Originally published in Skill Shot 27, January 2013
White Water combines a great theme with an excellent design. Every shot feels extremely satisfying and decidedly unique, from the wavy Insanity Falls ramp to the Disaster Drop hidden orbit that “drops” off the left rear of the playfield. The spinning Bigfoot serves as a diverter for the whirlpool shot, pushing and pulling the metal guide in and out to bring the ball around to the whirlpool or the return ramp in Bigfoot Hotfoot mode. The music changes and increases in intensity and tempo as you advance the rafts towards Wet Willie’s. Many of the callouts like Bigfoot’s roar upon shooting the Whirlpool are pricelessly cheesy. There are also great dot matrix animations, from the whirlpool scenes to Bigfoot’s backflip into the water when you get a replay.
But it wouldn’t be a truly great game without an equally awesome ruleset. The main goal of the game is to advance a set of rafts by way of a sequence of playfield inserts, eventually reaching Wet Willie’s River Ranch by completing hazard shots marked by flashing arrows along various ramps and orbits. When a raft completes all the hazards, a new set of hazards is lit and the player advances to the next raft.
Shoot Insanity Falls to light the Whirlpool Awards, then shoot the whirlpool to collect the Whirlpool Challenge (a two-ball multiball mode in which repeated whirlpool shots collect increasing amounts of points), Man Overboard (a hurry-up to shoot any lit hazard), Light Extra Ball, Advance Raft, 5x Playfield, and Mystery Award.
Advance Raft should be saved until immediately after a player starts a new raft, allowing the player to skip up to 6 or 7 shots! 5x Playfield can be stacked with multiball for ridiculously huge 100mil+ jackpots or with Bigfoot Hotfoot for 50mil shots to the whirlpool! Multiball is great, requiring the player to make three Insanity Falls shots in a row to determine whether they will play for single, double, or triple jackpots.
You can still advance the rafts with hazard shots during multiball, which is a nice and safe opportunity to complete any potentially dangerous hazard shots. The Disaster Drop hazard awards free hazards and raft advances, which works well to combat the inherent riskiness of shooting orbits that can potentially feed the ball directly to the outlanes. The game keeps players coming back with the Vacation Jackpot, an extremely difficult wizard award that has one of the coolest light shows in pinball.
White Water is great for beginners and competitive play because most shots feed the ball safely back to the flippers. If you’re good enough, it’s possible to play endlessly. But the game can certainly be punishing when you miss a shot to the Spine Chiller ramp or slam haphazardly on the lock targets.
Unlike a lot of so-called “A-List” games with great themes but not much substance, White Water pulls everything together to make a compelling and unique experience. Full Tilt’s Ballard location is your best bet to play White Water in Seattle, where 20XX Amusements operates an extremely minty one! Go check it out, and as always, play more pinball!