news & gossip

The Official Skill Shot Pinball Crawl!

Are the cloud-filled skies, leaf-laden sidewalks, and shortened days of autumn getting you down? Now that you’ve tossed your lawn darts and rollerblades back in the closet for the next few months, are you sitting on your sofa, twiddling your thumbs, wondering what to do with yourself? Well, worry not my frazzled, fall-fearing friend, for we now bring you…

The Official Skill Shot Pinball Crawl!

by Geoffro
Originally published in Skill Shot issue 11, October 2009

Installment 1: The University District

Although the U-District pinball crawl can be attempted on a Friday or Saturday evening, Skill Shot does not necessarily recommend doing so (you will have to deal with hordes of highly intoxicated college students everywhere you go). But don’t let those rabble-rousing youngsters deter you any other night of the week, there’s plenty of flipper-filled fun to be had here.

Start at the south end of the U-District and work your way north. This way you’ll save the better games for last, and you’ll get some exercise walking uphill! Woo hoo!


Descend a flight of stairs to enter this somewhat cave-like subterranean bar. You may have to shoo a group of graduate students off to another table to make room for yourself to play The Addams Family and World Cup Soccer. Neither game is very well lit, and although functional, The Addams Family machine has certainly seen better days. The dot-matrix display fizzles in and out and the ball tends to get stuck (temporarily) up near Thing. However, everything seems to be in more or less good-working condition on World Cup Soccer, including Magna-Save! You’ll likely find no reason to linger at the College Inn Pub, but it’s not a bad place to start out and shake the rust off your game. Mosey on up the Ave a few blocks and you’ll come to…


If you’re wondering what it’s like inside this incredibly classy joint, the chicken wire on the open-air windows facing the Ave tells you all you’ll need to know. Not sure how to fit in with the throng of 21-year-olds drinking way more than they should be out of plastic cups? No sweat, just shout out “Woo! College! Yeah!” when you walk in the door and you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Pull a pint, post-up in front of the fine Fish Tales machine, and give a pinball lesson to the strapping young lads and lasses attending Seattle’s finest institution of higher learning. Less than a block away from Earl’s, just off the opposite corner of 45th lies the 3rd stop on our pinball crawl, the pleasantly dingy tucked away nook of a game room at…


Crammed in with extra chairs and various other odds and ends are a couple of retro arcade games and 3 vintage pins: Space Mission, Wizard, and the coffee shop’s namesake game, Sureshot. All 3 games, although over 30 years old, are well-maintained by Dominique of Silver Age Silver Ball, and are a lot of fun to play. The older games and relatively peaceful coffeehouse atmosphere provide a nice change of pace along the midway point of your journey. After you’ve refueled with a shot of espresso and had your fill of the classic pins at Sureshot, strap your drinkin’ boots back on and walk about 8 blocks north on the Ave to get to our favorite pinball establishment in the U-District…


The Galway is a great little pub with a stripped down Irish punk aesthetic and friendly bearded bartenders. If there’s still a ray of sunlight in the sky by the time you arrive, be sure to try one the epic bloody marys (beef-jerky infused vodka, splash of Guinness, cocktail onions, olives, pepperoncinis, croutons). Yum! Normally we’d save the best stop for last, but in addition to the fantastic bloodies, the Galway Arms also regularly hosts punk and metal shows that could potentially interfere with your pinball plans. As for the pinball – you’ll find the machines here are the finest in the area, maintained monthly (or more if need be) by Classic Amusements. Currently they supply the bar with 3 games: Surf Champ, Monster Bash, and Twilight Zone. Report any ongoing issues to one of the pro-pinball gentlemen behind the bar and they’ll likely be remedied before long. Eventually you’ll have to leave the friendly folks and pristine pins at the Galway Arms behind and head over to the corner of 53rd and Roosevelt to complete your excursion. Here lie the 5th and 6th stopping points on our pinball tour, Dante’s and Piccolo’s Pizza.


Dante’s is a large bar with multiple levels and a dark, dungeon-like feel. You’ll find the pinball machines lurking in a corner downstairs behind the air-hockey table, cleverly shielded from the occasional mayhem that descends upon Dante’s. There are 2 games. One is a slightly shabby Bram Stoker’s Dracula that will at times seem to acquire a mind of its own. The other is one of the gems of the U-District, a well-worn but extremely playable Theatre of Magic, one of our favorite games. If you feel your tummy rumbling, and have not yet filled your belly at one of the area’s seemingly endless array of restaurants, feel free to do so here (standard greasy pub fare) or walk across the street for a tasty slice at…


Grab a slice or two and meander on past the classic wooden pizzeria-style booths to the game room, where you’ll find a couple of intriguing pins (alas, there used to be more) amidst a number of other arcade games. Piccolo’s is currently featuring 2 solid state games from the early 80’s: Ready…  Aim… Fire! and The Incredible Hulk. Last we checked, both machines were leaning heavily to the right.  If you’re out crawling with a mate, that shouldn’t be too hard to remedy, assuming they haven’t already been adjusted. Regardless, both games are enjoyable; note the Hulk’s amusing sound effects, which for some reason we find mysteriously pleasing.

It should be noted that the Knarr Shipwreck Lounge, on 55th and University (a couple of blocks north of the Galway Arms) does have one pinball machine, World Cup Soccer. Unfortunately, as the days go by it seems to fall into further and more advanced states of disrepair. Will this trend continue to the machine’s eventual demise? We hope not.

This brings our pinball tour of the U-District to a close. We hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for the next installment of the Official Skill Shot Pinball Crawl!

news & gossip reviews

Sure Shot Classics

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