Chicken Fight.” These are activated by spinning the Lois picture and then sinking the ball into the TV “scoop”. The Beer Can modes are displayed directly below Brian on his beer can, and include “Happy Hour” and “Lard Multiball” (two balls). Hitting the beer will get these modes going. Fart Multiball (three balls) is activated by knocking down the four drop targets that spell out “FART” three times. Family Guy’s skill shot is hitting the “F” in “FART” after pulling the plunger, so practicing this skill shot helps to advance you toward Fart Multi-ball.

Stewie Pin-ball is the best feature of the game, utilizing a second, smaller playfield located in the top right corner. To get to this mode, you have to hit the two trapped balls that border the TV, or hit the scoop itself. When the lights that spell out “PINBALL” are all lit, putting the ball in the hole activates Stewie Pinball, and the regular play-field is temporarily turned off. To advance you hit the ramps or targets to spell out each family member’s name. Be careful, because the flippers are shorter, and the ball tends to jump over them into the drain, especially after rounding the Lois ramp. There is a 15 second “shoot again” limit, which can be extended if you hit the somewhat hidden Stewie targets before hand (look for them next to the word Stewie!). If you can keep the last ball in play, you have no time limit and once all the family members are lit, you have activated Stewie Multiball! This is a four ball multiball that incorporates both playfields, although it is wise to concentrate only on the main playfield and flippers. This feature looks like a lot of fun, but since I have yet to get to it (not for lack of trying…a lot), I have to rely on both of my talented Skill Shot collaborators to “show me how it’s done”.

The features, modes, and jackpots are plentiful. The music and sounds are a direct reminder of the reason this game is so much fun, which is Family Guy: the little TV show on Fox that could.

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reviews

A Monstrous Good Time!

by DJ Boom

Nothing beats a good monster movie, and nothing beats a good pinball game. What happens when you combine the two? You get Monster Bash. (dramatic music) All the classic monsters from Universal Studios are here. Wolfman, Dracula, Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, his Bride, even that guy in the wet suit with zippers shows up. What are they up to? Well it’s the classic story, Drac is trying to get the band back together and he needs your help.(more dramatic music)

At first glance the play field seems pretty standard, but then you plop in that first quarter, hit the ball a few times, next thing you know your going to the bank getting a cash advance. Yep, it’s that good. Now most pinball games have two to three multi balls, and Monster Bash is no exception. Clocking it a three, you get Mosh Pit multi ball, Monster Bash multi ball, and the big one, Monsters of Rock multi ball. Rock is the hardest to get, but it’s worth it! I’m still picking at the blister.

Fast paced and addictive this game is a hoot. One of my favorite features is Phantom Flip. According to Williams web site, “Is the game haunted? Is it possessed? No, it’s Phantom Flip! Hit each of the blue Phantom Flip standup targets to light Phantom Flip. The ball return lanes will light, indicating the Phantom is ready to do its work. Phantom Flip will automatically decide which shot is the best, and try to make it for you automatically! Keep those hands away and watch the spooky action!” An auto shot from a flipper? Pretty cool stuff for 1998 when the game came out.

Style. This game has a lot of it. From the bobbing head of the Bride, to the lights in Frankenstein’s lab, this is one slick looking game. How can you argue with a game that has Dracula saying ‘ Jump back, kiss myself, blah! Or my personal favorite, which has Drac moving around the play field taunting you with “I will mesmerize you with my semi-circular movement!” Even the Mummy gets to take a shot at ya with “Back in my day we didn’t have Jackpots”

With solid game play, a sleek look, nice sound and music this game is hard to find fault with. However, it does have one very annoying habit of getting the ball stuck behind Drac. Then as the machine goes through the paces of finding it, Drac will move around the play field, releasing the ball. Directly down the center. Sigh, oh well, ya can’t win them all.