cjmiller's ratings

Pinsider cjmiller has rated 13 machines.

This page shows all all these ratings, and forms cjmiller's personal top 13.

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Rating comments

cjmiller has written 13 rating comments:

4 years ago
I'll admit I've never been a big fan of Williams woodrails. The artwork always seemed a bit crude, and the games relied on gimmicks. They just weren't games that had enough lasting appeal to deserve a spot in my line-up.

Then I found a Jig Saw. What a great game. The artwork is beautiful, especially in a darkened room, and the game play is as good as anything Gottlieb ever did. The jig saw pieces are challenging enough to keep you coming back for one more game, and if you do light the specials the games rack up like crazy. Even if you don't get specials the scoring opportunities to get points keeps winning a game within reach right down to the end of the last ball, and when you're done you find yourself wishing that Gottlieb had used higher voltage coils like Williams did, because that extra bit of "snap" makes playing it a lot more interesting.

This one's a keeper.
4 years ago
One of my favorite woodrails. Beautiful machine, especially in a darkened room. When the center plastics all light up followed immediately by the bumpers resetting it's very satisfying and quite a light show to boot.

The backwards flippers are just confusing enough to make you have to pay attention to what you're doing, but they make sense on this machine--making the center circular lanes wouldn't be nearly as entertaining with regular flippers, and they're also perfect for the side holes.
5 years ago
Let's start by being honest, if trap holes were such a great invention they wouldn't have died out as quickly as they did. That said, like most evolutionary dead ends (giant pandas, kangaroos, etc.), they're still interesting, and Chinatown is probably the best trap hole game ever designed.

The problem with most trap hole games is that it takes several balls to accomplish anything, whether it's 3 in a row or whatever, and if you screw-up there usually isn't much else to do at that point. Chinatown let's you win three different ways on the trap holes--you can get all the low numbers, all the high numbers, and (most importantly) you can win with a total equalling 21 points. It's the 21 that keeps hope alive long after you've missed a chance at the other two options.

Chinatown also rewards you with rather hefty scores for getting the balls into the trap holes, and then the side lanes give you great opportunities to get the ball back up to the top to score even more points. This means that even if you don't win on the trap holes, winning on points is a real possibility on almost every 5th ball.

In addition to the holes and the scoring, the machine has 2 rather generous specials, the top rollover for lighting C and A, and an even more liberal playfield rollover button if you manage to spell CHINATOWN.

Put them all together, and Chinatown is a surprisingly fun game to play, and the "one more game" factor is very high. Combine that with what I think is stunning artwork and great illumination (it's beautiful in a dark room), and I think it's one of the best of the woodrails.
5 years ago
A shooter's game, and even if you're really good with flippers it'll still drive you crazy. You need to line up all the targets on the same row--one slip and you're starting over. As soon as you get them lined up it's not likely you'll keep them lit for very long, and then it's time to do it all over again, and again, and again.
5 years ago
Twin Bill is one of those machines that keeps you playing "one more game."

One of my tests for a good machine is whether or not you're screwed after a couple of bad balls. With many woodrails, you're done if you have a lousy ball or two, but with Twin Bill you can drain 4 balls, and in theory (I'm not saying it's easy, but it's possible) you can still win games. In fact, since Twin Bill has 4 separate ways of lighting specials, one good ball and you're in a position to win a lot of games.

Combine the game play with super artwork, and this one's a great choice for anyone looking for a wood rail.
5 years ago
A very pretty machine, especially when everything is lit correctly with the colored gels installed. Great artwork, although perhaps with more of a 1940's feel than 1950's, especially the girls on the back glass.

The game play is not quite up to par for a Gottlieb wood rail. The 4 flippers, especially when the right and left pairs flip together, takes a lot of getting used to, but the real problem is that the bumpers don't start lighting until your get balls in the trap holes. Until you light them, you're just not scoring any points. As a result, you use your first 3 or 4 balls getting things set up to make a lot of points on the 4th or 5th ball, and that's assuming every ball goes into a trap hole. It also take 4 balls in 4 trap holes to win a special when many of the other games only require 3.

I'm a fan of trap hole games, but if you're only getting one example of a trap hole game, this probably isn't the one you want. Find a Chinatown, Happy Days, or a Pin Wheel instead. On the other hand, if you want a game that's just beautiful to look at when it's lit up, this one is gorgeous.
6 years ago
Lightning Ball has one of the best skill shots of any wood rail--that "round the bases" shot that hits the green, yellow, and blue to advance LIGHTNING BALL, and then returns to the flipper for another try is truly addictive. You get into the groove and make 3 or 4 in a row, and you think you're the best player in the world (for about 10 seconds until the gobble holes get you).

The gobble holes really suck, but at least they give you up to 500,000 points (and a special) for getting into one. Learning how to avoid them is the most challenging part of the game.

The play field artwork was way ahead of its time. The lighting bolts, the rainbows, and the heavy use of yellows, greens and blues make the machine look like something from the psychedelic 1960's instead of the boring 1950's. The back glass is another story, either you like it or you don't. Personally, I think the woman is probably the creepiest thing Gottlieb every put on a back glass, especially those dead shark eyes and the weird flame hands covering her breasts, but at least you notice it, so I guess it does its job.

All in all, this is a game that holds your interest, and it's one of the best of the "just one more game" wood rails. It'll be one of the last machines I ever sell.
6 years ago
This is my only multi-player game, so it gets played a lot when I have people over. That said, it's the last game in my collection I ever play when I'm alone.

I wish I liked it better, because the artwork is stunning (even the basketweave somehow works), and they really did show the courage to not copy what the other companies were building and do their own thing. I also admire the skillshot, the multiball, the tar pit, the zipper flippers, and all the other gimmicks this game has. On paper it is a masterpiece. In real life, not so much.

The trouble is, all those cool features never really come together to make a fun game. You can have fantastic balls, but you seldom have a fantastic game. Nothing builds, nothing advances, you don't accomplish anything--you start from scratch every ball. This game really needed a special feature.

I mean, the most satisfying shot on the playfield is probably shooting the ball into the tar pit. Trouble is, if there is already a ball in the pit, it just rolls back out. No points or anything, just a wasted shot. Really? They couldn't give you 1000 points (or ANYTHING) for that shot? Same with the Volcano. If there's already a ball sitting there, that whole side of the playfield is pretty dead as far as things to shoot for are concerned.

The game gets old pretty quickly--1. skill shot with the plunger, 2. load volcano, 3. load tar pit, 4. get multiball, repeat, repeat, repeat. Oh, and avoid the massive suck hole side lanes while you're at it.

Now, I knew all that going in, and I still hunted one for my collection. The artwork, the backglass, the sounds it makes, are all fantastic, and as a four player game it is still something people enjoy. I just don't think it's a masterpiece, and there was a better playing game waiting to be designed around that basic layout.
6 years ago
I hated this machine when I was a kid and it was on location. It was real bore. I blamed the machine, and I should have blamed the operator for not setting it up correctly and keeping the rubbers fresh.

When Central Park is set up on liberal settings to tame the outlanes a bit, and when it is waxed with fresh rubbers, this game is one of the best. You can do amazing things with those bottom posts between the flippers with a bit of nudging, and once you learn to shoot to avoid the massive center targets, the game really comes to life.

Best of all, once you light the specials, it turns into a real turkey shoot, and you can rack up games faster than almost any other wedgehead. The other nice thing is that so many games of this era depend on luck--either you get that top rollover or you don't, and if you don't you're pretty much screwed. Not with Central Park, with Central Park everything you need is right there and available on every ball.

This is one people keep coming back to for one more game. If I had to pick one machine to have down in the basement, Central Park would be high on the list.
6 years ago
A frustrating game at first, because you really have only one job to do--shoot the bumpers in a counter clockwise order to make the wheel spin, and even then you are rewarded with next to no points. Everything is about lighting those 11 cars on the backglass. The only other game with such a single minded focus is probably Gigi.

Accept the job, and you realize that is the beauty of the design. This machine doesn't tolerate random--every shot has to count, and every shot has to contribute to the goal of hitting those bumpers in order. Even if you do that, the element of luck comes into play, because getting the wheel to stop on a number you need becomes increasingly more difficult as the game goes on.

If you want to learn to stay focused and make every shot count, this is the game for you.

My only complaint is that once you make all 11 cars, the payoff is pretty slim. Even with the special lit (something you probably aren't going to manage till the 4th or 5th ball) you are unlikely to rack up many free games because you have to chase a single, rapidly changing, lit number all over the playfield.
6 years ago
It's a workman like game. Light K I N G T U T and you're sure to win some specials, and points come easy once you get the pop bumpers lit.

That said, let's be honest--no one loves or hates Tut because of the play, it's all about the artwork, and you either love it or hate it. Either way, it's some of the most unusual art ever put on a pinball. The Egyptian theme is super realistic, nothing cartoonish, nothing exaggerated. Tut and Four Million BC (with its realistic dinosaurs) are so completely different from any other game, that they both deserve respect, just because Bally actually had the nerve to make them. I happen to like it. Put it in a dark room, and it's beautiful.
6 years ago
No one did card games like Gottlieb, and King of Diamonds is a great example of them getting it right. Nothing fancy, just a solid "get the cards and light the specials" game, but it keeps you coming back game after game for more.
6 years ago
With Gigi either you "get it" or you don't. It's a game for Old School pinheads who know how to flip and nudge, and don't need a lot of gimmicks. It'll drive you crazy, and it's very unforgiving, but it'll also keep you coming back for more. If you win a game on Gigi, you've earned it.

The artwork is a weird mix of clowns and showgirls (with a couple of daschunds thrown in for good measure)--don't even try to make sense of it, just go with it. The flippers are a mile apart, the side lanes are brutal, and the mix of pop and dead bumpers want to make you scream. Rules? There's only one rule--light all the reds or all the yellows. That's it, now go do it. Pure pinball without all the gimmicks.

A brilliant game.