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.

I have always enjoyed Metallica, even during it's bare-bones initial release. Designed by John Borg, it felt a lot different from his previous tables, X-MEN in 2012 and TRON: Legacy in 2011. Whereas the two previous tables were heavy on the features and big shots, Metallica felt a bit more stripped down and focused on flow. I think it mainly comes from those two HEAVY METAL RAMPS!
How appropriate that a heavy metal band gets this much HEAVY METAL on their table. But I digress... Hitting those ramps then hitting a combo around the orbits feels so good on Metallica. I think Borg really found his sense of flow on this table which is also evident on his later table, KISS. There are a few stop-and-go style shots with the Snake and to a lesser extent, the captive ball, but it is quite pared down on Metallica. Instead you're hitting a lot of quick shots and bashing into things. Shots that normally would break up the flow of the table are relegated to the sides with the Fuel dead-end shot placed on the left-hand side and the scoop on the far right. The bumpers are tucked away up in the upper right corner and out of the action which is unusual for Borg! Usually he has them lower on the playfield with a shot going in between; I think the lack of that trademark really improves the flow on Metallica. The ramps are set up in a way that you can get some serious combos hitting them back and forth but be careful because the ball picks up quite a bit of speed and along with the tight openings on both ramps, a mis-timed shot can send the ball wild.

There is a neat gimmick that is a throwback to tables of the electro-mechanical and early solid-state eras (Bally's Dolly Parton being one to feature this) in the form of the Master of Puppets in-line targets.
Master of Puppets multiball is hidden away behind these "grave markers" which need to be knocked down in succession in order to active the multiball mode. The first marker is an easy shot as it is placed a bit outside of the inlane. Usually a glancing shot when the ball is flying around the table will knock it down but after that, it's a matter of precision to get through that tight inlane and knock down the rest of the targets! If you're aiming for Master of Puppets, you better be committed to it because the markers reset after each round. You can stack this multiball mode with the Electric Chair multiball mode so if you're aiming to get multiball, I would recommend hitting Sparky first to build Electric Chair.
This may take you a ball or two but at least the progression continues throughout the rounds. Knock down the grave markers while you're at it and make sure you hit the final marker once or twice as Master of Puppets won't start immediately. Start multiball either way then hit the appropriate shot to activate the second one and then go wild!

Now, the artwork is something that really grabbed me when I first heard word of Metallica some years ago. Metallica was one of the first tables released by Stern to feature hand-drawn artwork in quite some time (X-MEN being the first). Instead of bringing on their usual artists, like Kevin O'Connor or Greg Freres, Dirty Donny was hired to produce the artwork for Metallica as well as provide a hand in designing the big custom Sparky bash toy! Dirty Donny may seem like an odd choice but he has a history of working with Metallica and actually redesigned an Earthshaker table into a Metallica-themed table! It is evident that his artwork is influenced by Big Daddy Ed Roth and other low-brow hot rod artists so of course it appealed to me!
I know this sort of style can be an acquired taste but compared to AC/DC's art package, having Dirty Donny's nasty monsters is way better than having a bunch of old leathery looking rockers plastered all over the playfield.

A neat little thing I noticed is that Dirty Donny employs a bit of a classic comic illustration technique called Kirby Krackle! The Kirby Krackle is a technique that was created and popularized by the comic book artist, Jack Kirby. Dirty Donny uses the Kirby Krackle in his playfield artwork to emphasize some of the artwork like the flaming eyeballs and everything else that is on fire.
Seeing as as the table is based on a heavy metal band, there is of course an emphasis on the music and sound in Metallica. The table features all the classic Metallica songs, like my favorite Seek and Destroy in addition to Master of Puppets and For Whom The Bell Tolls. The individual behind the song selection must be a classic Metallica fan as many of the songs come from the earlier eras of the band and don't feature any songs from their less-than-stellar output like St. Anger. The table also features custom callouts from members of the band, like James Hetfield yelling out "ELECTRIC CHAI-AH!!" Not only do you have the fellas from Metallica making quips but Brendon Small of Metalocalypse and Home Movies provides the voices for Sparky and the snake!

Metallica has had quite a history in Toronto, coming and going as it pleased from Little Italy all the way to the Danforth but often remained in its spartan out-of-the-box state with outdated code for years. As fun as it was, Metallica was missing quite a bit of depth without the updated code and unfortunately the operators running the table didn't bother updating the table. Nor they did they bother to really fix up the table when it fell into disrepair. By the time this particular table reached Brass Taps, it was in pretty rough shape. In particular, the grave marker inlane became unresponsive and you couldn't knock down the targets. Recently, new versions of Metallica have appeared and have provided players with an opportunity to truly enjoy Metallica. The great playfield layout encourages combos and great flow and now with more robust code, there are plenty of modes and reasons to hit all the different shots on the table. As with many of the music-themed tables, even if you are not a fan of the band, don't let the Metallica branding turn you off. It's a great playing table and you are missing out if you're going to let your distaste for the band get in the way. This was a turn in the right direction for Stern, featuring hand-drawn artwork and custom-made toys which had been a rarity in their tables for several years. You have a few options to take this wild table for a spin; Little Italy is host to Ted's Collision which has this table tucked away in the back and Junction City Music Hall holds down the heavy metal in the West end.

No comments :

Post a Comment