Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ottawa Pinball Expo 2013 Part III

Yeah, yeah, I know it's now 2014 and the Ottawa Pinball Expo was several months ago but wait! I still have some pictures and notes to share with you!
Before we dive into Part 3 of the Ottawa Pinball Expo, let's get you up to speed on what has already been covered on Bumper City. During Part 1 of my trip report, I gave a general look at the event with a bit of a focus on some of the System-11 tables, especially Williams' Roller Games.
In Part 2, I took a closer look at some of the tables there, especially many of the licensed tables like Dr. Who and Elvira & The Party Monsters.
I have mentioned a few times that the lineup at Ottawa Pinball Expo was more eclectic than what I have usually seen. Not to say that's a bad thing though; no way, it was awesome! Instead of seeing the usual perennial favorites, I got to check out a lot more obscure tables that don't often come to mind. Among the lineup were a couple of late model Premier tables that I've never seen before, let alone heard about, like Gladiators!
This table was released in the 90's, a little while after Gottlieb became Premier when their company assets were bought from their previous owner, The Coca-Cola Company.  During this time, the quality of their tables was really hit-or-miss. Sometimes you would get stinkers like Tee'd Off but also some gems like Stargate, which is considered one of Premier's top-of-the-line tables. Gladiators is a very underrated table that often gets passed up when talking about Premier, conversations often tending to focus on the lack of quality that many of Premiers releases were burdened with.

The neat thing about Gladiators is that instead of there being a particular ball lock shot, you must light the word MULTI by hitting different shots in order. I like it because the game encourages you to slow down and focus on your shots instead of shooting hapharzardly. The one issue I did have, in particular with this table, is that late-model Gottlieb flippers become weaker over time and the flippers on this table weren't the strongest. This made it very difficult to hit the M shot which is the left-most ramp as it is quite long and the ball can't build up enough speed to make it the entire way around without a little nudgin'.

Keeping in tune with the whole FIGHTIN'... METAL... FIGHTIN' FOR METAL Theme is Williams Dungeons 'n' Dragons knock-off SWORDS OF FURY!

This is another table I have never heard of until the Expo and it made one helluva an impression when I played it. Swords of Fury is a Williams System 11B but often slips between the cracks amongst other System 11B heavy-hitters like Black Knight 2000 and Earthshaker. SoF has to be up there with Black Knight 2000 for best sound quips though. Whenever you start a game, the table YELLS at you "CHALLENGE ME!" and throughout the game, it will belt out a few other soundbites like "LION MAN... LION MAN" whenever you hit the Lion Man bonus ramp. This seems to bug a lot of people but I thought the enthuastic growl of LIOOOON MAAAAN was hilarious.
Just like Gladiators, this is a table where you really gotta slow down your game and plan your shots well. SoF is a table meant for experienced sharpshooter and will punish you for any messed up shots. You will notice that there a lot of tight shots on the lower section of the playfield as well as a third flipper in the upper-center that can lead to some nasty straight-down-the-middle drains.
So far we've looked at some of the more underrated tables from Premier and Williams so let's look at a lesser-known offer from another pinball manufacturer.
Data East first hit the pinball scene in the mid-80's and for the most part released a couple of original tables before moving on to licensed tables. One of Data East's originals was Time Machine.
The whole gimmick of Time Machine is going back in time from the 80's all the way through to the 50's. It's packed full of all sorts of references to the different eras; everything from the artwork to the music and even some of the technology has some sort of callback to the days of yore.
Data East came up with a really inventive little gimmick for Time Machine. It's nothing you can find on the playfield itself so you will have to keep your ears open to hear it! Even though Time Machine is a Solid-State table, it shows some shades of its pinball predecessor, the electro-mechanical pinball table. This comes in the form of a special chime box under the playfield that replicates the chime sounds of old Electro-Mechanical pinballs. Not only that but the digital scoring display on the backbox emulates the scoring reels of the EM tables as well. This all happens when you go back in time to the 50's, too cool!
Compared to the previous two tables, Time Machine is pretty tame. The playfield doesn't have much depth and much of the shots are just targets and ramps.
Despite the lack of depth in the playfield, Time Machine is fun for a quick game. What this table lacks in gameplay, it more than makes up for in character! It holds a special place with me because it also references Surf music on one of the plastics.
I think I might have one last post on Ottawa Pinball Expo that I can do! I still have a bunch of pictures to share and maybe next time I will look at some of the older solid-states and electro-mechanicals that were at the Expo! Seeing as we just looked at Time Machine, why don't I give you a sneak peek of another time machine...

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