tips & tricks

Basic Pinball Arsenal

by Uglúk

So, you love pinball but can’t seem to get awesome scores on your favorite game? I can tell what you’re doing wrong, flailer. First of all, stop pounding on the flippers all the damn time! UNLESS you’re attempting a…

  • SLAP SAVE  – This desperation technique is reserved for when the ball appears to be careening straight down the middle (SDTFM). Slap the nearest flipper first and then the other flipper immediately next. Hopefully that slap will help graze the ball enough for the second flipper to shoot the ball safely away from the center drain. A little side nudge could help. Don’t flip the flippers at the same time and don’t tilt.
  • BOUNCE PASS/DEAD FLIPPER  – Pretty self explanatory here. Rather than flipping away at every ball, lay off the button and let the incoming ball bounce off one flipper across to the other flipper. This move requires a lot of experimentation until you figure out the angles that work but the middle of the flipper is usually safe for bounce passes. A little nudge can help here as well. Once it bounces over to the other flipper you should have a nice controlled shot or for ultimate control, you can trap the ball (umm… that’s holding the ball with the flipper up).


-Watch other pinball players, especially the good ones. You might learn something.

-Keep your freakin’ hands on the machine.

-Keep your fingers light, don’t hold in the buttons so long.

news & gossip reviews

Right Here Right Now

By Bernard Blvd.

Introducing another great new way to play pinball:  Skill Shot’s NOW!  The point of NOW! is to switch players mid-turn with whoever happens to be playing and standing closest to you.  When you reach a point during play where the ball is suspended for a period of time, loudly say “NOW!” and the player you choose to go next hops onto the flippers.  In choosing that player, you must believe in their ability to keep the ball in play, and to not get caught off guard and drain the ball immediately.  The surprise of the switch can sometimes throw people off, so everyone playing has to be prepared to jump in when they hear “NOW!”.

A good time to shout “NOW!” would be before a multiball (when the ball is locked and the dot-matrix display is going multiball crazy), when the ball lands in a scoop, or when the game starts up a mode.  More advanced players of NOW! can do it when the ball goes around a ramp or even when it is going up the playfield after hitting the flipper.  This last option leaves little time for the next player to react, so remember to only do that move if they are an expert of the game.

NOW! is great for playing with people in a bar or social setting, because you can stop playing in the middle of your turn without wasting the ball or giving up the game.  This might free you up when a friend shows up that you want to talk to, or if it is your turn to buy the next pitcher and your friends are getting thirsty.  NOW! is a Round and Round type of game, as the nature of it doesn’t allow for score keeping or typical three ball games.  NOW! is a fun way to interact socially while practicing America’s favorite pastime, Pinball!

Coming up next:  Dollars!

news & gossip

Skill Shot #8 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot issue 8, April 2009

Tragedy struck the Seattle pinball community on February 25th when a fire devastated the Hooverville bar and its collection of pinball and arcade games. According to the Seattle Fire Department the fire was caused when a ceiling fan on the second floor mezzanine overheated. While the fire was contained to the second floor, the smoke and water damage to the bar and its contents was extensive, causing an estimated $400,000 in damages.

The four pinball machines located at Hooverville at the time of the fire were Spider-man, The Getaway: High Speed 2, Twilight Zone, and Centaur. Although the fire was on the second floor, the mezzanine was directly above the pinball area which resulted in a lot of water pouring down on the games as the Fire Department extinguished the blaze. Besides the water, the smoke damage to the machines was considerable. According to Avout of Shorty’s who owns the games, it looked as if someone had spray painted the machines black, both inside and out!

The extent of the smoke damage to the games is still unknown at this point, because while the soot can be wiped away on the metal and glass parts, the plastic pieces of the games have a tendency to suck it up. Besides making everything stink, smoke also has a corrosive effect on the parts and Avout is unsure whether he will be able to coax any of the games back to life.

Although the destruction of any pinball machine is sad, it is the loss of Centaur that has hit Seattle the hardest. Not only is Centaur a rare machine, Hooverville’s was the only one available to the general public and helped make that bar a destination for many of the area’s pinball players. Manufactured in 1981, Centaur is a great game to play with its “orb” multi-ball feature that is both challenging and fun (if you can get it), but it is the artwork on the machine that is its most striking feature. Like the name implies, a centaur is the main focus of the backglass art, except instead of half man and half horse like a mythological centaur would be, the pinball Centaur is half (monster) man and half motorcycle, with the predictable “babe” along for the ride. The playfield art is also memorable and details of it were featured on the two different covers to Skill Shot #6. (Amazingly, un-burnt copies of Skill Shot #6.5 were discovered in the ruins of the bar later in the week. Thank you Jesus!)

Although unconfirmed at this time, according to posts on The Stranger’s SLOG, owners Todd and Billy plan on rebuilding and hope to have Hooverville reopened in the near future.

Pinball machines to be announced…

The 1st Annual Georgetown Pinball Tournament happened on Sunday February 22 and was a success with 56 contestants and almost as many onlookers attending. This tournament was set up much like the Annual Shorty’s Tournament (with the exact same rule sheet) but went quite a bit smoother due to the fewer number of contestants and the fact that it was spread out among three bars (Jules Maes, Calamity Jane’s and The 9LB Hammer).

9LB Hammer had recently enlarged the game room section and added two more pins for the event (The Getaway: High Speed 2 and Monster Bash). The expanded room is sweet and we enjoyed the time we spent hanging out there talking to members of Dead Baby Bikes and Kelsey from Tacoma who was competing to be the most drunken contestant.

At Calamity Jane’s we lusted over the Jack-Bot pin we couldn’t play (since we weren’t contestants), and marveled that Avout switched the Hurricane pin for Junk Yard which was the second one in the tourney. We’re happy that this Junk Yard has found a new home after being bumped from Shorty’s, but since there was already one nearby our excitement was a bit restrained.

Most of the Skill Shot staff made an appearance and we spent much of our time handing out copies of our zines Skill Shot, Chicken With Penis and stickers/lighters. A side trip took us to Stellar Pizza where we were determined to actually play some pinball, but were deterred due to a broken Indiana Jones (which ate our money) and the lack of quarters from the staff (a waitress changed a dollar for us after we begged)! Didn’t they realize that there was a big pinball thingy happening just a block away?? Ouch! Maybe we should have walked to the Georgetown Liquor Company instead.

Jules Maes was ground zero for the tournament and was where the scores and announcements were done. The open performance room gave extra elbow room for everyone, including customers who weren’t there for the pinball. Many pinball regulars attended, along with those we don’t see very often, including Zak who once co-owned the Hi-Score arcade on Cap Hill and the incomparable Tim Smith who was working to retain the most drunken contestant title. (He won!)

While we didn’t stay till the end we were there long enough to see Nycole Hyatt once again become the highest scoring female player. Some time after 10 PM Jeff Groper and Jason Hatch had a legendary battle on Elvira’s Scared Stiff, in which Jeff rose to the challenge and made it to the Scared Stiff mode on his second ball, winning the Tournament and the grand prize: a keg of beer!

Later in March, Jeff and his keg of beer were the guests of honor at a house party in South Seattle which had a lot of cool pins including Xenon, Laser War and many others. We practically forced people to compete in an impromptu Half and Half tournament (a game described last issue). Rod the host was super cool and didn’t seem to mind very much when our party stayed long after everyone else had left. Thanks for the ride, Maka!

In other tournament news: The First Annual Ground Kontrol Pinball Tournament is in Portland OR on Sunday April 19th. Ground Kontrol has the most pinball machines in the region (26!) and this event is sure to attract many excellent players, especially since this is the home turf of the Crazy Flipper Fingers pinball gang. On Sunday May 17th the semi-annual Seattle Powderpuff Tournament happens at Shorty’s which is sure to attract all the best female players in the area. See our back page ad for more details!

Breaking News: There is now circus music in the bathrooms at Shorty’s! The Evel Knievel pinball machine featured on the cover and list page of this issue can also be found there. Timmy recently broke his foot kicking the game while trying to save his ball. Haw haw. Speaking of classic games, Add-a-ball Amusements in Fremont is due to open soon and will focus on EM pinball machines. Dominique from Silver Age Silver Ball is locating some of his games there which so far include Jumping Jack, Space Mission and Surf Champ.

Another upcoming event is the 2nd Annual NW Pinball and Game Room Show at the Seattle Center June 12th – 14th. Last year’s show was awesome and had over 100 pinball and arcade games all set to free play (with the price of admission). We had a great time last year and have taken the whole weekend off from work for this year’s show in order to attend. If you like pinball you won’t want to miss it!

Stern Pinball released their latest game 24 recently to mostly good reviews. Seattle should see one at Shorty’s in the next month or so, which then raises the question of which game is getting bumped? (Our vote goes to Indiana Jones.) Big Buck Hunter and NBA are rumored to be the next two Stern releases, and speculation is that the company is trying to break into the Asian market, particularly China where anything NBA is extremely popular. Bola Salvada!

news & gossip reviews

Room For Cream?

By Bernard Boulevard

It’s time for another new fun way to play pinball:  Skill Shot’s newest creation, HALF AND HALF!!

Known to some players as Flippers, Half and Half is a great way to find out which flipper works best for you in a pinball game.  If you suck playing only the left flipper, you might see that right flipper in a different light.

Each player takes a flipper, and an (optional) third player pulls the plunger.  The object of the game is the same as with any ball in any pinball game:  Keep the ball in play! Novices will find it strange to have no control over the opposite flipper, while experienced players will learn how to control the ball in a way that involves trusting the other player’s ability.  Being able to guess your partner’s next move is a key factor.  If you know that they can hit the trapped balls for Stewie Pinball with ease, you can bounce the ball from your flipper to your partner’s to the best effect.  But you must be sure!  If your partner isn’t paying attention or doesn’t know what he’s doing (hello Jerry!), the ball will just roll down the drain.

Playing Half and Half is the best in bars, because you have a free hand for your beer.  No more getting poisoned!  And you can include friends that normally wouldn’t play (like with Round and Round) because there is very little commitment or chance for embarrassment.  Half and Half is basically a Round and Round style game:  Each ball speaks for itself.  You can play a full game with Half and Half, but each player has to commit to a flipper.  There’s just no way to regulate the game play and scores when everyone switches flippers all the time.  The fun is in the interactivity of the game.  You are face to face with your partner, and can share ideas on the game.  Teamwork makes the dream work!

Other reasons why Half and Half rocks:

  1. To get rid of the last ball of a player who’s name just got called for pool.
  2. You can take your friend’s turn while they’re making out.
  3. If your partner drains the ball, you can blame it all on him/her.
  4. If you drain the ball, you can blame all it on Half and Half.

Coming up next:  Skill Shot’s NOW!

news & gossip

Skill Shot #7 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot issue 7, Spring 2009

The 1st annual Georgetown Pinball Tournament takes place Sunday Feb. 22. Hosted by Larry Reid, who also hosts the Annual Shorty’s Tournament, it will have less contestants (32) and be held at three different bars: Jules Maes, Calamity Jane’s and the 9LB Hammer. The 9LB will have more pins for the event including Taxi, Monster Bash and maybe more. The weekly Sunday Tournament at Shorty’s will probably be canceled for that day but we’re not sure. What we are sure of is a bike thief tried to cut the lock off a bike chained out front a few of weeks ago. That asshole has balls!

Speaking of tournaments, another first is going to be at Ground Kontrol down in Portland OR on Sunday, April 19. Ground Kontrol sounds great (over 20 pins!). It’s hoped that Seattle players will make it down to compete, much like the Crazy Flipper Fingers crew occasionally come to Seattle. Some of the CFF guys were annoyed at us for the gossip in our Skill Shot #6.5 Special, but we think that’s all behind us now. If you missed #6.5 that’s because it was our first color issue and the added expense meant a lower print run. Copies are still available as part of the Skill Shot Collection mentioned elsewhere in this issue.

Also in this issue are photos taken at Cry Baby Studios where they have four vintage pinball machines (High Hand, Fire Queen, Pat Hand and Out of Sight). Both the cover and list pictures are from these machines (owned by Silver Age Silver Ball who also has pins at Sure Shot in the U-district). These pins are not open to the public so they’re not included on our List. A big Skill Shot thanks goes out to ELF at Cry Baby! In other Skill Shot happenings not open to the public, rumors are that one of us has a new girlfriend. Hold the presses: we thought we were all gay!

In other gay news: Madison Pub (aka Skill Shot Office East) has pinball you can play if you’re of drinking age. Roland the manager bought the back page ad of this issue, even though he was less than amused by our other zine, Chicken With Penis. Rumors are circulating that the Pub is going to switch out one of their games and we really hope that it’s Indy Jones and not Family Guy. The Twilight Exit is switching out everything as they finally move from their old location to their new digs at 26th and Cherry. No word on what their new pins are going to be, but there will be at least two of them. Maybe Fish Tales??

Other upcoming events: a Tuesday Night Pinball League at Full Tilt Ice Cream and The NW Pinball and Game Room Show 2009 (June 12-14) at Seattle Center (more details upcoming). Remember to check out our Myspace page for our most up to date Pinball List.

Support Local Pinball!


Uncover the Clues

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?

news & gossip

Skill Shot #6.5 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot 6.5 (Color Special), November 2008

The 11th Annual Pinball tournament at Shorty’s happened earlier this month and was a success. Not everyone was happy with the delays between games, but with 116 contestants and only 16 pins, well what do you expect? We had a great time hanging out with both old friends and new ones who we met that day.

Although the tournament drew in players from all over to compete, it was Seattle’s Cayle George who won the first place grand prize of a Gottlieb Sinbad pinball machine. There were other winners too! Nycole Hyatt won the women’s division ($$) and Tim Smith won the drunkest contestant award (a PBR snowboard). Woo hoo!

Someone who didn’t win this day was Slam Tilt from Portland’s Crazy Flipper Fingers (CFF) crew. He not only lost during the tournament, he also got a public hazing on Craig’s List Rants and Raves. According to the rant he wasn’t too happy about losing to “a girl” (for the second year in a row) and the mysterious author offered the opinion that it was similar to watching a painful sex act. While we didn’t observe any of the CFF guys competing that day, we have heard from a few of the local ladies that some of them were far from gracious towards them. Thus prompting the creation of a Seattle pinball crew: the Magic Flipper Friends (MFF). You go girls!

We recently made a new friend after being ejected from the Of Montreal concert at the Show Box Sodo for being too drunk: Dana the Bouncer. We can’t be angry at him for putting that big black X on our arm (which took four scrubbings to remove), because he was just doing his job. Once he cheerfully informed us that he is the proud owner of two pinball machines and that his father is a pinball collector also, all we can say is “when are we invited over?”

Speaking of be ejected: Stern Pinball recently laid off close to 50% of their staff. Seeing how Stern is the only pinball manufacturer making new pins these days, we are unsure what this means for the future of new games. CEO Gary Stern describes the lay offs as company “right sizing” and assures everyone that all is well with the company. The next two pins on the assembly line are C.S.I. and 24, and while it seems as if those are still coming out we’ll have to see what happens after that; hopefully tv fans are big pinball buyers!

In better news (we think): the sale of Piccolo’s Pizza didn’t go through, and at least three pins will be residing in their game room. Doctor Dude and Gold Ball (which was featured on the cover of Skill Shot#4) are there currently and we were left wondering what the third game is going to be, since the employee on the phone abruptly hung up on us. Ouch!


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