Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Before I get into this review of Playboy, I just want to give you a warning that this table has ladies in various states of undress. This review is ADULTS ONLY and NOT SAFE FOR WORK!

Playboy has seen many iterations throughout the history of pinball. The Playboy bunny first emerged on an early solid-state table by Bally in 1978.
 Data East obtained the license in 1989, releasing a Playboy-themed table for the magazine's 35th anniversary. Stern was the latest manufacturer to release a Playboy table, their version having come out in 2002. Stern's Playboy will the table of choice for this review as I have found one in Leslieville at a great local bar, Stratengers!
Playboy is a highlight of Stern's early years. Released in January of 2002, Playboy was the creation of George Gomez. This was Gomez' first title with Stern and is a great example of the simple yet engaging pinball tables that he would go on to release under the Stern Pinball banner.
Playboy has a soft spot with me; I first found out about this table during my days in Oshawa after I had returned from school. My brother Shane and I were beginning to make regular rounds at our local bowling alley, Leisure Lanes. One fateful night, we had our first encounter with the legend MJB! I'll keep the story short for MJB as that is for another post but we spoke with him for a little while and asked if he knew of any other places in Oshawa that had pinball. He told us that there was a bar called Stag's Head in the downtown area that had Playboy but he preferred Leisure Lanes because the tall boys were cheaper. Undeterred by the price of beer, Shane and I headed over to Stag's Head and discovered Playboy! That summer, Stag's Head became a local hangout for me and the gang, spending a lot of time and money playing Playboy and trying to steal the Playboy Champion marquee from MJB!

Fast forward a few years later to 2014, I heard rumor that the fabled Queen St East was home to several machines! Living on the west-end in St. Clair West, Queen St East is pretty much Timbuktu to me though one day I did find an opportunity to head out to the neighbourhood of Leslieville and to the bar Stratengers in hopes of putting a few games in on their Playboy machine. I certainly was not disappointed; I discovered that not only did they have a Playboy table but a refurbished table outfitted with LEDs!
Here is a neat little tidbit about the Playboy table; Stern released the table with three different settings: Clothed, Non-Nude, and Nude. Gomez mentioned in his interview on TOPCast that the factory-recommended setting for Playboy is Nude! The table at Stratengers had the Non-Nude settings, though the girl's outfits left little to the imagination...
Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty of this review, I'm just going to warn you again. There will definitely be some pictures of scantily-clad women, not fully nude, mind you, but pretty close to. If that's not your thing, you find it offensive, you're at work, whatever, then here is the chance to turn back! Jump the cut and it's boob country...
George Gomez's tables often go for a more practical design with a focus more on the cohesiveness of the gameplay rather than aesthetics. Playboy is a great example of Gomez's design philosophies; the playfield is well laid out with several simple shots that all flow together quite well. Playboy is a pretty straight-shooting table with many of the shots being aimed for ramps and loops. There are a few neat gimmicks but nothing that directly affects gameplay. The features on Playboy are pretty cool and use the license in clever ways. There is a Playboy magazine that opens up if you score the skill shot.
As well as a Centerfold that opens up when you activate Centerfold Multiball!
I can see how this can be a real finnicky mechanic and prone to breaking down. Only on the Playboy machine at Stratengers did I ever see the centerfold work and when it happened, boy was I laughing! There is also a peekaboo curtain which is pretty far out.
When the Peekaboo mode is activated, the blinds are pulled to the side and a target is exposed... though the actual target is hidden behind a picture. Nonetheless, it's a cool little feature!
As I had mentioned, the gimmicks found throughout Playboy do not affect the gameplay a whole lot. The main goal of Playboy is to light all 12 months of Playmates. This is accomplished by collecting bunnies through various means, such as hitting the loops when "Bunny Loops" is lit, scoring them as a prize from The Grotto, or lighting the rollovers.
Here is a neat trick to score a few playmates right off the bat. Hit the skillshot by pulling the plunger a small amount; not too much, otherwise you will overshoot the skill shot. Plunge it into the kicker which will score the skill shot and knock the ball up onto the right ramp, feeding it down to the right flipper. From there, hit the ramp on the far left, the Jackpot Hurry-Up ramp.
If you hit that combo, you will get both the January and February playmates! It is a good head start on the table goal and gets you that much closer to earning an Extra Ball, which is earned by scoring six Playmates. Get all 12 Playmates to activate Mansion Multiball, the game's Wizard mode. It is certainly one of the easier Wizard modes to get in pinball. It is still a lot of fun though as you have 4 balls flying around the table, everything is lit and the table is going nuts! That, and if you reach Mansion Multiball, you will become the new Playboy Champion!
It isn't a high score per se but it is still a pretty cool achievement! A neat little thing about getting Playboy Champion is that your letters will show up on the radio during the animation when you lock the first ball for Centerfold Multiball!
The first thing about Playboy that caught my attention was the attractive artwork. I'm not just talking about the pretty ladies all over the table but the artwork itself is quite good and much different from much of Stern's art output. The artist of Stern's Playboy is Kevin O'Connor, who also did the artwork for Data East's Playboy 35th Anniversary! I like seeing this sort of thing, where an individual that had worked with a particular license in the past gets another chance at working with the same license again. Steve Ritchie had the opportunity to design both Terminator 3 and Star Trek for Stern in 2003 and 2013 respectively, having designed Terminator 2 and Star Trek: The Next Generation for Williams back in the 90's... But I digress. Kevin O'Connor created an outstanding art package for Playboy. The table has this "Playboy After Dark" vibe by using cool colours like purple, blue and soft pink on black which really works well with the Playboy license. The playmates add to the table's sexiness too though much of the playfield real estate is taken up by the 12 months of Playmates graphic.
A lot of my favorite pinball tables tend to be ones with sentimental value rather than the standard popular titles. Now, don't get me wrong, the perennial favorites like Twilight Zone and The Addams Family are good tables, they're just not in my Top 10! Tables like The Getaway, Theatre of Magic, and Playboy all have special meaning to me. They were the seminal tables that really shaped my view of pinball in the early days when I was really getting back into pinball. Playboy was a mainstay of my summer in Oshawa and one of the first tables where I started getting much better at the game and even scored myself a few Playboy Champion awards! Despite the simplicity of Playboy's gameplay and goals, I still enjoy the game to this day because it is such a solid title. The gameplay is easy to understand and play successfully while also being quite easy on the eyes! The Playboy table at Stratenger's is not one to miss; the table has been refurbished and is super clean. It is outfitted with LEDs and shines so bright which adds to the overall attractiveness of the table. It is rare that I am in the Leslieville area but if and when I am, I will be sure to stop by Stratenger's. I suggest you do too and check out this awesome and underrated Stern table!

BONUS: Of course I got a stuck ball on Playboy...
 Actually, make it 3 stuck balls...

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