Thursday, July 18, 2013

St. Catherines Pinball Journey 2013... Part II!

Hello again and welcome back to my trip report of the St. Catherines Pinball Journey!

We started off the trip report covering the stops at Welland and Port Colbourne and the pinball tables that can be found there. We left off with an impromptu review of Red & Ted's Road Show at Colonial Cleaners. R&T was not the only machine that called this little port town laundromat home. There's also Star Wars!

I have spoken previously of the Star Wars table that can be found at Unlovable here in Toronto and you can read all about it right here. I'm quite familiar with the table but there is quite a few differences between the two. Colonial Cleaners is in much better shape than Unlovable's table and a heckuva lot easier to see the playfield! I was talking to Shane about this during the trip and I want to share this insight with you as well. Throughout St. Catherines, there is not as many Stern tables as there are in the City; instead, there's a lot of older 90's era tables. My feeling is that a lot of these tables were put on location back in the 90's and have been there ever since. I don't think there are many, if any, operators in the St. Catherines area and I believe that these tables were purchased by the owners of the businesses to make a few extra dollars here and there. I doubt there is much of a market for buying and selling machines in the area so I imagine that a lot of these tables have sat in the same place since the day they were purchased. That's my feeling for Star Wars and Red & Ted's Road Show at Colonial Cleaners as well as a few other tables throughout St. Catherines. The weird thing is that this particular Star Wars is in better condition than the one at Unlovable even though it has probably been on location much, much longer. My guess is that not many people play these tables in Port Colbourne. Both times we stopped by the laundromat, the tables have shut off and must be turned on. That just goes to show how rarely these tables are used. 

Port Colbourne, for its size, is a hotbed for pinball. The other pinball table can be found at Harborfront Inn. I mentioned previously that this little bar is one of my favorite places to swing by during the pinball journey. It's such an odd little bar; there's red neon along the top of the bar basking the area in a red glow, no matter what time of day. The pinball machine is tucked far away in the back near the ladie's washroom and even though we were there in broad daylight, the only light we had was coming from the red neon. The beer is super cheap too. A pint of Old Vienna is only $3.50 DANG!!! Anyways, there's gotta be someone at Harborfront Inn that really loves pinball. During our first trip to the Inn, we came upon a near-mint Theatre of Magic!

This time around, Theatre of Magic has been replaced by another very well-regarded table... DEMOLITION MAN!!!

I've seen this table here and there at Michigan Pinball Expo (read about my trip here) but I never really gave it a try as I wasn't quite familiar with it. What a mistake! This table is amazing. Demolition Man is all about flow and combos. There's ramps and habitrails going every which way but loose and very few toys.

This is a real player's table, you gotta play real accurate and focus on combos to get those high scores. I'm a big fan of tables that have great flow so Demolition Man just appealed to me so much. It's a widebody too so it is PACKED with all sorts of awesome shots. The gameplay is fast and soooooo smooth. There are a few toys on the playfield such as the Cryo-Claw...

A magnet that snags your ball and you move the claw back and forth to select different awards or modes, as well as two captive shots, one with a captive EYEBALL for Retina Scans and two Matchbox cars that act like sequential captive balls.

There's also a really unique toy on Demolition Man, that being the TRIGGER HANDLES.

It's such a weird gimmick but I love it. I hear a lot of people put down these handles as a cheap novelty; you play one game with them and then you're back to the flippers. I couldn't get enough of these handles though and played every game on them. It's silly as all get out but it was cool! You can also get a better handle on nudging with them too. Since you have a better grip on the table, you can really shake, rabble and roll. Unfortunately, this Demolition Man table is very sensitive on the tilting so you gotta play it safe.

I can't say enough about Demolition Man. I hear a lot of disparaging remarks about the table artwork but I think it's very suitable for a Sci-Fi movie table; it is sort of like Terminator 2. That doesn't matter though when you have a table that just flows so beautifully and focuses on gameplay rather than gimmicks and smoke and mirrors.

We tried to make a few other stops at Sherkston Shores and Fort Erie but those were unsuccessful. Shane and I just chilled on the beach and made a failed attempt at infiltrating the maze that is the Sherkston Shores trailer park to locate their arcade. We did have a nice view though.

When we pulled into Fort Erie, it was a ghost town. Everything is closed on Sundays and we couldn't check out the two bars that had pinball tables there. Shane and I decided to make our way over to our final stop in Niagara Falls. We were supposed to go by Embassy Suites but I wasn't paying attention and I messed up the directions there. We made a detour along Lundy's Lane through Niagara Falls to our destination when we spotted a car show in a No Frills parking lot. We weren't going to stop until I saw one particular car...

THE LAST OF THE V-8 INTACEPTAHS from The Road Warrior! I am a HUGE fan of the Mad Max series (except for Beyond Thunderdome, that movie sucks eggs) so I flipped my lid when I saw The Last of The V-8 Interceptors. We pulled over for an impromptu car show and saw a few neat cars. We also got to see the V-8 Interceptor leave the parking lot and it sounded sooooooo good. OK I know this a pinball blog and you may not care for cars but there is a purpose to this... Pinball intuition has a weird roundabout way of hunting down machines sometimes. Shane and I were just about on our way out from the car show when I saw a laundromat, that being Manor Cleaners. I said to Shane that we should go check it out and what a move that was because we stumbled upon...

WELCOME TO THE THEATRE OF MAGIC! WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!! Keep in mind, this table was not on our map nor it is listed on ANY pinball tracker that I used to put the map together. Needless to say, this machine fell under everybody's radar... UNTIL NOW! That's true pinball intuition for you. A impromptu stop at a car show leads to an impromptuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUOOOOOOOOOOOONNOOOOOOOOOOO


When we stumbled upon this machine, it sat in a corner of the laundromat along with a Cruis'n' USA cabinet just collecting dust. It wasn't even plugged in! So I plugged it in and Shane flipped the switch. At first... nothing. Bummer! Shane tries flipping the switch and BOOM, there's the start-up screen! The Theatre of Magic is open!

Just like the tables at Colonial Cleaners in Port Colbourne, I would think that this table has been sitting here since the day it was put in. It must not have been played in ages because there was quite a layer of dust covering the glass. It was a bit beat up here and there but you could tell that it was shown a little TLC as there was some jury-rigging done to keep everything working. The bottom of the magic trunk was breaking off but somebody had placed a strip of metal to replace the broken bottom.

 As well, it looked like the trap door for the haunted basement had been replaced with a paper printout or something. Otherwise, the table worked and was a blast to play.

Let me state now that Theatre of Magic is my all-time favourite pinball table and I've just been waiting for the chance to find it again so I could write a review. My love for this table first came about when I was going to school in Windsor. There was a local pizza place, Pizza Plus, that always had a machine or two and were often switched in and out. I used to go there all the time, eat some pizza and play some pinball. Some tables like The Getaway and Twilight Zone passed through Pizza Plus until Theatre of Magic came along. That's when I really started to fall for pinball; I would dump money into ToM almost daily. I just find it to be the pinnacle of pinball. Great design by John Popadiuk, beautiful artwork, deep ruleset without being overly complicated and just so much to do on this table. Throughout my years of playing pinball and playing Theatre of Magic every chance I get, I have never found a flaw with the table and, let me tell you, I would know if there was; I know this table inside and out. A neat little trick is that you can unlock cheats for Mortal Kombat 3 by holding the right flipper when starting your game. By completing modes and certain objectives, you will earn cheats that you can input at the VS. screen in Mortal Kombat! As well, there is a strategy to the video mode, Digital Pinball, that is accessed randomly through the Haunted Basement or by holding the left flipper before starting your game and hitting the Haunted Basment shot. OK, so the strategy goes like this: There's five shots you have to hit in order to light Extra Ball. Since it is digital, the ball trajectory is not random and you can determine where to make each shot. Instead of flailing wildly, hold the flipper each time the ball approaches the flippers and it will catch the ball. From there you can determine which spot the ball is on the flippers in order to hit the targets. It's easier to demonstrate while playing rather than explaining it in writing!

Another neat little trick is if you hit the center loop before you activate ball lock and the ball falls into the back of the trunk, you will see an animation of a guy falling down a staircase

 (OH NOOOOOO! OH OW OW OH OWWW) and you will be awarded a secret ball lock. It's a tough shot to get as the ball cannot have too much momentum going into the centre loop.

The whole jist of Theatre of Magic is that it is about magic! There's a bunch of neat little tricks throughout the playfield to illustrate this. Hit the side targets to light Hocus Pocus; Hocus Pocus is similar to the Magna-Save on Black Knight 2000 and World Cup Soccer (review of WCS 94 here). There are magnets located below the playfield just above the outlanes that will automatically catch the ball from draining when Hocus Pocus is lit. The jet bumpers and rollover lanes are obscured by the right staircase ramp but there is a mirror that gives you a better view of the rollover lanes in order to assist you in activating the bonus multipliers.

 If you hit the right staircase ramp, it will sometimes go below the Spirit Ring.

The Spirit Ring is a magnet that will snag the ball and redirect it along a different habitrail. It is a really neat little illusion; just by looking at the ring when the ball is approaching it, you will see the ball go in a completely different direction almost immediately.

ToM loves its magnets and when you light Multiball, the trunk spins around to reveal what looks like an interdimensional portal. hit it and the ball will be snagged by the portal and will "levitate" as the trunk spins around. When multiball is activated, hit the trunk as quickly as possible, within 3 seconds, to be awarded the SUPER JACKPOT.

A quick strategy to keep your game going a bit longer is to light Extra Ball through the clock. You have to turn the clock to 6 PM to light Extra Ball so hit the right ramp about 5 or 6 times to activate it. Then hit the left ramp to earn the Extra Ball! BOOM! If you want hella extra balls then do what I said earlier and hold down the left flipper to activate Digital Pinball when you first hit the Haunted Basement. Now if you want ANOTHER Extra Ball, then you gotta get about 600,000,000 points but you gotta be a damn good player (like myself) to get that!

I absolutely love the sound design on Theatre of Magic. The music is perfectly suited to give the table a sort of eerie, supernatural feel and the banter between the magician and his assistant is great.


There's the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words so hopefully the photos will accurately convey the quality of the artwork that I can't emphasize more in writing. The artwork by Linda Deal, who also did the work for Demolition Man as well as another Popadiuk table Cirqus Voltaire, has to be one of the best art packages for pinball.

There's just so much packed into the playfield artwork which includes some of the playfield toys and features. For example, there are two magic wands that point towards the Hocus Pocus locations. In addition to that, the backglass references many of the illusion modes from the game. Even the cabinet art has great attention to detail...

It makes the table look as if it is a real magic trunk TOO COOL!

I could just gush on and on about this table but you should really play it yourself. If you happen to find yourself on Lundy's Lane in Niagara Falls, make sure to stop by Manor Cleaners and give Theatre of Magic a shot. Bring some glass cleaner with you to wipe off the dust though as it's pretty thick.

Our impromptu stop by Manor Cleaners signalled the end of our Pinball Journey as Embassy Suites no longer had pinball machines in their arcade. Just a bunch of cheesy arcade games and snobby kids, NO DICE!! There's a few other tables in Niagara Falls to be found, however, it was getting awfully late by the time we left Embassy Suites so Shane and I called it a night. If you're in the St. Catherines or Niagara Falls area and are looking to play pinball, check out this Pinball Tracker to find some of the machines I have chronicled here on Bright Lights Bumper City!


  1. Great shot of my mad max car!!! Could you send me a hi res copy to
    Please include your name so I can give proper credit

  2. Bad news guys! The cleaners in the No Frills plaza in Niagara Falls burned down and was totally gutted! So the Theatre of Magic was totally destroyed!!