akm's ratings

Pinsider akm has rated 23 machines.

This page shows all all these ratings, and forms akm's personal top 23.

Rating comments

akm has written 23 rating comments:

8 years ago
World Poker Tour is one of those deep games that doesn't really get enough credit for what it does. It has an amazingly subtle and detailed ruleset, but what's also great about it is that it has just enough simple, obvious goals to aim for that can hold the interest of new/casual players as well.

Overall the game flows really well with its two ramps and full orbit shots. It has a good balance between wide open shots (orbits, ramps), and tight, difficult shots (Cut the Cards, Poker Corner). The drop targets are also insanely fun, and these have many purposes in the ruleset (from modes revolving around them, to working towards hands to get you to a multiball, etc).

From a rules standpoint, WPT has a lot going on, and a lot of it is so subtle you won't understand it until someone sits you down and explains it in great detail. And that's the beauty of the game. You can spend a year playing it "normally", simply completing hands, making combos, getting through modes and getting some super jackpots, without ever realizing that there's this whole extra set of layers to it. If you want to take your game deeper, it's like an epiphany when you first discover that you even can. Few games out there have managed to make a player feel this way, and I feel WPT does this better than other games crafted by the same programmer (TSPP, LOTR, etc). The game is also a little more like LOTR where it's easy to get into thanks to the playfield layout, unlike TSPP where it's never really obvious what's happening unless you're in a multiball.

WPT isn't perfect, but it's mainly in the form of some aesthetics. I think we can all agree the backglass and cabinet aren't the hottest. I don't mind the playfield art actually, but I can see many seeing it as being very basic. Fortunately there are lots of insert lamps that you will likely be focusing on more than the art, as well as the cool inner-playfield display.

Sound-wise, I actually really dig this game. It's hard to appreciate the audio until you play it in a home setting where it's crystal clear. The soundtrack is really groovy and fits the mood perfectly, and some of the callouts are pretty good too.

Overall, I feel World Poker Tour is an excellent game that can appeal to both casual players, and advanced players that want to take their game far. It's a highly underrated game and to this day has one of the tightest [complex] rules packages out of all of Stern's lineup.
8 years ago
JP: Lost World is a mediocre game through and through. The voice acting is terrible, the playfield is uninspired, the dots aren't anything to write home about, and it's very difficult to keep control of the ball. All of this wouldn't bother me, if it weren't for the lackluster ruleset. Multiball and GPS is where the points are, and each of the other modes score far too little to even be worth playing. Modes themselves are also uninspired. For example, shoot the scoop a bunch of times to start "Baby T-Rex." Guess what the goal is of the mode? Shoot the scoop some more. Not exactly exciting. All other modes typically have you doing something equally as basic. I understand the challenge is to fully complete each mode to achieve the wizard mode, but I want more of a reason to keep playing. How about modes that build in value or are worth more when you access them a second time? Nope--not the case here, the values never change. Overall the game is just a drag. The snagger toy is actually pretty cool, though it does slow down the pace. The Baby Dino egg is cool when it's doing its thing, but for the most part it just takes up too much of the playfield view. There's not much to say about this game other than it's quite likely Sega's weakest game. For the price you have to pay to get one, it's just not worth it. Play it on location if you see it, but don't bother purchasing the machine itself.
8 years ago
The Simpsons Pinball Party is a deep machine that integrates the theme very well. The playfield layout is also one of the more interesting that Stern has made, with a lot of variety overall. However, the game is going to be a hit or miss depending on what you want in a game. There's not a lot of constant flow in the game--a lot of shots stop or pause the movement of the ball in some way. If you want a fast and flowy kind of game like, say, Iron Man, this is probably not what you are looking for. If you want something that almost feels more like a Lawlor pin, this might be for you.

For me, I enjoyed the game while I had it, but I ended up parting with it for something not nearly as deep, but faster with more flow while still feeling rewarding. One of my issues with TSPP is that if you want to blow the game up (score-wise), it involves relying on the Couch multiball to get everything else started safely. You can start pretty much any mode during a multiball, so this is what generally happens: 1. Start multiball; 2. Work towards other multiball; 3. Work towards Otto completions to qualify Mystery Spot; 4. Work towards TV mode starts to qualify Alien Invasion; 5. Hit some Comic Book Guy hurry-ups to qualify Secret Stash; 6. Get some Super Jackpots; 7. Rinse and repeat.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the above, but due to the majority of the shots on the playfield leading to danger (even the plunge offers no safe haven for the ball), It's tough to get very far in this game in single ball play. This leads to the Couch or Itchy and Scratchy multiballs acting as crutches to get other things done. Yes, it feels great when you stack eight different things into one or two multiballs, and yes, it feels great to even complete some of these goals in single ball play. However, with the dangerous nature of most shots on the playfield, you rarely feel like you are in full control without relying on that center garage shot, so full satisfaction is never felt in single ball play. At least it wasn't for me.

As mentioned earlier, the theme is integrated very well. Some of the real voice actors from the show are here, and it's great. The playfield art is some of the best on a Stern game. The familiar Simpsons theme is here as well, even if the overall quality isn't as high as some other Whitestar games (most notably, RBION). The humor is here as well and it rarely gets old ("Oh noooooo--in a stoner voice--coppers!"). I think for those that want a great integration of theme on a pinball machine, this is one of the better games that do it well. For serious players that care more about ball control and keeping their games going, the repetitive nature of the game rears its ugly head. A great game for a large collection or on-location play, or for big fans of the theme, but I don't think it's the ideal game for a tiny collection--at least it wasn't for me. Looking forward to playing it again in the future, but I wasn't sad to see it go. I had my fair share of 45+ minute games (the grind is real).
9 years ago
Baywatch is a machine with mediocre theming, mediocre DMD dots, weak cabinet art and a shoddy (typical of Sega) sound job. However, it houses an excellent playfield layout that requires the player to utilize a healthy combination of on-the-fly shooting, with slower, more methodical shooting. The rules are fairly linear but there's plenty to do here. The scoring is fairly unbalanced (as with many Data East and Sega pins, a good multiball will make up a large chunk of your points in a game), but the highest scores attained will usually be done through completing a wide array of other objectives. My only gameplay complaint is that the wizard mode is timed (like in Last Action Hero) and there's no way to extend it during gameplay--if you get to it but fail to make more than a few shots, it feels anti-climatic. It's one of the best Sega pins from a gameplay perspective, but it's not a Sega high point when it comes to the theme/art/dots.

*Edited 9/9/2015 - I have been putting a lot more time into this game recently and through learning a few flipper tricks (like letting the ball hop off the right flipper on to the left, from a right inlane feed) I have really been able to get control over the flow of this game and keep the ball in safety more often than not. If you don't play somewhat methodically, Baywatch can be very drainy. For those that appreciate some of the more methodical Bally/Williams DMD games (the Pat Lawlor games, for instance), you will enjoy Baywatch when you get the hang of it. I'd also like to note that my score/rating is rather low because Pinside puts a lot of weight on the theming, cabinet art, etc. Really, from a gameplay perspective this is an 8 / 10 or so.
9 years ago
BSD is a great game that doesn't really work that well in a small collection. It has a simple premise that, while it feels amazing to pull off (the triple stacking of the multiballs), doing this repeatedly with little other variation turns into a very "grindy" kind of affair. After owning it for a little while and playing it into the ground, I found myself yearning for deeper experiences that allowed me to do more than play video mode as a side option.

Don't get me wrong--BSD deserves every bit of respect it currently gets. It just needs to be experienced on location or in a larger home collection. If you only have three or four games and you play them a lot, BSD will likely get old (left ramp, left ramp, left ramp, bats.. right ramp, right ramp, right ramp, right ramp, lock, lock; left ramp, left ramp, castle lock.. start mist, do this for all eternity, or so it feels).

Sound-effect wise this game nails it with some excellent sound effects when super jackpots are attained and when movie sample callouts are played. The music itself, while memorable, doesn't stand the test of time as well as the SFX due to the archaic, synthesized nature. The cabinet art is excellent, whereas the backglass is so-so and the playfield art looks like it could have used a little more detail to truly stand out.
9 years ago
Jokerz is a game I thought I would not like, but ended up loving. The playfield layout isn't conducive to flow. As such every shot (except the drop targets) effectively stops the ball for a moment while you watch it do its thing. However, when you figure out what all those shots do and how they can affect your score, things start to become more interesting.

The big payoff is getting your Jackpot in multiball (center ramp). However, there's some fun strategy in completing your top lanes while getting "2X playfield" running in multiball. Also, getting a second jackpot in the same multiball is one of the most satisfying things I've accomplished in pinball simply due to the fact that it is so risky (the ramp lowers back down after each shot when going for the second jackpot). Building your right ramp value and cashing that in is a lot of fun too, and getting that or getting the drop target million hurry-up while at 2X playfield is very satisfying as well.

Art-wise things work on the playfield, although the art style may not be all that appealing to many. There's no denying though that the way the art is implemented on the playfield is creative, especially by the flippers and the "table" in the center of the playfield. The cabinet art itself, while creative, doesn't really do it for me. The backglass on the other hand is excellent with a much smoother art style than what you get on the playfield or cabinet itself. Sound-wise I grew to enjoy the game, but the laughing sound and goofy music was a turnoff at first. It fits the game though and I do like it for what it is.

It should be mentioned, Jokerz is a challenging game very much in the same vein as a lot of early solid states--simple playfield layout, pops in the middle of the upper playfield, with lots of unpredictable bounces as the ball makes its way back down to the flippers. Lots of fast drains here on this one and as a result the game heavily rewards slower, methodical play styles, not fast on-the-fly shooting (although, you can still play like that occasionally if you are really good).

The "Double Your Score" mechanic. I like this and it makes Jokerz stand out from the rest of the pack. There's nothing quite like getting a high score on balls one and two (say, 14 million), then doubling it right at the last second on ball three. The feeling you get when you manage this is awesome.

Some tips I have for making this a more enjoyable game: 1) Set the game on Novelty mode. This forces the Jackpot at the maxed out four million and doesn't reset when scored. This makes multi-player and competitive/tournament games more balanced. 2) Setting the "Million drops" timer higher than the default is recommended as well--20+ seconds is where you want it. The stock 10 seconds or so is too short and difficult to complete which makes going for it not very worthwhile. Extending the timer balances things out a bit and makes it worth shooting for. 3) Put smaller post sleeves at the base of the "raise ramp" target. When I got the game there were fat yellow sleeves there and the shot was very difficult to hit. The shot is already risky as is and having fatter sleeves surrounding the target makes the player ignore one of the most important (and fun) playfield aspects of this machine. 4) This should be a given on any game, but make sure the flippers are in good shape. When the flippers are snappy like after a rebuild, this game really screams and keeps you on your toes.

Overall Jokerz shines in the challenge and it has the same kind of replay value as many games that came six to eight years before it. It's a great game that's going to be a mixed bag to some in terms of theme and sound implementation. On strictly a gameplay basis, it's a great game that I highly recommend playing. If I am able to have a greater amount of space to store pins in the future, I would love to own another.
9 years ago
Ripley's is a game for players, featuring a deep ruleset, challenging wizard modes to achieve, and lots of scoring opportunities. It's like an amalgamation of past Pat Lawlor games, particularly TAF and TZ, and it shares many of the same features those games have. However, RBION to me features a more meaningful ruleset with greater things playing a bigger part when it comes to scoring big (i.e., not just play multiball or get Gumball locks over and over). The flow of the game is great when you get it down, but the shots can be tricky if you're new to the game, but that makes the satisfaction of dominating this machine even greater.

Cabinet art itself is probably my least favorite aspect of this package. The theme itself though works very well and despite it being a licensed properly, it fits as if it is a completely original theme. The sounds and speech are some of Stern's best when it comes to pre-SAM games with lots of humorous, memorable callouts and beefy sounding tunes. The playfield layout is very well done with a lot of shot options, and just about every shot on the playfield is important at one time or another. The looping left ramp wireform is nice and the right ramp crossover is interesting as well. Not many real "toys" on this playfield, but the two magnets, the upper gated playfield, the multiple spinners and the vari-target are implemented in a way that makes the game stand out. For lastability, Ripley's should satiate a skilled player's need for a long time. The stacking options are great in this game, particularly once you figure out how the tic-tac-toe style board works, bring those modes into traditional vari-target Continent modes, then bring both of those into the standard multiball (three modes running together). Truly satisfying stuff.

I sold my Ripley's only because I needed the money. I look forward to the day when I can acquire another one. It's a fantastic game and one of my favorites I've had the opportunity to play.
9 years ago
Eight Ball is a classic. Really, I'm not sure what else I could say.

In all seriousness though, it's a very, very early solid state, and as such it shows. There's not a ton going on here, but Eight Ball has a few absolutely great shots in the game and a solid ruleset that offers multiple ways to score big, something that is very important to me.

The kickback feature is great for a game of this time period and it really sets this title apart from others. Lighting the spinner is easy and is always satisfying to hit. The right "Bank Shot" loop never gets old, whether you shoot a ball up and around it, or whether a pop bumper flings the ball back down it in the opposite direction. The payoff for racking up pool balls and getting their bonus value maxed out at 5X always feels great.

The left spinner can be hit from either flipper, giving the game some nice flexibility. The right loop can be hit with the right flipper with a nice pop back if the ball rolls up far enough and stops. Both shots are extremely satisfying to pull off. These likely unintentional "trick shots" really fits the pool/billiards theme well.

The only negative thing about Eight Ball is that it can be brutal. Even with skilled play you can find yourself getting house ball after house ball with little you can do. When you really get a game going though, you REALLY get a game going and it feels great.

The chimes fit the game perfectly, the backglass is classy, and the green tint all over the playfield is nice. The cabinet itself isn't anything special, but few were from this time period.

Throw a "power ball" in this to act like a real cue ball for an even faster game! Just a simple way to really mix things up.
9 years ago
Avatar is a notoriously simplistic modern Stern game. Despite this simplicity, it is a solid game that is built for controlled/skilled players. Flailing only leads to ball drains here, and the game is absolutely punishing as a result. Some may not enjoy this one because of that aspect, but to everyone else, give it time and it will likely grow on you.

Rules-wise, Avatar is an enigma in that there is more to do here than what initially meets the eye, but there's still not enough meat in the end to make it last in a small collection. The playfield itself is limiting to a degree, but there could have been so much more done with the existing rules already in the game to make it constantly interesting. Still, in order to play well you need to know what everything does in detail, otherwise you are not going to pull off a decent score. Without knowing the fine details of each mode, you also might not have much of a chance in ever making it to the wizard mode, the most lucrative scoring mode in the game.

Mode stacking is Avatar's strongest aspect and it is one of the few games I can think of where you can stack every single main mode in the game together--Seeds, Banshee, Bomber Battle, Navi Scoring, Link Multiball and Ampsuit Multiball. When you string all of this together it really feels amazing (and the points flow as a result). From a casual perspective, being able to start both main multiballs together is a great thing. If you are scared to go for the Amp Suit in single ball play (that magnet can really whip the ball around unpredictably), start up Link instead since it's safer, then bring in Amp Suit during the safety of Link.

Playfield-wise, I can't ask for much more on Avatar other than more intricate rules better built for the layout. The layout is simple, but at least everything on the table has a worthwhile purpose (Seeds being the weakest part, but from a mode completion perspective it is fine). My only wish is there being something more to the one ramp. I don't mind there being one ramp on the game, but I wish more modes utilized it.

Sound-wise Avatar does an amazing job. This is easily one of the best audio packages Stern has put together, even if some of the callouts are taken straight from the film (others, like the main antagonist, were recorded specifically for this game. Sweet!). The cabinet and backglass are incredible as well for a Stern game and look beautiful. The playfield only looks so-so, but when you're playing you really don't notice.

For me, Avatar is a game that demands patience as it can be very brutal. Methodical play and planning if you plan on making it to the Final Battle and it's this aspect that kept it interesting in the first month-and-a-half of owning it. However, a limiting ruleset turned it into being a rather repetive game when it came to the replay value in the second month-and-a-half I owned it. If you just want to step up to a game, bat the ball around and not think much, Avatar can be fun, but even then don't expect it to be easy.

Edit on 8/25/2015 -
I have now sold the game and updated my rating as a result. I thoroughly enjoyed it while I had it, but after achieving the Final Battle 20 times or more, it just became repetitive for me in my small collection of pins. More thought into it also made me realize that the character inserts don't do anything, and there are a lot of little other gameplay and scoring tweaks that could have been made to allow the game to truly flourish. Multiple wizard modes would have been a great start, but fleshing out other neat ideas (like The Bond hurry-ups) and adding a diverter on the orbits could have really made the game one of Stern's best in the same category as something like Iron Man.
9 years ago
Demolition Man is one of the better "bang for the buck" WPC games available. It always sells cheap, but there is a lot to like about this game. It is combo heavy and rewards constant flow/on the fly shooting, it has a variety of modes, and what can effectively be considered two solid mini-wizard modes (Demolition Time and Cryo Prison Multiball). The biggest downfall to the game is the lack of worthwhile objects on the left side of the playfield--the biggest problem being the cars. These are really cool toys, but the payoff for hitting them is nearly non-existent so there's no reason to shoot for them. Likewise, the Retina Scan shot is nice, but the payoff is too little to be worth aiming for. The game would have been even better with a full left orbit in place of the cars. Shot-wise asides from that though, the game is nice. Two main ramps that feel nice to hit (left and right), and an upper flipper with two of its own shots (a very satisfying "Computer" scoop, and a very hard to hit upper ramp). The left inner loop shot to start multiball is tough to hit yet satisfying, and right orbit to upper flipper combos feel great. The center mini-ramp is excellent as well.

Art-wise the game is only so-so. Cabinet and backglass-wise I feel the same. Sound-wise the music is hollow, but that could just be the machine I currently have access to. The music is interesting and while maybe not catchy immediately, it grew on me. The callouts are fun as well and are ripped straight from the film. Speaking of which, this game does a nice job of working in the license.

I appreciate that you can set this game up to play in two different styles--with the claw enabled, or with it disabled. This significantly changes how you can approach the game. If you have the claw enabled, it's fun to try to play the same modes over and over to see how high you can get the mode values to build (they become worth more and more each time you re-enter them). If you have the claw disabled, you really have to pay attention to what you are shooting at in order to score high. The gun triggers add another nice element to the game and can be a major payoff score-wise if you do things right.

Overall, Demolition Man is a great WPC game and is often times overlooked I think because of its price. It is definitely worth playing (or owning) given how cheap it is to acquire one. Give it a try if you see it, or give it a buy if you're looking to add another game to your collection.
9 years ago
Sopranos consists of a relatively basic "fan" layout. This can be good or bad depending on the rules, and with this one it sits somewhere in the middle. I appreciate being able to stack a lot of things on top of each other, I like the add-a-ball on the Fish saucer, and the Wizard mode (BOSS) feels good to get to. It gets grindy though and subsequent plays back to back can be a draining affair (mentally) if you are half-decent at the game. There is a lot to do on here though, it's just that no single part really adds up to anything completely satisfying--everything is relatively small points and it's not until you get to Underboss and BOSS that the points start to snowball quickly.

Sound-wise the game is a mixed bag. It has some *really* funny callouts and an excellent main in-game theme, but much of the rest of the music sounds very weak like listening to a midi file on the Windows 95 OS (Lord of the Rings had this same problem). The dots are hit or miss as well--some are fun like the Truck Heist, but others (such as most of the dots for the Episodes) are lacking. Cabinet looks fine in its simplicity, and the backglass looks fine as well. Playfield looks pretty basic with some Photoshop-esque visuals, nothing too crazy there.

I think the Sopranos is a decent game and worth playing. It's far from Stern's worse, but it's nowhere near its best. It's a grind/chopping wood affair with the big payoffs being very minimal until you reach a handful of specific modes. Play it if you see it, but I don't think it's worth the price of owning at the current rate it goes for.
9 years ago
Goldeneye 007 is an interesting game that, while missing the "A" mark, is a fun machine that lands itself in solid "B-grade" territory thanks to its fun ramps, solid main multiball, good use of theme, and one of the coolest toys in pinball--a satellite that grabs and holds onto the ball during multiball play. It has modes, it has toys, it has magnets, it has orbit-area ramps, it has a scoop that fires the ball right back at you, and it even involves the gun during one of the modes (unlike other games that do this, it's actually quite useful).

The issue I have with the game is, while the multi-ball modes are great, and while the game has some worthwhile flow, the progression to the wizard mode doesn't seem to be very well thought out and the weight of certain modes score-wise is negligible at best. As such, progressing through your modes isn't all that engaging (nor hard to do) and what you end up doing is playing a lot of multiball instead, maybe a lot more than any one should ever want to. Certain aspects of the playfield layout also does not lend itself to lighting certain inserts for the wizard mode (such as "007 Top Lanes", something that would be meaningful if there was a way to get the ball to the top lanes without intentionally draining out on the plunge). Again, some things were just not very well thought out from a progression standpoint.

I'm not going to comment as much on gameplay in this review as I normally do (maybe I will update this and do that at a later time, there is a lot--both good and bad--to address in detail), but I would like to comment on the theme: I find the use of it to be great. I dig the backglass art, the cabinet, backbox head and speaker grills have a great style overall and I think the playfield art is fine as well. A lot of people have mentioned the "Photoshop-esque" art on SEGA games, and while the playfield looks very smooth in a PS kind of way, you can tell it was hand-drawn as well, and I think it looks good. The soundtrack is also very solid. It still has a little bit of that Data East/SEGA edgy/cheesy feel, but it integrates the classic bond theme very well which makes the soundtrack stand above most else you will hear from DE/SEGA. The sound effects are much more varied than an older DE title and it doesn't sound like a lot was regurgitated for this release, which is refreshing. The callouts are decent as well, but some do get repetitive, like the "Hurry! Hurry! This is your last chance" at the end of every mode. Bond's, "Shaken, not stirred" never gets old, and there are quite a few classics like that found within the game. The voices sound pretty convincing overall as well, and it's hard to tell if they were done by the real actors or impersonators. There is a quote or two that makes me think they are impersonators, but most of them sound true to the film (Goldeneye) for the most part and so I'm not 100% sure. Maybe it's a mix of both like in Batman: Dark Knight by Stern.

Overall, Goldeneye 007, despite its issues, is still a wildly addictive game. There's just something to the flow of the game and the speed of the action that keeps me coming back for "just one more game" pretty much any time I play it. I wish the rules were fleshed out better because it's this that keeps the game from reaching true greatness (something SEGA pins rarely achieved), but it's still a very solid playing machine as-is and will fit nicely in a large collection.
9 years ago
No Fear is a game that screams "in your face": Big, bright flames are everywhere; there's a talking skull; it has huge, sweeping shots; a massive upper jump ramp takes up a third of the playfield; it has a hard, edgy rock/metal soundtrack. It's a looker for sure, but fortunately there is some meat underneath that shiny coat of paint. Lots of modes to play around with, varying hurry-up style shots, lots of different multiball modes, and even a mode that kicks your ball back into play upon an outlane drain.

My one complaint about the game is the unbalanced scoring, but that only makes a difference if you are the type that is always playing for a high score. In that case, you are going to be timing out modes and getting to "MEET YOUR MAKER", as Jump Ramps are always worth 200 million there. However, if you actually try to play out the regular modes and try to experience all the game has to offer, it is a great flowing and fun game.

Aesthetically, it's a great looking and sounding game. The artwork is fantastic and works with the theme perfectly. It also feels great to come home from a long day's worth of work, or upon just waking up in the morning, turning on the game, cranking up the volume and hearing that music. It just gets you in the mood.

Overall I feel No Fear is a solid game that, while unbalanced, is still a lot of fun. It doesn't force you to play it a specific way--because really, if you wanted, you could just shoot the orbits all day and still end up with some points and video modes, and that's pretty cool. It may get old in a small collection, or not--it just depends on the kind of player you are.

**Edit 1/12/16: Had to adjust my rating. I miss the machine I had. If you are strictly playing for score all the time, it might get old. If you like to mess around with different modes to mix things up, there's actually a lot to play around with on this machine. It's fast, furious, and definitely worth it.
9 years ago
24 is a game that I'd expect to have for a month or less and then be done with it (like BDK). However, it's been in my collection for several months now and I'm still having fun with it. It is a game that seems simple on the surface level, but once you dig deeper into the rules and the nuances of them, it becomes a much more rewarding experience. The subtleties that surely most gloss over actually make a pretty large difference in scoring, and that's where this game shines.

Initially the game is confusing, and that's due to there being little indication of what things do on the playfield except for the obvious callouts along the lines of, "Shoot the Suitcase to start multiball". It took me a while to adjust to the fact that a mode is always running (that's what the 24 lights are for), and it took a while to figure out I was making progress in any modes or even figuring out what part of multiball I was in. That aside, once you put a bunch of games on the machine and start connecting the dots, the game becomes much more comfortable to play since you actually have an idea of how you are progressing through the game.

The game also has four main multiball modes (a fifth if you count the wizard mode, "Master Agent"). The only issue with these is that you are only going to be starting two frequently--Suitcase (the majority of the time), and the Scene 6 multiball. The other two, Sniper and Safe House, depending on settings may be easily accessible in the beginning of a game, but they eventually become prohibitive as you play longer. As such the game can become boring fairly quickly since you will be playing a lot of Suitcase multiball. However, that's where the nuances of the game come into play. Sure, you can play Suitcase over and over all day on its own, or you can use it to build on other things.

The game can feel boring when you are simply playing Suitcase over and over, however, it can also feel highly rewarding if you play to fill in all the blocks on the playfield to get to "Master Agent". The thing is, it's not easy to do this. Getting the Safe House Jackpot, Nuke Jackpot, and Sniper Jackpot all require work, especially the Sniper one, and getting to the end wizard mode is going to require serious planning (cascading multiball into multiball, and taking advantage of the add-a-ball on the Super collect). Casual players likely will never see Master Agent, but players that really like to dig into a game and plan things out and work towards higher goals will find it fun and satisfying overall.

For the casual player, there is a mini wizard mode dubbed "Save the President". It is a tense single-ball mode where every shot must be hit, some twice each. The points can be decently sized and the end collect shot feels satisfying. All it takes is starting the multiballs for Safe House, Suitcase and Sniper to get to it, so this is something lesser skilled players will at least be able to see.

As far as subtleties, one of my favorite aspects about the game is the MOLE multiplier. Completing the MOLE targets lights a hurry-up on the left ramp, and collecting this awards you a multiplier on one of the main shots (orbits, Safe House, Suitcase, or Sniper shots). The thing is, what it awards you is completely random. Also, you can keep collecting MOLE hurry-ups and the multipliers can build on the same shots even higher--up to 5X. The biggest thing with this however is that the multipliers don't go away when you drain like they do in other Stern games--they stay for the entire game, so progressing your multipliers can absolutely make or break a potentially high scoring game. Getting these multipliers up adds more depth to the game as well and forces you to change your priorities. Do I keep hitting the center ramp when in suitcase to build my Super, or do I milk the orbits I've got multiplied at 4X instead? Obviously, I'm going to take the left orbit. There is a lot of fun to be had with trying to get your MOLE multipliers up as high as you can.

Sound-wise, I hear a lot of people complain about the Chloe voiceover. Personally it never bothered me, but I can see where some people might get annoyed. Music-wise I really dig the soundtrack to the game. It's got that techno-rock kind of vibe that you hear in games like Spider Man or Batman: Dark Knight, but it fits the fast flow of the game very well. The sound effects asides from the Chloe voice are excellent, and they go with the DMD animations very well (especially the Safe House one where the house explodes).

Overall I really enjoy 24. I think it's a bit of an underrated Stern game, and beats out games like Avatar, BDK, and probably a lot of their earlier stuff. It's a good flow game, it's fun for beginners, but it's got enough subtlety there to be enjoyable for higher level players as well. It's a bit of a rare machine all things considered, so if you see it, I highly recommend giving it a try.
10 years ago
Last Action Hero is a fun game initially, but after owning one for four months it began to wear thin on me. I enjoyed the shots in the beginning, as they are set up in a relatively unconventional layout.

The general gameplay setup is similar (if not ripped off of) another familiar classic: The Addams Family. Basically, shoot the ramp to light the scoop, and try to shoot the scoop TAF style to start the game's modes. Work your way through all of your modes, and you can try the wizard mode of the game. There are a couple of things that allow TAF to excel much better in this same style though: 1. Its mode scoop isn't 3/4 up the playfield, meaning you have little reason to brick the shot (which can become extremely frustrating in LAH); and, 2. TAF has more options for flow and other little goals that help mix up the action a lot (Bearkicks, Thing Flips, etc).

LAH has little flow and it feels very confined despite its wide open playfield. For instance, hitting the ramp takes the ball back to the right flipper, to where you can either hit the ramp again (in which it diverts to the left flipper), or hit another ball-stopping, dead-end shot, and that's the majority of what you are going to be doing in this game. The right/center scoop awards Chicken (the mode, not the food), but you aren't going to be going for that on its own. The right-most scoop is extremely tough to hit and is really only useful in certain multi-ball modes. The eyeball targets give a tiny bit of bonus, but they are mostly ignored except for two modes (even then they are still risky, and the reward isn't that high). The Ripper coil shot is fun, but again, it's something you aren't going to aim for directly, the point value on it is generally small. The captive balls are a good idea for multi-ball preparation, but the left one I found to not really be that worthwhile. Seemingly more often than not, the ball would come back, hit the top of the left sling, and drain.

Not all is bad or boring shot-wise though. For instance, the CRANE targets are implemented well. I like how if you can get them all down individually without hitting behind them, you activate ball locks. There is an element of skill and methodology required to get the drops down successfully, and in doing so you are essentially rewarded with raising your jackpot values in the main multi-ball mode.

Unlike TAF, progressing through LAH's modes feels like a chore. Part of this is due to how many times the mode scoop will reject your shots. Sometimes you will nail it five times back to back, but then it takes you ten more tries to hit it at least once more. It also doesn't help that when you get to the "Wizard" mode of the game, it's single ball play, with the only goal being to, guess what?--shoot the scoop (you know, that shot you will have rejected 30 times by that point). Totally underwhelming. Disclaimer: I had Cliffy scoop protectors on my game, and these made the shots a lot harder than they were before I installed them. Just something to be aware of if you're not a stickler for worn scoop holes.

Art-wise, the game is sub-par. The artwork ties into the movie very well (as does other assets, like the voice samples and DMD animations), but the quality is of that really rough looking, early '90s hand-drawn Data East style. It does not hold up well at all today. Sound-wise, the music and effects are booming, which is one of the high points in the game. I honestly feel like I'm playing the PC classic "DOOM" when I'm playing LAH, so no complaints from me when it comes to that. The sound effects are sampled straight from the film, so if you've seen that, they work really well.

I'd really like to rate this game higher, but my personal machine was a complete pain to deal with from a mechanical perspective. The flippers died multiple times. The magnets blew. The Ripper coil stopped working (and once again after I revived it). The lights were finicky. Balls in the crane lock wouldn't sit properly in the tar pit area, most would eventually start hopping over the post. At first, balls wouldn't sit in the crane properly and fall off halfway in transit. Some of these are minor issues, but them all combined with the fact that the game isn't up to AAA gameplay standards as it is, just made owning the machine not worth it (it doesn't help that the game was also a major chore to shop as well).

Last Action Hero is not a pretty game to look at. It sounds decent and it's fun for a while, but overall I don't feel it's a keeper.
10 years ago
Hollywood Heat is a game that, upon first impression, seems terrible. It has one of the worst backglasses in existence, and the pastel colors are a little off-putting at first. The gameplay also seems fairly simplistic, with easy multi-ball locks and a bunch of drops and standups thrown all over the playfield. However, as with many pins, once one figures out what those targets do, the game opens itself up to being a very enjoyable experience.

While not the deepest game in existence, there are still a few rules that aren't obvious without reading the manual. For instance, the ultimate goal is to build your bonus multipliers that effect scoring within multi-ball (this goes up to 8X). After that, it's about cranking up multi-ball after multi-ball, hitting your standups and building your drop targets, all of which add to a cumulative "Multi-Ball Bonus" that calculates at the end of ball three. Extra scoring potential arises when you set the top rollovers to spot "Pin Ball" bonus letters, and when extra balls and specials are set to award points.

I find Hollywood Heat to be a very fun, addictive game. However, newcomers need to keep in mind that this is a game that requires serious control and smart decision making in order to get the most out of the game. Drop catches, bounce passes, post deflection transfers, flick-passes, etc.; these are all necessary to make your game last, and flailing on this machine will only land you in the drain.

I think Hollywood Heat is one of the best bangs for your buck out there, sitting somewhere in the $400 to $500 range. The music can get a little repetitive, but I still find it catchy in that sad-happy kind of way a lot of classic videogame music is that I grew up with. The sound effects also aren't that varied, but they at least get the job done. The gameplay can be repetitive after a while with controlled play, but despite that it still feels rewarding whenever that ramp is hit, or the drops and playfield multipliers are built up to the max. As a result I always have a "Just one more.." feeling whenever a game ends. All in all I recommend this one. Give it a try (or a buy) if you see it!
10 years ago
Mousin' Around is one of the more enjoyable games I have played. At first glance though, it really shouldn't be. However, it's got just the right balance of fun, challenge, and variety. Want some quick points? Try to hit the left orbit repeatedly, on the fly. Want some flow? Combo the left and right ramps. Have a deathwish? Go for the center ramp!

There's also a little more to the game than what initially meets the eye. Collecting a certain amount of cheese pieces lights a bonus on the right ramp. The ball diverts back behind the playfield, and kicks back out. After the bonus is awarded, the player's multi-ball jackpot value rises. The ultimate goal is to max the jackpot value, then cash it in during multi-ball. However, this little bit is easier said than done. Two balls have to be locked in what are effectively orbit-styled locations. But before that even happens, the player must hit the playfield standup targets to qualify the initial locks, and once in multi-ball, the player has to lock a ball *again*. It's tough, but extremely rewarding when done correctly. Factor in playfield multipliers, and things can get pretty crazy pretty quickly.

The music in the game is wildly catchy, and I can't get it out of my head after playing. The sound effects also work well with the theme.

Overall, I highly recommend trying this game. It's one of the better System 11 games I have played, and it rewards skillful play.
10 years ago
AC\DC is an excellent game, regardless whether you are on the Premium or the Pro. The playfield is laid out great. The music kicks-ass. The shots are smooth. The rules are deep and nuanced. The cannon is pretty sweet. The light show is great (got to love Thunderstruck and the Extra Ball show!).

The Pro model gets a few points knocked off because it's lacking a lot of the toys that make the Premium models great. It's a faster game in its own right because of this, but also a much more punishing one as a result.

My only issue with AC\DC as a whole (asides from the Cannon Modes still not being implemented as of editing this rating), is that I need more variety in my experience when I am working towards a wizard mode in solo play. There are some neat things to discover in the game, like the nuances of each song in the game, and cashing in your Song Jackpot when you have 3X playfield scoring going. However, the core of the game is activating your multi-balls (super easy), and collecting your song notes on the playfield. Rinse and repeat, that's pretty much the entire game. Working towards Encore is a major grind and almost not even worth it (I've done it once.. Probably won't attempt it again). From a skilled player perspective, I understand the draw of trying to get the largest Song Jackpot as possible and that's a thrill in and of itself, but I personally prefer to have a set Wizard Mode to aim for and it's simply a long, tiresome grind getting to AC\DC's. Maybe that's my "small collection" doing the talking and if I had space for more games I would see things differently, but after owning AC\DC for a bit I had to trade it up for something with a more traditional Wizard Mode progression. I still love to play it when I see it though, either on location or in collectors' homes.
10 years ago
TRON is a relatively simplistic game with a familiar layout, and it doesn't take that much work to get to the wizard mode compared to other games. However, what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in aesthetics. The music and sounds taken right from the movie pump you up, and the playfield and cabinet art work perfectly with it. The stock backglass is iffy, mostly featuring Flynn's face, but some of the alternate backglasses are pretty sweet and are definitely recommended as replacements. Despite a relatively familiar layout, TRON does have a few other tricks up its sleeve to keep things interesting. For one, the spinning disc at the top of the playfield. Not only does it look cool, but you get some seriously crazy bounces and rejections from it, it's really a sight to be seen. Also, the End of Line Jackpots heavily reward accurate combo-oriented play, which is refreshing (go upper loop, upper ramp, then smack the arcade on the return, and you can build good points quickly). Overall, TRON is one I highly recommend playing. If you have thought about buying one, it is also one of the better games out there to mod.
10 years ago
I had reviewed this game a few months back based on my experiences having played it at a friend's office. Now that I own the game, I have a better idea of how I really feel about it.

First things first, I think Batman is game made for casual players first and foremost. There are some absolutely great toys on the playfield, which the first-timer or casual player will love. For instance, the crane. There's no doubt this is one of the best toys created for pinball, it's just a ton of fun to bash (no thanks in part due to the sound feedback). I also think the Joker three-tiered spinning piece and the bridge that raises up and down are fun gimmicks as well, the later especially when it does its thing while you have a bunch of other balls bouncing around on the lower playfield.

The game also has a LOT of multi-ball action, which casual players are going to love. None are difficult to begin at all either: Joker Multi-ball, Batpod multi-ball, and Scarecrow multi-ball for starters. What's even better is that they are all stackable on top of one-another and can be started in any order (as long as the crane is out).

The problem is, there's not much here for the skilled and/or more hardcore player. I myself am about the rules first and foremost. A game can lack gimmicks completely, but if there is at least a solid rule-set that makes sense and has some form of depth to it, I will like it, period. Batman though doesn't exactly have that (depth) in spades.

For instance, each multi-ball is very basic. In Joker, hit any flashing shot five times to light the Super Jackpot. Bingo, easy. In Scarecrow, hit the crane five times to light the Super Jackpot. Double bingo. Batpod Multi-ball.. well, it's actually too much work to really be worth anything, just play it for fun. That's about it.

There are some other things I do like, for instance, the Bat Signal challenge. This is one of the better "risk versus reward" modes I've seen in pinball, as the payoff can be huge if you build the jackpot up and play out the subsequent Bat Signal Multi-ball afterwards. You can even stack Scarecrow into it as long as the crane is out. Good stuff there.

But, what else is there for skilled players? Well, maybe they can go for the "Batmobile Hurry-Up Billion" (that's right.. Billion!!). That's great and fun to try for, but that's just it--it's fun to try for. I've been chipping away at making progress towards this, but it's not something a player is going to magically stumble upon during regular gameplay, and there is no way someone is going to try it in a competition setting.

There's also the Super Skillshot, one of the biggest issues with the game. This is triggered by holding the left flipper on the plunge, and hitting either the Joker, Scarecrow, or Batmobile shots within a few second timeframe. If done successfully, the shot you make will be at 3X scoring for the rest of the ball. On top of that, you can get a normal playfield 2X multiplier on top of that, for 5X scoring. And if you manage to get the 3X roving playfield multiplier by having a long ball, that single shot can be worth 6X. That's a 25 - 50 million Super Jackpot if you have it on the Joker or Scarecrow shot.

Once you have a high scoring game no thanks to many 5X or 6X Super Jackpots, it taints the high-scoring experience from then on, which is something I haven't felt with many games asides from Batman. For instance, if I start a game and am specifically going for a high score (currently on my game, a billion), if I miss a Super Skillshot on the Joker or Scarecrow at the beginning of the game, I find myself draining the first ball, then holding the start button in to begin a new game. Simply put, if you don't get the Super Skillshot, you are *not* going to beat your old high score. Correction: You are not going to beat it unless you plan on playing for 90 minutes, because that's what it will take to score 700 million to a billion through normal play. Unlike Lord of the Rings, you will be doing the exact same thing over and over for the duration of that 90 minutes as well, because let's face it--Batman isn't exactly deep in comparison.

Now, if I fail in trying to play for a high score, I will try for the Wizard mode. But, that's not necessarily very difficult either. Play through your modes, get your multi-ball Super Jackpots, complete the Luscious mini playfield, and magically get all the other progression lights lit from the ball randomly bouncing around on its own. The thing is, none are terribly difficult, and some are simply monotonous (like the Luscious playfield). That 50 million bonus when getting to Gotham mode (the wizard mode) is a good feeling, but it's not that hard to get to it, and the mode itself feels a little half-baked (hit each main character area a certain amount of times to solidly light each character insert).

To top it all off, the game has very little flow. It's very much a "stop-and-go" kind of experience, but we're not talking the fun kind like TZ or TAF. What little flow is there is stopped before it can really get going. For instance, a shot up the center ramp from an in-lane feed (either gets fed to the bridge, which stops the ball, or gets fed to the mini playfield, which severely slows the ball). There are many other examples of flow-stopping shots on the playfield, and this could be another reason why the game has failed to grow on me. I like stop and go, but there's a little too much of it in Batman.

So, I know I've ranted on about the rules for a while, but I just want to reiterate: Casual players are going to really enjoy this game. The toys are great. The multi-balls are fun. Skilled players are going to grow bored of it though. The mini and main wizard modes aren't tough to get to, and the multi-balls can grow repetitive (not to mention unbalanced once the Super Skillshot--or lack there-of--is thrown into the equation).

Aside from that, I do like the use of the theme. The cabinet artwork is solid, the backglass looks great, and the playfield art gets the job done. Combined with a mixture of cool white and off-colored white domed LEDs for GI, it really feels like something that would come from a Batman movie. The sound and music isn't bad either, but partially due to how loud the mechanics are in the game (the crane, and the bridge for instance), this game needs to be played with the volume up in order to get the most out of it.

Once again, it's a game for casuals, and not for the hardcore. For the later, play it if you see it, but I personally wouldn't recommend seeking one out.
10 years ago
Lord of the Rings is probably one of the better (best?) games I have had the opportunity of playing. I think there is a lot here that can keep casual players coming back for more, but it's one of the deepest games out there for serious players. There are a lot of things to do, lots of modes to stack, a wide array of multi-ball modes, perks for completing modes, combos, and much more. The shot layout works very well, with orbits laid out to reward controlled play (another perk though is having a nice shot layout to play on-the-fly if you like as well). The music is decent albeit the quality is a bit sub-par (someone previously mentioned "Midi-like music", and I can see where they are coming from). The sound effect quality is top notch though. Cabinet art and backglass are both great. I don't think this is a good tournament machine (games take far too long in those situations), but for people that like to play solo, this is about as good as you can get when it comes to long playing games.
10 years ago
Playfield layout is familiar (orbit shot, through-the-pops shot, a mode scoop and a mystery scoop), with a couple of differences such as the Death Star. It's fun at first, however the game is severely unbalanced from a scoring perspective and there's little reason to shoot for anything other than the center ramp. The game has modes, but they don't build up to any sort of wizard mode; they are sort of just "there". Not having anything to work towards gives little reason to actually go for the modes, and the scoring balance issues leads there to be little reason to shoot anything other than the ramp. The one multi-ball the game has can be enjoyable, however, again there's little reason to actually aim for the jackpots, as building points on the ramp is possible with all three balls, and will be much more lucrative as a result. Definitely not a player's game by any means, but it should be fun if you like mindless gameplay. The orbit feels good, the toys are fun (Spinning Death Star and R2 heads, and R2 bounces up and down). Sound is solid and the music fits well enough (the main theme in a semi-goofy kind of way). Cabinet art is pretty awful, the backglass art is nice, and the playfield art is so-so (it doesn't hold up that great today). I really can't recommend this game as I am sure you can find far better games for the same price, but I hear it's much better with the new code release.
10 years ago
The Rolling Stones is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to modern Stern games. It's.. quite different from the rest that you will find, but I don't think that's a bad thing at all.

Playfield-wise, the game honestly looks underwhelming upon first impression. Or even after being familiar with it, it's blatantly underwhelming when you come back from playing Lord of the Rings (or something else with loads of shot options). However, what you will eventually find is that the shots that are there are in just the right places, and there is no single shot on the playfield that's there simply because it can be. Everything has a purpose, and once you learn this, the game is simply a blast to play. It's also very fast overall, and ball return time is very quick here.

The game doesn't have much in the way of toys, except the moving Mick target. This is often the main focus of complaint with this game, but I like it. To me, the Mick target adds an extra layer of thought required before making your shots. If you are an on-the-fly player, Mick is bound to give you trouble. However, if you are intuitive and are constantly thinking about where you will be shooting next, Mick actually turns into an extra layer of gameplay depth.

Musically and sound-wise, this game nails it. Everything is crisp and clear, there is a good variety of tunes used, and the sound effects rarely seem to get old. Unfortunately they weren't quite able to nail the song-changing aspect of it, with songs cutting old ones out when stacking modes, but you get used to this and find it actually helps with knowing what mode you just started (on top of the previous that is still running).

From a general gameplay perspective, the Rolling Stones has a lot of similar modes that you would find in something like Avatar. Simple orbit modes, ramp modes, fast scoring modes, etc., that are activated by hitting certain areas of the playfield. However, the 'Stones has Records mode, which is relatively unique with four different songs that have different records shot patterns and benefits based on the order you hit the shots in. Combos is another interesting one, maybe not so much for the fact that there are combos, but the way in that they have to actually be activated first, then hit five times in successive order, before it ends with the "Super Combos" option on the center ramp. There are also three main multiballs you will get to, and one you will probably never get to experience (the wizard mode of the game).

My favorite part of the game is the stackability. Unfortunately, multiple multi-ball modes are not stackable on top of each other (a big shame, in my opinion), but normal modes will at least carry over into a fresh multiball. What I typically like to do before starting a multiball is have Licks (the mode activated by the ramps), Records (the mode activated by the records shot), and sometimes Super Combos started on top before I activate a multiball.

On a similar note as stackability, progression of your modes (working towards the wizard mode or mini wizard mode) doesn't have to be linear. Modes are activated (much like Monster Bash) by hitting certain shots a number of times, and you can pick and choose where to start. You can also multi-task and attempt to work towards completing multiple modes at once outside of multiball. Plan on completing "World Tour" (the orbit mode)? Well, why not activate Combos first? Hitting the orbit shot repeatedly counts towards combos, so go for the orbit-to-live-catch repeatedly as to "kill two birds with one stone" (as the saying goes). The same can be said for other modes and shots in the game as well.

For the most part I enjoy just about every aspect of this game, however, my biggest complaint comes in the form of balance. Actually finishing Album multi-ball is extremely difficult, and it's required to get to the main wizard mode (Encore Multiball). Scoring is also a bit uneven, with "Fast Scoring" netting very few points, and Super Combos awarding entirely too many (especially when the center ramp is at double scoring). The records track, "It's All About Rock 'n Roll" is the largest scoring mode in the game, and if stacked into a multiball can 'net over 100 million points, which puts it into "extremely unbalanced" territory. Great to get to when you do, but it's just too many points for what it is (shoot the center ramp over and over). Everything else in the game seems to be balanced far better though, and those are really the only gripes I have with the game.

My only other gripe is that Records Multiball won't be available if you collect a full set of records a second time in the same game. Kind of a bummer and makes going for the record modes a second time around less enticing, since it can be a risky shot.

The playfield art is a bit cheap/low quality, but it doesn't bother me at all when I play the game (it will bother some). The plastic cutout figures look cheap, but again, it's something I don't notice when I'm playing (again, it will bother some).

Overall, The Rolling Stones is a really fun game that I feel should be played. It may not be too forgiving for run 'n gun players or those that do not think before they shoot, but for those that play controlled and like to learn the nuances of a game, it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience in the end.

*Edit 11/3/2014: Had to update this review and edit some of my ratings since when I wrote it I hadn't owned the game for a year yet. I liked it a lot then, but a year later I can say this is one of my favorite pins out there, and likely in my personal top three. Looking back at it now, The Rolling Stones just got more fun the longer I owned it. Knowing everything about it inside and out from a rules perspective has made all the difference in my enjoyment with it, and it's a game that's let me be flexible with my play style. It's one of the few games I can look at and say, "Man, everything on the playfield actually does something worthwhile", which makes knowing every little nuance and detail that much more important. Lots of good setup and stacking options are available here as well that makes it feel rewarding. It also has excellent flow and when you get into a rhythm it feels amazing (for example, shoot the right orbit, loop pass to right flipper, backhand the right ramp, shoot the left ramp, back to the right orbit, loop pass to right flipper again, etc). Overall this is a game that perfectly meshes flow with controlled, stop 'n go gameplay, and that's very important to me.

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