Sunday, October 21, 2012

TRIP REPORT: Pinball Gallery in Downington, PA

Road-trippin' with my two favourite allies, my broski, Shane and my old man, MY DAD! We travelled out to Pennsylvania for an Antique Auto Swap Meet in order to obtain some serious parts for Shane's BONE COLD Hot Rod!



... And, of course, we managed to sneak some pinball in too! Thanks to Shane, who organized the trip and located the Pinball Gallery in a little town called Downington in Pennsylvania!

The Pinball Gallery is WILD! They have quite a few pinball machines, about 18, ranging from early Solid-States (Bally's Eight Ball and Gottlieb's Genie) to late-model Sterns (Spider-Man and Shrek). The pinball machines at The Pinball Gallery are available to the public at very reasonable prices, most costing either a quarter or 50 cents, and are maintained by Shelly and Bill Disney.

The machines were kept in absolute pristine condition. I don't think I have ever seen machines on site in the condition these were kept. Yeah, I did some nice machines at The Michigan Pinball Expo (Read all about it here) but those are collector machines that usually just sit in some dude's basement so they don't get a heckuva lot of play.

All of the machines are spotless and barely even have a scratch on them. I was really impressed by the condition of some of the older machines. These older machines can get quite beat up and worn out since they are 20-40 years old . Often you see them with worn out playfields due to years upon years of play but some of these machines look they have never been touched! Especially Genie, I didn't see a single bit of wear-and-tear on the entire machine! They also maintain the machines on a regular, giving each table a quick wipe-down once in a while and washing the playfield glass with window spray to keep them sparkling and clear. The line-up at the Pinball Gallery is very impressive. Plenty of classics reside within as well as a few sleepers and even some I've never heard of!

There were a few of my favourites there like Williams' BLACK KNIGHT 2000 (GIVE ME YOUR MONEY), Spider-Man, which quickly became a new favourite after playing it at the Gallery, and THE GETAWAY which I really, uh, wait... WHAT'S THAT?! OH NOOOOOOOOOOO

IT'S AN....

The Getaway is the sequel to the classic Williams System-11 High Speed and hints at the fact a couple of times in the playfield artwork The character in the car in the artwork says "Deja vu!" and there's a police officer near the jet bumpers yelling into the radio mic "HE'S BACK!". Building on it's predecessor, The Getaway SHIFTS GEARS into overdrive and not only provides the fast-paced action of High Speed but also introduces one of my favourite pinball toys: The SUPERCHARGER.

The supercharger when lit provides a Million-point bonus but not only that, it makes a ton of noise! I love loud noises on pinball machines, like World Cup Soccer's GOOOOOOOOOOAL! or the sound you get whenever you earn a replay. The Supercharger is basically a loop with a magnet housed in the blower engine to repeatedly launch the ball at high speeds through the loop. During Multiball, things can get nuts; You can get more than one ball in the supercharger at a time and it is just insane! 

You can see the ball flying through the lower lane!
The Getaway has been one of my all-time favourite machines. I've had a lot of history with it, going back to my days of going to school in Windsor and hanging out at a local pizza parlour, Pizza Plus. During my stint at the University of Windsor, Pizza Plus also housed a pinball machine and often rotated them. I saw machines like Gottlieb's Street Fighter II and Williams' Police Force, and Bally's Twilight Zone and Theatre of Magic go through Pizza Plus. The machine that stuck around the longest and stuck around in my heart was The Getaway. Yeah, I know Twilight Zone and Theatre of Magic, both top 10 machines on resided at Pizza Plus, and some may say that they are better than The Getaway but does Twilight Zone have a Supercharger? NO. Can you SHIFT GEARS in Theatre of Magic? NO! That's why I love The Getaway. It's one of the earliest Dot Matrix Display tables, having been released in February 1992 and thus was not a part of the increasingly complicated machines that came about during the DMD era. It does have a Video Mode but a simple one at that: hit the flipper buttons to avoid the cars and SHIFT GEARS to go faster! The objectives are pretty simple as well. It's just a matter of hitting a couple of targets to light multiball and amass enough RPMs by hitting the loops to light REDLINE MANIAAlso bearing resemblance to High Speed is the Siren topper on The Getaway. I talk a bit about my favourite toppers in my previous post, Big D on the Big D, and you can check out the siren topper there and an idea I got from the auto swap meet. Click dat link!

The playfield design is by Steve Ritchie and has a pretty simple design. There's a single ramp that branches off three different ways depending on what is lit. Supercharger is initially lit when you first start the game and the ball will go through that on your first shot up the ramp.

It can also go to the right habitrail and into the ball lock when lock is lit (Going my way?) or it can take the left habitrail after going through the Supercharger and return to the left lane. The main shot focus of The Getaway is all the loops. There are four loops in total to shoot the pinball though and a third flipper to assist with hitting the loop that hides under the ramp. Ritchie is known for his smooth, flowing designs and The Getaway is no slouch when it comes to that. Of course, because it is a table about driving fast and hitting high speeds, The Getaway moves quick.

You can rack up some serious combo points by continuously hitting the loops, especially the loop under the ramp. If you can time your shot right, you can keep shooting the ball through that loop. Trust me though, it is a tough-as-nails shot, sort of like Star Trek or Black Knight 2000. You might be able to make it the first time around but after the first shot through the loop the ball really picks up speed and you only have a split second to hit it with the upper flipper and hit the loop once more. There is a high score slot on The Getaway so if you are able to hit enough continuous loops, you can put your letters up! Besides the ramps, there are a few targets to hit that will light the stop light and activate different modes. There is also a kick-out hole that awards a mystery bonus, such as Extra Ball or Video Mode.

The playfield artwork is done by Mark Sprenger, who also did the artwork for High Speed as well as Williams' Diner and Banzai Run. Similar to his artwork on Banzai Run, Sprenger did the lower playfield like you are sitting in the vehicle. The Getaway is similar in design and has the speedometers strewn about the lower playfield.

The middle playfield is reminiscent of Black Knight 2000, another Ritchie design, and it's lightning wheel.
Further up on the playfield begins to look  like a highway, with the loops representing highway lanes and plenty of trees and even some mountains as a part of the scenery. Of course there are the cars racing throughout, too!

The rounded triangular design of the lights is very similar to other early Ritchie playfields like Black Knight 2000 and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

The music is performed by Dan Forden, well-known for pinball soundtracks like Black Knight 2000 and Williams' Medieval Madness. ZZ Top's La Grange is used as the game's theme music. What I really love about The Getaway and La Grange as the soundtrack is the music changes after something happens. The music starts off with the first few riffs of the classic ZZ Top tune then after you lock a ball or get jackpot or in general just get deeper into the game, the music starts going through different parts of the actual song. It just sounds so cool having a little chip-tune version of La Grange chugging along while you're racking up  a serious score. Forden also did the sound effects for The Getaway and definitely rank up there as some of the best sound effects along with Medieval Madness (which feautres Tina Fey as one of the damsels in distress) and Theatre of Magic (You have the MAGIC! or the effects for Secret Ball Lock). Every time I hear The Getaway yell out SHIFT GEARS! I can't help but imitate it. During Multiball you have a police officer yelling at you "PULL OVER! PULL OVER NOOOW!" And no doubt there are plenty of car sounds and the aforementioned siren. The Getaway is a LOUD machine and I would have it no other way.

The Getaway isn't the most popular machine as it was kind of stuck in a weird pinball limbo. It wasn't a part of the machines of the 80's, like many well-regarded System-11 tables and it was too early to be up there with some of the mid-90's DMD Heavy Hitters like Medieval Madness, Addams Family and Twilight Zone. Some people consider The Getaway too simple but I feel that there is beauty in simplicity. The Getaway is so well done without having to resort to a ton of modes and a cluttered playfield. It gets along with the bare minimum and a beautiful flow with bold, striking artwork. It's a bonafide classic and is one of my all-time favourite machines. If I ever have the opportunity to buy a pinball machine of my choice I would PULL OVER NOW and buy The Getaway so I can SHIFT GEARS into some seriously good times (not a long time).

Many of the machines were outfitted with LEDs. A lot of Pinball purists hate the fact that people are putting LEDs into old machines but personally I think it looks great and since this is my blog, I'm going to gush about it. I love how bright it makes a table and just adds to the whole sensory overload of a pinball machine. LEDs look great especially in low-lighting and that's how the Pinball Gallery was set up. The rooms were pretty much lit by the machines which provided a cool glow from the LEDs. The argument reminds me of fluorescent bulbs versus incandescent bulbs but in terms of LEDs versus regular pinball lights, I definitely prefer the LEDs. Stern has been putting them into their Limited Edition tables and they look great.

The Pinball Gallery's Spider-Man table is, I believe, the Black Suit Limited Edition, as it was outfitted with LEDs and a shaker motor, both characteristics of Stern's LE models. Spider-Man was really pretty as it had a multitude of different colours all over the table and looked absolutely beautiful.

BUT, beauty is not skin deep, I'll have you know! This machine played just as well as it looked. The only other time I've played Spider-Man is at Ted's Collision on College near Manning and that machine is beat to all hell and dirtier than a pig in mud. However, PG's machine was in 100% and played great. It's pretty complicated though. Each villain has three different modes to activate which are all activated by making separate shots, like the Venom Ramp, The Goblin Targets, The Doctor Octopus Target and the Sandman Targets and eject hole. It's pretty wild the amount of things you have to do on that table but if you can activate Multiball and have a decent round you can really clean up and clear a bunch of the modes.

I noticed the LEDs in particular on The Pinball Gallery's Funhouse.

There were super-bright purple/blue LEDs in the STEP targets as well as a few other lights and it really brings out the colours in that table. Not only did Funhouse look great, it also played great but man is it a tough table! It's an early Pat Lawlor design from 1991 and is just so unforgiving at times. Many players have renamed the STEP targets PEST targets due to their set-up; a few of the targets are on the lower part of the playfield and with a mis-timed shot or too much speed, those targets can launch the ball at machspeed right down the middle or through the outer lanes. The jet bumpers are also in a risky place and there is the chance the ball will shoot out of the bumper cluster and make a beeline for the drains. The superdog is one of those weird targets that I have trouble hitting.

It almost sits perpendicular to the main flippers making a difficult shot to make from them although not impossible. The Superdog shot is more suited for the upper flipper but hitting it from the lower flippers can stop the pinballs momenteum and drop it right down the middle drain. I love the Superdog mode though only because of Rudy's quips during it, "GETCHA SELF A HOT DAWG!" This sort of sideways target can also be seen on Lawlor's classic design, Bally's Addams Family, for the Hit Cousin It mode.

Shane and I were both talking about the difficulty of Funhouse on our way home. A couple of summers ago, I bought Farsight's Williams Pinball Hall of Fame, which features Funhouse as one of their virtual tables. We recalled that we both initially did not like the table due to its difficulty and the fact that each time we played, the games were pretty much over as soon as we started. Once we got the hang of it though, we loved the table (albeit in a virtual format). Now, for those who have the luxury of playing both virtual and physical pinball, the differences can be really jarring. You may be awesome at virtual pinball but the minute you're in front of a real machine, you're flailing your fingers on the flippers before you flop! Neither of us had played Funhouse in the flesh until now and, geeze, it was like we had barely played pinball before. Shane and I are both pretty good, being high score earners and all, but Funhouse just chewed us up and spat us out! There's a saying I have when it comes to pinball... "Sometimes you eat the machine and sometimes the machine eats you". No matter how good you are, there is a element of randomness and chaos in pinball and that can wreck you pretty bad sometimes. Check out this PAPA video of professional pinball players, some of the best, get their butts handed to them by Rudy. I mean DANG!

It's time to wrap up this portion of my trip report of Pinball Gallery. Stay tuned though as Part II will be dropping soon and we will speak about some more of the weirder pinball machines at Pinball Gallery! Like Gottlieb's BONE BUSTERS INC.!

It's so weird!

Also, be sure to check out the Pinball Gallery on Facebook and like their page!

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