Sunday, March 16, 2014


I gotta show some love for Community 54. It's a great vintage clothing store down on Queen St. W in the Parkdale area that has an a little arcade in the front lobby. Ever since I moved to the city a few years ago, Community 54 has always had a pinball machine amongst the various arcade machines. The machines are for sale and come and go often enough that they never outstay their welcome. The store sells a lot of 90's era apparel too so it's cool to see them go full-bore and even include a staple of the 90's in the form of an arcade. All sorts of pinball machines have passed through Community 54, everything from 70's solid-states like Charlie's Angels...
to Shaq Attaq!
What I find even cooler is many of the machines that come in are Premier/Gottlieb tables, like the Shaq Attaq above as well as Street Fighter II...
 and their latest addition, Waterworld!

You don't see much Premiers around any more. Premier tables get a lot of flack for being sub-par tables compared to the behemoths of Bally and Williams tables that they were competing against. Gottlieb was once considered a top dog in pinball but when the company assets changed hands and were sold only to be reincarnated as Premier in 1984, the quality of their output started to slip. Not to say their tables are trash, though; Premier did have a few good entries amongst the perennial favorites of Bally and Williams and are often unfairly compared to the paragons of pinball. People often point to tables like Tee'd Off as an example of Premier's quality, or lack thereof... and let me tell you, Tee'd Off is pretty crappy BUT there's also a few gems, like Stargate. Waterworld is another of Premier's tables that gets a lot of undue criticism. The table gets a lot of grief for being based on an infamous movie but HEY don't judge a book by its cover! Premier didn't exactly have the funds to acquire more desirable licenses but sometimes the weirder licensed tables tend to be a lot of fun, like Rollergames! Besides, Waterworld had a lot of hype going for it when it was released, being one of the most expensive movies made in 1995, and perhaps Premier was hoping to ride the hype wave. Unfortunately, that was not the case; Waterworld bombed both in the the theatres and the arcades. In Premier's case, they had to compete with the likes of Attack From Mars and Theatre of Magic, both released in 1995 to critical acclaim. Premier closed their doors a year later, with Waterworld being one of their last few tables.

Premier tried a lot of different things to attract players to their tables, like Shaq Attaq's basketball hoop shot.
However, Waterworld is quite scaled back in terms of innovations and complexity, instead opting for more of a shooter's table. There is the big ol' toy that became commonplace in the 90's, that being the rotating boat.
 Sometimes it's the Atoll and sometimes it's THE DEEZ.

The toy is accessible through a shot right up the center in between the bumper cluster. I know that the mention of a bumper cluster shot can cause trigger warnings of John Borg and Pat Lawlor's affinity for these difficult shots but it's a bit easier on Waterworld as the bumpers are spaced further apart. It makes hitting the boat a lot easier but it can lead to some nasty drains if the ball loses momentum in the cluster or doesn't make it up the ramp into the boat. The modes and gameplay differ depending on what side is currently active. When the Atoll is up, the ball will either be directed towards the left ramp and light a letter of Waterworld or it will drop through the middle into the bumper cluster... and maybe even right down the middle OUCH!

When the mode "SHOOT THE DEEZ" is lit, the boat flips over, revealing a pretty rudimentary ball lock and you must ... SHOOT FOR THE DEEZ! By shooting the Deez, the balls sit in the platform until enough are caught to start multiball. The issue with Community 54's particular table is that the table doesn't recognize when the balls are locked.
The table doesn't have any sensors on the boat to indicate when a ball is locked, instead relying on a sensor on the half-pipe leading to the boat to indicate whether enough balls are locked for multiball. Luckily, this is NOT game-breaking. If you shoot a ball up into the Deez, just wait several seconds and the machine will search for the ball. The boat will turn over and dump the ball back out onto the playfield so don't worry about losing your game.

For the most part, much of your shots will involve hitting the orbits and the eject hole.
There are a few targets here and there as well but they are pretty dangerous shots and sometimes are not worth taking the risk. I like the style of Premiers eject holes as they are a larger size than usual and therefore easier to hit though they tend to get worn out pretty badly.
There is a target bank located over the left flipper that is particularly precarious. If you hit these targets at a bad angle or the ball comes off the slingshots into them, the targets can sometimes send the ball bouncing down the left outlane.
Not only that but the target bank doubles as the jackpot shot during multiball. There isn't a ball save during mulitball so be careful and plan your jackpot shots so you don't lose your multiball right after it starts.

One of my favorite shots on Waterworld is the Harpoon shot. There is a small loop located above the right flipper which will direct the ball across the playfield to the Harpoon kicker with enough momentum. It's a really neat shot when it works out right but on the other hand, the loop shot can only be hit from the left flipper and it's a really risky shot. Since the loop is pretty low on the playfield and is on the far right, the ball must be nearly right on the tip of the left flipper in order to hit it. In order to make it to the harpoon shot, the ball needs to have a lot of momentum making it an even more difficult shot to pull off. There is also a hurry-up mode that implements this shot. The hurry-up reward is an extra ball which is such a damn tease!

The Harpoon shot can only be really hit by going through the loop if you're actively trying to go for it but there are instances where the ball can just bounce into the shot, either from coming off an awkward shot or hitting the water cannon inbetween the harpoon shot and the left orbit and having the ball drop down into the harpoon kickout.

The music in Waterworld really hit a note with me. There's just something about the soundboard that Premier tables use that make the music sound like something out of a Sega Genesis game. Genesis' sound was one of its weaker characteristics compared to the Super Nintendo's high quality sound output but you can't deny that there was a certain charm to some of the Genesis' music. The music always had a bit of a grungy synth sound to it and Waterworld's music has the same sort of style.

Fast-forward to 4:00 if you want to hear Waterworld's music, though this video is a great sample of the music found in Premier's tables of the 90's. Whenever I hear the music of these tables, it brings back memories of SONIC SPINBALL!

The announcer is also worth mentioning. Pinball starting implementing announcers around the 90's to assist you in determining what shots to make and more often than not, they're quite ridiculous. I've made mention of another Community 54 alum, Shaq Attaq and that tables announcer in my review, and I have a good feeling the same announcer from Shaq Attaq is present in Waterworld. A lot of licensed tables will feature one of the movie stars as the announcer but I really doubt Premier could afford it at the time and probably had an in-house guy do all the shouting. When I first heard the announcer yell out "SHOOT FOR THE DEEZ!", I have expected him to start shouting "THE RAMP, THE RAMP!" like he does in Shaq Attaq. The announcer is quite hit-or-miss for most, but for me, I think it adds to the overall over-the-top nature that pinball has.

Waterworld is one of Premier's more solid outputs before their eventual downfall. It's a shame that many pinball manufacturers went out with more of a whimper than a bang; Premier faded out soon after Waterworld was released. Many of Premier's tables are polarizing, with some really enjoying their table while others lambaste anything with the Premier-Gottlieb name on it. I for one enjoy Waterworld and think it's quite an underrated table. Compared to the behemoths released by Bally and Williams like Attack From Mars and Theatre of Magic, Waterworld gets a bad rap but give it a shot and you will see that it's a fun table. It doesn't have the most challenging layout but the unusual theme and enjoyable sound and music lend the table a lot of charm.


I came... I saw... I kicked some butt!

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