Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Addams Family at Giggles Arcade in Sauble Beach

I am always in the pursuit of pinball, no matter where I am. Back during May long weekend (a long, long time ago), I found myself up in Port Elgin for a little getaway and so I consulted the pinball map on Pinside to see if there was anything nearby to hunt down. I found out about Giggles Arcade in Sauble Beach and so my friends and I ventured out to the little beach town in search of pinball!

We arrived at Giggles Arcade to the sounds of redemption games and the scent of Subway. There was a Subway attached to the arcade and if you are familiar at all with Subway, you know the smell that penetrates anything and everything. Anyways, we made our way over to the pinball tables...
Not bad! Wizard of Oz and The Addams Family! The website had indicated that Iron Man and Family Guy made up the pinball section along with TAF but it looks like that got switched up somewhere along the line. Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to see Wizard of Oz up against The Addams Family.
I talk a lot about The Addams Family here on Bright Lights Bumper City; I have mentioned its influence, popularity, layout and designer, Pat Lawlor. There is good reason to mention The Addams Family so much, though; it is one of the ultimate pinball tables. The Addams Family was THE most popular pinball table. When people think of pinball, they think about The Addams Family, whether they have been playing all their lives or stopped by an arcade when they were young. The theme was known by everyone, whether you knew The Addams Family as a comic strip, cartoon, or a movie. The table itself is considered to be a masterpiece of pinball. The sound and music, the artwork, and the layout all work together to create one of the best tables around.
I've spoken out about my love/hate relationship with The Addams Family plenty of times but I cannot deny the impact that TAF had on pinball. I used to play this game all the time when I was young; whether I was at a restaurant, hotel game room, or an arcade, The Addams Family was there. Later in my life, when I was spending time in The Union Station Arcade around the mid 2000's, The Addams Family sat there amongst many modern Stern tables and I would always dump a couple of coins into it. When The Pinball Cafe was open, a GOLD EDITION Addams Family table was brought in and was said to make twice as much money in two weeks as any of the other tables did for the few months the Cafe was open.

Enough about sentimental values! I think it is finally time to take a close look at The Addams Family! If you're familiar with Pat Lawlor's work, whether it's RollerCoaster Tycoon, Family Guy, or Red & Ted's Road Show, you know that Lawlor has certain trademarks that are persistent throughout his designs. Though some of his earlier tables bear the trademarks, TAF is where his design really came into its own. You have the usual Lawlor trademarks, like the bumper cluster shot...
The upper flipper...
Along with its accompanying jackpot shots.
But TAF was the first to feature a lesser-known Lawlor trick, that being the little Thing Flipper, located right below the bumper cluster.
When Thing Flip is lit, hit the right ramp and the ball will come down towards the flipper which will then automatically hit the ball into the Swamp scoop. This lil' guy also shows up on Red & Ted's Road Show and RollerCoaster Tycoon, though it isn't an automated shot. Be careful with the little flipper on this TAF. It's very tempting to hit the ball when it drops out of the bumper cluster and down to towards the lil' flipper but DO NOT DO IT! The flipper is pretty weak and tends to give the ball just enough momentum to go to the far right outlane.

A lot of people give Lawlor grief for having a lack of flow in his designs. I have said it a few times myself though that issue mostly arises on some of his later tables. Lawlor's earlier work, like Whirlwind and Funhouse, have great flow to them while also having that signature Lawlor design.
TAF strikes a fine balance, with many of the shots flowing nicely one after the other, while also having some tricks that were new to pinball, like the Thing Lock!
When lock is lit, hit the center ramp to send the ball into the lock saucer. The telephone will ring and out of that little red box comes a real handy fellow!
Thing pops out and grabs the ball! It is a bit cheesy now and takes a while to go through the motion but imagine seeing this in 1992 as well as the Thing Flip and you will understand why The Addams Family was such an innovative table.
The problem with TAF is that if it is not in good shape, the gameplay really suffers. In the case of Giggles' table, this TAF has seen it's fair share of abuse. The flippers are pretty weak and the playfield is quite grimy. These two problems cause a lot of issues with getting any momentum on the balls. It is nearly impossible to successfully hit the right ramp and so the game leaves you with few shots to make. I spent most of my time hitting the bookcase and lighting GREEEEEEEED!
GREED opens the secret bookcase shot and lights the ball locks for Multiball. TAF has to have one of the coolest Multiball activation modes but you have to be a patient individual to really take it in. It takes a while to start up but it is a SIGHT! When Multiball begins, all the lights on the table go out and thunder strikes several times before it's.... SHOWTIME!!! Lots of loud noises and bright lights emerge from the table. The sound needs to be loud and the room needs to be dark to get the full effect of this crazy scene.
Another one of The Addams Family's innovations is THE POWER! Basically, there are a couple of magnets hidden underneath the center of the playfield that when activated will launch your ball every which way but loose. One thing I like about Lawlor's designs is you can see how he builds and evolves new features. He did something similar to this on 1990's Whirlwind but instead of magnets, there were spinning discs in the playfield that would launch the ball all over. However, as I had mentioned, TAF needs to be in good condition to get the best gameplay out of it and because the flippers were so weak on this particular table, it was very difficult to get past THE POWER. The magnets would just grab the balls and launch them right down the drains.
The artwork of the table has a lot of grey, blacks and other dark colours so it doesn't have the bright and bold look that many tables of the early 90's had. Compared to some of it's contemporaries, Creature From the Black Lagoon and Doctor Who, The Addams Family pales in comparison.
Despite the more muted colours, the art package of TAF is quite solid. The likenesses of the actors is spot-on.
The artwork throughout the playfield and the backglass is packed to the gills with all sorts of references to The Addams Family lore.
The artist, John Youssi, has often worked with Lawlor throughout the years, whether it was on Williams' Red & Ted's Road Show or Stern's Monopoly, and Youssi packs just as much details into his artwork as Lawlor does into his tables.

The Addams Family is considered one of the greatest pinball tables ever made. The production numbers don't lie; around 20,000 tables were manufactured, which has yet to be matched to this day. Many people who have played pinball, whether it was a couple of times in the '90's or all their life, know of The Addams Family pinball table. The innovations made by Pat Lawlor were influential in pinball and many features can still be found in pinball to this day, whether it's the magnets below the playfield or the unusual ball lock mechanisms. The Addams Family is a tough game with no ball save and plenty of shots to make you drain. If the table is well-maintained, it can play and flow very well but in the case of Giggles' Arcade's The Addams Family table, weak flippers and a grimy playfield lead to many unattainable shots and goals which severly limits the playability of TAF. Despite the troubles that Giggles' table has, it's easy to see why The Addams Family is the best there was, the best there is and the best there ever will be in pinball.

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