branlon8's ratings

Pinsider branlon8 has rated 15 machines.

This page shows all all these ratings, and forms branlon8's personal top 15.

Rating comments

branlon8 has written 15 rating comments:

5 years ago
So when you peel away all the hype surrounding this title, what do you have ? Basically, you have a absolutely brilliant pinball game which pretty much deserves the hype it receives. For starters, Medieval Madness, together with its older sibling AFM, pretty much set the template or gold standard for future pinball layouts – orbits on the far right and left – inside of them ramps returning the ball to the same side of the playfield (means unobstructed view of the main playfield surface – although on MM the left ramp winds around the castle and goes across the playfield), pops in the upper right corner, some bash targets and other targets in the middle and some targets or scoops to the right and left of the orbits. Appearance-wise MM is an absolute stunner – especially the castle and it’s lighting, the flashers and the green moat. The whole playfield including the integration of the castle is so wonderfully balanced – the castle is meant to be there. The castle somehow gives the impression of being very large – as if it just keeps going to the right and left and the rear. The open playfield space in front of the castle is enormous – few pins have so much free space for the ball to fly around.
Rulewise MM is very clever. You are either bashing the castle all day – perhaps monotonous, but somehow shooting the ball through the open gate is always a blast – or you are going for madnesses by hitting the other targets (ramps, orbits, catapult, trolls) multiple times while trying to avoid Merlin. The rule with the madnesses is very well thought out – having to avoid a target (Merlin) brings in a new challenge. I also like the relationship between Multiball Madness and Royal Madness – interesting modes which seamlessly happen from your play progression and are affected by your previous play and affect your future play. And then there’s the trolls (clever use of those extra two flippertronics coils) which are somehow used enough, but not too much – when they’re active it’s a whole new game. Regarding the playfield inserts - I like the fact that almost all the information you need to know about your status is on the playfield (number of trolls hit is one exception that comes to mind) – the inserts tell you pretty much everything – you don’t actually need the display except to see your score. Castle Multiball is also well done – it has three clearly different successive phases, rather than just bashing away at the lit jackpots so it is mode in itself.
The goofy call outs always seem to put smile on my face. They are a nice addition. The music is pretty decent, kind of epic and stately – fits well to the game.
5 years ago
Fourteen angled drop targets – that’s Hot Shot. And it’s a blast trying to knock ‘em all down. It’s a pool game, so if you get the seven striped balls (or solid balls), then the eightball (roll over or saucer), then hit one more target you get a free game. So the special is not based on points. Each successive ball (1, 2, 3) is a multiplier of the bonus points you get for sinking balls (drop targets), so the bonus you get after a drain can be enormous – often bigger than the points you got during the ball – strange, but ok, you get used to it – I like the game because of the drop targets and the wide open playfield.
5 years ago
Space Shuttle is more the old fashioned kind of pinball, it doesn’t drive towards a wizard mode or a big jackpot. It is fairly easy to get multiball and multiball is one of the main ways to get points. Clever is each ball is locked separately so you can go immediately for 2 ball multiball after locking one ball or lock the 2nd ball and have 3 ball multiball. To start multiball and to get points during multiball you keep going for the center ramp. There’s something satisfying about this ramp – it’s unusually positioned, too, because it does not lead back to an inlane. The other goal is to keep knocking down the drop targets and increasing the spinner multiplier. This can get exciting as the multiplier resets for each new ball. And hitting the drop targets usually takes you to the thru-lanes – each completion increases the bonus multiplier. Space Shuttle also has a target you sometimes want to avoid – the right ramp – it’s frustrating to be trying complete the 7 stand-ups to get the extra ball award for instance then accidently hit the stand up at the end of the right ramp and then the award changes to something not as good.
Space Shuttle has a particularly attractive backglass with the gold accents. Soundtrack is ok, a few of the sound bits were reused in Pinbot (not a problem, though) and a few robot sounding call outs.
5 years ago
Whitewater is an intriguing game. It’s full of loops and ramps so that the majority of shots come screeching back at you. I think this means it has great flow. The upper playfield area has so many different ramps you really have to study the area a bit before you understand where they are all leading. And what a great upper playfield ! – excellently executed and you generally don’t get more than one chance to make your shot before the ball rolls back down to the main playfield. The Insanity Falls ramp and the Whirlpool – well somebody had to eventually create such ramps and they happen to be both in this game.
The rules are pretty deep. On the one hand you are trying to reach Wet Willies and once there you have a rather challenging wizard mode. On the other hand you have the vacation bonus which requires you to complete four tasks – 3 of which you would be going for anyway and a fourth one (reaching River Class 6) which requires chopping a lot of wood on the left bank of stand-ups.
All the while there are a number of modes (most, but not all from whirlpool awards). I’m always amused by the “man overboard” hurry-up – if you can’t save him Willi says “Lost another one”.
I find the excessive points you can score during Whitewater Multiball (it’s absolutely bananas if you happen to have 5x playfield value scoring – this happened to me once when I was able to nail the jackpots and it will probably remain one of my high scoring games for years to come) makes the scoring perhaps a tad unbalanced, but hey, I am sure this was Mr. Nordman’s intention so who am I to complain.
Cool and unusual music and the call outs are quite good. Light show is pretty good, but the inserts are fairly small. Funny animations, but I find myself so busy playing the game I rarely see them.
6 years ago
This game does such an amazing job in recreating the movie. The movie is fun and lighthearted with great dialogue and that’s exactly what comes across when playing this wonderful pinball game. So many scenes are recreated. OK, the kids don’t play a role, but otherwise.
Thing coming out of the red box to grab the ball – sure it slows gameplay down, but I enjoy thinking about what people must have thought when seeing that for the first time – and it’s a chance to relax my hands. And Thing is just one of many interactive toys – the moving bookshelves, thing flips, the magnets.
Rulewise you are either collecting mansion rooms (each one kicks off some event – either a timed mode, a frenzy, one of several 2-ball mulitball modes or you get points). While you’re working on this you are working your way towards the main 3-multiball – with the jackpots off the upper flipper – this is always challenging.
6 years ago
This game seems to really get it all right. The game, together with the large screen in the back box and the smart phone completely pull you in to the game play and never distract – you are in Quantum City. The layout seems new, yet so clever, the use of playfield space so economical. Tucking 3 different targets for the upper flipper (stand ups, a scoop and a ramp) under the left ramp basically leaves a full fan layout to shoot from with the lower flippers.
Dialed In has a great array of features, toys and shots which affect game play. Firstly you have the Theatre which depending on what is being shown determines what the shot is – I know of no other game in which one shot has so many different functions. Then there’s the moving target QED – sometimes he’s the target, sometimes he is in the way of the shot you want to make so you have to knock ball to the other flipper or shoot something else. Or sometimes he’s moving so you have to wait till he’s out of the way to make your shot. He’s basically changing the layout of the game, depending on game situation.
Many of the main shots also send the ball to different places depending on situation and/or how hard you hit it – this via diverters, magnets or trapdoors into the subway system. The layout is so flexible, sometimes offering up surprise shots like hitting the phone scoop with the upper flipper.
Then there’s the Sim Card shot. Really really hard to hit directly with the upper flipper when you are trying, but often it just rolls in when the ball is moving around in front of the Theatre when you’re not trying. Reminds me a bit of some EM games which have important shots which are extremely difficult to hit on purpose. Basically you try to keep the ball in play as long as possible and eventually the ball goes in by accident.
Dialed In has a cool theme with lots of humor. The theme, being unlicenced, allowed the creativity of the designers to flourish unfettered and it really shows. From the amazing layout, to the original music to the backbox animations and everything else. The backbox is kind of like a normal lit backbox except the view of the city is changing slightly depending on situation. The game has a lot of tongue and cheek humor – like the anouncers of the disaster modes in the phone or the BOB modes – maybe not all completely cohesive with the main theme, but they are wacky and add to the charm.
My only complaint might be a bit rulewise that playing the modes seems to be the only way to rack up points. All the BOB modes, the multiball modes and the theatre modes seem to be more of a distraction than being integral to gameplay.
6 years ago
I could imagine the idea of shooting a pinball into (or out of) somebody’s mouth might have come up earlier, but it took somebody with the genius of Mr. Lawlor to realize that idea. But then he added a motor to move the mouth and make it talk and even more solenoids to move the eyes and eyelids – and thus emerged Rudy - the greatest and most iconic toy in pinball history.
Funhouse is a very strategic game. One makes a shot, which enables a function on another shot, which then sets up another function on yet another shot. The games has a lot of such combinations. It is rare that hitting a single shot repeatedly brings much benefit. Most of the combinations do not time out and some remain active to the next ball
Funhouse has two plungers ! One traditional one on the right and another one on the left side – it is fed by a diverter on the main ramp. Depending on what is lit on the so-called crazy steps and how well you plunge up the steps different goals can be attained – additionally, use of the crazy steps allows the easiest shots with the upper flipper (easiest because the ball is generally moving the slowest when it passes the upper flipper). And you want the upper flipper for the two most important shots in the game – to Rudy’s mouth and to the trap door. The downside of this 2nd plunger is it makes the playfield narrower – in general the playfield feels a bit narrow, but generally you don’t notice.
The other main feature of the game is the mystery mirror which starts a mode or activates a function. If you complete the mystery mirror a mini-wizard mode called Super Frenzy starts.
Funhouse is a revolutionary game with great rules, great call outs (from Rudy), classic music (what you’d expect in a funhouse) and a very good light show.
6 years ago
This EM game has great potential, but has, I think a major design flaw. The potential lies in following different strategies to score: you can either go for the upper stand ups to light the bumpers for 10x scoring on each bumper hit or you can grow the bonus value then cash in – starting at 1000 and growing up to 10000. You grow the bonus by hitting one of 4 targets – two which can be hit directly and two which an only be hit from bumper action. You score the bonus by shooting the ball into one of the sink holes – the award you get by hitting the sink hole is determined by an under-playfield pointer and has the possible awards as 1x, 2x or 3x bonus, open one of 3 diverters or 500 points (or extra ball when lit – does not award extra ball often). The pointer changes every time one of several different targets is hit. Particularly when going for the bonus you can try to grow it very high, wait for 3x bonus and score big (risk vs. reward) – if you wait too long and drain then the bonus goes back to 1000 for the next ball.
The design flaw (in my view), is that I have not found a good way to shoot the ball into a sink hole. There are two, both in the middle of the playfield – the upper sink hole is behind the 5 pop bumpers and can only go in by chance (except by the plunge, thus constituting the skill shot) and the lower sink hole has nothing behind it so if you shoot the ball at it the ball flies over the hole into the pops. You need a very weak shot – how do you shoot a weak shot up the middle? - so hitting the sink hole becomes a luck shot. I haven’t given up yet trying to find a way though: an on the fly shot to make the shot weak or banking it off the post next to it seem like the only possibilities but require fraction of a mm precision.
6 years ago
Classic game, classic design. After all, how many other pinballs had two sequels made after them? The idea of a 5x5 matrix of lights with 2 rows of 5 stand ups perpendicular to each other to light up the matrix – great idea. This leading to the rising visor revealing the two sinkholes to lock balls for multiball – that was out of the box thinking. In a real throwback to the beginning days of pinball (when there were really pins on the playfield) Pinbot has this nifty upper playfield – the ball bounces around on the pins and can leave this playfield on one of 4 different spots – each with different consequences. Not sure if nudging would help here – I’m always fascinated watching the ball bounce around.
There are several different goals to achieve. In addition to the multiball there is also trying to get all the planets. It is a fun challenge, but kind of dangerous because you’re shooting sharp left or sharp right.
Pinbot has great sounds and also a very good light show.
6 years ago
Diner was my first SS game and it continues to be one of my favorite games. Mr. Ritchie took an unusual theme (for a pinball) and really turned it into a masterpiece of design and theme integration. The individual tasks are all integrated into each other so you’re working on them simultaneously: Serving the customers to go for dine time, hitting the left ramp repeatedly to activate extra ball and increasing the dine time bonus, hitting the right ramp to activate the ball lock (the left ramp rises to expose the ball lock) and, and, and the CUP SHOT – watching the ball spin around at high speed and the cup bonus going up over 2.5 Mio. – well, as some have said, maybe the most satisfying shot in pinball. Now some folks say you should avoid the cup shot and keep going for multiball over and over – it’s a valid point as multiball can be very lucrative – but it is pretty hard to hit the spinner and the sink hole, then start nailing the ramps – so risk vs. reward – players choice. Diner has the pop bumpers in front of the lanes and a lot of space around them so there is a lot of ball action. The skill shot on Diner is rather easy, once you figure out how to time your plunge you can get the max almost every time – but hey, I don’t mind the points.
6 years ago
I’m intrigued and amused by this game because it is so wasteful of playfield real estate – that big plastic in the rear left of the game – and not much is made of the space under the ramps - just appalling, right ? Fish Tales is a great game, really great rules - I like the way the different timed modes are activated in different ways – some with the captive ball, some by catching fish (“Feeding Frenzy”, “Rock the Boat” if you’re good at telling tales), “Monster Fish” using the ramps. The balls being locked in the reel is a cool idea, then being shot out on a big ramp at the beginning of multiball. Multiball is can be hard – but mastering the three types of fishing then getting the super jackpot is a rush. The video mode is great – shooting surface torpedos (from your rowboat?) at all those motorized boats and skiers disturbing the fish - gratifying. The video mode yields a lot of points and if your shooting is good you get an extra ball.
Fish Tales has great music. I’m a big bluegrass fan (I play banjo myself) and I like the way Chris Granner has created a bluegrass feeling using the synthesized sounds of the early 90s – it’s fun.
The playfield lighting really comes alive with LEDs (as do most I think), I enjoy the light show.
6 years ago
Cirqus Voltaire is quite a game, with it’s very unique layout, lot’s of diverters and magnets and bash toy (the Ringmaster). The playfield layout, the rules, the lights, the toys, the music and callouts – are excellent. The ball is visible almost always (except when it goes into the subway system). The symmetry of the playfield with the two return ramps enclosing the playfield somehow turns the entire playfield into a work of art. At the same time not having anything blocking the DMD display which is under the playfield glass – is quite a design achievement.
CV has two separate ball lock systems (highwire and juggler) – both are cool, but the high wire multiball lock is really cool – you can see how many balls you have looked up on the wireform. When highwire multiball starts they all roll down together in a bunch.
The Ringmaster, the main bash toy has numerous different positions – completely down and hidden, up so you only see has face or all the way up and exposing the large circular sink hole under him - it’s like hitting pinballs into a golf hole.
CV has a lot of different multiballs (depending on how you count them and including the wizard modes more than 10 different ones) – each with different goals – and they can be stacked in numerous combinations (definitely easier to stack than on BSD !).
Something else I really like about CV, but something I think may disturb other players, are the features which increase the randomness of the ball movement – the captive ball of the menagerie, the pop bumpers on the lower right side above the slingshots, the ball being flung by the ringmaster magnet, even the unique location of the ball returns on the ramps – the ball is going every which way much of the time.
The multiple sequencial wizard modes are quite exciting – for the first 20 seconds or so of each stage the balls are continuously returned to the playfield – it’s pretty chaotic.
Ok, ok, I’ll admit, the sideshow award “Fire that Cannon” is pretty lame (but it can be disabled in the Homeroom 2.0). And “Amazing Roonie” and “Copy Cat” (Homerom 2.0) – yuck – two separate video modes, neither much fun, but once you accept them they’re both kind of challenging – Copy Cat gives you an extra ball if you can keep your stuff together – that’s a motivation, right ?
6 years ago
Cyclone is a dastardly game. The game basically consists of lots of timed shots. Shoot the comet five times in a row before it times out, shoot the cyclone 3 times, shoot the ferris wheel, etc. Then get double scores with the thru lanes which also times out. So you’re always under time pressure to make your next shot and if you’re a bit off you discover how mean and nasty those outlanes are !
Cyclone has a truly great layout. It is an excellent fan layout without being forced to put the pop bumpers in the back right corner like many other fans, but has them front and center in front of the lanes so they keep the ball action lively.
For points the most important shots are repeatedly hitting the Comet or Cyclone ramps. The million shot on the Comet gets even more exciting if you can complete all the thru-lanes for double scoring and then make the 5 consecutive Comet ramp shots in the seconds remaining to get 2 Mio. The Cyclone needs only 3 shots to get the gate bonus, but the ball is returned to the opposite flipper so you need to transfer which is not always easy.
The ferris wheel – this is such a cool toy and very satisfying to shoot for – doesn’t yield many points – just maybe if the points have built up (from the pop bumpers) and you have double score active. Cyclone has an excellent skill shot – one of the best – all about pulling the shooter rod just the right distance back – five holes in succession, try to hit the middle one. The sinkhole at Dracula’s house (shot right in the middle of the playfield behind the drop target) is fun to shoot, but the rotating spinner on the backglass (a great innovation) gives such low point values there’s not much point – usually one of the first 3-4 hits to the house yields an extra ball so this is the only reason to go for this target – but if you miss, the outlane can be the punishment. The bonus multiplier scoop on the left side is fun to shoot (3 or 4 hits gets you a replay), but at least on my game you’re never sure where the ball shoots out – sometimes I can deflect it with the left flipper and sometimes not (reminds me a bit of Whitewater – also a mean scoop).
Sometimes I think Cyclone would have profited by a multiball mode. This along with the two ramp bonuses would have made this a really great game. But the great layout, the great light show and the number of satisfying shots still makes this a pretty darn good game.
6 years ago
Dr. Dude is a slow meditative game. I think it is the opposite of a game with lots of flow. So when I’m in the mood for a game like this, it’s great. Shots require precision so one finds oneself trapping the ball, lining up the next shot and taking it. I love the way the ball drops off the “Magnetic Personality” magnet and dribbles down to the left flipper for an easy trap. Main goal is to hit each of the “Elements of Coolness” 3-4 times – a standup behind a magnet (“Magnetic Personality”), a standup (“Heart of Rock ‘n Roll” – this is the hardest to hit and can cause a drain from either flipper even if you hit it properly – it’s kind of mean) and a sinkhole with VUK (“Gift of Gab”). Once done there are two more things to hit then you start multiball. So starting multiball is a lot of work, it’s only two balls so if one drains it’s over and you have to start all over again – this can be a bit frustrating. The other main goal of the game - the Reflex – hit 6 diagonal adjacent standups, then a VUK, then in short succession you have to hit two other consecutive targets – stressful but exciting and lucrative. That’s Dr. Dude – considering it’s a late System 11c game there is not much going on I think. Two shots – the right loop and “Big Shot” standup seem pointless – in terms of points obtainable. The 4 drop targets on the right offer some benefits, but seem to me to be not worth the risk. Even the main ramp with the Mix-Master (which takes up a lot of playfield real estate) seems kind of under-utilized. Dr. Dude has a great light show – even without LEDs (which I plan to install in not so distant future) – when the “Gift of Gab” toy lights up – very nice and I personally think the music is great.
7 years ago
BSD is a lovely pinball with great sounds and music which complement nicely the spooky theme. Stacking multiballs is very exciting and pretty much the only way to get high scores. So you are trying to almost start 3 different multiballs (mist, coffin, castle), then start one and hope you can hit the items to start the other ones. The pop bumpers play a big role in this game, not only for keeping the ball action interesting, but also to reach the bats and rats bonus (which can be lucrative). The mist multiball feature is genius – this seemingly simple idea requires a lot of hardware to make it happen. In general, with several VUKs, additional metal ramps and a ball lock on a ramp this game seems to have lots of toys and mechanical devices which probably aren’t critical for gameplay, but enhance the game experience. The right ramp entrance rises to reveal the virtual coffin multiball lock – hitting this yields a particularly satisfying clink of ball against metal – (sometimes the real sounds in pinball are nicer than those coming out of the speakers) - the ball then goes into a VUK, rolls through the coffin and is then placed right in the middle of the three pop bumpers.
BSD has a reputation of being a very difficult pin and I think this is justified. So what makes it difficult? For one thing, success in this game depends on being able to nail the left ramp (loop) repeatedly, because only this way will you activate mist multiball (except for the consolation mist multiball on ball 3), castle multiball and extra balls. I find hitting this ramp repeatedly rather difficult and I don’t know why. This game also has rather brutal outlines (somehow this is typical of Barry Ousler games) – another clink of ball against metal in the right outlane – less satisfying. The 3 stand-up targets front and center in this game are to be avoided, if you hit them the ball can fly anywhere at high speed including sdtm. So frequently I find myself almost having a good game, almost having started multiple multiballs, but not quite – and not quite means really low scores, frustration and an itchy finger to push the start button again.

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