Funhouse 2.0 review
A story about how our Rudy got his Nightmare
The Copenhagen connection…
This story starts in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was November 2021. My pinball buddy Marten has an acquaintance there who wanted to sell his collection of four Bally/Williams 90’s games in one deal. We negotiated a nice price and made the long drive of 500 miles and an impossible flight of stairs to pick up the games out of a basement. All in all it was a great road trip,
One of these games was to be mine: a 1990 Williams Funhouse. I have always been a fan of Pat Lawlor's games, ever since I started collecting pinball machines back in 1998 with a Twilight Zone. So this game was always on my list. I also own an Earthshaker and used to own a Whirlwind (sold it, stupid, ugh). My brother own Roadshow and Gofers. Long story short: We think his games are fun and offer great variation and gameplay.
Less than two weeks after the pickup, I had barely played 20 games on my “new” Funhouse, a story on Pinballnews caught my eye: “Funhouse: Rudy’s Nightmare announced”. Essentially a completely new version of Funhouse that updates your game to modern standards in terms of rules, animations and sound. Just when I got a Funhouse, what are the changes?!
To say that I was interested in this kit is an understatement. I had to have it!
Fast Forward to May of this year. After what seemed like an endless wait, I finally received my Funhouse 2.0 kit.
1 + 1 = 2.0
Funhouse 2.0 is essentially a conversion kit, which makes sense considering todays parts shortage. It also makes sense price-wise as this kit costs less than a third of what a new pinball machine will set you back for nowadays. Still, the price tag is nothing to sneeze at and then there’s the matter of owning a nice Funhouse to install it in to (try getting your hands on a Funhouse these days).
But I do think that converting an old proven game, like Funhouse, is a great idea as it allows for having two different games in the space of a single machine (and aren’t we all out of space here on Pinside).
Even with its modern aesthetics, Rudy’s Nightmare stays loyal to the original game and the theme of Rudy and his Funhouse. The story, artwork style, color palette, quirky theme, sounds and music all stay close enough to what Pat Lawlor and his team cooked up in 1990. In fact, the original playfield and cabinet artwork go well with the new “horror” themed backbox art that is included in the kit.
What’s even cooler, as I said earlier, is the fact that the software allows you to switch between playing the new Rudy’s Nightmare or the original version of Funhouse. More on that later.
The rebuild process
But first I had to roll up the sleeves and install the kit in my game. The process is 100% reversible as no permanent modifications are required.
The kit arrives in a sturdy cardboard box. Inside, you’ll find:
- Installation Manual
- FAST Pinball WPC-89 board
- PinSound sound board
- Replacement Mystery Mirror (mini display)
- New speaker panel with a full-colour DMD-sized 14-inch LCD display and new speaker system
- New translite
- Interior cabinet artwork decals (“art blades").
According to the folks at Pedretti, installing this kit in your Funhouse game should not take longer than an hour. I timed it and it was actually less!
You start by removing the Williams CPU and Sound boards and replace them with the respective Fast and Pinsound boards in the kit. All connectors are compatible, so that part's pretty easy.
Then you replace the original speaker panel with a completely new one, which includes a set of nice quality speakers to make the new soundtrack really pop.
Finally, you replace the mirror assembly on the playfield with the mini LCD display in the kit. This only involves loosening a couple of nuts and pushing some wiring through the existing holes in the playfield.
You can optionally install the art blades too. I haven’t done that (yet).
After double checking all my wiring and connections it was time to turn the game on for the first time. I have to admit: booting takes a bit longer than I would like - as is the case with all electronics nowadays (I’m looking at you computer, TV and cellphone)! Anyways, Funhouse 2.0 is no exception as I clocked the boot-up time at about 100 seconds. On the bright side, that’s just enough time to pour myself a nice cold IPA.
Once the game is booted, the general illumination lights up and Rudy looks up to the display and says “Take your pick, bucko!”. The LCD shows two options: The original Funhouse and Rudy’s Nightmare, which you can select with either the left or right flipper button. Hitting start will boot up the selected version of the game. You can easily return to this selection screen at any time by holding the start button for a few seconds.
Before I dive into 2.0, I would like to start by looking at the original version for a second.
Original” Funhouse 1.0
Picking the left option in the menu screen will start “original” Funhouse, which I have been told is an emulation running on the Fast board. It runs really well and I found no issues in the few original games I played (honestly, I have mostly been playing the 2.0 software since the install).
Things worth mentioning are that the LCD will emulate the two 16-character alphanumeric displays, but this is done in quite a large font. Maybe a bit too large? It would be cool if this was a setting so I could make it look a bit more like the original Funhouse alphanumeric display panel.
Remember how, during the install, I replaced Rudy’s mirror assembly with a mini display? In the original Funhouse emulation, Pedretti cleverly emulate the entire mirror with its six lamps on this small display, which works pretty well.
Note: on my photo the mini display is adorned by a new 3D prototype “frame”, which I don’t think is included in the kit at this time but was a gift from Dutch Pinsider ASMNL, (who designed it) and is also on the Pedretti team.
Okay, let’s enter the “nightmare" and boot up Rudy 2.0 :-)
In the original game, the goal was to get Rudy to sleep so you could gain control of the Funhouse. In Rudy’s Nightmare, we are actually brought into Rudy’s dreams. And boy, does he have some crazy nightmares!
While it starts pretty innocent with a mode called “Duck Hunt”, things progressively get weirder where you battle clones of Rudy and even have to fight an actual Hot Dog! There are also nods to popular horror themes in the animations, I noticed an animation of Rudy on a tricycle in a hallway full of doors (reference to The Shining). Rest assured though, the game is totally kids friendly, there’s nothing my six year old couldn’t handle.
But let’s not get ahead of myself. Rudy 2.0 starts up with an impressive attract mode featuring a polished package of game titling, credits and high scores. I especially like the animated logo.
Hitting the start button begins an intro sequence. We hear Rudy say: “Meanwhile, in the funhouse…” and a clock is seen ticking away. We see a sleeping Rudy and all the ingredients for a perfect nightmare, including clowns and Jolly Chimps (monkey with cymbals toy) and Evil Rudy and his army of Rudy clones along with an evil laughter sound byte. The sound quality is really crisp and clear and the music (by Italian composer Zanhell) sounds great: Modern yet entirely acceptable for a 90’s game. Rudy itself is brought to life by voice actor Mark Silk and he does a convincing job (following in the footsteps of Ed Boon who voiced the original Rudy).
As a ball sits waiting in the shooter lane, the mini display shows a clear directive: “Collect 60 minutes to light mirror”. As I quickly find out, (most) switch hits will each award 5 minutes while some shots, like the ramp, will award you 15 minutes at once.
As you plunge, the music kicks up a notch and gets you in the groove. My first ball drains quickly but luckily Funhouse 2.0 knows ball save, so my ball is returned to the shooter lane. As I leave my ball lying there for a while to listen to the cool music, I can hear various sound bytes of Rudy’s crazy voice: “I need to wake up” and “I though we were friends!” and sometimes a pretty funny “Heeellloooo?”. But also some directives like: “shoot the ball” and “spell step to open crazy steps”. Lots of variety here.
As I plunge again I manage to hit the right hand side mystery scoop and am awarded with a cool “hide hurry up”. The game instructs me to quickly hide in any scoop. Of course I fail miserably and drain hard.
The bonus countdown is pretty cool. It shows the cymbal monkey and details your bonus over various aspects of the game, like Rudy Hits, Hours Used, Tilt Warnings.
Okay, ball two. I plunge and complete my minutes towards the first mode: “Duck Hunt”, lit at the mirror scoop. The objective is pretty clear: Shoot the left ramp to hit a duck. First duck for 250k, then 500k and finally 750k. Additional ducks each score 1 million. Some of the polish in the game code immediately jumps out to me, because when I hit Rudy’s head instead of the ramp he says: “Don’t hit me! Hit the ducks!” - Nice.
As I try my best at the mode (hitting everything except that ramp) I manage to spell S-T-E-P and as I finally shoot the left ramp, the diverter brings my ball to the left outlane and into the left side shooter lane. The game displays a crazy looking’ dunk the dummy doll hanging above a barrel of radioactive green blob and tells me to “Melt the clone”. I can now plunge the left plunger up the steps and collect one of the awards. The bottom two holes award “light lock”, plunging too hard will award you nothing. It would be cool if these awards would sometimes be different but for now they seem fixed.
Overall, I find the rules pretty easy to comprehend but obviously deeper and more varied than the original Funhouse. The basic concept is always to advance minutes to the next hour to light the next award or mode in the mirror scoop. The awards are basic awards, like a 10 second ball saver or lighting the million shot at Rudy’s head. The modes are longer and most have more complex goals.
As I progress through several games I get to see more and more of Rudy’s weird dreams in the modes.
The “Evil Clones” is a two-ball multi ball where hitting Rudy’s head awards increasing jackpots. 1M, 2M, 3M, 4M… Completing 4 jackpots awards super jackpot of 10M, after which the clones return for another round.
In “Don’t you want a balloon?” the objective is to let the pop bumpers ‘release’ balloons. Each 10th balloon awards 250k. In other words: keep that ball in the pops!
In “Hot-Dog Combat” you are fighting… a hot dog! The side bank of hot dog targets all trigger various Mortal Combat style attacks on the sausage. It’s both crazy and also pretty cool. Awards start at 225k for an attack and increase 25k per attack with a maximum of 400k.
In the multiball “Rudy & The Monkizz” the goal is to assemble a band. The mode starts with the monkey behind the drums playing a killer beat. By hitting a set amount of switches you add several other band members until the band is complete and makes a transformation into.. oops, sorry no spoilers! You can jam for big points. Rudy will now look like a famous high heeled bass player :-)
There’s also a video mode. It’s called “Haunted Rollercoaster” and I’m afraid I have to admit that I couldn’t quite understand what I had to do. Hopefully I can figure it out in future plays.
When you reach 12 o’ clock, the game music will change and the mini display tells you it’s time to defeat Evil Rudy! You need to lock three balls, then a multi ball starts. The goal: complete a bunch of different shots which will all ‘hurt’ Evil Rudy. The order is Left Loop, Left Ramp, Mirror Scoop, Lock lane, trapdoor lane and finally the mouth. A nice challenge for sure!
And there you have it, as far as the code goes. Sounds like a lot? It is! It’s apparent that the team that worked on this game (Team Pinball, lead by Janos Kiss) went out of their way.
So is it all 100% satisfaction? For the most part: yes! The code is stable and there’s a lot of content that totally refreshes the old classic. It’s fun and everyone in the game room loves it.
However, don’t expect the depth and strategy of a modern Stern game. At its core, Funhouse 2.0 is still a 90’s game, albeit one with a heck of a lot more audiovisual content. Maybe some more strategic awards could be added in a future update. For example, it would be cool if the the three awards on the STEPs ramp were three different awards with strategic value. For example, the top hole could award a 30 second playfield score doubler a la Scared Stiffs double trouble (strategic choice: shoot it before entering Evil Clones). The current ‘light lock’ on all three holes of the STEPs ramp is a bit, uhm, uninspired.
And then there’s one other negative that I have to mention: the multi balls and the lack of an auto plunger.
Multiball, but not really.
Funhouse does not have an auto plunger. In itself that’s no problem (I actually like manual plungers) but Rudy’s Nightmare does have a ball saver at the beginning of its multiballs. Draining a ball during the start of a multiball will put that ball back in the shooter lane, but not plunge it.
Beginners will not notice that shooter lane ball, and the game makes no mention of it. There is also no incentive for the more experienced players to plunge that shooter lane ball, so essentially the games allows one to continue a multi ball with a single ball. And that’s cheating! :-)
Maybe a rule can be implemented to discourage this. E.g. disabling jackpots when there’s a ball in the shooter lane. Or maybe half all playfield scores during the multi ball when the shooter lane switch is engaged? As it stands, I noticed quite a few people already exploiting this in our gameroom and playing “easy” multiball. Especially during a mode like Evil Clones this is a very lucrative exploit.
There really is a lot going on in Funhouse 2.0 and I’m honestly very impressed by the quality of the package. For starters, the parts included in the kit. A rock solid Fast + Pinsound combo along with a well manufactured speaker panel (+ mini display) turn this classic 90’s pin into a totally fresh game. The art blades look great (although I still have to install them, awaiting a shop job of the game first). Everything fits perfectly. Code is pretty solid. Music, sound and artwork all work together well. I really think Pedretti hits the nail on the head by staying close to the original theme and the game looks as if it could have rolled out of that Williams factory (if they’d have had LCD displays in their games back then).
As I mentioned above, the rules are about the same depth and complexity as a 90’s Bally/Williams title. And obviously the game shoots the same as original Funhouse. Aside from the occasional bug (I was on 0.86 beta) and that multiball “exploit” I am very happy with the kit.
Is it worth the price? Coming in at around $2000 the kit certainly isn’t cheap. But if you own a Funhouse and love how that plays, then there’s no excuse not to save up and add this kit! I give it a thumbs up and recommendation.
Disclaimer. Pedretti sent me this kit at a discount, but they had no influence whatsoever on the content of this review. These are all my own thoughts and experiences.