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.

This is one of Stern's most attractive tables to date. The artwork is just so colorful and interesting. There is no section of Ghostbusters that is left untouched; whether it is a ghost, a reference or just a bit of ectoplasm, the artwork leaves no area blank. Even the firehouse toy has a little pinball machine in there and if you look close enough, you can see it's a "real" table in the form of Stern's Star Gazer from 1980!
The art of Ghostbusters is by Zombie Yeti, who is no stranger to pinball art design, having worked with John Popadiuk's now-defunct pinball company Zidware to create the artwork for his table Magic Girl. His art style translates very well to pinball and provides all sorts of eye candy. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the ball and not on the artwork because this table moves fast and even just a second of distraction can end your game!

Ghostbusters is unlike much of Stern's output and the playfield design feels like they finally let their newest designer, John Trudeau, go full bore on the design. His previous tables felt a bit restrained and somewhat within the standard Stern mold. Mustang did not stand out from the crowd and Wrestlemania tried something different with the wrestling ring gimmick but it just did not work quite well. Ghostbusters on the other hand feels much more like a traditional Trudeau table. There are plenty of interesting and unusual shots as well as ramps that are tight as all get out.

There is not one but two captive ball shots! The right one helps build up the Symmetrical Book Stacking feature and leads to one of several hurry-up modes. The captive ball on the left is a Newton Captive Ball where hitting the trapped ball will cause the balls behind it to launch up and around the U-Turn. Stack 3 together to light the ball lock for Storage Facility Multiball and other assorted awards. This is a great throwback to pinball tables of the past, especially Electro-Mechanicals and early Solid States where Newton captive balls were a big feature.

It's not a Stern table without a big ol' bash toy! This time around there is a Slimer toy that you get to knock around!
Hit the Ghost target next to Slimer to spell G-H-O-S-T. Once GHOST is spelled, Slimer will lower down and the bashing commences! Hit Slimer and he will slime different shots which you can then clean up to light Super Jackpot. By hitting Slimer 3 times, you will capture 20 ghosts. Similar to The Walking Dead's zombie killing as well as diamond collecting in Trudeau's Congo, the main goal of Ghostbusters is to capture as many ghosts as you can, either by hitting shots with a lit No-Ghost symbol or completing certain modes. The more ghosts you collect, the more awards you receive!
After collecting 80 ghosts, PKE Frenzy mode is lit. Much of the general illumination of the table goes dark, leaving only a few of the playfield lights on. It looks really stunning in a dark environment like Cabin Fever. If you collect 100 ghosts, you will activate Mass Hysteria multiball which is completely bonkers! When the multiball mode activates, the flippers are reversed! Hitting the captive balls on the left will cause the flippers to revert to their regular orientation but hitting the captive balls after that will flip them once more! The name says it all... Mass Hysteria. Once when I was playing Ghostbusters, I had gotten Storage Facility Multiball but while that was going, I also managed to activate Mass Hysteria leading to several balls flying around the table at once and me crossing my arms over each other to properly play with reversed flippers! (heh, crossing the streams...)
If you like unpredictability in pinball then Ghostbusters is your game. There is the Mass Hysteria Multiball as well as the video mode, Negative Reinforcement on ESP Ability. This video mode has you guessing which is the correct card ala the opening scene in the movie. Each guess is worth 2 million points but one wrong guess and you could lose it all! Looking at the more physical side of things, the pinball tends to get airborne quite a bit. I have had this happen quite a bit to the point where I heard the ball hit the glass and stir up quite a fright with that cracking sound. How it got that high, I have no idea. It seems to be due to the two playfield multiplier targets on either side of the left ramp.
I also had an instance where the ball cleanly flew over the slingshots and right into the outlane. I have seen it before but airborne balls seem to be more common on Ghostbusters. Speaking of nasty drains, this table has them in spades. Everyone has been complaining about the classic Trudeau Gap in which the flippers are placed further apart than usual but what I find especially nasty are the outlanes. There is nothing different about them but the layout of the lower playfield tends to lead to more outlane drains. There are double inlanes on each side, separated by small metal railings that I swear are made of rubber. The ball just seems to bounce off these railings and go flying right down the outlanes. A quick nudge will save you some trouble but sometimes it's just not enough. Even the ball save on Ghostbusters is unforgiving! Normally on Stern tables, if the ball drains a second or two after the ball save light goes out, the game will still recognize it and give you a second chance. Not with Ghostbusters. Soon after starting a round, I lost control of the ball and it proceeded to find its way down the middle drain seconds after the Ball Save light went out. I thought I would get the ball returned but NOPE! Saw that end of ball bonus animation on the DMD.
If you are more into collecting big scores than collecting ghosts on Ghostbusters then your main focus will be getting Super Jackpot. You do not need to be in a Multiball mode in order to light and collect Super Jackpot; instead you can complete certain modes like defeating the Scoleri Brothers.
You can start the Scoleri Bros. mode by hitting the Symmetrical Book Stacking captive ball several times. Two drop targets will appear on the playfield and you have to knock them both down in order to defeat the Scoleri Brothers. After taking one brother down, you have ten seconds to defeat the other. Get them both to light Super Jackpot at the left ramp. Another method of getting Super Jackpots is by collecting 60 ghosts and activating Loopin' Supers where you have 20 seconds to hit the left ramp for as many Super Jackpots as you can.

The weekend that Ghostbusters touched down in the city at California Sandwiches, a couple of the folks from Toronto Pinball Crew and I went to take it for a spin. We discovered quite quickly how much the Super Jackpots can affect your score.
... Or at least, I did! HA HA HA. Much of my winning game was a blur. The gameplay was super fast, multiball was insane with what felt like endless balls entering the fray and constant callouts of SUPER JACKPOT! So, like I said, if you want a BIG SCORE, focus on lighting Super Jackpot.
Never did I think that Stern would consider creating a pinball table out of the Ghostbusters license. Normally they stick to current movie and TV releases or popular bands. The Ghostbusters franchise has been resurrected with the new installment coming out this summer but I didn't think that would be cause to base a table on the classic movie. Well, I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised! Not only did we get a Ghostbusters-themed pinball table but a damn good one at that! John Trudeau went all out in the playfield design, throwing in a few of his signatures and throwbacks to tables of the past to create fast-paced and engaging gameplay albeit very unforgiving. Zombie Yeti knocked it out of the park with amazing art design that hearkens back to the days of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and packing in all sorts of neat references like the Twinkie!
I have to give a shoutout to the people that did the coding for Ghostbusters as they created a very in-depth ruleset right out of the box for the game. There seems to be three different Wizard modes, We're Ready to Believe You (Complete all scenes), We Came, We Saw, We Kicked Its... (Capture A LOT of ghosts), and Are You a God? ("Be Good at Everything"... I'm working on it). Ghostbusters just feels like a complete game and if there are some things missing, I didn't notice. If I had the money to buy a pinball table right now, I have decided it would be Ghostbusters. This table is the total package. Great theme, great overall design and great fun! Unfortunately, I don't have the money to afford a brand spankin' new table but at least I have three great places I can go to play it! It just depends whether I want a sandwich or a beer while I play.

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