Sunday, February 10, 2013


I don't know if I can handle this table, it might be too... XTREEEEEME!!!

I mean, soccer balls on fire, that's hella XTREME!

This ol' table has recently showed face at The Rivoli. Rivoli's a good place for pinball as the tables there are often switched out. I think it's because I happen to keep breaking them... Well, not ME in particular but I've seen a lot of damaged tables come and go from The Rivoli. As for this one...

Striker XTreme was THE first orginal title of Stern's before they went full-time with licensed tables. It's a pretty neat specimen as it's one of Stern's few original titles... and I use "original" in a very loose sense. If you recall from my last review of Stern's TRON Legacy, I made note of a lot of similarities between several titles, specifically TRON's inspiration by Williams' Funhouse. TRON Legacy was not the first to be a spiritual successor to tables of days gone by, though. It was actually preceded by Striker XTreme's semblance of Bally's World Cup Soccer '94. (REVIEW HERE) Both bear the soccer/football (for the European folks) theme but Stern's outing takes it to the XTREEEME! Somewhat actually, the table isn't quite balls-to-the-wall as the name implies but it is a solid table regardless. It takes a few hints from WCS '94 and builds a decent playfield with some different ideas. The most notable inspiration would be the goalie.

Though instead of a little cut-out Goalie, they have some big toy that looks like the guy is sitting on the can. It's a little silly looking but the toy is really effective. There's a magnet located between the Goalie's legs that will catch the ball for a save and dump it out in an eject hole. What's new too is that there's a "defensive line" that you have to take out first in the form of five drop targets. Knock them down and make a shot to get a GOOOOOAL! though Striker XTreme is not as enthusiastic about getting goals as WCS '94 is.

A common problem of Drop Targets
 Now, I'm a big fan of drop targets, they just feel so satisfying to hit! I can't get enough of the drop targets on Stern's Playboy or Sopranos and ESPECIALLY World Poker Tour, which has SIXTEEN drop targets. The thing with drop targets, specifically ones that are close to almost a decade old, is that they get hit by pinballs hard and often which leads to some definite wear and tear...

We didn't do this on purpose, I swear! Okay, a little bit on purpose, I mean we are supposed to hit the targets but Shane managed to hit one target a few times too many and it broke clean off. The worst part about this is the target fell into the outlane drain and blocked any balls from draining. Actually, that isn't the worst part. The absolute worst part is I had a potential high score but since the balls couldn't drain, we couldn't get the game to end and award me the high score spot (I was sitting at a decent 250,000,000 and the top score was 400,000,000). DANG!

I digress though... Looking back at the features on Striker XTreme that are shades of World Cup Soccer is the eject hole located next to the Goalie, just like Striker's Hideout on WCS. I suppose it is a necessary feature to have somewhere the ball can go to rather than the goalie dropping it straight down the middle. However, They might as well have called this shot... I guess Striker Hide-Out HEH.

It's almost identical to Striker's Hideout on WCS, down to the location and even having Extra Ball lit there! They almost return the ball to the playfield in a similar matter by launching the ball upwards into a habitrail and back to the playfield. Striker X-Treme's habitrail is a bit taller though and sometimes the ball can't get enough of a push to make up the habitrail. This can become a nasty issue during multiball because if two balls get caught in the eject hole they will just keep launching and bouncing off each other until they get dropped out of the eject hole rather than shot up through the habitrail. Beware of this as the balls tend to go straight down the middle in this case.  Besides the artwork and gameplay though, that's about where the similarities end and Striker X-Treme strikes out on its own.

Striker X-Treme is packed to the gills with precise shots. You don't have a whole lot of shots that you can get lucky with. Even the goalie can be a difficult shot due to the sheer size of it. The ramp shots can be risky if you're not accurate and can ricohet the ball right back at the slingshots or outlanes if they don't make it up. The ramps make up a majority of the shots to make and it's no easy feat to successfully hit them. The ramps are long and steep so you need to have precise shots or enough speed to make it up them with a little bit of nudging. The entrances to the ramps are located pretty low on the table so if your shots at the ramps are loose, be prepared to shake, rabble, and roll to keep that ball from finding its way to the outlanes.

There is a third flipper present on the playfield and an accompanying ramp with it. However, this shot seems to be... XTREMELY TUFF. I'm not sure if it's due to the angle of the ramp or the strength of the flipper but I can never manage to get the ball up this ramp, even if I make a perfect shot at it.

I give the table the benefit of the doubt, however, and believe that due to age and wear-and-tear, the third flipper just doesn't have enough power anymore to get the ball up the ramp. On the other hand, I have heard complaints about Stern's flippers before and them not having the same power that older Williams/Bally tables have so it could be that. From what I have read in reviews on's page for Striker XTreme, a lot of people have the same concern, saying the flippers need to be in tip-top shape to successfully make the ramp shots. As well, there's an unusual mechanic in that a stop post pops up sometimes when the ball is approaching the third flipper, killing all momentum it has.

This makes the ramp shot difficult as you have to make the shot from a dead stop and don't have any speed to assist you. To make things even tougher, there's no orbit on Striker XTreme so there's really no way to build up speed for the third flipper. Thankfully, the ramp shot is not too important; it is one of the shots for the ball lock but instead you can just hit the right ramp to lock the ball and activate multiball.

The center ramp does become a bit of a pain during multiball as it is one of the shots for jackpot and is often the one shot left after obtaining the other lit jackpots. I believe though that you can reactivate the jackpot shots and thus avoid trying to get that pesky ramp shot during Multiball.

The ruleset is awfully simple for Striker XTreme which is a refreshing change after coming down from the golden era of pinball and some serious ruleset monsters like Cirqus Voltaire and Monster Bash. All you really have to do is hit the Defensive Line drop targets and get GOOOOOALS! Each goal defeats a country and you get closer to being a CHAMP (and getting extra ball!) Defeating countries is the main objective but there are a few other modes to light that can score you some serious points. They're completely optional to activate and aren't required to activate the final mode.

I mentioned this previously in the review for TRON Legacy but the issue with pinball tables in the wild is it is difficult to really form an opinion about the audio aspect. I come from a radio and music background so it's always a very important part to me. Pinball is sort of an assault on all senses for lack of a better word. Unlike video games where you can just sit on the couch staring at the TV screen for hours, Pinball requires you to be on your toes, figuratively and literally! Lights are flashing, sounds and music are blasting and you fingers are flipping like there's no tomorrow! I have difficulty getting into a pinball game if the music is turned right down. It's like watching a movie on mute with subtitles. Yeah, I get what is being said, or done in the case of pinball, but the emotion just isn't there. A pinball game is the sum of all parts; just like a car, if there's something missing, it just doesn't work properly. But, again, I'm going off on a bit of tangent. Both times I went to play Striker XTreme, the music at The Rivoli was pretty loud and drowned out most of the audio for Striker XTreme. From what I do know, the announcer is certainly not as enthusiastic as the fella from World Cup Soccer. I sure don't get as excited about goals on this table as I do on WCS.

The artwork is Striker XTreme is one of Stern's few hand-drawn playfields before they went to primarily photoshopped art. It's pretty par for the course of Stern's hand-drawn playfields like Sharkey's Shootout, NASCAR, and Playboy, although it is a little more barren than the aforementioned. Basically, the playfield consists of a plaque with the teams along with little flourishes around the shots. Also, there's A LOT OF FLAMES and EXPLOSIONS!!! The celebrating couple at the bottom look a little funny in their faces though.

The backglass is pretty awesome. It's a dude kicking a soccer ball in front of an XTREME EXPLOSION!!! Besides that, I really like the artwork for the backglass. The colour selection is really spot-on with much of the background art using cooler colours to make the main subject pop with its bright and warms colours.

The artwork for Striker XTreme was done by Kevin O'Connor, which kind of comes as a surprise to me as Striker XTreme's artwork is quite lackluster compared to other playfields on O'Connor's resume. In particular, O'Connor has done the artwork for Bally classics Creature From The Black Lagoon and Judge DREDD (Check out some of the artwork for JD here!) and Stern's Playboy and The Simpsons Pinball Party.

I say it quite often and I'm going to say it again for Striker X-Treme is that "Simplicity is Beauty". Stern's first original table doesn't go buckwild with modes and features but rather provides a simple and engaging table.  Pinball enthusiasts will most likely find themselves wanting more out of this table but to them I say... I say, "Go play Twilight Zone, ya nerds!" Not every table has to be chock full of ramps and wacky toys; sometimes just a couple of loops and some bumpers does a playfield well. Keep in mind, pinball comes from awfully humble beginnings! You won't find ramps or wacky modes on tables like Buccaneer or Surf Champ! Striker Xtreme is great for pinball beginners and novices. They won't be bogged down with trying to activate several modes and the ruleset is simple enough to understand the main objective of getting GOOOOOOALS!!! It won't hold their hands though; the ramps are tough customers and mis-timed shots can drain a ball in short notice. If you're looking to get into pinball, I definitely recommend swinging by The Rivoli and trying out Striker XTreme. It's easy to learn on but it will definitely teach you my mantra "Sometimes you eat the machine and sometimes the machine eats you." I advise you first though to look in the outlane drain and make sure that the drop target still isn't stuck in there from our rough housing... MY BAD!

BONUS: Of course I'm not gonna leave you without some STUCK BALLZ! Haha, I always manage to get pinballs in places they're not supposed to be in.

I'm not sure if this ball was caught by the magnet or it just got stuck above the magnet. With the lack of speed the ball gets by the time it's up the ramp, I wouldn't be surprised if it was just stuck there.
Here is my masterstroke. I think I bounced it off the goalie up there.
As well, if you look closely at the goalie pictures above, you will see a ball stuck on the drop targets.

No comments :

Post a Comment