Pinside rating

This game received 36 approved Pinsider ratings and currently rates 8.219 /10


Top 100 ranking

This game ranks #29 in the Pinside Pinball Top 100.

Score breakdown

Score breakdown in the 4 main categories:

Game design: 7.917

Artwork: 8.369

Sounds/Music: 8.137

Other Aspects: 8.31

Rating comments

There are 22 rating comments for this game.

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Ranking history

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Rating history

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Found 22 ratings (with comment) on this game

There are 22 ratings (that include a comment) on this game.
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10 minutes ago
I want to qualify my review by first stating that I own the game and took it out of it's box about 10 days ago. To this point I have played 285 games. I like to set my games to hard settings from the get go so that nobody gets 800 zillion trillion points in week one. I didn't set this game to the hardest settings but pretty close. I did not remove the posts and left them in factory settings. I purchased this game new along with Dialed-In at the same time and are my first two new in box games. They are also the first two games that I have played since 2015, so I have played none of the new games since that time period. Currently I have played 49 of Pinside's top 100 and only have a decent amount of time on about 17 of them.

After 285 games I have reached 500k once and have passed 250 k, 6 times. Average time per game is 3:20, 1 game has made it to 10 minutes, 7 have made it to 8 minutes. Average score is 62K. Game is set to max of 2 extra balls but I have never gotten more than 1. In total I have gotten 9 extra balls.

Wizard mode?..LOL...I have never gotten even 1 letter in 'Houdini'. For anybody reading this who hasn't played the game, you need to get all 7 letters to get to Wizard mode. Once again, I do have a lot of things set on hard, but I haven't even come close to getting a letter yet.

This game does not give you a breather. There is nothing easy. There are no gimme's. OK maybe one mode is real easy (in that one you can hit any target on the playfield). Even the ball save feature is next to impossible. I have never saved my ball by hitting the 'SEANCE' targets in 30 flips and good luck hitting the 'ESCAPE' targets in 30 seconds, you can't even get a direct shot on half of them.

Some Positive's: - The game looks and feels unique.
-The art is very good and the backglass is as nice as you will see.
-If you are looking for a challenge, this is as challenging as it gets.
Oh yeah, and the water barrel shot is not as tough as many say it is. It is hard but satisfying to make and I make that shot more often than I do to any of the other shots other than the orbits(left orbit is easiest shot in the game) and perhaps the scoop and key lane shot.
- The game designer tries some new stuff. This is the first game to actually have two different shots that go through the bumpers. (I actually don't love this idea. I kind of think it's a bit of a waste having two shots end up in the pop bumpers most of the time.) If you successfully navigate the bumpers you get rewarded.
- The much talked about 'trunk shot' works almost perfectly on my machine. It reaches the trunk every time and I have not had to adjust the settings. There were just a very few times where the ball bounced out of the trunk and a very few times that the ball must not have been sitting in the catapult correctly because the ball went well off to the right. But a solid 95% of the time the ball goes straight in with no issues.

Some Negative's: - The Inner Loop is simply too difficult of a shot. The opening is too small. Let me be clear here. If this shot was used for just 'super jackpots' and similar very important shots I would have no problem with it. The problem is that it is incorporated into many of the modes and missions. And no....on my machine it is impossible to backflip that shot. I have tried it 100 times at least and have never been able to do it. I can easily hit the ramp with that shot but the ball doesn't have enough power to carry all the way up. The closest I can get is dead center on the 'C' post...any tighter and I hit the slingshot.
- The key lane shot drains down the middle far too often as to make me not want to shoot for it.
- Advancing is very difficult even on easier settings. This is not a game that will probably do well on location.

This game can be made better just like any game can. The scoop sends too many balls out of play for my liking. Even by changing the settings on the coil strength I find many modes start out with the ball draining down the middle or bouncing down the side. This can be changed by allowing a few seconds of ball save just as is done on the 'magic' shots. These drains at the start of a mode are both frustrating and annoying.

Some of the shots are simply impossible with the way my game arrived. For instance, the second secret mission requires me to make a shot that cannot be made on my machine without me make some changes to the game. Therefore I have never seen the third secret mission.

Conclusions: If you want a challenge, look no further....this is easily the toughest game I have played yet. Tough is subjective. My definition of tough is....how hard is it to get to all the modes? At times I feel like it is simply too tough but I have no regrets about buying it. Every time I get sick of hitting the same ramps and same targets in my other games over and over again, I simply switch to Houdini where I rarely ever hit the same target or ramp twice in a row.

I know that I am at best an average player but I am no beginner. I have not played a game that I miss so many shots since the EM days. Those game's are this games only competition for tougher shots.
The designer has admitted that 'American Pinball' did not have the time to do a 'whitewood.' This shows, they gambled on experience but this game could have used a bit of play testing before finalizing. With just a little testing, some of the shots could have been made smoother.

If you are one of those people who complain about not being able to hit every target in the game with ease then stay away. For example, if you think the sim card shot in Dialed In is too hard, stay clear!!! Some of the easiest shots in this game are hard to make.

Sooner or later I am going to give in and change the settings to easier so that I can actually progress in this game. I'll probably adjust the flippers too.

Playing this game after playing Dialed In feels like you are going from a Redemption game in which everyone wins to playing a carnival game which is impossible to win...kind of like throwing those little hoops onto a bottle top. Or it's like going from watching a G rated Disney movie to a NC-17 movie.

If you don't count the 'SEANCE' targets (or posts) as a successful shot. I hit nothing on well over half my shots. I would say closer to 2/3's of my shots just slam into a static target or post and come right back at me. This is especially so on the right hand side. The left hand side is a bit easier.

After playing this game I need a headache pill. I feel like I've been punched in the face over and over again.
Once again, this is without question, the hardest game I have played in the solid state era.

Bottom line is that I won't be getting rid of this game for a very long time, if ever. If it was the only game I had it would be a different story. But for anyone that wants a collection of games that have varied difficultly levels then this would be a solid choice.
This game is for 'you', the buyer, not for your family. My friends don't like it, it's too hard, they can't make any shots...they love my 'Dialed In'. I find myself playing my other games and getting myself psyched up to have another go at 'Houdini.'
I'd love to watch people play this one in a tournament set on 'Tournament mode.'
Hope this was helpful.
5 hours ago
I played this at TPF and immediately placed an order. It will be the game to beat in 2018. I would give it the edge over a very strong field this year including JJPs new Pirates, Spooky’s Alice Cooper, Heighway’s Alien and P3s Lexi Lightspeed. I will update my rating once I get a chance to put a lot of plays on it. I can say, right off the top, that the right ramp shot (2nd from the right) seems impossibly hard. I like a challenging game, but I can only make this shot, maybe every other game. The art, music and animations are just spectacular. Lexi has more ‘stickiness’ since it uses the p-roc board and can be customized, but Lexi doesn’t have the eye candy you need to attract players. Lexi and Houdini should be in every collector’s (afficionado’s) collection.
Yeah, I’m giving a plug for P3’s Gerry Stellenberg. Lexi is a labor of love and, I think, under appreciated for its enormous potential.
1 day ago
This is a beautiful game with a bunch of neat features. It just was not any fun. Some of the shots needed were simply hard to get to and all of the shot lanes were just terribly small. I felt the overall layout was uninteresting. I played at least five games on it at the Texas Pinball Fest thinking there must be something I'm missing because it's such a beautiful and interesting game, but my wife agreed with me that it is simply not fun. I was really hoping it would be one to go next to my Theatre of Magic, but it's not to be.
2 days ago
Help Houdini escape my nightmares.
11 days ago
One tough game with a lot of possibilities, it's a difficult game and deep with all the different options.
No match at the end of the game either ..Keep adding coins and paly hard !!!
15 days ago
For a game to stay fun it needs to be hard to finish and that requires tough shots. This game has tough shots. 3 magnets help unpredictability and help keep things interesting. My only wish is that the designers had put in Houdini's signature Chinese water torture cell as an interactive playfield toy. I can't help but dream up ways to make one myself. So many things that could be done with a feature like that.
15 days ago
Great theme. The layout is good except for the shot to the popbumpers. Seems to create a drain situation when ball leaves that area of the playfield. Majority of skill shots are super tight, no room for even slightest error, not a complaint. I like the level of difficulty but for most people may be frustrating. especially like the video game portion of the machine. Very nice job but I think it would have done better as a widebody
15 days ago
I spent the weekend at the 2018 LAX and played this machine over and over...it was Houdini that stood out among the new machines. JJP's Pirates was there and is certain to be an awsome machine but wasn't quite there yet. Houdini is a full package...lots of shots, campy call-outs/humor...beautiful art and lights with a nice sprinkling of innovation...catapult shot and playfield magnet use. I made up my mind that it needs to be part of my collection...so, I put one on order.
17 days ago
Good game. Sounds very repetitive and not always in sync with game play. Some very challenging shots.
17 days ago
Amazing art package, especially for a first pin. This is one of the BEST art packages I've ever seen in pinball. Beautiful hand drawn/painted art. Classy, attractive cabinet. The backbox shape is a bit odd, but it works for this unique game. I'm not sure yet about the tv screen blended into the backglass art. It's ok, but where this game really shines is on the playfield. I also like the layout of the shots and the lighting. The build quality and toys and materials feel solid. This is a carefully made game. The shots are tight. Some are very tight. That's not a negative, necessarily, it's just an observation. You must be precise with your shooting on this pin. The flippers do feel different from other machines. This game feels like it would benefit from being in a home environment, where you can really dial in the settings, and study the shots and the unique feel of the game. This would not be an easy pin for casual players. I experienced a few airballs and clunky shots, but the good far outweighs the bad here. GB felt clunky to me at first, and I stuck with it and now it plays great. Some issues can be improved. With a few small adjustments, this could be a classic game.
20 days ago
This is a solid first effort from a first time company. I have probably 50 games on it now. The code and ruleset is by far the best part of the game. Unfortunately the layout and ultra tight shots remind me of avengers level tightness which means it is just not that much fun long term. I love the theme and the overall concept and ruleset.

Josh has done a great job with the code, but at teh end of the day this game is hampered by the shots/layout being just average and hurt from the too narrow of right side shots.
21 days ago
really fun game with great art especially the cabinet. Lots of shots on this one.
24 days ago
I first played this game at the Texas Pinball Show in 2017. Loved it compared any of the new titles at that time like Dialed In, Aerosmith and Aliens. I knew I wanted one and finally received my game ... the game is absolutely stunning - artwork, build quality looks to be top notch. I give these guys a lot of credit for their game to be this good for their first title.

Now for the game play - it is though, yes, but once I played several games on it I started to nail almost all the shots. Give this game time. Very smooth, flippers feel different then any other games I played - maybe need to be adjusted for level of strength but haven't had a chance to mess with that yet in options.

My only complaint is the audio - call-outs some what annoying, but that can be changed and improved in software.

Need to understand what the heck I am doing and will love this game.

Great job to all who were involved in the making of this game!

25 days ago
Just set one of these up for someone thenother day and wow was blown away by the quality and the game in general such a cool game; can’t wait to see what they do on their next title
34 days ago
Played for 2 hours before this review. Brutal, difficult game. But a helluva lotta fun.

Art - absolutely beautiful. Probably one of the most detailed art packages in pinball. The backglass artwork and lighting is amazing. Personally, I love the sinister Houdini on the playfield. API did a great job sprinkling historical references all over the pin.

Music and Callouts - The general theme soundtrack is almost on par with TNA but with far less variety than a TNA. The production of the soundtrack is top notch. The voice acting sounds very much of the period in which Houdini lived - sounds like my old Edison record player from the 1910s. The game uses music and callouts to generate tension and excitement as modes are executing.

Lighting - at the time of this review, the programmer is stated that the light shows are not completed yet. But so far, wow! Again, not quite TNA lightshows but doing much more that Stern is with RGB leds. Considering that there is only one model (no Premiums, LEs, etc.) the complete use of RGBs is impressive. It does have a dark playfield but it's lit well.

Toys and Detail - This machine is an excellent value. Lots of mechs, toys and attention to detail. Custom molded "mods" come standard such as the milkcan, the Ouiji board planchette, theater spot lights and the steamer trunk. The stage mech is deceptively cool. It functions as a bash toy but with far more functionality that some of Stern's bash toys of recent memory.

Playfield Layout - I thought it was very unique. Not your typical fan. Not so much a flow game. More stop and shot. Obviously, the shots on the right side are tighter than most games. I consider myself a below average player and I was hitting the difficult shots with more frequency that the tight shots on my KISS Pro. This layout will be fun and challenging at home. I LOVE the 2 shots through the pops! What a clever layout - nice work Balcer.

Animation/Display - I was critical of the animations before I actually saw it in person. They are not JJP quality but they're very good indeed. The game teaches you the rules better than any game I can think of. Some people will find that annoying but you can dial it way down in the game settings.
43 days ago
Whenever a new pinball company comes out with their first design, I get VERY excited. I was there when they unboxed and set up the (proto) copy of Houdini at the 1up on Colfax in Denver. These are my first impressions.

The Pros:
There are many incredible things about this game. It looks and sounds fantastic. The rules are well thought out and the screen does a better job of telling you what you need to do with shots and modes. The combo shot sequence in particular is an excellent example of how well the communication and integration of technology communicates to the player. The Seance multiball mode is very well done and spelling out S-E-A-N-C-E in order during multiball is a challenging task for even the most skilled player to complete. The modes require the player to shoot all over the PF. The shot through the lane and pops to the standup at the top of the pop-garden.

This art package of this table is colorful, vibrant and holds to the early 1900's. The screen animations remind me of old colorized postcards. The entire package is unifying and really brings you into the "Theatre of magic" (yeah... I said it) that this game presents to the player.

The Cons:
The vidja mode needs to be rewritten, sped up, or taken out of the game. It is a chore to play and completely distracts from the pace of the rest of the game which is fast and dangerous. For some reason this game was not that loud. I don't know if the settings needed to be adjusted, but I could hardly hear the table in the room full of pinball games that this table was in. The catapults need to be more consistent. After about 100 plays, the catapult into the trunk (see another continuing theme here?) stopped working and putting the ball into the hole. I don't know of any table that has 2 catapults other than... Big Guns... maybe?

So here is the real problem with this game. The layout, specifically the shots. Almost all of them are approximately 1 1/2 inch wide. IF any of the blue seance standups get loose and lean to one side, many critical shots on this game (light lock and lock in particular) are not going to be able to accommodate a 1 1/8th pinball. The shots are so tight and angled in a way that backhand shots are nigh impossible. This means every shot is dangerous and every shot is so tight that only the sharpest of shooters can survive this PF. The lock shot reminds me of Stern 24. The only shot that is wider than 1/1/2 is the ramp Very frustrating to say the least. Most recreational players will become frustrated and walk away from this deck. NO amount of software will save a pinball game with a poor layout. This game has such a demanding shot selection that many people are going to become frustrated very quickly and walk away. And this is coming from people who play lots of pinball, not just casual players. This is not good. Unless Houdini is re-designed/engineered with better variance in the shots and having some tight shots and some less demanding ways to get the ball to travel around the game.

The Takeaway:
This is a great start that American Pinball has given us. Joe Balcer may be the dark horse that the industry of pinball that people may have to start to take notice of. Look at titles that he has worked on: The Simpsons Pinball Party, High Roller Casino, Starship Troopers, Godzilla and one of the best earning pinball games of all time (while not a fav) South Park (which led to TSPP). I understand that he is traditionally known as an engineer. Which is super old school. This is how designers of the past came to be. They learned how to build a pinball game AND THEN design pinball games. Congrats Joe. This game was originally laid out by John Popaduik. I would be interested in seeing the original layout for this design.

As this game stands right now. Playing Houdini is not fun. Pinball is supposed to be fun. If playing the game is not fun, people will not play it. You can have a weak theme/license, not so great art and a game that plays great (The Shadow, Tales from the Crypt, Laser Cue and for some players, the pointy people games of Marche and Kelley, intelligent) players can get past this and enjoy playing the game. But a game that does not play well is an unforgivable sin to go into production. I hope we have a better layout with Oktoberfest. I will be updating this review after more mileage. Best of luck to the entire team at American Pinball. This is a great start. I see them learning from their experiences and making better pinball in the future.

Every once in a while there is a game that challenges a player. Houdini makes it absolutely clear to me that the my weakness in gameplay is accurate aiming. This game is absolutely brutal with missed shots. So after giving this table some more miles I have come to the conclusion that I must refine my shooting and aiming. This is not always easy with tight shots and mushy flippers. But I also have to own the reason why this game is not "fun" for me. Houdini makes me look silly, it kicks my ass and I have to make myself play it to confront and overcome these weaknesses. Controlling this game is not an easy thing to do. Bigger points seem to come from the modes and if you can start the needles mode and then get into multiball with a ball in the pops and to the spinner on the right, this game sings. For a fan layout I am constantly surprised at how little flow this game has. Other than the ramp, orbits and the milk jug (the most incredible tough shot that flows, ever), this game is stop and go. Shooting from the lock lane into the open saucer to start a mode is very satisfying if you can nail the shot hard enough to get it to the saucer, but not so hard that it bumbles out. After getting the catapult adjusted bu the op, this mech works all the time now. But the timing on this table is stop and go as well. To lock a ball the ball has to be diverted into the vuk from the lock lane by a post, gets kicked into the first catapult and then is fired into the trunk. Seems a bit of overkill to lock a ball, but hey, it works and is great for the "theatre" of the game. Yes, I said it again. So snipers are going to love this game, mere mortals like myself are really going to have to work to "find" the shots and control the ball. Houdini is a really tough game. I have to respect that it makes me play better, but even some incredibly difficult tables like iron man, creech and Dracula have more variance in their shot selection. This game is a butt-kicker and I am not going to let it get the best of me. Bring it!
44 days ago
I've spent a straight two hours playing this machine, and it's definitely a game that's going to take some time to master. The game I played was a test location prototype on location at level 257, and I did notice some functionality issues, (such as the ball catapult.) But with some further revision with code and settings, this is a fantastic machine. I once again recommend anyone adding this to there collection to go out and play one. Aesthetically it's beautiful but the true fun is in the mechanics.
5 months ago
I feel bad rating Houdini because the code is so far from finished, but since they brought it out to the public to play at Expo...

The Good:
-nice animation in the backbox.
-the cabinet design is gorgeous. Great engineering here.
-there are a lot of great shots in the pf design.
-the pinball throwing shot into the box is cool, but is a bit of a ripoff from Aerosmith
-great lighting effects. Compared to TNA, it's nothing to write home about but still a great effort

The Bad:
-Houdini has THE WORST video mode in all of pinball. It's that bad. Flinging cards at levitating hoops. And the latency is the throwing is beyond bizarre to me. It's like slow-motion card flinging. Seriously, I hope this mode either gets eliminated or seriously updated in subsequent code updates.
-This would have been a great game if released in the B/W heyday, but in 2017...it's quite lackluster and nowhere near the competition of JJP or Spooky
-The pf artwork is pretty horrible. Something just looks wrong with the way Houdini himself looks.
-weak modes. It's probably the theme to me, but I feel like Pinball Magic and Theatre of Magic did a much better job incorporating cool modes based on the theme.

Not a great 1st product from a company that desperately needs a homerun on its first public venture
7 months ago
American Pinball brought their prototype of this game to Southern Fried Gameroom Expo (Atlanta GA) in June (2017). I played the game more than a half-dozen times. (Would've played more, but this game had the longest and most consistent line at the show, so waiting for a three-minute play was kind of like being at an amusement park.) First of all, props and thanks to American Pinball and SFGE for having the game there. I appreciated the respect for the Atlanta pinball community. Second, as for ratings comments: this game has a TON of potential and looks like it could become a real standout in terms of playfield design, deep rules, interesting shots, engaging modes/goals, and entertainment value. The guys from American Pinball mentioned to me that some things from the prototype are likely to change for the production model (e.g., changing the mini-screen on the playfield from portrait to landscape, widening some of the playfield channels/shots, and switching the ramp from plastic to wireform, among other things). Also, the programming and the callouts on the prototype weren't complete yet (per the company reps). So my ratings are preliminary, and I hope to play a production model and then edit/update my comments and scoring. Still, on the machine at SFGE, the sound quality was very strong, the playfield art looked great, the playfield design was excellent, and the rule set seemed very good from the sense I could get in a few tries. (Also, the ads suggest a very deep ruleset with a lot of goals and activities, which is important to me.) The flipper strength on the machine at the show was dialed down (per the company reps; I asked and they confirmed), so this affected my ability to get an accurate read on gameplay. Pricing that I have seen so far seems quite fair for a game the delivers as much as this game promises to deliver (proof remains to be seen in the pudding). I like the theme and the steampunk stylings. Not a big fan of the unusual shape of the backbox, though (but I got the impression that the shape helps the sound projection from the speakers. So it might be a good trade-off, although sound projection is also less important in a quiet home-play environment.) I really hope that American Pinball pulls off a successful and reliable-quality full production run of this game at the advertised prices and without significant changes from the prototype (other than to finish coding and callouts). If so, I'll have some heavy temptation to buy this game from them.
9 months ago
Got a chance to play this at TPF 2017, and had a great time with it. Some interesting shots and a really love the lock launch from half way across the playfield (however, I worry that after time that thing is just going to be a cannon that destroys plastics when it's not 100% calibrated). The cabinet art was eye catching and who doesn't love a good magic themed game? Feels a lot like a spiritual sequel to Theater or Magic or Pinball Magic with a few modern bells and whistles. The invert and reverse flipper mode was insane!

The cons: Some of the back glass animations on screen were TERRIBLE. Fonts and transitions that look worse than some power point presentations I've had to sit through. This was strange because some of the other animations were great...so perhaps they were placeholders while others were still in development.
Also, the designers were pretty much glued to the machines at all time repairing and resetting the games about every 10 plays when something would go wrong. Again I hope that's just because it was the first public showing of the cabs, but it wasn't a good sign.

Overall, I had a great time with it!
10 months ago
great first effort! way more fun then(DI) i expected. some really tight shots but i like that its not setup to be easy. Josh on code is great because he has some really great ideas(reverse inverted flippers) and is passionate about his work. Sound quality was really nice with 4 speakers in head but no subwoofer in cabninet is sorta let down. The screen is better then Stern and JJP. Overall i say its winner and im hoping for the best for American pinball.
10 months ago
Just played Houdini at Pinfest. Looks amazing. Looks like pins from the 90's. Lots of stuff going on. Not another open field new Stern game. Looks and plays promising. Price is low for a new pin compared with the other manufacturers.
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