Thursday, March 19, 2015


When I found out about this table earlier in the year, I was ecstatic. I'm a big fan of wrestling as well as pinball so having two of my favorite things together as one was a dream come true. There was a release party for Wrestlemania in late February that I was hoping to attend and get a review of the table but unfortunately, other plans got in the way...
Though a trip to House of TARG is nothing to scoff at!

Some of my friends went to the release party and told me a bit about Wrestlemania but it just wasn't enough to satiate my hunger. I needed to play Wrestlemania. I needed to step into the squared circle and fight for the top score. Even before the table was released, I was getting in the ears of any bar proprietors that I could, telling them that they should, no, have to get Wrestlemania. Luckily, my prayers were answered by my favorite little pub, Monarch Tavern. @MrMonarchy tweeted me to let me know that Wrestlemania had arrived... and I marked out pretty hard. I made plans that weekend with the Toronto Pinball Crew to hit up California Sandwiches for dinner and pinball then go to Monarch Tavern to take the new table for a spin.
Wrestlemania was a hit with the crew. The pro wrestling theme is well integrated into the design which makes for a great game. Wrestlemania was designed by John Trudeau, his second table under the Stern banner. Mustang was his first and turned out to be a bit of weak table. According to Trudeau in his interview with Pinball Magazine, he was unfamiliar with the Stern formula and so I think Mustang suffered due to that. It seemed as though Mustang was stripped of a lot of things Trudeau wanted to do and was considered a bit of a "filler" table until the release of The Walking Dead. In addition to being saddled with what some consider a "weak license", Mustang just didn't do so hot. I liked the theme though I am a car guy so I have a bit of a bias. But I digress... The Wrestlemania pinball table feels like Trudeau has gotten his style locked down within Stern's parameters and is ready to go for the top title!

There is an amazing feeling of flow to Wrestlemania. The ball keeps moving through all the ramps and orbits and there is very little to stop the momentum of the game. The ramps on Wrestlemania work similar to Mustang in which they play double-duty. If a match is active, the ramp gates will close and send the ball down towards the ring; otherwise, they act as an orbit loop which helps keep the game moving fast and preventing the ball from uselessly falling into the ring.
Below the ring and between the ramps on the main playfield is a center orbit. It is a real tough shot to make but feels really satisfying when you dial it in and are able to hit the orbit loop. Don't blink though because the ball picks up a lot of speed through the orbit and goes straight for the flippers.
There is a side loop to the left of the playfield for Tag Match multiball that launches the ball right into the WWE drop targets if hit with the right amount of speed. It's a good way of knocking down some of the targets without hitting them head-on.
One little design feature that I noticed and absolutely loved is the placement of the outposts. On most tables, you can adjust the outer posts to make the outlane entries larger or smaller. On Wrestlemania, you have the option to adjust both the outer posts AND the posts that separate the lanes. The posts on Monarch's Wrestlemania table are placed a fraction higher than the slingshot so there's a small chance they will save you from one of those heart-stopping moments where the ball balances on the post between inlane and outlane.
It's one of Trudeau's little trademarks that he adds to his tables as I have seen it on Judge Dredd before.
The usual Stern feature is on Wrestlemania, those being the drop targets smack dab in the center of the table. Somehow they are even riskier than the GEARS targets on Mustang! The WWE targets are placed closer to the flippers but I suppose that is due to the real estate taken up by the wrestling ring mini-playfield. Nearly every shot I made on these dang things sent the ball careening into the drains!
Now, I have been mentioning this wrestling ring an awful lot, yet I haven't even posted a picture of it which is a shame because it's the main gimmick of the table... and what a gimmick it is!
Upon the release of Wrestlemania's features, many were concerned about the novelty of the wrestling ring mini-playfield. I will say with confidence that the ring is an absolute blast! The ring ropes are controlled by the flipper buttons and are used to launch the ball towards the targets. When a match is active, you have to hit the targets to wear down your opponent. After enough hits, you can go for the pin by hitting the center scoop. It is a lot of fun to play and requires a bit of nudging to really get things going. Once you complete a match, you can gain a few extra points in "Showboating"; hit the lit moving target to showboat until you drain the ball from the ring.
Once a match is complete, you have a few options to chase after. You can hit the WWE targets to start a new match. Complete 3 matches to light Royal Rumble Multiball.  Once it's lit, get into the ring and knock the ball out of the side openings to start Royal Rumble Multiball. Trust me on this one... easier said than done. You can also aim for Tag Team Multiball.
Hit each target on either side enough to light Tag Team Multiball. Since Wrestlemania doesn't have any multiball locks, you instead have to hit the left loop enough times to activate Tag Team Multiball. Once it's lit, hit the ramps to start Tag Team Multiball.
Stern has been notorious for releasing tables with unfinished code and Wrestlemania seems to be one of the worst offenders. The table at the time of this feels pretty bare-bones and causes the gameplay to fall a bit short. The table itself plays fantastic but because of the lack of code, you can't really sink your teeth into the full game. Nonetheless, Stern has been pretty good on updating the code for their latest tables and hopefully Wrestlemania will receive the same support in the future. It is a shame that we do not have a complete game right out of the gate.

Stern took a different approach on scoring for Wrestlemania. A lot of the points you will score are awarded and multiplied as a part of the bonus at the end of your ball. You can keep track of your bonus score and multipliers via the inserts at the bottom of the table.
During a few games, I thought I had a pretty crappy score, like 9 million on a ball or something then I would watch the bonus countdown and BOOM I would get up to around 20-30 million! It was ridiculous! Play well and your bonus can get up into the millions. Combine that with a big multiplier and you got yourself a high score!
When you're nWo... you're nWo 4 LIFE!
Gotta work my way up the card!

One thing I want to touch upon are the DMD animations. Stern has some solid people behind the DMD animations now and they really knock it out of the park on every table. Wrestlemania has a bunch of great animations. When you begin the game, you get to select your wrestler. You have a choice of John Cena, The Rock, Daniel Bryan, or Triple H.
Their profile pictures on the DMD are cool, with a detailed photo and their associated logo. During each match, you take on a different wrestler, such as Bray Wyatt or Dolph Ziggler.
Maybe I should have gotten a more distinct wrestler...
There are also a few great references in Wrestlemania, especially for Referee Multiball. The DMD shows the referee knocked out cold and two wrestlers teaming up on a helpless sap! I love the fact that they included a ref bump in the game.
Another great little reference is the wrestling ring motif is not just limited to the mini-playfield; even the lane dividers have ropes!
Trust me, these are a good thing. I have seen a few balls go airborne and fly right over the lanes into the drains so these will help prevent that little instance from happening on Wrestlemania.
After a bit of a stalled start with Mustang, John Trudeau really got into the swing of things at Stern and crafted an exceptional table in the form of Wrestlemania. The playfield layout is phenomenal; it all flows so well and the ball is almost always in motion. The ring gimmick is a blast and is well integrated into the gameplay without feeling like a cheap novelty. The code is a bit lacking and the table suffers because of it but you can tell that once Wrestlemania gets a few updates, it is going to be a heavy hitter in the Stern lineup, like AC/DC and Metallica. As both a wrestling fan and a pinball fan, this table is perfect for me. I couldn't ask for more... except a few more credits.

Bonus fact: if you select Triple H as your wrestler, Motörhead's THE GAME plays. That's the second pinball game Motörhead has been in! The first one being ... John Trudeau's Mustang with Ace of Spades!

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