Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bally's World Cup Soccer at The Port

I already spoke of The Port having to close it's doors and saying goodbye to Dundas West but I just want to say again that The Port will be very much missed (mostly by me). I thought it was a pretty neat little bar and, besides having a pinball machine, The Port had a real cool vibe and was a great music venue. Perhaps a nod to the Portuguese roots of the area, it was fitting that The Port had Bally's World Cup Soccer.

I first heard of this machine through some friends that played a show at The Port. They told me that there was some Soccer game at this place called The Port. My interest was hella piqued and through a few other people I heard of a couple more machines in the general area. So one night my friend Stan and I hit the town and hunted down these machines. The Port was the second place we hit up and I think we seriously spent the most time and money here. It should come as no surprise as to why..

UPDATE: The Port is no longer open and has been replaced by Get Well, which also has pinball machines. Read about them here! Two World Cup Soccer tables have sprung up in the city, at Eastenders on the Danforth (check out the post here) and at Glamour Sports Bar on St. Clair West and Caledonia, right down the street from me! The table at Glamour has gone away as of April 2014, unfortunately. I have a bunch of pictures I took of the table during its residence at Glamour so I've dumped a bunch of them into this post to give you an idea of World Cup Soccer.
 WCS has a pretty high rating on but so do many Bally machines from this era. WCS tends to get a bit lost in the shuffle and isn't quite in the upper echelon of tables from the 90's. However, World Cup Soccer can definitely stand up to the big dogs and bark just as loud. Designed by John Popadiuk, whose credentials include Tales of The Arabian Nights and Cirqus Voltaire, World Cup Soccer features a much lighter rule set than the previously mentioned, at a time where the game rules were getting very complicated with multiple modes and shots to hit to light something or other and work your way up to Wizard Mode (Pinball's interpretation of the final level in video games). World Cup Soccer keeps it simple with fewer modes and focusing more on making lit shots to work your way towards Wizard mode. Light the five S's, Strength, Spirit, Speed, Stamina and Skill, to light the ball locks.
 As well, hit the left loop to advance through each city and get to the final World Cup match.
On the other hand, World Cup Soccer is an offender, serious offender, I mean we may be talkin' felony here, as it has some pretty nasty point inflation. Some pinball players think the whole point inflation thing is goofy and lame but I think it's hilarious. You can make like five shots and get a huge score in no time! Score inflation impresses your friends too.
World Cup Soccer plays fast and has a ton of fun shots. Getting a goal right off the bat (NO PUN INTENDED HAR HAR) is such a fun and exciting shot. The volume on The Port's machine was at a pretty decent level so each time you scored a goal, the Dot Matrix Display just friggin' lighted up with GOAL!!! and the speakers boom out GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! It's a serious assault on the senses and seriously awesome!
I would usually yell out GOOOAL!!! too like a battle cry! That is how I played so dang good on this table. But I digress... As I was saying, World Cup Soccer has a great flow to it. There's a lot less stop'n'go play on WCS and you can keep the ball in motion for quite a while by hitting the two ramps or the loop shots. World Cup Soccer invokes that nice sense of flow that I found on another John Popadiuk table, Theatre of Magic.
Both tables have a great sense of flow and if you play a decent game, you can rack up some decent combos just by hitting the ramps and loops.

Always one for having a difficult shot somewhere on the playfield, Popadiuk placed one all the way up near the top. Striker's hideout can be found nestled in between the net and the jet bumper cluster. What makes Striker's Hideout such a difficult shot is that you have to be very precise when trying to hit it. It's a case of "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" where you have the net to the left and to your right is a jet bumper with a target out front, making Striker's Hideout a risky shot. Bouncing off either the goalie or the target can send the ball careening straight down the middle or into the soccerball spinner. Hit the jet bumper and you have no idea where it will end up. When Extra Ball is lit, you have to hit Striker's Hideout. you have to EARN that Extra Ball with some skillful flipping! No easy Extra Balls like No Good Gofers (shot to the putting green) or Theatre of Magic (shoot the left loop), no lucky shots where the ball bounces into the hole. You have to know what you're doing to hit Striker's Hideout. World Cup Soccer is one of the few machines that has a Magna-Save feature. The weird thing about WCS's Magna-Save is...
It's right above the flipper! It is kind of a weird placement and not quite useful from my experience. Machines like BLACK KNIGHT, BLACK KNIGHT 2000 and Theatre of Magic have magna-saves located above the outlanes which is more useful and easier to activate to successfully capture the pinball (Theatre of Magic does the saving for you). There have been times where I was able to activate WCS's Magna-Save and catch the ball but since the table plays so fast, the ball will more often than not shoot straight down the middle and give you little reaction time to hit the Magna-Save. There was one time where I was trying to show the feature off to some friends. I hit the Magna-Save, successfully catching the ball, and everybody was all like "OOOOOOOOH! AHHHH!" ... then I goofed it somehow and the ball drained right down the middle. I don't even know how I pulled that off. I mean, the ball gets stopped right above the left flipper! I managed it in some weird way and it was pretty dang embarrassing. World Cup Soccer's Magna-Save is a neat, albeit not very useful, little gimmick that can be implemented to impress your friends! Just don't screw up as badly as I did and keep that left flipper up!

What I like about John Popadiuk's pinball machines is that there are always some neat little gimmicks. Some new ideas and old, previously forgotten about features from pinball machines of ye olde times. World Cup Soccer features roll-over targets leading up to the net. Hit these to light goal and HIT THE GOAL! WOOO! It's a pretty simple but neat little feature that you don't see any more! In regards to new gimmicks, something that was popping up on later-era tables was the skill shot, usually a shot made on the playfield either from pulling the plunger or using the flippers to hit a particular target. Some pinball machines, like Taxi and Bride of Pinbot, had plunger skill shots that could score you BIG POINTS or little tiny points depending on how much you pulled (or hit) the plunger. World Cup Soccer does something similar with the Coin Toss, except instead of several holes the ball could drop into, there are three. Between each of the holes are horizontal rubber posts that bounce the ball around so not only does it take certain pressure on the plunger but a bit of nudging in order to hit the lit skill shot hole.

Multiball is always fun. I couldn't name a pinball machine where the multiball is bad. Sure, there are some machines that have a tendency to drain the balls almost immediately (Addams Family and Iron Man from my experience. F'ing magnets how do they work?!) but I couldn't tell ya a machine where the multiball is more of a chore to play.

 Multiball is a hoot on World Cup Soccer, mainly because the Jackpot shot is the soccer net! so not only do you get GOOOOOOOOOOOOOALS!!! you get JACKPOOOOOOOOOT!! each time you make that shot.

The Port's World Cup Soccer was kind but firm when it came to nudging. If you gave it push or a shove here and there, it was cool with it, but when you start shimmying with the machine, boy howdy, watch out for the warnings. When Stan and I first went to play this, we had just finished up at Done Right Inn and their Tron Legacy machine which would TILT if you gave it shifty eyes. So, I might have been biased and considered World Cup Soccer a bit more generous. As I said, it was pretty good for nudging. The problem with WCS and nudging though is it likes to sneak the TILT warnings in there between all the flashy things going on on the Dot Matrix Display. I remember I was getting some BIG POINTS going...
I wanted to post this again just because of my score DAAAAANG

then the DMD animation for REPLAY pops up, doing the whole fireworks thing and what not, THEN all of a sudden TILT. Waitaminute! that wasn't part of the REPLAY animation! I lost out on my big bonus score AND on the replay! Daaaaamn. I just recall that a mode or two was lit, multiball was going on and too much things were happening on the DMD, the speakers and the playfield so I never noticed the warnings. Some late-era machines have a tendency to have too much going on at once and this little predicament was one of those times. If this isn't a prime example of pinball being an absolute assault on your senses then I don't know what is.

But ya know what, that score is almost a year old. I've been playing a lot of pinball since then and have become quite a decorated champ, if I do say so myself...
This was at Eastenders on the Danforth, late summer 2012...

And this was at Glamour Sports Bar in November 2012!

AAAAAND of course, no machine goes without me managing to get a ball stuck on it. I don't know if it's because I play so often that this has to happen or if I just have an innate ability to get balls stuck. Now, I know there's lots of moving parts on a pinball machine and sometimes the ball can get stuck on them but...
This is ridiculous.
I couldn't get the ball off the slingshot. I tilted it forward and backwards and side-to-side. NOTHING. That ball was stuck like glue. I had to get one of the bartenders to open the machine and manually replace the ball. The guy who helped me out was a really cool dude and gave me a couple of extra credits. That same dude I saw a few times playing World Cup Soccer and dang was he good! I remember him getting a bunch of replays one night when I came in and he just handed them over to me which was really cool. I'm pretty sure he owned all the high scores on that table. It doesn't come as any surprise though, seeing as he works there and probably gets a lot of downtime. That would be toooooo SWEET to work at a bar with a pinball machine!

The simple ruleset, colourful artwork and GOOOOOOOOOOAL!!! makes World Cup Soccer a great table for beginners, novices and advanced players. A lot of more experienced players (I'm talking like dudes that reach wizard mode whenever they damn well feel) seem to find WCS pretty shallow. My personal opinion of World Cup Soccer is that it is hella fun and always a good time. I don't have to worry too much about completing modes (I always screw up on Boston Tea Party and drain) and the shots are a ton of fun to make like the shots on net which I can't gush enough about (GOOOOOOOOAL!!!). Also, hitting Striker's hideout when extra ball is lit is such a satisfying shot! It's unfortunate that The Port is now closed down and the fate of World Cup Soccer unknown. There is another World Cup Soccer at Delta Sports Cafe on Ossington near Dundas and Ossington but that table is way messed up, don't bother with it. The Church of The Silver Ball also has a WCS table but, alas, it is also pretty beat up. Be sure to check out The Church of The Silver Ball's Pinball Faith Night! Most of the machines are pretty worn down and broken but it's still a lot of fun for a Friday night! If you do ever happen upon a World Cup Soccer though, take the chance and try it out! 

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