Thursday, August 29, 2013

Canadian Pinball Championships 2013... PART 2!

Hello again and welcome to the second half of my trip report on the 2013 Canadian Pinball Championships! Check out the first part here if you haven't already! We looked at some of the lineup of this year's tournament, which so far included two fantastic original tables, The Getaway and White Water, as well as a table with a really strange movie license, that being Bram Stoker's Dracula...

Pinball has always had some weird licenses for tables often based on movies, television shows, musicians and what-have-you. For odd licenses, you have Phantom of The Opera, Barb Wire and Dolly Parton among many, many others. Nowadays, Stern plays it pretty safe with their choices for pinball licenses, usually sticking to big budget movies, like Iron Man, The Avengers and Transformers but they also do the occasional unusual license, like Wheel of Fortune or Big Buck Hunter Pro. Anyways, I left off the last post with a teaser of one of the tables at the Championships and it's strange movie tie-in, Williams' Congo.

I've never heard of the movie Congo until I saw the pinball machine based on it... I still haven't seen the movie but I heard it's a stinker anyways. Here's something else I did not know... Congo is an adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel, Congo!

 It looks to me like Hollywood was trying to capture the lightning in a bottle that was Jurassic Park with Congo.

I didn't play much of Congo as it is a pretty difficult table and the glare on the playfield glass was just nasty. It was tough to see much of the playfield under the harsh glow of the fluorescent lightbulbs in the church's banquet hall. The table is pretty difficult and complicated as there are a ton of shots to make but the table isn't really clear on what exactly is supposed to be done at any given moment. The upper area of the playfield has some really nasty shots that will cause the ball to drain.

Similar to Dracula's upper playfield target bank, Congo has a target bank located directly over the middle drain. In addition to that, there's a target bank to the left of the center one. I find these shots to be quite a pain as there's no direct way to hit them from the flippers and usually you can only make contact off ricochet shots. As well, these sorts of targets do have a way of killing a ball's momentum and dropping down the centre outlane. It makes sense though to have a shot that looks easy to hit but is easy to drain on so you end up trying to hit it, draining then spending more money to play again. The designer of Congo, John Trudeau, seems to put this target bank on a few other playfields that he designed, such as Creature From The Black Lagoon's Snack Bar target banks.

The art package for Congo is pretty stand-out. There are lots of bright colours that are offset by the black negative space. The negative space really makes the artwork pop around the upper playfield and also creates a great sense of depth on the playfield, starting with the temple grounds at the bottom and making its way to SPACE at the upper half.

Another movie based on a book (ok, pulp novels if yer gonna split hairs) that I've never heard of until I played the pinball table based on it is THE SHADOW

I heard this movie is a stinker too! Haha I kid I kid... I haven't seen The Shadow but from what I've heard the movie is pretty "visually striking", according to several reviews, but "ultimately forgettable". I can't say the same about the table, at least for the latter statement. The Shadow is a beautiful table and is a blast to play. There are all sorts of neat tricks like the ball lock and the mini playfield, which is sort of like a game of pinball Breakout!

The Shadow was the first table designed by Brian Eddy who later when on to design two BIG fan favourites, Attack From Mars and Medieval Madness. It's strange to look at Eddy's resume and see those two tables, which are very simple in nature, compared to The Shadow, which looks like a Pat Lawlor knock-off. Not to say that is a bad thing though! Eddy's design on The Shadow is very clean and exciting without having to pack the table full of gimmicks. Not to say that there aren't any gimmicks though. There are lane diverters on each ramp shot that will change the direction of the habitrails and the flow of your game. The shots are quite easy to make and keep the game moving quickly. Note that there aren't any jet bumpers on The Shadow either! That keeps up the speed of the game as the ball doesn't waste any time getting knocked around in the bumper field.

The ball lock is pretty wild too; there's a "wall" at the upper centre of the playfield which the ball lock is hidden behind. When lock is lit and you hit the wall, there's a magnet below the playfield that grabs the ball in place while the wall comes down. The ball is then sent past the fallen wall and into the ball lock.

The table's big gimmick is of course the mini-playfield. It's similar to Twilight Zone's mini-playfield where you have to fight The Power with magnet flippers. Instead of magnet flippers, there is a single paddle that moves left and right, ala Breakout or Arkanoid or the multitude of brick-breaking games, that you must use to hit the ball into the targets surrounding the playfield and battle The Shadow's nemesis... THE LIGHT! I joke, it's actually Shiwan Khan, the villain of the film.

The art package has to be the strongest point of the Shadow, especially the playfield artwork. The artwork has an Art Deco-esque theme throughout and a very good colour scheme. Much of the table is awash in cool blue and green colours contrasted by small bits of yellows and reds such as the Shadow's scarf.

Doug Watson was the artist for The Shadow, whose work also includes another Eddy-designed table, Attack From Mars as well as Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Demolition Man, three tables all with really strong art packages. The artwork really shines when the playfield is clean; the colours are just so vibrant that they really pop when there is no grime on the playfield. The table at the Championships was spotless and the artwork looked amazing. Hopefully these pictures do it justice!

The last entry in pinball machines with odd movie licenses is Sega's Godzilla.

Unfortunately, this is not based on the original Godzilla series but actually on the Tristar Pictures remake. The Godzilla in this movie did look pretty mean though and it's reflected well in the table. The big toy on the playfield is a GIANT Godzilla head looking over much of the playfield with his big paws crushing a few buildings on either side of him.

Apparently, Godzilla's mouth opens up and drops a ball or two onto the playfield but I didn't play well enough to see that. The big toy is about the only interesting thing to note about the table though. The playfield isn't very interesting nor are there much exciting things to do on it. The playfield artwork isn't much to write home about either; it's a pretty bland mix of photoshop art from the movie and the playfield inserts take up a lot of room on the field. The backglass artwork is pretty awesome though and isn't just a conversion of the movie poster. Godzilla is causing some serious destruction and the art quality is nothing to sneeze at.

I don't have much stories about the Pinball Championships besides that I didn't play too well. The tournament settings makes me a bit nervous to play well and I end up thinking too much about how I'm playing rather than just having a good time. That doesn't mean that I didn't have a good time though! The Pinball Championships were a blast and it was fun to play a couple of familiar tables like The Getaway and White Water while also checking out some rare sights like Godzilla and Bram Stoker's Dracula. The people there were a friendly lot and it was nice to be around fellow pinball aficionados looking to play a few games. I will have to keep practicing and maybe next year I won't stink so bad... figuratively speaking.

also, here is a lonely TX Sector

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