Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Star Trek

Stern has been on a roll lately with their latest output. Coming hot off the heels of AC/DC, Metallica, Transformers and X-MEN,  Stern has released one of their most innovative tables to date, that being STAR TREK.
In the last few years, Stern has been releasing their tables with about three different models to choose from. Stern's entry-level tables are the pro models which are meant for being out in the wild. The premium and limited edition tables come with a few extra toys and are outfitted with LEDs which are absent on the pro versions. For example, dig the limited edition version of X-MEN.
 DANG, lotsa LEDs and toys! Compared to the Pro models which lack the lighting and neat trinkets.
For the first time, Stern has outfitted their Pro model entirely with LEDs! DANG, Star Trek is BEAUTIFUL!
A lot of pinball purists aren't the biggest fans of LEDs; one guy told me it's like staring into a strobe light for minutes on end. Personally, I dig on LEDs and, if done right, they can really make a table just POP. I have to say that Stern did it right on Star Trek and it looks outright amazing. The LEDs change colour too so they light up differently according to which mission is lit. The LEDs aren't blinding and don't wash out the table's artwork. On the other hand, here's a table where I can see the purists' complaints. This Jack·Bot went a little overboard with the LEDs and kinda takes away from the great artwork on the table.
Even the playfield artwork on Star Trek is an improvement from previous Stern output. Gone is the usual photoshop layout with screenshots of the characters, instead going with a rendition of a star map which makes for a subtle playfield without being distracting.
The reason for all these new tricks that Stern is pulling out is that they now have to contend with a new pinball manufacturer. After having been the ONLY manufacturer of pinball since the dawn of the 21st century, Stern finally has competition in Jersey Jack Pinball and their Wizard of Oz table, which is the first table with a full sized LCD TV screen. Stern didn't opt for a TV screen, sticking with the DMD but instead made a small adjustment that makes for a BIG difference. The backglass is slightly tilted now to reduce backglass glare on the playfield. I especially like this because it makes it so much easier to take good pictures!
The backglasses of previous tables make it difficult to get a clear picture of the upper playfield.
The playfield of Star Trek is not as ground breaking as its other features with Steve Ritchie opting to make a spiritual successor to his magnum opus, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not to say that's a bad thing, though;  Ritchie's design on Star Trek is a great homage to the wide-body playfield of ST:TNG, fitting an inspired layout into smaller real estate.
The layout parallels are best defined by the ramps and third flipper. The setup for the left and right ramps are identical to ST:TNG's though there is a now a third ramp between the two on this table.
There is also the spaceship shot located at the upper center of the playfield with the Vengeance replacing the Borg ship.
There is a magnet located under the Vengeance that will snag the ball when multiball starts. The mode will start you off with 2-ball multiball with the third ball held in place by the magnet. Hit the ball to add it to your current multiball and watch that ship SHAKE.
Once the third ball is loose, you can shoot the Vengeance lane for jackpots. The magnet comes into place again, grabbing and launching the ball whenever the lane is hit. The magnet acts the same as the ones on Iron Man's Iron Monger and Metallica's Sparky where it will catch the ball and launch it at high speed to keep you on your toes. It's tougher to control multiball on Star Trek and sometimes you have to play fast and loose just to keep the balls in play.
Star Trek is one helluva fast-paced table; there are very few shots that slow the gameplay down. Much of the game is focused on shooting the loops and ramps. The left ramp feeds back into the right orbit lane so whenever the ball makes its way up that ramp, it comes flying down the right orbit towards the right flipper. If you can time it well and react quickly enough, you can shoot the ramp again to make a combo. Be care though because if you miss the ramp, the ball is going to bounce off any one of the three targets in that area which can be deadly.
Star Trek is full of tricky shots that will cost you if you are not accurate with your flippers. One particular shot that requires dead-shot accuracy is the scoop on the far left the of the playfield... right above the outlanes.
It is such a risky shot that I wouldn't even bother trying to hit it if it wasn't so necessary. In order to start a new mission or lock a ball for Klingon multiball, you must hit the scoop. Not only is it a tight shot but it's also surrounded by targets and it is located very low on the playfield. If you miss and hit the targets, your ball is going to come careening towards the middle drain or into the slingshots. There is also the situation where the ball will drop down towards the outlanes and bounce around the posts on the slingshot and outlane divider. I have had that happen to me way too many times whenever I try to make that damn shot and sometimes it just makes a clean bounce right off the slingshot post down through the left outlane. Ritchie took a page from another one of his popular tables, Terminator 2, when it came to the design of the scoop shot. Look at the far left of the table and you will see T2's similar scoop shot.
The shot located underneath the upper flipper can be a tough one, seeing as you gotta sneak the ball in under the flipper, but few shots are made there and so you can focus other areas of the table.
Stern made a good move in letting Steve Ritchie design Star Trek. Ritchie's successor to Star Trek: The Next Generation is a gorgeous table with high speed gameplay and tough shots reminiscent of the Williams original. The LED-outfitted playfield and tilted backglass make Star Trek one of Stern's most visually striking tables. As has been the issue with much of Stern's latest tables, the code was unfinished at the time of release and so the game is missing a few things like modes and additional animations.
Star Trek is currently out on location at California Sandwiches and is paired up with Sopranos. Go grab a veal sandwich and play some Star Trek!