Thursday, August 1, 2013

Canadian Pinball Championships 2013

Geeze louise, the summer is a busy time for pinball! I've been on an adventure for pinball already, traveling throughout St. Catherines on a pinball journey. On July 6, I made my way out to the Don Mills and Lawrence area for the annual Canadian Pinball Championships!

This is the annual tournament for the Toronto Pinball League. Last years' championships were held at Playdium Mississauga. This year, the championships took place in the Banquet Hall of Jubilee United Church. This was quite out of the way for a fella like me that has to take public transportation. Getting to Jubilee United Church would have taken an hour and a half to get there by TTC, however, a good friend of mine, Kareem of Occupied Artists, was kind enough to give me a lift! BIG THANKS TO KAREEM for the ride to the Championships!

The previous year was a showcase of Stern's latest line-up, with tables such as AC/DC, Avatar and The Rolling Stones being some of the machines available for tournament play. X-MEN MAGNETO EDITION made a suprise appearance at the Championships as well!

This year was different; instead of a full Stern line-up, it was mainly 90's era tables as well as a Pin*Bot and AC/DC table rounding out the tournament lineup. The lineup was mostly Bally and Williams tables although a Sega table did make an appearance! Let's look at the line-up...

One of my favorite tables, THE GETAWAY was there and was the first table I got my hands on. This particular table was a beautiful specimen.

The playfield was in pristine condition, no marks or grime at all. Many of the playfield lights were replaced with LEDs as well.

There was even a little Lamborgini placed on the playfield and even had working lights!

My belief is that many of the machines were provided by members of the league or other private collectors based on the fact that there were more classic tables and the great conditions of the tables. I was pleasantly surprised that there were not a lot of fan favorites like Twilight Zone, Medieval Madness or The Addams Family; rather, it was more of a line-up of some solid, popular tables and a few more obscure ones, Bram Stoker's Dracula being one of those.

I haven't seen the movie but from what I've heard about it, Bram Stoker's Dracula is a real odd license for pinball. I would say that Barry Oursler did a pretty good job with the design although it is tough. The outlanes will swallow a ball no problem if it gets caught in the slingshots and the target bank in the upper-center of the field will send the ball careening for the middle outlane. Dracula also has Williams' lightning flippers which are shorter than the usual flippers found on pinball machines.

Mist Multiball is something you gotta see to believe. If you look at the playfield, you will notice the green fog that goes from one end of the table to the other. When Mist Mulitball is activated...

There are magnets underneath that pull the ball across the table. Mist Multiball has to be one of the coolest multiball activation sequences!

The most troublesome thing, not only with Dracula but with all the tables there, was the tables were hella sensitive to TILT! Good thing there wasn't a breeze in the banquet hall or I would have tilted even more! HEYOOO! I kid, I kid... but the tilt sensors were really sensitive.

Also, it looks like Dracula is getting his titty sucked on

This being a tournament, many of the tables there were pretty difficult, Dracula being one of those tables. 1993 just seemed to be the year of tough pinball tables. Not only did you have Dracula but you also had Star Trek: Next Generation and a very popular unlicensed table, White Water!

During a time where licensed tables were becoming the big thing, White Water was able to stay afloat and be recognized as a classic...

It was no surprise to see White Water at a pinball tournament. This table has to be one of the toughest pinball tables to come out of the DMD era in the 90's. The entire playfield is designed to drain your ball in as little time as possible. Pinball tables are designed to eat your quarters but MAN White Water just devours your money!

Everything and I mean EVERYTHING on this table will make you drain if you're not careful. The table is packed to the gills and there's barely any open space on the playfield. That means this table plays fast and you really gotta pay attention if you want to keep your head above the water. Many of the shots will send the ball right down the middle if you don't hit them properly. For example, the two targets between the lanes will ricochet the ball straight down the drain. If that's not enough, there's the Boulder Garden which is the table's bumper cluster. The Boulder Garden is set up right above the right outlane and sometimes the ball will drop down and bounce into the right outlane.

White Water is all about Risk VS. Reward. You have to be really careful about what shots you want to make and which ones will award you with the most points. If you just go flailing wildly, you're gonna lose your game before you even know it. For example, you might be tempted to hit the left orbit but that will send the ball right into the Boulder Garden and possibly towards a drain. As well, the Extra Ball target is located right out front of the Boulder Garden and is placed in such a way that it will more than likely send the ball between the slingshots which in turn will throw the ball into the right outlane.

Dennis Nordman was the man behind the design of White Water's tough layout. Nordman was never one for traditional pinball playfield designs; his tables always have some strange but effective gimmicks and layouts. Just one look at Dr. Dude or Wheel of Fortune shows how much Nordman strays from the norm when it comes to playfield design. White Water is another inclusion of his non-traditional tables with the tightly packed playfield. On top of all this, a mini playfield sits atop much of the upper playfield.

There's two shots going on here that are really tough, especially when you have mulitball and the jackpot is lit on those shots. Not only do you gotta have hella fast reaction time to make sure you're hitting the jackpots on the upper playfield but you gotta keep your balls afloat on the lower half. Bigfoot also chills out at the top of the playfield.

A lot of people consider White Water to be a "player's table" which basically means it is hard as hell. You have to focus on ball control and coordinating your shots rather than playing by the seat of your pants and shooting the ball every which way but loose.

I played a few rounds of White Water at the tournament although it wasn't the best idea. The table served me my butt on a silver platter and did what the best tables can do... make you want to play "one more time", when you want to try again just to try and show the table who's boss. Unfortunately for me, the table put me in my place!

Here's a table I've never seen, let alone heard of!

I mean, I have heard of Godzilla but I never knew there was a pinball machine of it. Sega tended to land a lot of strange licenses during their short stint in pinball... Looking at their releases, Sega put out Twister, Apollo 13, Goldeneye and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, another weird horror movie license ala Bram Stoker's Dracula.Godzilla does get some points for having a GIANT GODZILLA HEAAAAAAD!

it's pretty impressive.

the playfield is ok, i guess.

The gameplay was just mediocre. It has a pretty plain layout and didn't have anything really exciting to do... Except there was a shaker motor and this table just SHOOK

OK, coming up next in PART II! We continue with more odd licenses for pinball machines so quit monkeyin' around and take a peek at what yer gonna see soon!

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