Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ghostbusters Pinball

Earlier in the year when there was a leak of the backglass for Stern's next release, many called it bogus. Too many thought the art was just something drawn up by a fan but... I was ready to believe. I held out hope that we would get a Ghostbusters table, one that is based on the original Ghostbusters. Nothing against the upcoming Paul Feig-directed Ghostbusters but I'm a huge fan of the '84 roster. How much of a fan? Well, I have a limited-run Ghostbusters poster framed in my living room...
A 16-inch Stay Puft toy and a diecast model of a 1959 Cadillac hearse, the very same model as the Ecto-1...
When Stern made the official announcement of Ghostbusters, I jumped clean out of my seat and I think my announcement post makes that quite clear. Stern has been upping the ante lately with their tables and have been turning out many high quality releases. I remember looking at the preview pictures of Ghostbusters and knowing that this table was going to be good, if not one of the best. I posted in the Toronto Pinball Crew to tell the operators in the Crew that we need Ghostbusters in Toronto. Luckily, they heard the call and were right on it! Toronto Coin Exchange was quick in placing a Ghostbusters table at local favorite California Sandwiches and City Pinball responded by adding one of their own to the stacked roster at Cabin Fever. Not to be outdone, TCE then went and placed ANOTHER table at Roxy Bar! How lucky we are to have not one, not two but THREE Ghostbusters tables! I have had plenty of time to play the table and so I am excited to present to you my review of Ghostbusters
I'm just going to get this out of the way right now... I love this table! Ghostbusters is the total package. Great design all around, whether it's the playfield, art, music, sound, or DMD animations. It was clear how much work went into this table.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mousin' Around at Leisure Lanes

Toronto Coin Exchange has been getting a bit more bold in their selections at Leisure Lanes in Oshawa. For the longest time, there was a mix of Sterns but in the last few years, all sorts of classic tables have been appearing at the Lanes, like The Getaway and White Water. Now there is one helluva throwback in the form of Mousin' Around!
TCE has overhauled the pinball selection at Leisure Lanes, upgrading the usual pair to a trio of tables with the latest lineup being The Sopranos, Mousin' Around and Revenge From Mars! Not a bad selection if you ask me!  
When I started playing Mousin' Around, I started getting some flashbacks of memories gone by. Back in the day, my family and I would head down to Leamington to visit some of our extended family and we used to stay at Pelee Motor Inn. I have such fond memories of this hotel because it had this totally far out atrium that many of the rooms looked down into and there were all sorts of things to do in there. Arcade machines all around, two indoor pools, and another little arcade tucked away in one of the corners. I remember playing Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and Mousin' Around there and so when I saw the latter at Leisure Lanes, all these memories came flooding back. I really enjoyed Mousin' Around but not just for nostalgia's sake. After a few games of this underrated System-11, I found that it is actually quite a solid title.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo Part II

Par for the course, here I am with Part II of my trip report for Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo several months after the fact. At the very least, here it is! In Part I of my Florida APE trip report, I covered a few of the unique tables at the show, The Champion Pub and Banzai Run! I have been looking through my photos quite a bit, trying to stir up some ideas for another post and the main thing I noticed is just how good looking many of the tables at the Expo were. Like I mentioned in my trip report preview post, the dark arcade-like atmosphere of the Expo was a great way to showcase how much love and care were put into these tables. Private owners and a couple of operators put a lot of hard work into restoring and maintaining these tables and it really showed, what with all the lights turned down.
One table I was quite excited to see at Florida APE was Swords of Fu-LION MAN LION MAN-ry. Last time I saw this table was at the 2013 Ottawa Pinball Expo and was quite surprised at the complexity of this System-11 machine! I talked about SoF in the Ottawa Pinball Expo trip report but I don't see why I can't talk about it some more! Plus, I have some really nice pictures of SoF so why miss out on sharing them with you?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Hangouts at Cabin Fever

It was another snowy weekend in April here in Toronto. Just when we thought we had escaped the winter hellscapes of January and February, Old Man Winter hit us with one last blast. The weather didn't stop a couple of folks from the Ottawa Pinball Scene and House of TARG from swinging by Cabin Fever for an afternoon of pinball! I came out to visit the boys from Ottawa and represent the Big Smoke. When I stepped into Cabin Fever, I saw that Toronto Pinball Fever were having their first End-of-Month tournament so we had a great showing of the Toronto Pinball Crew.
I had a great time catching up with my buddy Monty of Ottawa Punk Pinball (follow him on Instagram @OttawaPunkPinball) and hearing about what's shakin up in this nation's great capital. It sounds like things are going real well there and House of TARG is kickin' ass! I can't wait to head back up to Ottawa and do some work at stealin' girlfriends and high scores. MUF has made his mark known before...
A few of the guys that came down to the city with Monty work at House of TARG and were quite excited to see The Shadow as a part of Cabin Fever's lineup. House of TARG has had quite a few machines in rotation over the past two years and most of the tables at Cabin Fever had been a part of TARG's roster at one point or another except for The Shadow. So, we played quite a few games on that table in between Toronto Pinball Fever's tournament rounds.
Speaking of Toronto Pinball Fever, I want to give a shout-out to the newest league to pop up! The format of Toronto Pinball Fever is a bit different than that of City Pinball. It's a "Super Selfie League" and you register at Cabin Fever each month for only 5 bucks. It's super play so you can play whenever you want on any of the tables at Cabin Fever and when you get a decent score, you can post a selfie with the score on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to record your score. Make sure to tag @TorontoPinball and @CabinFever in your post! You can post as
many scores as you wish and the top 50% will go on to the End-of-Month playoffs! It's a good format for those that might be busy on the Wednesday nights that City Pinball runs or just want to play a more casual league format. I've signed up for April so hopefully I can start posting some scores! I had a few good ones last night but I didn't want to get in the way of the play-off games by awkwardly squeezing in between the machines for a selfie. Next time though! You should drop by Cabin Fever 'cause they have great lineups. Great lineups of pinball, records, beers, and sandwiches too! Dig all the pinball-themed names! There is even a sandwich named after one of the City Pinball fellas, Mike Bartolo!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo 2016 Trip Report

Alright, let's get to talking about the 2016 Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo! I went way out of my comfort zone of Toronto to attend this one. For those long-time readers, you know quite well that I'm not bound to the city limits of the Big Smoke. I get around to all sorts of Expos, like Michigan Pinball Expo and Ottawa Pinball Expo. Now we can mark the Florida APE off the list! There has been something on my chest for quite some time about Expos that I just haven't been able to articulate until now. I picked up a book called The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross and in the foreword by Ken MacLeod, he says something in regards to conventions that "the peculiar melancholy of looking back on a con and realising no matter how good of a time you had, there was even more that you missed." That is exactly how I feel about pinball expos!
No matter how many machines I played, no matter how many pictures I took, I always think about the stuff that I missed. Shamefully, I missed out on playing the new P3 game Lexy Lightspeed as well as a few others I was hoping to play. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out; the lineup for a pinball machine is just too long or it's out of service while you're there. I just find it so difficult to wait in line for a pinball machine at Expos. You never know how good the person ahead of you is playing or if they're a goof and started a 4 player game for themselves. Pinball Expos must be a nightmare for those with short attention spans. You're waiting in line for a particular machine but there's so many around you making all this noise and lightshows that you just kind of wander out of line and find yourself playing something else. I have to say I am a pretty focused individual but when it comes to expos, I just lose all focus! There are all sorts of different machines I want to play, some that I rarely see on route or that I haven't seen before, like The Champion Pub!

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Alright, I'm just gonna get the cliche out of the way now... WHO YA GONNA CALL??

Well, looks like you will be calling Stern Pinball!
Now, with that out of the way, I would like to say "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH OH MY GORD!!!!!!!!!!" I am so SO STOKED to see this! Ghostbusters pinball! I can't believe it. Actually, yes I can. I'm ready to believe you. There has been rumors abound and leaks regarding the backglass artwork and whatnot but many claimed it was "too good to be true". Well, it looks TOO GOOD and it is TRUE because Stern made the announcement today!
Holy moley, this table looks downright amazing. Hand-drawn artwork, all sorts of toys, so many references to the movie and that ECTO-1 SIDEART OH MY!!
I'm calling it now... Ghostbusters is going to be one of Stern's BEST tables. At the very least it will be my favorite table! John Trudeau is the designer of Ghostbusters and based on the amount of stuff packed into the playfield, it looks like Stern has finally let him off the leash. There looks to be a ton of shots, a really big and steep ramp, a Slimer bash toy
and a big ol' Stay Puft looming over the table. The Slimer moves too; hitting Slimer causes him to "slime" the playfield and turn a bunch of targets green which you then have to clean up. The Pro table looks to be losing out on a few toys and features but at least it doesn't seem to be as pared down as Game of Thrones Pro was. The Pro version still features the same cityscape over the pop bumpers which I think is a really neat addition and helps build a little New York City under glass.
The Premium and Limited editions come with some sort of a ghost hologram target which sounds pretty neat along with upgraded metal ramps and magnetic slingshots. I'm interested to see how the gameplay varies with that. It sounds like getting caught up in the slingshots could get a helluva lot more unpredictable. There are also a few more new toys like the storage containment unit and public library.
The artwork, which is done by Jeremy Packer, otherwise known as Zombie Yeti, looks amazing and very colourful. (Neat fact, Zombie Yeti was the fellow that was working on John Popadiuk's Magic Girl pinball before that went belly up) There looks to be all sorts of little details and references packed into the art. There is even a little pinball machine tucked away in the Firehouse toy!
The premise of the table is similar to the 2009 Ghostbusters video game in that you as the player are a new Ghostbuster recruit and gotta bust hella ghosts (also bust some high scores)! Ernie Hudson was also brought on to do custom callouts along with classic quips from the movie so that should be pretty cool too.

I think I better start saving up my money because if there is one machine I need to buy, it's this one. I'll be keeping a very close eye on the Ghostbusters release so you better keep a close eye on Bumper City! When this baby pops up in the wild, you best believe I will have a review ready to go!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo 2016 Preview!

Boy, do I have a surprise for you... So, I ended up heading down to Florida this month for a little R&R and I just so happened to find myself at the Florida Arcade and Pinball Expo otherwise known as APE! 
What a show! I was really impressed with the lineup at APE. There was a great selection of pinball and arcade machines from all eras which meant that a few of my old favourites were available to play. 
Now, dig that! All the lights are turned down in the venue which evokes the memories of hanging out in dark arcades. It was dark, it was noisy and damn it was fun! 
There were quite a few tables I haven't reviewed before, like Cirqus Voltaire and The Champion Pub so be on the lookout for a few trip report posts very soon! I had my camera in tow along with some new lenses to play around with I took full advantage of APE and took lots of really cool pictures of the machines. More to come soon but for now, enjoy some pictures from Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


There has been one table on my mind for quite a while now that I never really had a chance to review. The times when it was in the city, I could never find the right time to write about it. There was either something else I wanted to post about or by the time I was ready to review it, it was gone. It's a shame because the table I'm speaking of was pretty good and has only gotten better over time. The table I am speaking of is METALLICA!
Metallica was released in the summer of 2013 and Bumper City was well under way by that point. Looking back, it was quite the busy time for me, having covered my first trip with my brother for our St. Catharines Pinball Journey as well as the 2013 Canadian Pinball Championships so unfortunately I wasn't able to get around to reviewing Metallica during it's youth. After a couple of years, Metallica has seen quite a bit of action with many code updates really filling out the game's ruleset as well as a re-release of an all-LED Pro edition. The table had a few stints around the city, first at Monarch Tavern and later popping up at ScotiaBank Theatre and Brass Taps but by the time it arrived at the latter, it was in such poor shape that I couldn't justify writing a review. In the last year however, one of the new LED Pro editions of Metallica found a home at Ted's Collision. It's one of the nicest tables I have seen at Ted's! Now, thanks to City Pinball, Metallica has joined Junction City Music Hall's roster, just in time for season two of City Pinball's pinball league! If you haven't learned already, if a pinball machine has the City Pinball name on it, you know it's a real good table! This Metallica is in tip-top shape, featuring up-to-date code and a real clean playfield.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Game of Thrones at Monarch Tavern

You have to appreciate when one of your favorite bars keeps you up-to-date as to which machine they have on location. In the case of Monarch Tavern, they always give me a shout on Twitter letting me know when a new table hits. In most cases, it is the newest Stern and this time around it was true!
Stern's newest release based on the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones, has arrived in Toronto! Game of Thrones has been out for a little while now but only in mid-December did the table appear within city limits. I made plans with a couple of friends to go check out the table the weekend it arrived at Monarch.
When we settled in at the bar, Mike and Joe of the Toronto Pinball Crew happened to show up as well and we had one helluva posse! Mike and Joe had a chance to swing by and play the table earlier in the week so they were able to provide some strategy on how to play GoT which I will get to soon enough but first, let's get a good look!
It is quite the packed table! Ramps and loops all over the playfield! This is certainly the work of Mr. Steve Ritchie, the King of Flow. At first glance, it looks like a pretty standard Stern layout, with 6 shots, two ramps, two orbits, bash toy, and kickback shot but as with every Ritchie table, he just has a knack for making it all flow together so well. I think a big part of that is how Ritchie handles speed on his tables. There is very little stop-n-go and the only time you are really waiting on the table is when you lock a ball. The ball lock mechanism even works to keep the game moving fast; if you hit the center ramp when lock isn't lit and there are balls already locked in, the mechanism will drop a ball as soon as the other approaches so the gameplay does not slow down whatsoever.
As always, there is that dreaded kickback shot. Like Star Trek's nasty Vengeance shot, GoT's comes in the form of the Dragon kickback. Placed a little to the left, this shot launches the ball towards the flippers... but usually just right down the middle. Direct shots at the Dragon kickback will launch it back at you at high speed so it is best to avoid it as much as you can.
However, this is the required shot in order to get extra ball which is quite a audacious decision... but I like it. I hate it too but I like the idea of it! Rather than just making an easy shot into a scoop, you have to hit one of the riskiest shots in order to earn that extra ball. It reminds me of White Water's infamous extra ball shot.
But is it worth it? Not really because you are more than likely just going to end up draining the ball from the kickback! I found this out the hard way when I got the extra ball and the kickback shot the ball right down the middle. It doesn't help that I was taunting the machine by firing off multiple crotch chops but salt was added to the wound when I discovered that Monarch's GoT table had extra balls turned off... damn.

As I mentioned before, this table doesn't look quite daunting at first glance but the more you play this game, the deeper it gets to the point where it can be quite overwhelming! Even upon release, Game of Thrones has pretty robust code and a ton of stuff to do. You will see that there are several different crests on the lower playfield. At the beginning of the game, you will select the house you wish to align with, each with their own advantage. Mike and Joe suggested going with House Martell as you get a one free add-a-ball during multiball.
Upon starting the game, you have a few options. You can begin lighting the different houses or you can work towards Blackwater Multiball. In order to do the former, you will hit different shots on the table and depending on what colour the shots are, you will activate that particular house for battle which is started by hitting the center ramp. Each battle mode has different objectives. For example, House Lannister requires you to hit the red lit shots while House Baratheon has you hitting the five standup targets located across the table.
Part of the strategy devised by Mike and Joe is to activate two of the houses but hold off doing battle until you have Blackwater Multiball activated. In order to light the locks, you must hit one of the Wildfire targets on the far right of the table. You just need to hit one and it will light the ball lock at the center ramp. Hit that ramp (and usually you will light a house by doing this as well), lock a ball, rinse and repeat. Make sure to select Pass for Now when prompted for Battle Mode. Upon locking the third ball, you can battle up to two houses all while having Multiball jackpots lit. It's kind of hard to focus on what to do at that point but all you really need to do is just shoot the ramps and orbits! You should be able to clear out one of the houses at least. If you manage to hit all the jackpots, Super Jackpot will light at the battering ram.
This is where things get tricky. The Battering Ram is akin to a captive ball shot where you have to hit the ram hard enough to send it into the target. A light hit won't do ya jack so you gotta smack that ram! The problem is that you have to hit the battering ram head on; a glancing shot will do you no good. Give the ram a big old hit and you should get that Super Jackpot! The points are really random and unfortunately, I have yet to find out how exactly the Jackpot score works. Sometimes I have seen the Super Jackpot award 60 million and other times give away 180 million! That's huge!

Now, depending if you selected House Martell, there's one last piece of the strategy. If you are in the midst of multiball and you drain your second-to-last ball, you can make a desperation maneuver by slapping the action button located on the lockbar and activate add-a-ball! You will replenish your multiball back up to 3 balls as well as get a really short ball save. Use the add-a-ball wisely, however, because you only have one opportunity per round. So, if you start another multiball mode and already used the add-a-ball, you will not have it again until your next round.

The one thing that does bug me about Game of Thrones is the artwork. Apparently Greg Freres did the art package but it looks like a pretty basic Photoshop 101 job. If you look closely at the midplayfield, it is pretty clearly a quick radial gradient with the crest borders sporting some embossing and 5-point stroke to fill them out. The thick black stroke looks especially cheesy on the two swords bordering the playfield.
Besides the art package, GoT's lightshow is quite visually stunning. I admire the improvements Stern has been making towards their light aspects, especially using RGB LEDs in the inserts to highlight different modes and provide better visual clues as to what you should be shooting for. In addition, the lightshows from their later tables have been getting really wild and GoT is no slouch! When you activate the table's hurryup mode, Winter is Coming, the whole table starts lighting up with a crazy strobe! Wall Multiball features the same strobing effect except you have 3 balls going at once to add to the insanity.
The long anticipated arrival of Game of Thrones in Toronto has finally come to an end with the table appearing at Monarch Tavern to much fanfare. Almost immediately, people made their way to Monarch to give this new table a shot and already there are big high scores from the locals like DOH and MIC (That's Mike of City Pinball!). I had a chance to try it out and I must say that Stern has hit another one out of the park. Though the table may not look the part, Game of Thrones is quite the challenging table with tight and fast shots and a very indepth rulesheet right out of the gate. I am excited to see how this table will play out with further code updates but even now, GoT has quite a robust rulesheet. Steve Ritchie's design work is evident in the playfield with non-stop lightning fast gameplay and punishing shots; The Dragon kickback will become the bane of your existence. The art package leaves a lot to be desired, especially coming off the heels of the hand-drawn KISS table but that's only one negative about the visual aspect of Game of Thrones. The light shows throughout the game are quite stunning and really pop in a dark setting such as Monarch Tavern. I can see Game of Thrones garnering a lot of popularity in the days to come at Monarch so you better get over there while the table is still in top-notch condition!