Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nightmare on Elm Street

Back in the Winter, I headed up to the Bathurst and Glencairn area in search of some pinball at Bathurst Bowlerama. My search was not in vain and I found that Bowlerama has a pretty cool arcade.
C'mon, you have two pinball machines, Offroad Challenge AND Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time! Ya can't go wrong with that line-up!
The particular table we will be looking at is Premier-Gottlieb's Nightmare on Elm Street! Yeah, I know that I last played this machine all the way back in the Winter but I thought it would be appropriate to save the review for Halloween, seeing as Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror movie and all! (plus I took notes when I played it)

Nightmare on Elm Street has to be one of Premier's weirdest tables and that's saying a lot! Premier had some hard times back in the 90's, having been left in the dust by Bally and Williams. Many Premier tables could just not complete with the quality and playability of the tables from the Big Two. Premier did have some shining stars in their line-ups like Wipeout and Stargate SG-1 but much of their output is considered sub-par.  Many of their releases in the 90's had some pretty far-out gimmicks; some worked well but others like Shaq Attaq's basketball shot were cool in theory... but not so much in practice.

Shooting the ball into a moving basketball net is a pretty cool gimmick but is hindered by Premier's weak flippers and the protective dome obscuring much of the upper playfield. Though the gimmicks sometimes didn't work too well in execution, you have to give credit to Premier for trying new and strange ideas on their tables.
Ramps and intricate playfield design had become an industry standard, with the likes of Twilight Zone becoming the popular tables in arcades. Always one to buck the trend, Gottlieb experimented with "street level" tables in the early 90's, which eschewed the trend of complicated and expensive tables and instead were smaller, inexpensive tables with no ramps or toys. Though these tables didn't sell very well, one of the releases, Silver Slugger, made enough earnings out on route to gain Bally's notice, who attempted to emulate Gottlieb's "street level" tables with releases like Harley Davidson, though they did not achieve the small success Gottlieb had experienced. Years later, Gottlieb-Premier took another stab at creating an updated "street level" machine in the form of Nightmare on Elm Street. Take a quick glance at the playfield. There are no actual ramp shots! Though there are ramps on the table, they are only accessible via vertical up-kickers. Keep in mind, Nightmare was released in 1994, the same year as Demolition Man, which is chock-full of ramp shots.

Nightmare is almost a throwback to the days of the 70's when Gottlieb was king of the arcades. The table is flush with targets littered throughout the playfield. The targets below Freddy's head are some of the coolest targets around; they are covered in the flesh of LOST SOULS
 ... but unfortunately, much to my dismay, the lost soul target covers were missing. That is a dang shame; I was hoping to see the unique targets in the flesh.
 The insanity of Nightmare on Elm Street doesn't stop there. Many pinball tables have orbit loops that go along outermost reaches of the playfield, however, on Nightmare, the loop is limited to the left side of the table, reaching around the back of Freddy's head.
There are also a few references to Freddy's claw, like the claw ramp diverter...
One of the most common complaints I have seen about Nightmare is that this claw breaks really easily. The table at Bowlerama was no exception, with Freddy's glove being declawed. There is also the claw ball saver.
This feature is a bit tough to use though. First you have to activate it and, once it is active, you have to hit a button to make the claws appear. The problem is, that the claws come up for a brief moment and when there's a ball coming straight for the outlane, it's kinda tough to remember to hit the other button. When I did manage to activate the claw save, I was so excited that I kept hitting the button and ended up wasting it!
One of the biggest gimmicks of Nightmare's playfield is the big ol' Freddy head! Freddy is kinda like Premier's answer to Funhouse's Rudy, though Freddy is much more rude and scary. Freddy shouts out all sorts of witty quips throughout the game. For some reason, the one callout I remember from him was "PARTY ON DUUUUUUUUDE!"
When Multiball begins, Freddy will also spew the balls out of his mouth onto the playfield!
The unusual nature of Nightmare on Elm Street isn't just in the playfield. The gameplay of Nightmare is also something that Gottlieb tried to experiment with. At the right-side top of the playfield there is the furnace.
The skill shot involves launching the ball into the furnace when the gate is open. If you hit the furnance you will activate one of the nightmares, the main modes of the game. There are six nightmares in total; the odd numbered nightmares are multiball modes and the even numbered modes are just single ball. So here is where things get a bit odd... If you hit the furnance for the skillshot and activate the first nightmare, you activate multiball right off the bat! It happened to me on my very first game and it really threw me for a loop. I thought the game was broken somehow but, nope, you can get multiball right away.
There is a common issue that plagues many Gottlieb-Premier tables, especially the ones that are out on route, like Nightmare or the Shaq Attaq that used to reside at Community 54 (it's back now and in much better shape!). The flipper mechanics aren't as strong as the Bally/Williams' flippers and so many Premier tables tend to have pretty weak flippers. It makes playing a lot of Premier tables much more tough because a lot of the ramp and upper playfield shots become next to impossible to make. Unfortunately, Nightmare suffered from the same issue and had some pretty weak flippers but due to its unusual playfield layout, it wasn't much of an issue! Despite the lack of strength in the flippers, all the shots were still manageable.
I went to Bathurst Bowlerama on a Saturday evening and if you are at all familiar with bowling alleys on a Saturday night, you know that they have ROCK 'N' BOWL! It must have been a requirement for all bowling alleys to outfit the place with blacklights and all sorts of flourescent dressing because every. single. bowling alley has Rock N Bowl! Not that I am complaining, mind you; I love the whole ROCK 'N' BOWL aesthetic, though I think at Bathurst Bowlerama, it was COSMIC BOWLING (WHOA) But I digress... When I first got to Bowlerama, all the lights were up and I was just playing some regular ol' pinball. But then I must have fallen asleep or something...
I'm having a Nightmare! On Elm Street! AHHHHH! I kid, I kid. A little while into my visit, it was time for COSMIC BOWLING and the neon nightmare began!

I thought it was quite appropriate to play the game while I was "awake" as well as when I was "asleep"!

The 90's were a tough time for the former pinball champions, Gottlieb, now known as Gottlieb-Premier. Unable to match the quality and popularity of Bally and Williams tables, Gottlieb often experimented with unusual playfields and weird gimmicks in order to gain the attention of arcade goers. Their 1994 release, Nightmare on Elm Street, is one of the more evident experimental tables, having taken a page from their "street level" pinball machines from several years ago. Nightmare has virtually no ramp shots, save for two ramps that are accessed by vertical upkickers. Instead, much of the gameplay focuses around hitting the targets spread throughout the playfield as well as activating the nightmare modes. The gameplay of Nightmare also takes a turn for the weird; multiball can be activated immediately by hitting the skillshot. Normally, you have to work your way up to Multiball but the table gives it to you the moment you plunge the ball! The Nightmare table at Bathurst Bowlerama suffered the same issue of weak flippers that many Gottlieb tables of the era had but because of the unique playfield layout, the lack of strength was rarely a problem. Although Nightmare on Elm Street may seem lacking at first glance, it is cool to see such a unique table out in the wild.

Why is M&M's in the Special Thanks section?

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