Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Time for some HOUSE OF TARG trip reports! I'm super excited to talk about the machines that were on hand at this wicked cool venue. There was quite the eclectic line-up and a few machines that you don't often see at barcades. You know that here on Bright Lights Bumper City, I like to look at some of the lesser-known tables, like Bone Busters Inc. at The Pinball Gallery in Downington, PA., Wipe Out! at the Guelph Pinball Club, and The X-Files at Michigan Pinball Expo!
I mention The X-Files specifically as it is a SEGA table and the House of TARG had quite a few Sega tables there! There was also a good representation of DATA EAST tables which complimented the Sega tables well. The reason being that Sega acquired Data East's pinball division 1994 when the latter exited the pinball market due to sales numbers dropping. Although neither Sega nor DATA EAST could compare to the Bally/Williams tables of the 90's and often played second fiddle to the main players in pinball, they did make some cool tables which aren't very well represented in today's pinball communities. There were a couple of Bally and Williams tables at the House of TARG but why talk about those when we have THESE?
Not often do you get a chance to play Independence Day... and play I did! Played the heck out of it. I always heard that Independence Day was one of Sega's stronger tables and after getting a few games on it, I would agree.
It's not a very in-depth table, only having two multiball modes but ruleset depth doesn't make or break a table for me. Instead, Independence Day really shines in it's layout. The table is tough but not unforgiving. The ramp shots are tight but feel real smooth to hit; rarely does the ball lose momentum on the ramps and fly back down towards the middle drain. The ramps are steep but certain measures have been taken to make the ramp shots slightly less dangerous. There's a return hole on the left ramp located just behind the Alien Head which the ball will drop down through if it doesn't make it all the way.

In the case of the right ramp, there's a little return hole that drops the ball down to the upper playfield instead of back to the flippers, ala Theatre of Magic's right ramp. The difference is that ID4's return hole safely drops the ball back into the bumper cluster and once the ball exits the cluster, it will fall down along the right orbit, setting up a good shot with the upper flipper. I don't know if this was a particular issue with House of TARG's upper flipper or if it's a general issue with ID4 but hitting the loop adjacent to the flipper was quite difficult, with the ball often losing speed and dropping down through the rollovers and into the bumper cluster. Not too big an issue though as the shots still register whether the ball makes the full loop or not, though I was hoping some Getaway-style loop combos!
Good thing the loop still registers shots because it is the required shot to light one of the multiball modes. hit the Area 51 targets located on the lower left side of the playfield to light Area 51 multiball. The other multiball option is to hit the big ol' Alien Head at the top of the table to light Multiball.
 Despite being located in the center of the table, the Alien Head isn't too risky a shot and the ball can easily be recovered after hitting it. Besides those two multiball modes, there is not a whole heckuva lot of modes besides a few hurry-up modes so your best bet to getting the big points on Independence Day is working towards those Multiball modes and then pulling off a couple of combos on the ramps and orbits. If you want to see a serious lightshow, hit the jackpots and watch the table go absolutely nuts! House of TARG's ID4 machine was outfitted with LEDs and because it is a pretty dark bar, the dang machine just lights up the place! I should know seeing as I put up a couple of numbers on ID4!
Shane knows even better...
NICE! We came to Ottawa, We saw Ottawa... We kicked Ottawa's butt! Anyways, I dig that Sega always tried to include some sort of big toy on their playfields, like Godzilla's big noggin on the Godzilla table or the filing cabinet on X-Files. In the case of Independence day, there's a big alien spacecraft that takes up a good portion of the upper playfield.
Visually speaking, ID4 isn't really anything to write home about. There's a few portraits of the characters on the playfield but they're really just floating in space, especially Jeff Goldblum...
Sega never had the strongest playfield art packages and ID4 is no different but the backglass is one of the better ones I've seen from Sega.
Independence Day is a rare Sega release with only approximately 1,500 manufactured so if you get the chance to play, TAKE IT! If you find yourself at the House of TARG, take a chance with Independence Day. You won't be disappointed. It's all fixed up and outfitted with LEDs and it looks amazing.
Speaking of good looking tables, here's a real looker!
oh man BAYWATCH! This table is something else. My first and, up to this point, only encounter with Baywatch was when I was young, maybe 10-12 years old. I was at a pizza parlour back home in the Oshawa area and they had a Baywatch table on location but when I went to put some money in, the machine ate my money and I never got a chance to play. In all my years of playing pinball, I have never had a chance to play Baywatch until I went to House of TARG. I was not disappointed.
Baywatch was one of Sega's first releases after buying out the DATA EAST factory. Being one of the first releases from a new company, Baywatch is pretty crazy. There are all sorts of ramps, toys, and targets packed into Baywatch's playfield as well as a hand-drawn playfield, one of the few to have that in Sega's lineup.
 Prior to being bought out by Sega, DATA EAST was known for their innovations in the pinball industry, releasing the first table to feature Stereo Sound with Laser War as well as being the first manufacturer to feature a Dot Matrix Display on Checkpoint, though it was smaller than later DMDs. Sega continued it's predecessors's attempts to buck the trend in pinball by including all sorts of new features into Baywatch like a bigger Dot Matrix Display, sizing up at 192 x 64 pixels (the bigger DMD was first released on DE's 1994 Maverick, though)
As well as being able to have up to SIX players! However, Baywatch wasn't the first to have six players; that record goes to the Six Million Dollar Man by Bally. Unlike some of DATA EAST's innovations, Sega's attempts didn't really catch on. Only a few tables, like Batman Forever and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, featured the big DMD.
Baywatch's playfield layout takes a bit of inspiration from a couple of other tables. For example, the Shark Flip is just like The Addams Family's Thing Flips.
The Shark Flip is a little mini flipper located just above the right outlane and launches the ball either at the shark targets or the scoop across the table.
 It acts in the same way as Thing Flip in that it will automatically make the shot when activated. It's supposed to hit the scoop but sometimes it's accuracy is not the best and instead hits the targets.
There is also the center vertical up-kicker that is quite similar to Striker's Hideout on World Cup Soccer. Even the location of it is just like WCS's, being at the very top center of the table. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and in pinball, you can only do so much with a playfield so there's nothing wrong with taking a cool feature and making something of your own. It's not like Baywatch is a wholesale rip-off of another table; beyond those two particular features, Baywatch is one helluva table. There's four ramps in total on Baywatch and, geeze lousie, are they packed in there!  The right side of the playfield is favored a little more with more room for the right ramp and upper ramp.
The left side, on the other hand, doesn't have a whole helluva lot of room. The two ramps are super tight and are difficult to hit. I think it's good though as the far left ramp, the one leading to the tower, is the required shot for ball lock and when the lock shots are a little more difficult to hit than most shots, it gives you a better sense of accomplishment when you finally achieve Multiball. It provides a good Risk Vs. Reward motive by either hitting a clean shot up the ramp and into the lock or hitting the targets on either side and sending the ball out of control.
The one ramp that can be a bit troublesome is the upper right ramp. Not only is it a difficult shot due to being the upper flipper shot but the mess of wireform ramps that criss-cross all over the upper playfield tend to obscure the ball around the upper flipper making it difficult to properly aim.
The artwork on Sega's first pinball outing is pretty dang good, at least compared to some of DATA EAST's packages. Two artists took the reigns on Baywatch, that being Markus Rothkranz, whose previous work with DATA EAST included Lethal Weapon 3 and Last Action Hero...
and Jeff Busch, who would go on to work with Sega and design art packages for Independence Day and Batman Forever. The art is quite bright, the table being awash in bright yellow, white, and blue with splashes of red, the signature colours of Baywatch's bathing suits.
 The character artwork is a lot cleaner than a few of Rothkranz' previous packages, especially Lethal Weapon 3
A lot of people's complaints are directed towards the backglass and David Hasselhoff's creepy dead-eye stare...
I imagine there's some trouble with the licensing and use of actors' likenesses on the backglass that prevent artists from creating some really neat backglasses and so we get backglasses that look like they could be the cover of a DVD. For example, design team for Williams' Demolition Man ran into a couple of issues with Wesley Snipes' likeness on the backglass looking too crazy and so they got stuck using the "floating heads" backglass. Read more about it in my review of Demolition Man during my latest St. Catharines pinball trip!  But enough of the shameless plugging, I have a feeling the same situation may have happened with Baywatch with two of the biggest stars, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, taking up the most visual real estate.
The House of TARG ain't yer average barcade with the usual suspects. The Ottawa punk bar features some uncommon entries in the pinball line-up with a couple of tables from DATA EAST and Sega. Sega gets the spotlight in Part I of this trip report with coverage of 1996's Independence Day and one of their first releases, Baywatch. Independence Day is a fine example of Sega's pinball division with great flow and gameplay and a simple ruleset during the era where tables were becoming quite complicated and indepth. Baywatch is a strong example from Sega's rookie year and shows that they had what it took to make some fine tables but, unfortunately, the pinball market was already on a downward slope by that point. Despite the troubles that DATA EAST and Sega faced, going through several different iterations, they still exist to this day in the form of Stern Pinball. But I digress, if you want to dig on some real cool pinball machines that you may not otherwise see through the usual venues, check out House of TARG for all sorts of cool machines from the fringes of the pinball industry.

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