Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Simpson Pinball Party

The legendary Stern classic, The Simpsons Pinball Party has once again entered the city limits! There was a very brief period where The Simpsons Pinball Party was at the old Pinball Cafe but it has now found a place among the lineup at Junction City Music Hall!
This particular table first set foot at Handlebar for the Beer & Ball Festival before making its way over to the Junction.
The Simpsons Pinball Party is one of Stern's most ambitious tables; the table was produced by Keith Johnson and Joe Balcer, the latter going on to design Jersey Jack Pinball's Wizard of Oz. TSPP was released in early 2003 and certainly was a sign of things to come with the release of The Lord of The Rings near the end of the year.

The Simpsons Pinball Party is jam-packed with all sorts of shots and features. When you first step up to the game, it's nearly impossible to figure out just exactly what you are supposed to do! The complexity of TSPP isn't just in the playfield; the ruleset is considered one of Stern's most in-depth. There's a variety of modes to activate, like the episodes or the Itchy & Scratchy Multiball episodes, Otto's 2X scoring, or obtaining all of Cletus' kids, just to name a few.

The big points can be found on the upper playfield where you can activate episodes and work your way towards Multiball. In order to get up to the upper playfield, hit the garage to open the door and then make a strong shot into the garage to reach the upper playfield. Be careful because weak shots into the garage will end up dropping down the left orbit into the bumpers. Once you are in the upper playfield, shoot the ball into the little loop to activate the lock and start an episode. The ball will then drop down to the flipper adjacent to the lock ramp. Make a quick flip to knock it up there and lock the ball on the couch.
My issue with The Simpsons Pinball Party is that the gameplay can devolve into a one-shot strategy. The garage provides a lot of incentives which encourage you to go for that rather than other riskier shots on the table. Stacking episodes is the key to a big score as it lights more shots for points, it resets the timer on the active episodes, and completing all the episodes leads to the "boss battle" mode, Alien Invasion. It's a bit of a shame because TSPP is packed with all sorts of wild stuff yet if you want a big score, you'll just end up going after the garage.
I had a bit of an existential crisis one night at Junction City Music Hall after going for the garage time and time again. Am I playing pinball to have fun and enjoy the game or am I just chasing after the high scores? If you look at a lot of tournament play, a lot of games just boil down to hitting a single shot over and over again to rack up a score and where is the fun in that? I realized that there is so much to do in The Simpsons so why just go for that when I can fly around the table and unlock some new stuff. As cliche as it is, variety is the spice of life, and The Simpsons Pinball Party offers plenty of different options to have fun!
That, and the machine is really low-scoring so if you really want that high score, you'll be in for an endurance game.

For those readers out there that are Simpsons fans, this table is a total love letter to the series. There are references littered throughout the table in the playfield artwork and the modes. The living room couch is featured as the main ball lock!
The Simpsons Pinball Party also features all original audio recorded by Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria. The backglass and cabinet art was designed by Matt Groening's team. If you look closely at the cabinet art, you will notice a multitude of obscure Simpsons characters. The playfield artwork is very faithful to the series as well.
The Simpsons is a rare example of depth and complexity in Stern's line-up and is considered one of their biggest hits for a good reason! Not only is the table a blast to play but it is loaded with all sorts of Simpsons references and details. The table is a faithful tribute to the everlasting series and will leave a positive impression for anyone that grew up watching The Simpsons. The first few times you play this table, you may not get the best impression; it can knock you silly if you're not careful. I remember my first few rounds on it back in the Pinball Cafe days and I walked away within five minutes. But now that I have gotten another chance to really take The Simpsons Pinball Party for a spin, I have trouble peeling myself away! Give the table a shot and you may very well get stuck on The Simpsons Pinball Party!

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