Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pinball Update for September

I've been keeping a constant watch on many locations for pinball in the city! I've been all over Toronto the past month and have spotted some new pinball machines while also seeing some old favorites replaced with new entries. Let's start on the East end and work our way towards the West.

A little known bar called Eastenders, found near Danforth and Greenwood, recently picked up a table very close to my heart...

It's Bally's World Cup Soccer '94!

 I was walking back to Miranda's apartment from Allenby Theatre and I was able to spot this machine through the window. When the owner saw me drooling over this machine he asked me to stop. I KID, he actually told me that he had just picked up the machine that day. He informed me that I was also the first person to play it on location! TOOOOO SWEET! This World Cup Soccer is not the same machine that used to take up residence at The Port on Dundas West and Ossington (Now known as Get Well and they also have two pinball machines as well as a couple of arcade games. Check out the post for Get Well here.) There are a few issues on this particular table that did not match up with the Port's table. The magnet for the ball lock wasn't working properly.

Rather than the magnet catching the ball above the lock lane when lock is lit the ball instead would just drop down into the ball lock. It wasn't a gamebreaking issue in the least; you only get to miss a neat little feature while the ball lock animation plays. World Cup Soccer features another magnet, used for the magna-save above the left flipper.

Another issue that is a bit more frustrating than the above comes from the kickback lane. Actually, it's more like what doesn't come from the kickback lane! The plunger that normally launches the ball back onto the playfield when lit doesn't work so if your ball is heading for the left outlane, be ready to nudge the funk out of the machine as that kickback won't save you now!

Besides those issues, this World Cup Soccer is in pretty good condition. Everything works well, the machine is not too scuffed up or dirty. I have written a review about World Cup Soccer at the Port so go check it out if you would like a more in-depth look at a classic Bally table.

I also made my name known... AS MUF

MUF's mark is made! After I put the high score up, I gracefully left the building a champion and with a couple of credits left on the machine. The owner thought my name was actually MUF as well and called me that before I left.

Traveling further west along Danforth towards Pape, we happen upon Eton House/Cafe/Tavern (I cannot for the life of me remember what the hell it is). They have replaced Stern's Elvis, recently reviewed here, has been replaced with Stern's NASCAR.

 A bittersweet move because although there is a new machine, Elvis was definitely a new favourite of mine, one that I did not get to play enough of, and I'm not too certain of NASCAR's quality.

I did not have a chance to play it when I swung by the Eton House and was unable to take it for a spin. However, Stern later remodeled this table and released it as a limited edition Dale Earnhart Jr. table and I have played that one. Dale Jr. and NASCAR seem to have the ability to be pretty polarizing; My father and I each played Dale Jr. during a trip to the Playdium Store in Mississauga. He really enjoyed it and I found it quite uninteresting. The reviews on IPDB seem to have the same opinion with some reviewers lauding the machine while others lambaste it.

Oddly enough, while NASCAR gives the illusion of a Steve Richie design, bearing the dual ramps that he is known for (Shades of Stern's AC/DC and Spider-Man), it is actually a Pat Lawlor design! NASCAR was designed alongside Louis Koziarz who did the software for Stern's Monopoly, another Lawlor design and Williams' No Good Gofers which he also had a hand in designing with Lawlor. Something else that would throw off the idea that this was designed by Pat Lawlor is the lack of a third flipper! This is one of the few Lawlor-designed tables that has only two flippers. In Lawlor's interview with TOPcast, he mentions that around the time he starting designing NASCAR, he tried to refresh his approach to his designs and ditched many of his trademarks for new takes on pinball playfields. One of his latest designs, Family Guy, only has one ramp!

My experiences with NASCAR/Dale Jr. weren't  the most exciting. The table has a few cool features; Lawlor was definitely trying to push the boundaries while keeping within Stern's tight budget. The plunger/inlane set-up is really neat; it simulates a a racetrack encompassing the entire playfield. The mechanics are similar to Williams' THE GETAWAY by Ritchie and its supercharger toy.

There are magnets placed along the track that launch the ball at high speeds. It's cool at first, seeing the ball flying around the playfield, especially during multiball but after a while, it becomes a bit old as it can take a while to get the ball onto the playfield.

The main toy on the playfield is a test car that you have to hit to raise it up.

Apart from looking really cheap, the car is a neat little toy. Depending on how many hits you make on it, it will rise up and you can get more targets as well as a kickout hole. Hit the kickout hole for the Garage award which is just a mystery reward.

Now heading into the downtown core, I walked by The Ballroom at John and Richmond and saw Stern's Roller Coaster Tycoon (review of the top-selling PC-CD game right here) still sitting pretty there.

Across the street at Scotiabank Theatre, they replaced Stern's Pirates of The Caribbean (quite quickly I might add) with Stern's AC/DC.

AC/DC is not a big favorite of mine and I'm pretty bummed to see it replace a great Stern machine. AC/DC is starting to become Stern's The Rolling Stones machine of the city, now populating Done Right Inn at Queen and Augusta as well. It's no match for The Rolling Stones though, which at one point had four different machines across the city.

I got my initials on this machine, though.

Getting War Machine Champ isn't too hard. You just gotta hit the spinner on the left orbit a bunch of times to get the championship.

I noticed this neat little thing on AC/DC's playfield.

The pinballs are stored below the pop bumpers. This little window also lights up and highlights the balls. It's a nice little touch for something you don't really see.

The Rivoli near Queen West and Spadina replaced their Stern's Ripley's Believe It or Not! with Roller Coaster Tycoon (based on the Top Selling PC-CD Game).

Trust me, stay the hell away from this one. The right flipper is really weak and has a tendency to get stuck. I played one game and I tried to play. I mean I really tried! Each time it went to the right flipper, I would try to nudge it or pop it over to the left flipper just so I could make some shots. I don't recommend doing this as it's a waste of a loonie. A damn shame because I find Roller Coaster Tycoon a fun machine. Then again, there is one in running condition at The Ballroom so no worries! You can read up about it here.

Making our way towards the west end, I dropped by Community 54 to see what was up. Stern's Family Guy is still there. I didn't play it as I dumped a bunch of money at Pinball Cafe earlier. Williams' Gulfstream is gone and has been replaced with Gottlieb's Charlie's Angels!

I dig how Community 54 has grown their pinball collection from just Gottlieb's Street Fighter 2 and now have both modern and classic machines. Props to them to housing some cool pinball.

I walked by Mezzrow's and they still had Stern's World Poker Tour. I believe it to be up and running as I did see the blackglass lit up.

I skipped Mezzrow's for a reason. Not that I don't like WPT, I am a big fan of it, but I had to go get these...

Shane told me to post these. These doughnuts are from Glory Hole Doughnuts in Parkdale near Queen and Sorauren. Starting from the bottom clockwise, cinnamon sugar, butter & toast, Elvis with marshmallow, and BEER. Glory Hole makes fantastic doughnuts and I definitely suggest getting some of their tasty treats.

The thing is that they sell out fast. I showed up when they had run out so I either had to try again another day or wait around and show up in an hour. I opted to wait it out and instead pay a visit to the Pinball Cafe while the next batch was being made.

BIG SHAKEUP IN THE LINEUP. Lots of machines have come and gone. Here are the latest newcomers...

Williams' Diner.

Diner is a real sleeper table. It doesn't look a whole heckuva lot when sitting next to the latest Sterns and later Bally/Williams but Diner is a damn solid game. It's quite simple; your main objectives is to hit the six drop targets and light each diner. Beyond that you can hit a few tasty ramps and get some good combos going. Diner plays fast and silky smooth. The playfield was designed by Mark Ritchie, known for other System 11 machines with flowing ramps and fast play such as Taxi, Police Force and this little kitty....

Get out of the way AK!

 Although this one is not designed by Mark Richie, it was actually Barry Oursler, it bears the same smooth ramps found on other System 11s of the same era. The Tiger Ramp is my favorite shot on the table.

The Tiger Ramp is to the left.
 If you hit it right and can build enough momentum, you can just keep hitting the ball in a solid loop through the Tiger Ramp. I managed to do it five times in a row and scored a replay off of it. The ramp has a wide mouth and isn't too steep so it is an easy shot to make and combo if you exercise careful flipper discipline and aim your shot right.

Bad Cats, like Diner, is a nice light affair. The rules are pretty simple as they are for the most part "hit this to light that GET POINTS" There's a lot of bonuses to be awarded and extra balls are handed out quite frequently. Usually on the second ball, if you drain the pinball through either of the outlanes when Spinner is lit, it will spin the spinner at the center of the playfield and usually give you an extra ball. I consider it one of the machines to warm up on before getting into some crazy shenanigans on some of the newer additions.

Bad Cats' simplicity is a double-edged sword though. After playing it on several different occasions, I found myself getting a bit tired of it. There isn't much difficulty and not much to do beyond score points. It is the same situation for me with Williams' Comet which is a veteran of the Pinball Cafe and has been a part of the lineup since it opened. Anyways, Bad Cats reminds me of my experience with Comet and many other older models. It manages to hold my interest initially but once the nostalgia wears off, it becomes more of a novelty and fun to play on a rare occasion. I know it's because they don't have the depth that modern tables do and maybe I am spoiled by some of the new models and all their bells and whistles. However, Diner manages to keep my interest while Bad Cats has been losing its' grip.

In his interview with TOPcast (Episode 42), Python Anghelo was not a big fan of this table, saying that it was a "yes man" agreement to do the table. Bad Cats was something he was told to do by Williams' higher-ups rather than a table he wanted to work on. According to a factoid sheet that the Pinball Cafe has posted about Bad Cats, Barry Oursler felt the same way about Bad Cats: a table he was forced to design.

Coming up next, straight outta 1991 (and boy does it show)...

Bally's The Party Zone!

The Party Zone is one of Bally's multitude of unusual original themes; It combines themes from three other tables into one. Groups of characters from several different tables are invited by Captian B. Zarr to his Cosmic Cottage for a wild party. Dr. Dude and his Party Dudes show face, The Party Monsters from Elvira and The Party Monsters make an appearance and The Party Animals round out the cottage-going cast.

The artwork on The Party Zone is really telling of the times. The playfield is covered in all sorts of colours like bright pink, purple, orange and yellow. The table is flashy and the lights are constantly making a show.

The Song Request saucer below Captain B. Zarr is a little finicky and the ball often will not sit still in the saucer. It's such a bummer because The Party Zone features little pinball versions of The Who's Pinball Wizard and Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.

There are a bunch of little toys on this table. In the above picture you can see the Red Rock-It, The Dancing Robot, and the head of Captain B-Zar. There is also The Cosmic Cottage and The Supersonic Robotic Comic. It's not funny, it's fast! Captain B-Zar keeps an eye on your ball and constantly moves around to look at it, similar to Rudy's eyes on Williams' Funhouse, although Rudy kept still for the most part.

Managed to do a ball stall...

... And get a replay!

Stern's X-MEN!!
And it is pretty good. John Borg really hit it out of the park with this one. Following up on TRON: Legacy, X-Men exhibits that Borg is able to design some fun tables (Not to discount his work though), especially for Stern (it might help X-men that it is essentially Tron: Legacy reversed. Check it out here) X-Men is packed to the gills with stuff such as toys, ramps and modes. I reviewed X-Men: Magneto Edition when I went to the Canadian Pinball Championships which you can peruse here. I've gotten to spend some more time with X-Men now that it has arrived at the Pinball Cafe. The table has shades of Pat Lawlor, reminiscent of his well-known design signatures such as the third flipper, busy playfield and a shot through the pop bumpers. The shot through the pop bumpers was never a signature of Lawlor's that I noticed and had it pointed out by the man himself in his interview with TOPcast (Episode 64). Like the Fed-Ex arrow, once I discovered it, it is all I can see. Williams' Red & Ted's Road Show and Stern's Ripley's Believe It or Not! both share the difficult shot through the bumpers...

X-Men has one as well, tucked behind the Wolverine toy.

Some of Borg's designs bear the bumper shot, such as Data East's Star Wars.

What makes Borg's design on X-Men stand out though is that it flows beautifully. Yes, there is a bit of stop and go but otherwise the game just has a great flow. You'll find yourself making a ton of precise shots throughout the table's multitude of ramps and lanes without even knowing it. The modes activate quickly and often while the action is going so you're not stuck watching through an animation like the ones from Bally's Cirqus Voltaire (Defeating the Ringmaster is a real slog). The modes stack so by activating a mode and then activating multiball you can really rack up the points. This is something in particular that I really enjoy about Stern's tables; Multiball modes are very easy to stack up and activate at the same time to get some crazy stuff going. Two Stern models I really like the mode-stacking on are Transformers and Batman. The way mode-stacking is used on these particular tables is interesting. Transformers has a Megatron Ball Lock and an Optimus Prime shot that will activate after a few hits. Batman has The Joker ball lock which is opened by hitting the Joker drop target then getting the ball in. Additionally, there is the Scarecrow lock which, just like Optimus Prime, make enough shots to activate multiball. The great thing about these two tables though is that if one of the multiball modes are active, the other mode, if lit, can still lock balls or register hits. That means if you manage to activate another multiball mode, you can get another ball or two on the table and HELLA POINTS! X-Men features this method of mode-stacking as well but it is a bit tough to activate multiball.

There is Wolverine multiball that can be activated pretty early in the game by hitting the Wolverine target a few times. It's two ball multiball initially but if you activate the Blackbird mystery bonus during Wolverine Multiball you get Add-A-Ball which, as the name implies, nets you another ball on the playfield. BIG POINTS are to be had during Wolverine 3-ball Multiball. You must hit a ramp to activate Jackpot and then hit the Wolverine target in order to collect.

A nasty problem arises from the placement of the magneto ball lock. The ball lock is located directly above the middle drain between the flippers and usually every time the ball is captured and released it has zero momentum, making it very difficult to nudge and save. I have gotten many drained straight-down-the-middle balls because of this. However, Jason at The Pinball Cafe did find a solution. He raised the front left leg about 3/4 inches so now when the ball is released from the Magneto ball lock it starts to move slightly to the right. You still gotta give it a bit of a nudge but now you have more of an advantage and don't have to worry about tilting the machine.

Gottlieb's Charlie's Angels showed up and replaced Pinball Cafe Veteran, Williams' Comet, the longest lasting table at the Cafe.

I didn't play it though. I just finished 7 rounds of X-Men (a toonie nets you 5 credits) and my fingers were getting sore so I passed on Charlie's Angels.

And, finally, rounding out a solid lineup at the Cafe is...

Williams' Medieval Madness!!!
I came to the Pinball Cafe the weekend they got Medieval Madness and I remember as Jason was stepping away from the machine he said to me "Careful, it's addictive." I used to play this all the time on Farsight's Williams Pinball Hall of Fame so I knew going into it that Jason would be right. It was so damn hard to stop dumping all of my money into MM. It is such a fun game in person. This particular table has a few quirks but they don't hinder it at all. The Merlin's Magic saucer is a little tricky and the ball sometimes will shoot over it. The drawbridge is a little crooked but it doesn't affect anything; the shots are still satisfying as all hell to make. As I said, these faults amount to very little and MM is a blast. It's a smooth table with plenty of loops and ramps that keep the gameplay moving fast. The Multiball modes are stackable with completion of each mode such as "Save The Damsel", "JOUST" and "Peasant Revolt". This can be quite handy especially when you have TROLLS lit. Trolls are a pain in the arse if you only have one ball on the playfield but if you stack a couple of multiball modes like Damsel Multiball and Joust Multiball, you can make easy work of the trolls.

And my latest discovery, hailing from the northwest, St. Clair and Caledonia Park Rd., residing in Glamour Sports Bar...

Haha, it's World Cup Soccer!
 I spotted this table tucked away in the backroom of Glamour Sports Bar. I get a strange feeling about this machine in particular. I feel that it may be the one that used to reside at The Port...

 Take note of the Goalie. The sticker is sort of falling off. I remember the Goalie at the port had the same issue. It could very well be a common occurrence for World Cup Soccer machines though and this may not be the same machine. The TV Award target on the right is broken and replaced by some piece of plastic and I don't recall The Port having that same jury-rigged target. I've already said quite a bit about World Cup Soccer is there is not much else I need to say except that this machine is close to my house and that is great.

Also, here is a cool picture.

Pretty much all the lights are on.

That wraps up my latest Pinball Patrol! Pinball Cafe is reported to be having another big change to the lineup sometime in October so I will be sure to keep updated with the latest happenings. I am also heading to Pennsylvania with my brother and father and during the trip we will be stopping by The Pinball Parlor in Earlington. Expect hella photos!

No comments :

Post a Comment