Monday, 7 October 2013

FIREBALL - Bally 1972

The most collectable EM of the 1970's

Bally Fireball from 1972 would have to be considered the most sought after Electro Mechanical pinball machine from the 1970's, and for good reason.  There's just so much going on with the Zipper Flippers, spinning playfield disk,  3 ball Multiball,  tough as nails skill shot,  and the amazing art package.  I am surprised that they only made a little under 4,000 of these, but I figure it was considered a success at the time because they eventually followed up with a Fireball Home Model at the beginning of the Solid State era.  Then there was Fireball II in 1981, and finally a remake of the original with Fireball Classic from 1985.

 The EM version is a great party game.  Ball times are relatively short, and the way the multi ball system works, it's possible to walk up to the machine in a multiplayer game and have the previous player do all the work for you by locking the first 2 balls ready for you to release them.

I only have one minor issue with the game, and that would be the randomness of the spinning disk.  But I figure the game wouldn't be the same without it.  To me it just adds a "more luck than skill" element to the gameplay, but man is it fun!

So obviously as this game is sought after, it commands a high price.  Personally I am a fan of the Solid State Classic version.  They are much more obtainable, and is assentially the same game but without the Zipper Flippers.  However it does have cool early 80's sounds, 7 digit scoring, and an end of ball bonus system.    

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

1972 Williams Spanish Eyes

Time for some more wacky 1970's Williams goodness!

Most people would say that you'll either love or hate Spanish Eyes.  The 2 devisive elements are the art and the weird bumper between the flippers arrangement.

Cant say that I am fan of the art at all.  I do like some of the work from Christian Marche, but the colours and overall look of the backglass is just awful.  The playfield is slightly more pleasing to the eye, and to be fair they do integrate very well together.

Playability is another story though.  From my previous postings, you'll be aware that I am a sucker for weird lower playfield arrangements.  So the bumper between the flippers is just an awesome design in my opinion.  Of course it wasn't the first game to have this.  Just off the top of my head I can think of Williams 1968 "Cue-T" and also "Fan Tas Tic" from 1972.

When you start playing this machine straight after playing a "regular" machine, it really has a strange feel that takes a moment to get accustomed to.  It's a real nudgers game, as the ball can slip under the flippers and all of a sudden escape what looks to be a certain drain by bouncing back out of the bumper area.

The rules are easy to understand, and because it's a single player game, it carries over from ball to ball.  Light the numbers 1 through 6 by hitting the corresponding spot targets.  Each number lit adds 1,000 points to the value of the centre saucer.  Light the A,B,C,D,E top rollovers to score an extra ball.

So yep.  Great game to play.  Definitely don't walk past it if you're not keen on the art.  The gameplay alone makes it a winner.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

1977 Gottlieb Jungle Queen

Welcome to the jungle :)

Back in the mid 1970's Gottlieb released a few titles with very similar playfield layouts with just a few subtle changes between them.  These games were Spirit of 76/Pioneer, Fast Draw/Quick Draw and Jungle Queen/Princess.  They are all excellent games in their own right.

Now it would be sweet if you could take the best elements out of the 3 games above and make your own!.  Personally I'd keep it simple and take the playfield layout and rules from Fast Draw, and use the Jungle Queen art.  I like the resetting black drop targets on Fast Draw, and much rather the no slingshot/double inlane setup instead of the added mini flippers on JQ.

Again, I like all 3.  I just have this "thing" about drop target banks that don't reset.  But really, with the huge gap between the flippers and the brutal outlanes, you're not going to drop all the targets and max out the bonus every ball, so the challenge is still huge.

JQ is another top class EM from Gottlieb at a time when Solid State machines were just starting to take hold.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Blue Chip, Williams 1976

Is Williams Blue Chip a solid investment?

Man, I would love a sample of the drugs they were consuming at Williams back in 1976.  You can just imagine the team meeting on the Monday morning.  "Listen guys, the word on the street is that the kids are screaming out for a stock market themed pinball machine.  We have the runs on the board, and there's no reason why this theme cant be a Capt Fantastic beater.  Who's with me?"

Ok, so the theme is corny, the art is forgettable at best.  So is there anything to like about it?.

Well actually it's not a bad game to play.  Most Williams games from this era didn't have drop targets, and they played super quick with their DC powered bumpers and open playfields.

The three stand up targets in the middle of the playfield are dangerous to go for from the flippers, as often the ball heads straight down the outlanes.  The best strategy would be to light the number 2 target which lights the left spinner for 1000's.  Keep nailing that left spinner and hope to light the 4, 5 and 6 from rebounds.  

Not a great game by any means.  But worth a game or 2 if you find one.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Gottlieb's Hot Shot from 1973

Rack 'em up! with Gottlieb's Hot Shot.

Card and pool themes were very common in the 60's and 70's with all the manufacturers.  Hot Shot nails the theme perfectly, and if you're a fan of drop targets, you're going to love this!

The 2 player version of this game called Big Shot has been emulated on pretty much any digital platform you can think of via the excellent Pinball Arcade software.  Check it out if you haven't already.

So the objective is pretty straight forward.  There are 2 banks of 7 drop targets.  Solids on the left, Stripes on the right. The 8 ball is scored via the kick out hole just below the bumper.
Knock down the whole bank of either solids or stripes plus the eight ball, and go for the Special by hitting the alternating targets either side of the bumper.

You can also score big points on the last ball of the game with triple bonus automatically lit, which can make things very interesting in multi player games.

There's really nothing bad to say about this game.  It's a target shooters dream.  If you like the digital version, you'll love the real thing!

Monday, 8 April 2013

1984 Black Pyramid from Bally/Midway

1983/4 was a dark period for pinball.  So how does Black Pyramid stack up?

This game was released at the time when video was king.  You know something is up when production runs from Bally are around 2000 units compared to the late 70's when they were pumping out 10,000+ of most titles.

So due to the lower numbers, some cost cutting measures were in order.  Crappy chipboard cabinets with pealing decals instead of painted designs. The speech board has been dropped, plus pretty much zero innovation on the playfield.  Black Pyramid could have been released back in 1979 and probably would have sold 10,000 units.

So, if you don't care about all the nerdy stuff above, what is the game like?.

Well the one in the video was immaculate.  For whatever reason it has had very little use, and you could tell by how smooth it played and how tight everything felt.  On the night it was played constantly for hours and everyone raved about it.

I have a feeling if this particular game was in lesser condition it probably wouldn't have received so much love, as there's really not much going on with a swing target in the middle, and some inline drops on the right.  The other main shot is the left lane up to the top saucer. 

It's not a bad game.  I wouldn't say no to one if the price was right (crazy cheap).  Keep it for a little while and flip it.  It's an attractive looking game.  I don't mind the art at all, so it's not like it would be hard to move on.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Pointy People! - Williams Love Bug from 1971

The late Christian Marche was the king of the "Pointy People" an art style known as Cubism which was popular back in the late 60's, early 70's on Williams and Bally games.

I don't mind the pointy people art in small doses.  1972 Williams Swinger is a favourite of mine.

Anyway.  Love Bug is a great little single player Add A Ball version of Doodle Bug, and the 4 Player Dipsy Doodle.

Even though the playfield may look a little sparse, there's actually a fair bit going on with 5 snappy bumpers, a kickout hole, a bunch of standup targets, rollover buttons and lanes, Up Post between the flippers, Ball return gate to the shooter lane, and of course the Doodle Bug!, which is a captive ball below the playfield that gets smacked back and forth.

So lighting 1 2 3 4 will light the Extra Ball target which is located in the middle of the bank of three stand up targets above the doodle bug.  The 2 outside targets in the bank of 3 will start the doodle bug feature which will constantly score the lit value until you either lose the ball or roll over a button or hit a certain target to switch it off.  Oh, so I'll just trap the ball while the doodle bug is going, and clean up?.  Nope, not gonna happen because there are gaps between the flipper and slingshot so you cant trap the ball.  Sneaky!

It's a really cool game, and I have seen people walk up to play it without expecting much.  20 minutes later and they are still there playing :)

The game in the video had a bit of an issue where the ball kept on bouncing back into the top hole all the time, making it a bit easy.  However, I played it recently and it's much better :)