Now that I've owned a nice quality Popeye, I now know enough about this underrated pin to give a fair rating.
1. Completing all the 3, 4, & 5 ball multi-balls & modes and getting to Olive Oyle's 6 ball multi-ball is nearly impossible and keeps me coming back for more. Popeye is getting more play time than my TZ lately. The upper playfield Swee' Pea mode is frickin' brutal, but super fun. Ball must be shot in either left, middle, or right lanes on the upper playfield. Swee' Pea is hidden in one of the rooms and the map to find him is displayed on the DMD. Follow the arrows on the DMD and save Swee' Pea. Incredible use of video and flipper integration.
2. The skill shot wheel is brilliant and allows the freedom to control the direction of the game. I love collecting the spinach can and hitting the loop shot right after to collect both the spinach can and spot an animal. This is a cool hidden feature.
3. Spinach cans are awesome because when lit throughout the playfield, gives player double the award on that particular shot. A quick way to earn high points is to get two spinach cans lit, obtain the 3-ball Bluto multi-ball, and sink the jackpot on the left ramp for double points (normal jackpot 30 Million--with spinach can lit jackpot is 60 million AWESOME!)
4. Animal kicker is a great! I'm surprised because at first, I did't care for it. Now that I really understand the importance of the animals (not only to the story, but balancing gameplay to reaching high scores), the blue ramp is an essential toy.
5. The theme is a bit of a risk, but I'm glad Python took it & created an original deep story around saving animals and the earth and putting an end to Corperate Bluto! Python was all about creating original content and he did an awesome job here. I'm sure all pin designers were getting pressured from the "money men" to create pins around "popular" licenses. Python did a wonderful job creatively under the license options that were available.
6. Extra ball shot on the (right) upper playfield is one of the best shots I've ever discovered in pinball. Get it for an instant knock--Brilliant!
1. Upper playfield and animal ramp block the player's view on several key shots. This is not a game breaker for me, but can be frustrating while trying to nudge a ball away from left outlane. This is the big public complaint about Popeye, but I don't find the animal ramp obscuring the outlane any worse than STNG's cannons...funny!
2. Shots and awards are not called out regularly. Now that I understand the modes and rules, callouts are not all that necessary. I can understand why Popeye can be frustrating to a player unfamiliar with the ruleset. If you listen carefully, a ding or sound effect will alert the player to the newly achieved award or shot, but there' snot enough attention brought to the awards as compared to other 1990's high-mode pins.
There you have it! Popeye is great and I am really enjoying it. I will be posting a Popeye gameplay video and tutorial as soon as I can wrap my head around a few more strategies. If you see Popeye in the wild, give it a flip!