Friday, August 21, 2015

Johnny Mnemonic

In my previous review of Georgian Grill's pinball arcade, we took a look at "the woman of the 90's", The Machine: Bride of Pin·bot so how about we travel into THE FUTURE and review Williams' Johnny Mnemonic!
Like Demolition Man, this was a table based on a Sci-Fi film that flopped in theatres. It seems as though Williams was trying to recreate the success of Terminator 2: Judgment Day but had a string of bad luck, basing their pinball machines on movies that became box office bombs. Despite the quality of the movies, both Demolition Man and Johnny Mnemonic are solid but underrated tables released in the golden years of the mid 90's. Johnny Mnemonic takes full advantage of the trappings of the film the table is based on which makes for some interesting designs. The feature that catches one's eye upon stepping up to the table looks like Nintendo's powerglove.
Not quite though! It's the DATAGLOVE, a piece of the VR equipment that Johnny uses to cyberhack the 'net. In the movie, Johnny has to "physically" navigate a virtual reality landscape of the internet in order to obtain some information. The dataglove acts as a part of the ball lock, capturing the ball and dropping it into the Datamatrix (WHOA)

That glove is pretty high up though! How does it grab the ball? There is actually a pretty strong magnet that pulls the ball from the playfield all the way up to the glove! At that point, you have to navigate the glove around the matrix and select where you drop it. Depending on where it lands, you may unlock additional scoring or an extra ball among other things. Drop three balls into the matrix in order to activate multiball. Here's a neat trick to score BIG POINTS! If you line 3 balls up, you can activate 3X scoring.

The Data Glove plays such a big part in Johnny Mnemonic's game that I can't imagine how this table would play if the Dataglove was out of service. I imagine a lot of the appeal of the table being lost if the Dataglove was offline. My one gripe with it is that it takes a dang long time to get through. You shoot the lit shot to activate the Dataglove then go through the little Dot Matrix Display animation before navigating the ball over to the Matrix lock. You can just hit the flippers to drop it in the first available matrix but if you're aiming for points then you have to go through locating the right matrix for each ball lock. On the other hand, the length of the ball lock sequence gives you a moment to catch your breath, which is nice as the shots on Johnny Mnemonic keep the gameplay moving fast. The ramps are short and send the ball back to the flippers right away. You can get some serious combos going but one loose shot can mess you up; there are no targets on the sides of the ramp, only the round posts that tend to send the ball in unpredictable directions.

The targets located on either side of the playfield are too risky and aren't really worth going for. Because of their location, the ball has a habit of hitting them and falling down towards the outlanes. There is that heart-stopping moment where the ball bounces off the top of the slingshot and veers towards the outlane. give it a quick nudge and hope it doesn't go down the outlane!

The Crazy Bob shot is deceptively tough to hit. The scoop looks really easy to hit, just wide open in the center of the playfield but you have to hit the scoop dead on to ensure the ball stays in there. 
These types of scoops are a lot more difficult to hit as it's a shallow little shot and there is nothing that stops the ball from jumping out. This type of scoop seems to be a layover of older machines where the gameplay wasn't as fast and the ball would reasonably fall into the scoop. With later machines, the ball is moving so fast that sometimes it's momentum just launches right back out! 

Believe it or not, this was George Gomez' second table in his pinball design career. The ramp layout is similar to his Corvette design with one ramp lower on the playfield and his appreciation for bridges becoming evident. I'm serious! George Gomez loves putting bridges in his pinball tables. Just look at The Sopranos or Batman and you'll see!

The cyberpunk design of Johnny Mnemonic really appeals to me. It's such a suitable theme for a pinball machine and works well for the table. The "futuristic" references are quite funny now that we are living in the year that Johnny Mnemonic was based in, the second decade of the 21st century, such as how the Internet is some virtual landscape or people's brains being similar to jump drives. One thing that is lost on me is that the modes act like "episodes", like one where Johnny is a superhero, or another where he finds himself in the middle of a protest. I'm not entirely sure what these relate to and I feel that this is the sort of table that would be more enjoyable if you have seen the movie.
It's a shame that the movie bombed so hard; if not, maybe Johnny Mnemonic would be considered a more popular table among the heavy hitters of Williams. The table does rely heavily on the Dataglove gimmick but there is a deep enough ruleset and plenty of modes that if the Dataglove was out of commission, you could find plenty more to do. On the other hand, it would limit the appeal of the game quite a bit. The cyberpunk theme is really cool and works well in the realm of pinball. It makes me think about what a Perfect Dark pinball machine would be like. Though some of the references go over my head (Why does Johnny have a giant head with fish swimming around him?), Johnny Mnemonic is a fun and fast table with plenty to do. I found myself playing game after game on this despite the variety of tables at Georgian Grill. Just because the movie stinks doesn't mean the pinball machine has to so don't pass by Johnny Mnemonic. Give it a shot and experience a real underrated and deep machine!

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