Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Gottlieb, once considered one of the top-tier pinball manufacturers during the early era of pinball, neck and neck with Bally and Stern. To give you an example of how Gottlieb was cream of the crop, take a look at IPDB.org's Top 10 EM tables. The entire listing is Gottlieb tables. That just goes to show that Gottlieb were, at one point, top-of-the-line pinball manufacturers. Unfortunately, hard times hit the pinball and arcade manufacturers when home consoles started gaining popularity. Columbia Pictures, the parent company of Gottlieb, shut down the company as they thought pinball was no longer profitable. However, a couple of the workers at Gottlieb and some investors revived the company as Premier/Gottlieb but they struggled to meet the popularity of Bally and Williams tables as well as the quality of previous Gottlieb greatest hits, like Black Hole and Haunted House. After Williams' Space Shuttle was released, which is touted as the machine that saved pinball in the 80's, Bally and Williams pulled ahead in the pinball race and left their competitors like Data East and Gottlieb in the dust. I guess, as a pinball company, when you're struggling to stay afloat, you're willing to throw some wacky ideas out there in hopes of hanging on. Gottlieb had released some really wacky tables like Bone Busters Inc, (which you can see more of from my trip report to Pinball Gallery here) Wipe Out which is a Skiing game based on a Surf song, and Tee'd Off (looks like a rip-off of 1997's No Good Gofers but was actually released prior to in 1993!) as well as some very unusual licensed tables like Rescue 911 (I JUST found out this is actually licensed from a TV Show!), Waterworld, and Barb Wire (remember that show? Post-apocalyptic series starring Pamela Anderson). Speaking of weird licenses, here's another one...

Believe it or not, Basketball pinball machines seem to be pretty popular, or at least the theme is compared to other sports. You have Williams' NBA Fast Break, Stern's NBA, Bally's Harlem Globetrotters, Gottlieb's Hoops and of course this machine in particular, SHAQ ATTAQ!
NEAT SHAQ ATTAQ FAQT! There are actually two pinball machines based on the two most popular basketball players of the 90's, there's Shaq Attaq as well as Michael Jordan in Sega's Space Jam! Radical! (wait no, that's a machine about skateboarding...)
This particular Shaq Attaq is currently residing at Community 54, a vintage apparel shop in Parkdale on Queen St. West. Community 54 boasts a little arcade in the back of the store and are no strangers to pinball. Some of the tables that have resided there are Family Guy, Gulf Stream, and Charlies Angels among others. Now Shaq Attaq is sitting pretty amongst all the vintage sports apparel. How fitting!
As I mentioned, when Shaq Attaq was released, Gottlieb was throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. Many of their later tables have some sort of gimmick, like Bone Busters Inc.'s  Electric Chair jump shot and for Shaq Attaq, they have a Basketball Net... jump shot. I guess Gottlieb likes having jump shots. It's a really cool idea, though. The basketball net moves left and right across the upper playfield and you have to hit the ramp to launch the ball into the net. That's all fine and dandy, however, Gottlieb flippers aren't known to be the strongest flippers. The flippers on Shaq Attaq feel loose and underpowered. It's difficult to give the ball any speed from a standstill which makes the Basketball shots quite difficult. The ball cannot gain enough speed and ends up barely hopping off the ramp. This isn't just a problem with Shaq Attaq, though. I've noticed this on Gottlieb's Street Fighter II, which also resided at Community 54 at one point. It makes a tough game but you just gotta learn to compensate with a little nudging and taking fast shots when the ball comes down the ramps or the lanes.
I guess to stop the ball from hitting the backglass, Gottlieb installed this big ol' dome over the entire upper playfield. It's kinda ugly and gets in the way but I admire their efforts for protecting the machine. I don't think the ball even has a sliver of hope of hitting the glass though.
Housed underneath the backglass and below the Basketball net is the Court miniplayfield. Gottlieb designers seemed to be a big fan of these mini-playfields. They seemed to be a carry-over from late 70's designs, when widebodies were all the rage and designers were able to pack more gimmicks on tables. Gottlieb's Genie as well as Rescue 911 have miniplayfields. Shaq Attaq houses a mini-playfield as well. I really like the implementation of the mini-playfield on Shaq Attaq. It sits right above the ramp and below the basketball net so you often find yourself playing on the mini-playfield. I don't know why but I just get a kick out of playing on a mini-playfield. I've been playing a lot more of Stern's World Poker Tour, which also has a mini-playfield and I just can't get enough of it. But I digress...
There's a few shots to make on the mini-playfield, specifically the drop targets. As well there is a waaaacky spinner that catches the ball and whips it everywhere. The spinner on Community 54's Shaq Attaq is pretty worn out and sends the ball in some weird trajectories. Thirdly, the Tip Off mystery shot is located in the upper left part of the mini-playfield. The Tip-Off often lets you select from two different prizes and will often light Extra Ball. How do you light Tip-Off? I have no idea...
The weird thing with Shaq Attaq is the ruleset is very vague. I played quite a few rounds and had no real idea what was going on. Many of the shots aren't explicitly labeled; instead there are images of basketballs and horse heads. I don't think it really matters though as everyone will just try shooting for the Basketball Net. There are these basketballs that you can light for HIDDEN FEATURES! 
Activating the hidden features nets you some serious points at the end of your game. Some of the hidden features can be activated by re-locking the balls during Multiball or choosing 5,000 points for your Tip-Off award.

Gottlieb's artwork was never able to live up to the quality of Bally/Williams and Shaq Attaq isn't an exception to the rule. The artwork on the playfield is a bit sloppy but kinda suits the 90's radical, graffiti style of the table. The likenesses of Shaq are pretty good and he just looks so happy to be on a pinball machine!
Bringing it back to the mini-playfield, I really enjoy what they did with it art-wise. Seeing as it sits below the basketball net, it's made up to look like a basketball court with the hardwood floors and what not.
I've spoken about my love for "Cheerleaders" in pinball, the voices that tell you what shots to make, what the current mode is, or just plain make fun of you. Shaq Attaq has a pretty outrageous cheerleader, one of those that just yells at you, "GET THE EXTRA BALL!" "TIP OFF IS LIT!" "SHOOT THE NEEEEEEET!" The cheerleader definitely ranks up there with the likes of No Fear and World Cup Soccer.

I was noting that I was getting a bit sore on Stern machines in my last post about Data East's Star Wars so it's a bit refreshing to see a machine like SHAQ ATTAQ make an appearance in the city. It's not often that you see Gottliebs show up as they're not as common as Sterns or as desirable as Bally/Williams. If you've been playing Stern tables for the most part, I definitely recommend getting down to Community 54 and playing some Shaq Attaq before it disappears. The wackiness of later Gottlieb/Premier tables is a something to behold; where else can you find a machine where you get to shoot the pinball like a basketball into a net? (Stern's NBA actually)
BONUS SHAQ ATTAQ FAQT. The name SHAQ ATTAQ comes from Shaq's line of shoes from the 90's.

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