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.
At first glance, Mousin' Around looks like a simple table. The only thing that really caught my eye at first was the center ramp.
I spent my first few games just focusing on that, knocking down the standup target bank and then looping ramp shots like nobody's business! Then I found that wasn't quite a solid strategy because one wrong shot off the target bank or the ramp posts can send that ball right down the middle. It is important to hit the center ramp at least three times as it will light the left outlane kickback. This is essential because the outlanes on Mousin' Around are just plain hungry. The outlanes are rounded and do not have adjustable posts like most tables which leads to some wide open outlanes. Having the outlane kickback lit can be a lifesaver but it certainly is a classic Risk Vs. Reward strategy due to the low location of the ramp and the unpredictability of shooting the targets.
The one issue I have is the right return lane as it can be unpredictable. If you hit the left orbit, the ball will come down through the right exit which is a bit curved to allow space for the kickback lane. It then opens up to the right inlane as well as the outlane. If the ball doesn't come down the exit lane in the right way, it could end up bouncing off one of the posts and going over to the right outlane. I had it happen a few times and damn if that isn't annoying! That is just a part of the unpredictability that I appreciate about pinball ... though I don't appreciate it the moment it happens! 
After having my fun shooting the center ramp, I decided to read the rule card for once and try to figure out how to actually play Mousin' Around. It has a really simple ruleset but sometimes there is beauty in simplicity. There are two main goals of Mousin' Around: spell CHEESE by hitting the left and right ramps as well as the right kickback target to activate the Mouse Hole and raise the Jackpot. You can get the reward by hitting the right ramp which redirects into the Mouse Hole. 
The other goal is to activate Multiball by hitting the left and right target banks and spelling MOUSE TRAP. Once MOUSE TRAP is lit, the mouse trap locks open up on either side of the playfield, one in the left orbit and the other in the right kickback lane. Lock the two balls in the little cheese locks and then hit the Mouse Hole to activate Multiball! 
Despite the simplicity of the ruleset, I found myself coming back to Mousin' Around time and time again... Well, we ended up breaking The Sopranos so I didn't have much choice... but if I did, I still would have played plenty of Mousin' Around! I kept trying to see how much I could build my jackpot before I went for Multiball or see if I could combo all the Cheese shots. Mousin' Around surprised me with how well-flowing it feels. A lot of the main shots are hit from the left flipper and both the left and right ramps feed back to the left flipper in order to set you up for some serious combos. Hit the left ramp first then hit the right ramp before finishing off with the kickback lane. DAMN THAT FEELS GOOD! Especially so because Mousin' Around has some seriously tight shots but once you get a good grasp on the table, the shots feel so natural and easy to determine where exactly the ball needs to be on the flipper in order to accurately hit the shots. 
The artwork is totally cheesy (pardon the pun) and is definitely a product of its time in 1989 but the artist Pat McMahon always has a knack for making an eye-catching art package for the pinball machines he has worked on. The main colours of the table are a mix of red, blue and yellow which really makes the playfield stand out. The style is a take on old-school comics, using halftone patterns as well as panels to distinguish different parts of the table. The cigar-chompin' bad guy even appears to be peering in through a comic panel at those pesky mice! 
If you look at the top right of the panel, you can see his hand grabbing onto the edge.
I couldn't quite hear the music of Mousin' Around, what with Friday nights being Leisure Lanes' bowling league night and The Sopranos being louder but from what I could hear, it had a pretty funky little 8-bit beat! What was weird though is the beat sounded a lot like The Sopranos' beat. While we were playing Mousin' Around, I noticed that both songs blended almost seamlessly together. It was quite strange but somehow it worked! 

Many tend to overlook Mousin' Around for many of the other System-11 tables but I don't blame them. Mousin' Around was released in '89 when the landscape of pinball was really changing. People like Pat Lawlor were coming out with some real far out tables like Banzai Run and the advent of the Dot Matrix Display era was to come in the next few years. Mousin' Around was quite simplistic in design compared to some of the 89's roster like Earthshaker and Black Knight 2000 but what it lacks in crazy gimmicks and wild design, it makes up for it with solid and concise gameplay and that need for just one more game! 

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