Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pinball Crawl Trip Report

This past weekend I went on my very first pinball crawl! BIG THANKS to Kensington Brewery and 3030 for putting on this great event. I had a blast, met many great people and played some serious pinball! There were seven locations in all throughout the west end of Toronto that we had to venture between and obtain the highest scores we could muster on their pinball machines.

The crawl started at 4 PM at Handlebar in Kensington Market. A Gottlieb Pro Football was brought in for a one-time appearance at Handlebar to kick off the crawl.

It's a neat little EM that does things a bit differently. Instead of having a plunger lane, the ball is actually launched out of the drain out onto the playfield. Being an EM, the table plays at a slower pace than more recent tables but don't underestimate that; this table has plenty of nasty tricks in order to drain your ball. There are four flippers on the table that don't have much in way of protection so you can't trap the ball and determine your shots. The angles on the playfield also have a way of directing the ball towards the center drain, especially the spinner located just below the bumpers.

The backglass artwork of Pro Football really caught my eye. It's an odd mish-mash of a football theme mixed with some psychedelia which was par for the course for a lot of Gottlieb's artwork during that era.

We also kicked off the pinball crawl with a few pints of Kensington Brewery's pinball themed beer, TILT!

Next stop was one of my favorite haunts, Monarch Tavern! We went by to rock a little bit of Metallica.

Ever since Monarch has gotten Metallica, I've been going there on a semi-regular basis, playing pinball to the tunes of Seek and Destroy and For Whom The Bell Tolls. When we went by for the crawl, I noticed something odd on the table...

BLOOD! How suitable for a heavy metal table haha! I've been noticing a bit of wear-and-tear on Monarch's Metallica. The left flipper button has been getting sticky and often sticks the flipper in the upright position. it's quite harrowing when you have multiball and the flipper gets stuck when the balls come careening down towards the left flipper. One of the fellas that was on the crawl with us, Ross, knocked down my high score too, DANG.

Following Metallica at Monarch, we took a brief walk up towards College and Manning for Batman at Ted's Collision. The machine was pretty busted but we played the best we could on it. That's just the way it is sometimes when playing pinball in the wild. Sometimes you come across well-maintained machines and sometimes you find the forgotten ones, collecting dust in a corner.

After Ted's Collision, we booted up to Dundas and Ossington for stop at Get Well. We were supposed to play Dolly Parton but she was on the fritz so we had to make due with a half-working Captain Fantastic.

By this point, I was a few beers in and wasn't in the clearest state of mind. We took a cab up to Get Well and at some point during the ride, I took my phone out to do whatever it is you do on a phone. Now, you always hear the stories of people leaving their phones in a cab and never seeing it again. I always say HEH THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME! I always keep an eye on my phone! I was carrying with me some camera equipment which I had borrowed from a friend and was hella expensive so I guess my attention was solely focused on that. So, as we step into Get Well, I reach for my phone. It's not in my jeans' pockets... It's not in my jacket's pockets... OH NOOOOOO! I just felt my heart sink and knew that I finally ate my words. Big thanks to Kyle for contacting the cab company and letting them know that I lost my phone. I resigned to the fate that I wouldn't see my phone again but, hoping against hope, I went back out to look around the area that we got out of the cab. on my approach there, I noticed something sitting there on the road... OH DANG IT WAS MY PHONE! I raced over there and picked it up. It was a bit dirty but thankfully, it did not get run over. As I picked it up and prayed to the gods for my luck, a passerby said to me "HEH, LUCKY GUY!" buddy, you don't even KNOW! I had a few glasses of water at Get Well to sober up a bit but man, that whole situation brought me right back down to Earth.

Once we finished up at Get Well, we headed west along Dundas West to Unlovable where Star Wars resides. NOW DIG THIS! Star Wars used to be pretty beat up and dirty but on our stop there, I was in for a pleasant surprise!

WOW! the entire table was cleaned up and the burnt-out lights were replaced. Here's a before pic just to give you an idea.

What a difference it makes! Star Wars was playing quite well and I had a blast. My luck had yet to run out and I managed to put up a high score!

All I really did was hit the center ramp, haha! My strategy for getting BIG POINTS  on Star Wars is really just hitting the center ramp over and over again. After 3 ramp shots, Extra Ball is lit so make a quick shot towards the right loop next to the Death Star and get the extra ball. After that, just keep hitting the ramp as you get big bonus points for certain amounts of shots. After each successful shot, the ball gets dropped back down to the right flipper so you can really just spam the shot repeatedly. One of the guys on the crawl, Zeus, was ahead of us and was just laying down a warpath on the machines. While we were still at Get Well, he texted us saying he put up a high score of 329,570,510 on Star Wars. I just BARELY came in under him. A few more shots at that ramp and I would have had it! Can't go wrong though, a high score is a high score!

Our second last stop was Boo Radley's near Symington and Dupont in the Junction. Wheel of Fortune and Family Guy reside here.

We stuck to Family Guy for the crawl because Wheel of Fortune has a wacky layout and Family Guy is a more traditional pinball table. When Shane and I went by a few weeks ago to check out the new tables, Stewie Pinball was broken but a tech from Playdium (I think) dropped in to fix the machines as we were leaving. Stewie Pinball was back up and running so we got a few mini-games on it!

Extra Ball on Family Guy is super easy to light; hit the Chris ramp twice to light it then hit this captive ball...

Now here is where things get really tough. That captive ball is so dang hard to hit! The captive ball is obscured by a target and a post so it's nearly impossible to hit from the main flippers. What you have to do is shoot the ball up through the Lois orbit so it will come down towards the upper flipper. Keep in mind, the upper flipper is a shortened one so you have an even smaller window to successfully make the shot and hit the captive ball.


We were supposed to arrive at 3030 by 9 PM... we didn't get there until around 11-11:30 PM. I talked to Zeus there and he said he had been waiting nearly two hours for us! By this point, I was not in any condition to play pinball. Lots of beer, excitement and hauling around a big ol' bag of camera equipment really wears a fella out. I had an epiphany while I was playing pinball at 3030 though... I realized why vintage machines are so good to have at bars. Because they are often simple and not as fast as later tables, they are much easier to play when you have some beer goggles on or if you're new to the game. People that don't play much pinball have a better time playing them because it is much easier to keep track of what is going on compared to later machines that will chew 'em up and spit 'em out... maybe not so much an epiphany rather than a keen observation haha...

3030 was pretty busy by the time we got there and the show they were putting on, Pinball Sessions, was well under way. I was able to get a few good games of Mata Hari in as well as the classic Comet. I wanna talk about Comet some more so why don't we throw down an....

During the 80's when pinball tables were beginning to really push the envelope with innovations such as Black Knight's double playfield and Black Hole's lower playfield and price of 50 cents, Comet was also an innovator but often gets overlooked for its ideas.

The reason why I believe Comet to be a candidate for innovation is that it was the first pinball table to feature an One Million point shot, leading the game for games to feature BIG POINTS shots!

The flippers were a bit weak on 3030's comet table so the spiral ramp and One Million Points shot were difficult to make. That has really been fixed, however, and these shots are easier to hit. A fella that was hovering about while I was playing gave me some tips to get big points given the circumstances. His strategy was to hit all of the Duck and Rabbit target banks...

Once those are completed, the centre ramp can be hit for 30,000 to 100,000 points.

It's sort of like Star Wars; just hit the center ramp repeatedly! Haha I kid though, Comet has a few other fun shots to make the million point shot and hitting the green drop target next to the center ramp to build your bonus multiplier.

BIG THANKS again to Kensington Brewery and 3030 for putting on this great event! It was an absolute blast to play pinball and drink beer all over the city. I mean, I do that pretty often but it's much better when you have a gang of like-minded people all looking to play pinball!

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