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