Monday, October 15, 2012

Big D on the Big D

I had some free time a few weeks ago and I was out on the Danforth so I figured I would hunt down some of the wild pinball machines in the area that I have yet to see. I had already discovered World Cup Soccer '94 at Eastenders and NASCAR at Eton House in my pinball update here but I was also aware of a few places on the Danforth that had pinball machines of their own.

I made my first stop at Eastenders to see how World Cup Soccer '94 (Bally) was holding up. Unfortunately, the machine had been restarted and MUF high score #4 was no longer. The good news though is that the previous issues I had spotted during my last trip to Eastenders have been remedied! The kickback is now working and activates properly when the ball falls through the left outlane.

 The other broken feature I previously noted on Eastenders' table was the magnetic ball lock. That is also fixed and now the ball is caught by the magnet before falling into the ball lock. The ball lock magnet is more of a cosmetic feature than the kickback but I still get a kick out of it each time I see it. If you want to read up some more about World Cup Soccer, I suggest checking my review of The Port's WCS table. The Port is now known as Get Well and hosts a new pair of pinball machines.

The Only Cafe, near Donlands and Danforth, replaced their broken TRON: Legacy (Stern) with Stern's Lord of The Rings. LOTR is operated by Playdium and is kept in good condition. All the lights seemed to be working and none of the toys were broken.

Look at how many different things there are to light!
I'm kind of on the fence about LOTR. It is considered one of Stern's best designs and is one of the highest rated Stern tables on Amongst the highest-rated Stern tables are The Simpsons Pinball Party and Spider-Man. LOTR, Simpsons and Spider-Man are three of the most complicated Stern designs made so I'm not surprised by their ratings on IPDB, which has some of the most complicated tables, like #1 mainstay Bally's Twilight Zone, Williams' Tales of The Arabian Nights and Bally's Cirqus Voltaire. But I digress... Complicated tables can be a hit-or-miss for me; If there are lots of shots with easy-to-understand rules, like Spider-Man, I can dig it. If there is so much on the table for the sake of it being there and wicked convoluted rules, (Twilight Zone I got my eye on you) then I have trouble getting into it. LOTR tends to veer more towards The Twilight Zone-level of complication. There are a ton of shots to make on the table and each of them seem to activate a different mode. On top of that, there is the ring that activates another several modes, like Attack of the Ents and Defeat the Shelob. The ring shot is really cool. There's a ramp in the upper-center of the table that, with enough speed, will shoot the ball right into the middle of the ring that, when activated, will catch the ball with magnets into the center. It is definitely a cool-looking feature and sure to impress your friends!

The reflection on the glass makes it a bit difficult but you can see the ring up there.
The whole objective of collecting rings for Dwarves, Elves and Men confuses the heck out of me; I cannot figure out how to collect them or what the reason for collecting them is.

I dropped into Eton House next to try out NASCAR (Stern). It's a Pat Lawlor design and quite an ambitious one at that. In his design for NASCAR, Lawlor discarded many of his usual trademarks like the third flipper and the shot through the jet bumpers. NASCAR's playfield still bears Lawlor's favourite five-lane outlanes. A new feature on NASCAR is the Speedway that encompasses the entire playfield. It's a neat feature at first seeing the ball rush through the speedway a couple of times but the novelty soon wore off and I had grown tired of it. The problem is that since it is such a long track for the pinball to follow that sometimes the pinball loses its speed and ends up having to drain on the speedway and get shot back out, rinse and repeat.

The mechanism for the speedway is similar to Williams' The Getaway and it's Supercharger. There's a magnet housing that is used to propel the ball around the track. Unlike The Getaway though, the speedway is much larger and takes a lot more for the pinball to make its way around. The magnet housing is on the bottom and sometimes does not give the pinball enough speed to make it up the speedway and thus it comes crashing back down. Thankfully, if the ball is returned to the shooter lane, it only does a single lap around the speedway before entering the speedway. However, when a ball is locked for Multiball and another ball is added to the playfield, it will go through the speedway and do a couple of laps again. You can see what I mean by the novelty of the speedway getting old.

The announcer for NASCAR is like something right out of a NASCAR race and reminiscent of another racing pinball, Bally's Indianapolis 500. Whereas Indianapolis 500's announcer was super enthusiastic and wild (IT'S A GREAT DAY FOR RACING!!!), NASCAR's announcer sounds kinda like he is going through the motions and puts little energy into it. Plus it sorta sounds like the announcer from Stern's Big Buck Hunter Pro. That guy and his southern accent are like nails on a chalkboard for me. I did get a kick out of the Superfan mode, though. Each time you hit the lit shot for Superfan, this dude pops up on the DMD and goes "YEAH! OH YEAH!", "ALRIGHT!" and other exclamations.

The Test Car is a real pain in the arse. It's placed in the center of the upper playfield and is positioned in a way that causes a ton of Straight-Down-The-Middle drains. If there is not enough momenteum when the ball bounces off the test car, it will make a beeline right down the center drain. The test car also rises up to reveal an eject hole and two targets. The eject hole adds to the trouble of SDTM drains as it tends to shoot the ball right down the middle rather than to one of the flippers. It may have been because of this particular table; the table may be lopsided or the eject hole may not be properly aligned. Designers tend to favor upper center shots that go SDTM (Magento Ball-Lock on X-MEN  or TRON Legacy's Recognizer are a couple of Stern's examples) in order to eat your quarters.

The Court Jester Pub was next on my list of places to hit up and there I found Stern's Shrek.

 Shrek is a family-friendly re-skinning of Family Guy and as I am not much of a fan of either themes, I am unsure of which one I prefer. The Shrek table looks a lot prettier than the Family Guy machine, that's for sure. the lockbar and legs are all coloured green to further emphasize the Shrek theme. The playfield is darker colour-wise and the artwork looks a lot smoother than Family Guy's bright orange and yellow with pixelated artwork. The green, orange and yellow lights throughout the Shrek table look very nice in a dark setting as well. The attract mode for Shrek is pretty funny. Shrek and Donkey throw a couple of quips at you every once in a while or if you press the buttons while the machine isn't being played. I've heard Shrek say "Oh, kickin' the tires, aren't ya?" and when hitting the flipper buttons, "Practicing for when you actually play the game?". I thought those and a few of the other sayings during gameplay were pretty funny despite the theme. I have to say that I like Donkey a lot more than Stewie and he throws out a couple of funny lines while playing Mini-Pinball.

The Mini-Pinball is such a neat little gimmick from none other than the Gimmick-Master himself, Pat Lawlor. Shrek/Family Guy was after Lawlor's reimagining of pinball design, starting with the above-mentioned NASCAR. I only noticed this after Lawlor brought it up in his TOPcast interview that Shrek/Family Guy only bears one ramp! That is not exactly true as the Mini-Pinball has a ramp as well! Well, a mini-ramp so maybe it doesn't count. Anyways, the Mini-Playfield was working really well on The Court Jester's Shrek table and it was always fun to get a few rounds on it. Even the artwork for the Mini-Playfield looked nicer than the Family Guy table.

The one deal-breaker for Shrek is that Smash Mouth's All-Star plays at the beginning of each game. I absolutely hate this song and when it came on, I almost left. Almost. But I powered through and found that after the first ball or activating a different mode, Some regular background music filler comes on and saves me the ear-burning of All-Star. 

Shrek is a pretty simple table which is suprising seeing as it is a Lawlor design. However, there is beauty in simplicity. Shrek doesn't go over the top with the modes and it is very easy to activate them, often having to hit the Mirror target or hitting the Donkey eject hole. Multiball is pretty easy to get as well; Just a few shots at the Mirror Target will activate Multiball. I found that once Multiball is started, it is pretty easy to keep the balls on the playfield as there is a Drain Stopper located between the flippers, like Stern's Harley Davidson, that pops up to prevent balls from draining straight down the middle. Additionally, ball save is activated for quite a while so if any balls manage to drain through the outlanes or sneak past the Drain Stopper (it happens pretty easily!), the ball save will return it quite quickly.  It's also pretty common to add another ball or two during a Multiball round although I am unsure of how to get Add-A-Ball. I just recall having about four balls bouncing around the playfield and causing some serious havoc.

Brass Taps Pizza Pub was my final destination and there I found Stern's CSI. The Danforth seems to be teeming with Pat Lawlor-designed tables as CSI is another Lawlor table. I kind of had a feeling that this (and Lord of The Rings) may be the tables that resided at Pegasus Bar on Church and Wellesley but I am unsure since I haven't visited Pegasus Bar in a while. The one difference I did notice about this CSI was the Lab Eject Hole was damaged.

The metal piece that sits above the hole to direct the pinball forwards was bent down at such an angle that the ball could not enter the hole and would instead bounce off. This is extremely troublesome as the Lab is CSI's mystery award and also the spot to earn Extra Ball. It isn't game-breaking but it does add a bit of difficulty. That means you just have to play better!  Otherwise, everything seemed to be working fine. The playfield is pretty dirty and it is very noticeable as there are a lot of lights situated in the center of the table, often the dirtiest part of a well-worn table.

I have posted about CSI and LOTR before when I discovered it at Pegasus Bar and you can check out that post here. Having had another chance to play CSI, I noticed a certain issue that I had already spoken of in this post. The Centrifuge Multi-Ball feature is another one of those nasty Straight-Down-The-Middle drain monsters.

 Like the test car on NASCAR or the Recognizer on TRON Legacy, it's located at the upper center of the table and seems to have the opening directed right at the center drain. it is quite annoying and difficult, especially on a table with a sensitive TILT detector since that is the only way to really save the ball. Besides that though, the Centrifuge is really cool to see; it's like a miniature version of the Speedway on NASCAR. Because it is so small as well, the ball really picks up speed. I think the Centrifuge may be malfunctioning on this particular CSI table. In order to get Centrifuge Multiball, the ball must make so many rotations. Whenever I hit the centrifuge, the ball would stay in there quite a while, sometimes even completing the initial required amount of rotations. It's not such a bad malfunction though as you get Multiball pretty easily!

Here are some pictures of the other toys on CSI's playfield. The Microscope...


The Skull has to be one of the coolest Ball Locks in Pinball history. It just looks so cool when there are two pinballs sitting in its eye sockets!

And as I am the king of getting pinballs stuck, here is a stuck ball on CSI for you!

The picture is at a bit of an awkward angle. It's on the upper left side of the playfield. I had to take it from this angle otherwise you cannot see it.

That wraps it up for the wild Pinball machines on the Danforth. Now if we head a bit further East... A little more... keep going... just a few more steps... now we're in Oshawa! The Dirty 'Shwa. Back at my old haunt, Leisure Lanes, my brother Shane saw a Playdium technician a few weeks ago hauling out Stern's Big  Buck Hunter Pro which is a good thing because the table is really lame and boring and the machine itself was busted to all hell (Ram Push-Back didn't push back and the Elk Ball Capture would get stuck open). Shane, Miranda and I all got together the past weekend and we saw that they replaced Big Buck Hunter Pro with Stern's Sopranos! (Iron Man is still standing)

This Sopranos was in pretty good condition compared to the machine Shane and I spotted at a Rest Stop outside of Oshawa (Read about it here). There were actually TWO dancers on this machine, haha!

The safe looked a little broken but worked perfectly. I should know as I kept smacking that damn thing until I got to Underboss WOO!

And with getting to Underboss, you get HELLA POINTS! Enough that I managed to get High Score #1! I managed to grab the high score off of a lightning round too. When there is a single credit left, either after earning a replay or getting three credits, Shane and I play what we call LIGHTNING ROUND. Each person gets a single ball to play and see how well they can do. It's kinda lopsided as whoever goes last has more chances to get more points. Shane and Miranda went up before me and earned some measly scores. I stepped up to the plate and managed to go from Associate all the way to Underboss in a single round. Aided by Multiball and unusually long Ball Saves, I managed to hit the safe enough times to earn me the title of Underboss and High Score #1. It's no Grand Champion but it still looks damn good having MUF #1 up there!

That is all for Pinball on the Danforth! I have located all but a few machines in Toronto now. There are a few scattered here and there but for the most part, I have hit up the most clustered areas, around the West end and on the Danforth. If you're aware of any machines I have yet to cover, please feel free to give me a shout and I'll try to make my way out there to try them out!

Stay tuned for my trip report of the Pinball Gallery in Downington, PA! Here's a little teaser for you. ;)


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