news & gossip

Stern vs Stern

Big Buck Hunter or Iron Man? What is it that makes you like one more than the other? They seem fairly similar at first glance. War Machine = Ram, The Big Buck moves and Iron Monger rises, they both have similar skill shots. Is it more an aesthetic thing or are the games that different?

The following comments are edited responses we received from Facebook

Brian Hasbro: I prefer Iron Man. The buck in Big Buck Hunter is often fidgety and takes a good thwack to register a hit on it, plus the track going right across the field changes the ball’s path, which is annoying. I really wanted to see the whole ‘aim for the bucks and avoid the does’ translated into pinball, the designers were just lazy and made a crappier version of the Scarecrow Crane from Batman. I’m not incredibly impressed with Iron Man either; the ramps should do more than they do, and Whiplash Multiball is a joke. You have to hit it 5 times and each time, it threatens to throw your ball directly into the drain and for what… 2 ball multiball? Psh. The 50 mil skill shot after completing everything in 1 ball is nice though, good money shot to aim for each game.

Jamie Beth: I haven’t really played either extensively, but I really don’t like BBH and I’ve enjoyed the handful of times I’ve Iron Manned. BBH is too drainy with a crappy flow. IM is way more funner and playable… and spinners are the bombdiggity..

Julie Gray: I’m not into hunting Bambi so I would prefer to play Ironman, but I feel that BBH is a better game with the unique Elk Multiball in that you hit and re light the left loop, and the skill shot is that interesting right extended target, and bird and ram shots that make it more intriguing. However, Ironman has a really great flow that makes you feel like you know how to play pinball because it is going so long. If someone said, “you could pay $100 to win either of these games”, I would pick Ironman. Downside, the ball often gets stuck on the middle playfield toys, and stops all of the wonderful flow.

Matt Brehe: I’m not crazy about either. However, when I have to, I play BBH over IM because it has a more interesting playfield. The lower playfield has double in-lanes on the right, which moves the flippers off-center a bit. There is also a lot more going on in the mid-field. Iron Man on the other hand is all focused on the upper playfield, and just overall feels overly symmetrical.

Weird Iron Man factoid I just learned from IPDB: “The four drop targets on the left-side represent the letters I-R-O-N and… the three drop targets on the right side represent M-A-N. David Thiel explains that the reason those letters do not appear on these targets is because it is a requirement of the license that the two words “IRON MAN” must never be shown separated from each other.”

4th Place Andy: At least it’s not like Shrek vs Family Guy. Yes, some games have very similar strategy+layout, see for example Attack From Mars vs Medieval Madness and Twilight Zone vs Addams Family. Bottom line is if it’s fun to play, there’s no reason to not have a similar game.

Jesse Thurston: IRONMAN!!!! So much more fun, better story and progression, and better general flow.

Anthony Brown: I prefer the Iron Man theme, and I enjoy blasting War Monger way more than shooting at a deer.

Aaron McAbee: Vegan. So, Iron Man.

Steve Cartoon: That depends on which one makes the more impressive SMASH after being pushed off a ten-story building…OK, it’d be Iron Man in my case. Killin’ thangs just ain’t my bag.

Maka Honig: Iron Man has two high-scoring “wizard” modes that require varied shots and a modicum of skill. That alone keeps me coming back for more, challenging = fun. BBH has a ruminant-toy that slides around. You’re supposed to shoot that thing, a lot. Completely unappealing theme (for me, anyways). I really tried to give Big Buck a chance but I can safely say I despise it now. Hail Iron Man!

Aaron Bendickson: Big Buck Hunter is definitely a fun game and I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to play one. However, when it comes to the game that I want to have in my home, the game my kids are going to be begging to play, Iron Man definitely has the advantage. It’s a combination of theme, aesthetics, audio/music & game play. The game just oozes excitement. It’s the total package.

Cheese Boat: Iron man! BBH pinball reminds me too much of the original BBH game – it’s too janky. The Ram shoots the ball straight down the drain far too often, the ball save light is too far down the drain to be able to see well, and there is a lot of colorful crap on the play field, but it doesn’t feel like there is a lot to hit. The ‘buck’ is set up in an awkward way across the play field, and the track the buck slides on makes the ball jump up & constantly hit the glass. The only thing to look forward to on the entire game is when you light up several multiballs in a row.

Iron man, on the other hand, has great game-play and can be challenging despite its basic field layout, yet fun for a first-time player. Iron Man does have its own issues, such as the Iron Monger sometimes catches the ball on the edge of the moving piece when it lowers.The issues Iron Man may have are a lot less frequent and annoying than BBH’s. It feels like they spent a lot more time designing Iron Man. Overall Iron Man wins hands down with a better design and more challenging game play. Even though these are the two newest Stern games, I don’t really think it’s fair to compare them. I would rate BBH more in a class with Stern’s Batman.

Aaron Bendickson: Iron Man FTW! BBH isn’t bad, but IM is the total package. Good art, great sound, fast fun & challenging game play.

news & gossip tips & tricks


by 4th Place Andy

Centaur is a fun classic pinball table. You can hear it taunting you from across the room, saying “Energize Me!” The black and white and red all over table art is beautiful. If you play at Shorty’s it is only 50¢ for 5 balls! So it is overall a very attractive game to practice. However, it probably plays a little different than other games you are used to playing. For starters, there are no extra balls. Bummer! The next difference is that there is no extra scoring for multiball–no score multipliers, like on Fathom, nor any Jackpots, like most multiball-equipped tables. Therefore, I like to think of it that you are ALWAYS in multiball. The reason for this is because you can, at any time (regardless of how many balls you have in play), lock balls or release locked balls or even add a ball! So don’t get too bogged down on how many balls you have, every shot still scores the same. Here are the ways to lock/release/add balls:

To lock a ball– Shoot the O-R-B-S targets, in any order. One of the orange “captive ball” targets (1-2-3-4) will light up to show you how many balls you have locked. When you hit each target once, they reset and can be completed again for another lock, up to a maximum of 4 simultaneous locks. Note: these are virtual ball locks, so you will not see a pinball physically restrained.

To instantly add a ball– either A) Complete the four lower blue lanes (“Guardian Releases Power Orb”) or B) Shoot the O-R-B-S targets, in that order. Orbs… Pinballs… same thing, right? Option B also locks a ball, as mentioned above. Remember, you can add a ball during single ball play to get two balls on the playfield at once, or during a multiball you can add another ball! Option A is great when one of your pinballs is going down the left or right outlane–if you can rotate the lit blue lights so that you roll over and light the last blue light, another ball is launched automatically. What a great way to save your game when you are about to drain your last ball!

To release all captive (locked) balls , there is a little more prep work required. Release Option I: Complete the right bank of drop targets in order (1-2-3-4) to light the orange “Release Power Orbs” shot on the upper right. You can shoot the upper right white stand-up target (with playfield green light) to spot a number, and the middle left white stand-up target (with playfield green light) resets them if you accidentally hit one out of sequence. Once the “Release Power Orbs” light is lit, shoot the upper right shot to release all of your locked balls. The game will say “Orb Release Sequence Activated!” Release Option II: Complete the Queen’s Chamber. This is the mini playfield on the upper left-hand side that can only be accessed by hitting the captive ball hard enough to send it up to collide with the drop targets. Once all drop targets are completed, the top-most stand-up target alternates between “Release Power Orbs” and “Special” for the remainder of your ball. Release Option III: During ball 5 of every game, the top right “Release Power Orbs” shot automatically lights and unlights approximately every 2 seconds. This is a good last chance effort to get a multiball even if you were unable to strike 1-2-3-4 in sequence.

Using the above techniques, it should be pretty easy to start a multiball and keep it going indefinitely! The game scores rather slowly, so be prepared to play for a long time if you want to get a high score. If you are attempting to roll the score over, expect about 30-60 minutes of continuous play to get 10 million points. Good luck destroying Centaur!

news & gossip

Skill Shot #15 News & Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot 15, August 2010

For the third year in a row, summer in Seattle began with the NW Pinball and Gameroom Show (PAGS) at Seattle Center on June 11 – 13th. We always have a great time at this event, and this year was even better when we were allowed in the night before the show started to take pictures of Black Hole for the cover! It was fun and interesting to see everything that goes on the night before the show with pins being assembled, leveled, and fine-tuned for the big opening. Naturally, we played a bunch of games and also found more cool pin-art to take photos of for future issues. Big thanks to Rod Olson and James Edes for the VIP treatment!

If you don’t already know, all the games at PAGS are supplied by private collectors from around the Pacific Northwest. There were lots of great games that we rarely see anywhere else, such as Mousin’ Around, Spectrum, and Banzai Run, as well as local favorites that are usually broken, like Doctor Who and Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. While some popular pins were missing from the line-up, there were plenty of cool games that were new to PAGS this year, like River Boat Gambler, Ice Fever, and Class of 1812 (featuring a huge beating heart!).

Other games that had neat gimmicks included Hollywood (with multiple kick-outs) and 4 NBA Fastbreak machines, with 2 of them connected together for two-player matches. One of the NBAs was also a raffle prize this year (along with a Congo pin)! Some machines were also for sale such as Super Mario Bros. and Vector (which was purchased by Brian Hasbro). Besides buying pinball machines, a current trend seems to be people making their own games, and Galactic Girl and Cosmic Colony were the examples this year. We’ve seen and heard of others working on their own pin designs, and we expect there to be more of them next year. Right, CIB?

On Saturday, guest speakers such as George Gomez (designer of Lord of the Rings), John Trudeau (designer of Bride of Pinbot), and Steve Wiebe (star of The King of Kong) gave talks, and Headley hosted a spontaneous outside BBQ. The finals of the pinball tournaments were Sunday, with Zoe Vrabel winning the Women’s Championship and Keith Elwin winning the Northwest Pinball Championship after a nail-biting finish against Robert Gagno, Cayle George, and one of the Sharpe Brothers, that lasted well after PAGS was over and people were loading out their games. The whole weekend was a blast and we look forward to going again next year. Thanks Dan!

Meanwhile, The Seattle Pinball League keeps gathering new members and having fun events on a monthly basis. The July meeting/tournament was at Mitch’s house and was a Bally-only event that also incorporated Pinball Golf into the format. It sounded like loads of fun and we are sorry we missed it! (Damn those Saturday tournaments.) The previous month’s meeting was held at Rod’s house and we also missed that, but we did make it to his 4th of July Pinball Party a week later, which had all of the machines still set up. That was a great party with fireworks, hoola hoops, countertop dancing, and lotsa pinball! The Cartoons were also celebrating their 10th anniversary that day and Cathy surprised Steve with the Chicago Coins’ Hollywood pinball machine that we had previously admired at PAGS. What a great gift!

Another great gift was when all the folks came out to the Skill Shot Folding Party we had at The Lookout for our last issue. We played pinball, drank PBR, and watched Sagel beat ELF’s high score on the Frankenstein machine. You might remember that that was our first The One To Beat (TOTB) contest back in issue #11, and until the folding party, no one had been able to Grand Champ ELF’s score. Too bad for DOC that we’ve since moved on and that pin is no longer our featured TOTB machine. Speaking of which, we guess that maybe LWL’s high score on Cactus Canyon at Bandits was unbeatable after all (especially once the ramp stopped registering), and now we’ve moved TOTB to Terminator 2 at Al’s Tavern in Wallingford (sorry, Geoffro).

In other Wallingford news: Sock Monster, the sock store with a The Addams Family pinball machine, is soon to be pinball-less. They had it so briefly that they never even made it on our Seattle Pinball List. We’re pretty sure that that was the game formerly at The Owl and Thistle, whose patrons were so upset when the pin was removed, they created a Face Book page about it. Another notable case of a moved game is the KISS pin that was formerly at The Feedback and now seems to be at Radar Records. We can’t imagine that there is more than one KISS pin on location in Seattle.

Speaking of Face Book, the Skill Shot page has been buzzing with activity lately, with readers posting about broken and/or new pins. For example, Kimberly Morrison went to Stellar Pizza recently to play Demolition Man, only to find one of the flippers broken in half and the machine still on! It’s good to know what the pins are like before you travel across town to play them, so if you have something to report, go to our FB page and share your observations. We also have current news, gossip, and links to other pinball maps.

Pinball Tidbits: Seattle may soon have a Pinball Museum in Pioneer Square; Tacoma will soon have a new spot called Dorky’s Barcade; Centaur has (sort of) been reborn after the Hooverville fire and is now at Shorty’s; a third Ballard Pinball Tournament is planned for August 30th; Add-a-Ball Amusement may return; Matthew is walking; and Stern’s next new game will be based on Avatar. We want TRON!