Sunday, April 6, 2014

Black Rose

 It is not often that you see a classic table in Toronto. I get the feeling that when locations in the city ask for a "classic" machine, they end up getting old Stern tables, which I would not necessarily associate with the word "classic". Case-in-point, Striker XTreme. It's a classic in the sense that it was one of Stern's first tables though the actual gameplay of the table leaves something to be desired so it's not exactly synonymous with "classic pinball".

Though there are a few old school tables in the city, such as Data East's Tommy at Monarch Tavern and Star Wars at Unlovable in addition to Community 54's rotation of 90's Gottliebs like Waterworld and of course 3030's ever-changing lineup of vintage tables, I have been hoping to see some serious classics show up in the city. It seems that ETON House has answered my call. Now, you might be thinking, "what kind of classic table could it be? The usual suspects, Twilight Zone or Addams Family? Maybe... The Getaway or Terminator 2?" Close but no cigar! Instead ETON House ended up with a real cool classic...
DANG Black Rose, how neat is that! I mentioned it in my most recent pinball update but I'll say it again: it's not often you see a table this old in the city, let alone a Bally such as Black Rose! These sorts of tables are starting to fetch quite the price on the collector's market so it's even more uncommon to see them out in public! Not that I am complaining though; Black Rose is an underrated table which I have never seen in person before. I first came upon the table back in mid-February when a couple of buddies and I hit up the Danforth for my birthday. I had a couple of beers and my memories of that night were a little hazy so I made a solo venture out to the Danforth a few weeks later to really take in Black Rose.

Black Rose has a lot of cool things going for it; the design was a collaboration between John Trudeau and Brian Eddy, two of Williams/Bally's most innovative designers. The Trudeau-designed Creature From The Black Lagoon was released several months after Black Rose back in 1992 while Brian Eddy would go on to design Attack From Mars and Medieval Madness.

Though Trudeau had been designing pinball tables for nearly a decade with Premier/Gottlieb, Black Rose was one of his first few tables under the Williams/Bally flag and exhibits a few of his design trademarks. From the Trudeau tables I have played besides Black Rose, those being Creature From The Black Lagoon and Judge Dredd, Trudeau has a propensity for a particular style of double ramps. Let's compare...

Between these three tables, the layout is quite similar, with one ramp a little higher up the playfield than the other. More comparisons can be made with the third flipper on Judge Dredd and the orbit layout on CFTBL. In Trudeau's favor, he never quite uses the same layout and modifies the design on each to create fun playfields that don't feel rehashed.
The main gimmick of the table and the one feature sure to catch anyone's attention is the broadside shot that cuts through the centre of the table, right down to the middle drain. It's quite the harrowing shot; It's tough not to panic as a ball comes careening straight down the rail towards the drain between the flippers. There is a small piece of metal that acts as a diverter to knock the ball onto the right flipper but geeze louise, it's tough to put a lot of trust into a little sliver of metal! The Broadside shot offers a variety of awards. One of the multiball modes, "Quick Multiball", is one of the random awards and after shooting one ball out from the plunger, the other comes down along the cannon shot.
Having one ball bouncing around on Black Rose is tough enough; having another flying down a rail all the while is insanity!

Among those are several video mode mini-games such as Outswim the Shark or Jump the Boat. These are short mini-games where you have to repeatedly hit the Fire button to Outswim the Shark or swing on a rope from one ship to another and time the button press in order to land on the enemy ship. Completing these modes will give you awards such as Extra Ball or big points. During my time playing Black Rose, I found that completing the modes the first time around often awarded an Extra Ball. One of the other Broadside shot awards is the Polly Mystery and if that is activated first before anything else, the mystery award is usually an Extra Ball.
If you'd rather earn the Extra Ball like a seasoned pinball veteran rather than leave it up to a mystery award, there's a pretty easy strategy in getting one. It's easier said than done though as you have to make multiple shots on the Whirlpool ramp in order to light the Extra Ball.
The Whirlpool ramp is on the right and twists up above the bumper cluster which turns into a habitrail down to the left flipper. Hit the Whirlpool ramp repeatedly to advance the scoring level and after about four shots, the next shot will award an Extra Ball. As I mentioned, the ramp feeds the ball through to the left flipper so you can easily combo shots into earning an Extra Ball.
Another big feature of Black Rose is the Cannon.
It's similar to the cannon on AC/DC in that it is used to launch a ball at the stand-up targets scattered throughout the playfield. The difference is in the location; Black Rose's cannon is smack-dab right in the middle of the playfield! In order to load the cannon, you must get all the necessary ingredients by hitting the 3 target banks of Fire, Gun Powder and Balls. Trudeau is always a tough guy when it comes to placing target backs as evidenced by CFTBL and Congo.
Black Rose is real mean as there are several to mess up you up and send your ball straight down the middle.
I wouldn't necessarily go after these shots unless you really want to see the cannon (it's pretty cool) but they usually get lit incidentally when the ball is bouncing around the upper playfield. Once all three target banks are lit, the third flipper ramp, Davy Jones' Locker, will open and you will be able to load the cannon. Once the cannon is loaded, FIRE!!!
 Hit the drop targets to sink the enemy ship and get hella points. Again, this is easier said than done. The drop targets are really tough to aim for and hit properly but usually the ball will bounce and hit something.
Black Rose is quite the alluring table. Even from a distance, you can tell the difference between Black Rose and just another Stern table. When we were approaching ETON House that one fateful night, I could barely see the table through the windows but I could tell that there was something different. I think it's in the difference of lighting used in the backglass to be quite honest; Stern usually just has one fluorescent lightbulb to light the backglass while older tables tend to have multiple incandescent lights to highlight different parts of the backglass.
That and Black Rose has beautiful hand-drawn artwork by Pat McMahon. McMahon takes full control of the pirate theme and really immerses the whole table in some serious swash-bucklin'. There's a big ol' fight going on between enemy ships with The Queen of the Black Sea, Black Rose, standing in the foreground. The playfield itself gives the illusion of the flippers being a part of the ship with the cannon right between them and the upper portion giving way to the wild sea.
There's so much detail packed into Pat McMahon's art packages. Nowhere on Black Rose has been left untouched; everything from the ramps, with the waves and whirpools splashing along even down to the little bits of plastic and the bullion scattered about.
A little bit of MUF...fy for ya!
The shape of the Black Rose table at ETON House left me quite surprised. During my two stints of play, I could not find a single thing broken on the playfield. All the lights and moving parts were working great though the white lights that flash when Broadside is lit are wicked bright and tend to make it difficult to focus and make shots due to the dark atmosphere of ETON house. I shouldn't complain though because I prefer playing pinball in dark locations; it's a lot easier to see the table and there's less chance of glare on the table but, geeze, when those bright lights go off, it's hard to keep focused! The one thing I did notice is that the lock bar is a little loose and doesn't fit properly on the right side. Be careful of this as the underside of the lock bar is quite sharp! Other than that, no complaints whatsoever!
One of the nights I dropped by ETON house, I was fortunate enough to get there before a local band started playing. Not because the band sucked, mind you, they were quite fine, but I digress... Before the band began, the music in the bar wasn't very loud and I was able to hear the sounds and music of Black Rose. The moment you press the start button you hear "I AM BLACK ROSE, QUEEN OF THE SEA!" Now, being quite the attentive pinball player, I noticed that the voice of Black Rose sounded quite familiar... I can swear that I've heard the voice doing callouts on a few other pinball machines.
I thought the voices sounded quite alike but from what the credits say, the voice actor for Cirqus Voltaire is Cathy Schenkelberg. I can't find anything on Theatre of Magic, though.

I have always admired ETON House for the tables that have taken up in residency in the back of the bar. I first discovered ETON House when Elvis used to rule the joint...

... Stopped by a few times while NASCAR and Shrek took up space...
and now I look forward to rockin' a little Black Rose whenever I'm down on the Danforth!

It is well worth the trip to the Danforth to play a little Black Rose. The table is an all around classic early-DMD with an enjoyable layout with shades of designers John Trudeau and Brian Eddy's later tables and trademarks rounded out by one helluva art package stuffed to the gills with little details by Pat McMahon. Jump ship to ETON House and fire the cannon on Black Rose before it sets out to sea, ye scurvy dog!

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