news & gossip

Skill Shot Top 12

Our current favorite pins; we asked a few friends what they thought about them too.
Originally published in Skill Shot issue 12, February 2010

Cactus Canyon – It’s fun but tends to be more highly regarded because it’s rare. I wish they’d finished the software, there was supposed to be a final Bart brother to fight at the end. Bionic Bart, I think. (JG) The gun fight with the drop targets popping up out of the playfield is my favorite part. (GG) “Shoot that bad guy!” (NL)

The Champion Pub – A celebration of stereotypes! How many video modes does this game have? (NL)  The Spitting Gallery is great, that’s why I play this game. The pinball part is fun too. (GG) “Flip, kid, flip!” (BB)

Family Guy – Bouncy, with a chance of Stewie Pinball. One of my favorites of the new(ish) Stern games, although it shows the path Stern started down in making boring playfield layouts. One of the easiest games to get a free replay (or 3) on in Shorty’s right now even though you must invest 75¢ to begin with. (CB) I like to puke on Meg and make her cry. (BB)

Star Trek: the Next Generation – Steve Ritchie’s best game, it’s really well rounded. There are multiple strategies that pay off, and if you get a few going in the same game it’s a breakout score. (JG) When they work, the probes are my favorite part. (NL) The voices, music and different modes are great! I try to get the Holodeck every time I play. (GG)

Theatre of Magic – Pretty sweet game. I never finished the wizard mode… does it have a multiball? I like playing the different “tricks” and how each one has a different shot. (4PA) Very fun game but unfortunately the only winning strategy is to shoot the left orbit a million times. (KM)

Fish Tales – I like how you can charge up the center captive ball for sweet awards (even stacking Rock the Boat w/ multiball). And the video mode is the best. (4PA) Tough game but unbalanced scoring. The really big points are in super jackpots, so expert players will only play for that. Anyone less expert will only play for Monster Fish. Wasted potential in terms of competitive play. [But is it fun?] Yeah, for the most part. There’s very little lower playfield to work with so it feels cramped to me. (KM)

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein – It’s the fun-ist, ugliest game I know. I saw Kenneth Branagh on the back glass and I said “No! No! No!” (NL) I was at Sega when it was designed and built. I’m not fond of it. The stand-ups are flakey and the ramp is way too steep. The graphics are great – done by friends of mineJ (KM) It’s a fun game and the one at The Lookout is hard to tilt. (GG)

Spectrum – I love this game and wish there were more of them. I don’t think I’ve ever solved the code, I think you have to hear what the game is saying. (GG)  Beautiful game. Cover image of Skill Shot 6.5.  I love how there’s no plunger. “Guess the computer’s color code!” There’s no game like it.  I want one!  I love Spectrum. (BB)

Wheel of Fortune – It’s ugly, has a lame theme and sound. Cool design from the slingshots down though. A couple of the bonus wheel modes are killer. Had a 5-way combo worth about 100M once. Stacking the multiballs would be better if the jackpot lights weren’t all f####d up. (JG) Tough game, not one I’ve had much success with.
I think it’s surprisingly good considering the unusual theme. (KM)

NBA It’s really simple, not suitable for expert players, but novices seem to like it just fine. (KM) Every time I see it at Shorty’s I’m tempted to shit on it, then light it on fire. (JG) I play it every time I’m there. (GG)  It’s so fast!  The loops are intense, and the spinning pad in the middle adds suspense. Shooting a basket is like magic! (BB) Johnson. (NL)

Monster Bash – A great game. So cool that each shot is a different monster, and that you can keep advancing each simultaneously (except during Frankie multiball, but then the timer stops). After watching Cayle, I learned that the shot sequence during Monsters of Rock is pretty systematic for mega points if you can hit them.
The scoop awards are good too, spotting stuff you need when ya need it. (4PA)

Attack From Mars – A great game. Ethnic stereotypes in pinball are always a bonus. Play through all of the saucers, you’ll hear what I’m talking about. Kinda like the boxers in Champion Pub. Great progression on the multiball, each super jackpot raises the jackpot value of that multiball and every other one for the rest of the game. Stacking Martian Multiball and Total Annihilation is lucrative. Trapping a ball behind the force field during multi-ball is like a license to steal points. (JG)

news & gossip

Skill Shot #12 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot issue 12, February 2010

Portland, Spokane, Vancouver BC – pinball players from all over the Pacific NW came to Seattle on November 14th and 15th for The 12th Annual Shorty’s Pinball Tournament. Portland’s CFF crew did well this year, especially Slam Tilt who went up against last year’s winner, Seattle’s Cayle George, in the final match up. But once again, Cayle couldn’t be beat and he drove away with the grand prize: a Barracora pinball machine! Sure, the tournament was a little disorganized at times, purses were stolen, bang backs employed, and fruits were fruity, but the event was fun and the extra day gave everyone more of a chance to get to know each other. Another thing that was different this year was that Shorty’s didn’t replace one of the pins at the last minute like they have done in the past, despite all the rumors indicating otherwise.

In other tournament news, the Seattle Pinball League is starting to pick up some steam, with over 70 players attending the tournament January 16th at Todd MacCulloch’s house. The SPL uses VRPA (Vancouver Regional Pinball Association) tournament rules which group players according to skill level during the qualifying rounds and is different from what most people are used to. Some member of the (somewhat secretive) Black Dragon Organization suffered crushing humiliation which has now led to a reevaluation of their approach to pinball (it had nothing to do with the really tilty machines). Ultimately, Vancouver’s Angelo Muro walked away with the win (go figure). It was a great time and the SPL has other tournaments planned for almost every month this year, so if you like to get up early on Saturdays, check out their website:

Dominique of Silver Age Silver Ball will be debuting his handmade one-of-a-kind EM pin Galactic Girl at a tournament to be held at Tiger Lounge on February 28th. Dominique has been building this game for awhile now so we are excited to finally see the finished product, even if his flyer leaves us a little cold. The tourney will be played on all EM games and starts at 4 PM with a 15 player limit, so be sure to get there on time if you want to participate.

Another upcoming tournament will be the Tommy Pinball Tournament at Shorty’s on April 1st. Hosted by longtime tournament official Larry Reid, no one is quite sure what he means by Tommy pinball. Blind? Deaf? Most assuredly dumb. And you know that we will be there! Also, you may very well be reading these words at the 2nd Annual Georgetown Pinball Tournament (January 31st) which, like last year, will be held at Jules Maes, Calamity Jane’s, and 9LB Hammer. We wonder if Stellar Pizza realizes that it’s happening this year and will have working pins and quarters? Find out next issue!

Did you know that Wheel of Fortune finally resurfaced at Beth’s Café? Avout of Shorty’s has taken over that location (and Duck Island Ale next door) so the pins will be in better condition than the last time you were there. We wanted to go there on Christmas, but since no one answered the phone we decided that they were closed (despite a note on their door saying otherwise the day before). The Zoo Tavern was also on our list of potential X-mas fun, but an article in The Stranger led us to believe they would be open hours earlier than they actually were. Gameworks was open though, so we decided to give that place another chance and were pleasantly surprised by a working Sopranos and giant $4 beers (during happy hour). While the other 3 games there had some issues, it wasn’t as bad as we remember and 4 balls per game was an interesting touch.

Another interesting touch happened later that same night when we went to Madison Pub and discovered free pinball! Word of free games texted out and soon it was like a mini Shorty’s on Capitol Hill, which eventually took most of us to an all night pinball party at Headley’s apartment to play his Future Spa and other games. It was a pinball Christmas!

In other Capitol Hill news: We went to the soon-to-be-open Unicorn recently to chat up Adam the owner about his future plans concerning pinball there. While he wants a lot of pinball and has a large area in the basement for it, the sad news is that it may be 4 months to a year before this becomes a reality, due to construction costs and other factors. Be sure to go there once they open to help them raise some cash and be sure to mention pinball!

In other sad news: The Bit Saloon has closed its doors recently and, curiously, so has Add-a-Ball Amusements. Add-a-Ball’s departure is curious because Brad the owner abruptly began selling his pins on craigslist with the intention of starting a television studio in its place. We wonder what kind of programming he has in mind. Talking cats?? If you are wondering what happened to the Jumping Jack, it has resurfaced at the Josephine in Ballard. Luckily, that game was owned by Dominique and not sold or put into storage. See our Pinball List for more details.

Another classic machine that may soon be publicly available is a Banzai Run that Bobby Conover may add to his arcade game collection at Pink Gorilla in the U-district. That one’s not on our List yet, but if they add pinball, they will be. Another place that’s not on our List is the new Full Tilt Ice Cream that opened recently. Unlike the other Full Tilts, this one is apparently too small for a pinball machine, which makes us wonder: is anywhere too small for a Baby Pac-Man?

Big news is that Stern’s newest game Big Buck Hunter is soon to be released. There are photos of it online so it’s only a matter of time before one shows up somewhere. We’ve heard that the next pin after that will be Iron Man 2, which is slated for release when the movie comes out this summer. Will either of them have a skill shot this time?

And speaking of Skill Shot! Have you seen our new t-shirt yet? It features the cover of issue #11 (Frankenstein) and should be available for awhile, although some sizes are selling fast. Ask or email us for details. We are also working on a Skill Shot Pinball Party Bus tour for some time this spring. If we keep the number of riders to less than 20, it may cost close to $20 per person! So let us know what you think about that. Coming up next issue: Exciting news about our revised website (and Pinball List) and details on this year’s NW Pinball and Game Room Show.

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news & gossip tips & tricks

Medieval Madness

Why The Castle is a Good Strategy for Tournament Games

by 4th Place Andy

Castle payouts are on a fixed schedule, and there’s no way to botch it (as opposed to getting stuck with a 2-ball multiball when you were trying to light up catapult+joust+peasant+damsel). They pay out regularly (gate hits award nice points, and destroying castles are huge) plus there is that extra ball at the 2nd castle. After 4 hits, you’ve already destroyed one castle for 2.4M points. That’s 600K per hit! 4 shots to the peasant ramp scores you only 250K and lights a weak multiball (100K Jackpots, 400K Super Jackpots). Why not keep shooting the castle – after another 6 shots you’ve earned another 4.6M points. You’d have to hit 11 Super Jackpots during your multiball to get that many points.
6 shots is less than 11 shots.

After your 28th castle hit, you have earned a cumulative 22.8M, which is nearly a replay, for an average of 814K per shot! You need to get 4 multiballs stacked (ie catapult+joust+peasant+damsel simultaneously) to beat that with an 850K Super Jackpot. And still you only get that scoring while multiball is active. You keep getting massive points per shot with the castle throughout the whole game. The only dry spells are when you shoot the moat. At your 54th castle hit, you defeat the King of Pain, which awards 20M on top of the 41M you’ve already received from castle hits. Assuming you have not gotten all of the blue lights, you move to a “Castle Bonus” mode where the drawbridge is always down, gate hits score 750K, and every 7th shot or so you get 7.5M for destroying the castle. Now if you put me in a situation where I could get a guaranteed 750K, or I could try to build up my multiball for a chance to collect similarly-sized Super Jackpots, I’d just shoot the castle. It’s like getting multiball scoring in single ball play. And the best reason to always shoot the castle: If/when you miss, the ball does not go near the slingshots or outlanes, not to mention that you only have to practice one shot, so your accuracy should get very high.