Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I have good memories of Stern's AC/DC. I wouldn't exactly say fond memories but it was the first Stern table that I got to play when it was a new release. Back in 2011, when the ball really started rolling on my pinball obsession, I was playing a lot of older Stern tables, like Iron Man and Pirates of The Caribbean. When I moved to Toronto in 2012 and the Pinball Cafe opened, AC/DC was the first modern table to enter the Cafe. Previously, the owner's mandate was to only have EM's and early solid-states but when AC/DC was released, it was too tempting not to bring it in, thus opening the floodgates for many more modern tables to appear at the Cafe. I remember when AC/DC first hit the floor, it made its presence known by being the loudest and gaudiest table among a couple of mild-mannered tables from the 20th century. Once more modern tables came onto the floor of the Pinball Cafe, AC/DC eventually left the building but popped up occasionally throughout the city, its latest location being at Boo Radley's in the Junction. I wasn't the biggest fan of AC/DC when it first arrived at the Cafe back in February 2012; the game was infamous for having unfinished code at release and felt quite incomplete. AC/DC is also notorious for it's difficulty and perhaps my skills were not up to par back then. But here we are in 2014, AC/DC has received quite a few code updates, my skills have been sharpened and my opinion of this old rock 'n' roll table have changed quite a bit.
AC/DC's difficulty has become legendary among the pinball community. I have spoken previously of difficult tables like Stern's latest release The Walking Dead, but AC/DC takes the cake for Stern's hardest table of the 2010's so far. Steve Ritchie is the designer of AC/DC and opted for a classic playfield with the dual ramps and simplistic layout that Ritchie is known for. The table plays really fast and is packed with risky shots which makes for a hella dangerous combination.

The main body of the table is flanked on all sides by stand-up targets with only one purpose... to mess up your game!

The side targets, AC/DC and ROCK also help build up the Album Multiball mode. They are a real bother but targets like these are an institution of pinball design. The biggest issue I have with AC/DC's playfield is the Cannon.
This stupid thing is such a pain in the arse! As you can see, the cannon is awfully big and clunky. It's placement does it no favours either, being located directly above the right lanes. If the ball ends up bouncing around there, you pretty much gotta bump around blind in order to save the ball.
If you hit the right ramp while the cannon is lit, you will feed a shot to the cannon. The goal is to hit one of the lit side targets but I would very much advise against going for it. It is tempting but it sends the ball wildly out of control. What I usually do is shoot the ball up along the left orbit, towards the spinner with the ugly mug on it! The ball will not go all the way up the orbit; instead, it will lose momentum and roll back down to the left flipper. Just be mindful of the slingshot and that the ball does not get caught by that.
The gameplay of AC/DC is quite simple which makes for a good mix along with the difficult layout. Each song has a certain shot related to it, making for straightforward goals. For example, Rock 'N' Roll Train is assigned the left ramp for its designated shot while TNT requires you to hit the TNT targets. You select a song at the beginning and throughout the game you can light the jukebox to switch songs and modes. The multiball modes are easily accessible... in theory. JAM Multiball is lit by hitting the left ramp several times and Tour Multiball can be obtained by hitting the right ramp. Album Multiball is lit by hitting all of the stand-up targets. The key to BIG POINTS on AC/DC is stacking the Multiball modes. When the game was first released, each multiball mode provided 3-ball multiball but after the initial code update, the modes were reduced to 2-ball so it is imperative to stack the modes if you want a decent go at multiball. In order to activate Multiball, shoot for the right ramp which will load the cannon and activate multiball.
At first glance, AC/DC is not the most attractive looking table. The fellas in the band are showing their age and whether you like it or not, they are featured prominently on the table. You got a picture of Angus Young's big mug from the Highway to Hell album staring right at ya in the middle of the playfield.
It's clearly a cover-up for the Premium Edition's lower playfield and feels pretty out of place compared to the rest of the art package.
AC/DC could have benefitted from hand-drawn artwork ala Metallica. Instead of staring at photos of a bunch of aging rockers, they could have gone with likenesses of their younger selves or more references to the numerous albums of AC/DC. Stern did update AC/DC's art package with the LUCI Edition released this year, replacing the backglass and cabinet art with a hand-drawn foxy lady which I find a lot better to look at but that's just, like, my opinion, man.
It's a shame that the playfield artwork was not updated as much other parts of the table, instead only adding a few more she-devils to the lower playfield.

Rumor has it that Stern acquired the KISS license and hopefully they take a page from Metallica's fantastic art package and go with something hand-drawn rather than a photoshopped picture of old-man Gene Simmons.
That will be one thing I could go without seeing in this day and age.

AC/DC is seen as one of the forerunners of Stern's upturn in quality tables. At first, the table was hindered by unfinished code but after a couple of updates, Stern has really improved upon this solid title. Considered by many to be a tough but rewarding table, AC/DC will knock you around and keep ya asking for more... as long as you don't mind staring at a bunch of old rockers. The ruleset is quite simple but the playfield makes up for it with plenty of difficult and risky shots. If the ball gets caught in the right outlane area, say yer prayers and you might get lucky. A little bit of body english will help out too. The cannon tends to obscure quite a bit of the area and makes it difficult to properly navigate the ball back to the flippers. If yer going to go play AC/DC at Boo Radley's, I suggest bringing a lot of change. I recently went to the bar and brought about 4 bucks, thinking that would be good... I managed to run through it in about 30 minutes. Replays, let alone a decent game, is tough to get so if you want to play for a while, bring the money to back it up.

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