Sunday, December 7, 2014


Part 2 of Bumper City's House of TARG trip report is up next! This time around, we are going to take a look at some 90's pinball goodness in the form of Williams' Fish Tales!
Unlike Part 1 where we had two tables from Sega, Independence Day and Baywatch, this time it is just going to be about Fish Tales. The other Bally/Williams tables at House of TARG were Dracula, The Addams Family, and Doctor Who, all of which I have look at one way or another... click the links and read their reviews!
Fish Tales is an underrated table of the 90's but when its name comes up, it is often considered a solid and challenging title. The fishing theme is a bit of an odd choice, especially when released around the same time as tables based on big licenses like The Addams Family and Doctor Who. The designer, Mark Ritchie, seemed to have been saddled with quite a few strange original themes, having designed Taxi, Police Force, and Diner, but always managed to make the most out of them. Fish Tales is no exception and is arguably considered one of Ritchie's best tables, though it is tough to say, seeing as he also designed Top-10 table, Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure.

Ritchie's design work often incorporates symmetry in the playfield layout. Taxi is a good example; the playfield contains criss-crossing ramps on either side of the playfield.
Fish Tales incorporates symmetry as well with the main shot being criss-cross ramps ala Taxi, although they are much different. Instead of the ramp entrances placed on the borders of the playfield, they are seated in the center of the table.
Going along with the fishing theme, the ramps are shaped to look like a boat and can be hit over and over again to rack up some points. Ritchie's signature is that the ramps lead the ball to the opposite flipper; if you hit the left ramp, the ball will be sent to the right ramp and vice-versa. This really adds to the flow of the game. You can continously hit the ramps without any break in the flow of the game. There's also a neat trick in that you can hit a U-Turn by shooting the ball up the ramp entrances with enough momentum to roll over the very tip of the boat and back down again, hitting the two rollover switches located there.
Fish Tales' reputation is built on it's difficulty. I'm not exaggerating when I say this table is tough! Every shot has some element of risk involved and this is one of the few Williams tables to feature Lightning Flippers. In order to make the tables more "challenging", or in other words "more likely to eat up your money", Williams installed flippers that are about 1/8 inch shorter than standard flippers. It doesn't sound like much but in pinball that can make a BIG difference! Especially when there's a captive ball shot located directly above the center drain. There is no "safe" way of hitting that captive ball; it is surrounded by two big posts and so can only be hit directly. Oh but it doesn't end there. The captive ball has to be hit hard enough to hit the switch at the end of the lane!
The Caster's Club shot is a tough one too, especially because it is the shot required to lock the balls. The Caster's Club is similar to the Stugots boat on The Sopranos in that you must knock down a drop target in order to open the lock. Just due to the location and the nature of drop targets such as this one, it has a tendency to launch the ball right down the middle. It is worth the risk because Fish Tales has a pretty cool ball lock.
The ball is shot up from an eject hole and rolls along a habitrail into the fishing reel on the left. The whole fishing theme is integrated quite well into the table and there are some pretty neat ideas based on the gimmick. Instead of the usual plunger, it is replaced with an autocaster, similar to the gunhandles seen on tables like The Shadow.
also dig the cup holder!
Williams even went so far as to add a topper that emulates those Singing Bass plaques that so many fishers are fond of. It flips and flops about although it does not sing "Take Me to The River"
Fish Tales is a great Williams table that has fallen through the cracks due to the heavyweights it was released along side. Despite the lack of recognition that Fish Tales receives, it is considered one of the many tables from Williams golden era of pinball. Fish Tales features challenging gameplay as well as a few cheap tactics to take your money. Having shortened flippers and a captive ball right over the center outlane is just plain cruelty. Despite those two shortcomings, Fish Tales has quite a few cool features, such as a fishing reel ball lock and dancing bass topper. Just because Fish Tales is based on a niche hobby doesn't mean you should pass this table up. Plenty of pinball tables are based on far stranger themes, like laser pool and intergalactic poker, so Fish Tales is at least a little more grounded. It helps that it is a fun table too! If you're in the Ottawa area and go to House of TARG, put a few bucks into Fish Tales. You won't be disappointed... so long as the table doesn't pull it's cheap tricks.

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