swampfire's ratings

Pinsider swampfire has rated 36 machines.

This page shows all all these ratings, and forms swampfire's personal top 36.

swampfire's rating weights

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Rating comments

swampfire has written 35 rating comments:

35 days ago
I just finished installing a new playfield in my C37, and put in about 20 games. I’ll compare it to Abra Ca Dabra (which I own) and Strange World (which I foolishly sold).

Art: the playfield is perfection, and the backglass is great if you don’t look too closely at the scientist. As a friend said, she just looks a little...off. I’d rank C37 behind ACD and SW on art. But it’s Gordon Morrison, and the art is better than 90% of the pins of this era. It looks nice in a room.

Layout: C37 shoots well. It’s tough to get the ball back to the ABCD rollovers, and the kick out hole at the top is surprisingly difficult. The bagatelle is lucrative but also dangerous and there are an few ways to lose the ball, one being in the middle of the the run. I’d rank the layout a tie with ACD and SW. Ball times are about normal, and it’s plenty challenging to keep the ball in play.

Rules: this is where C37 is a little disappointing. If you’re playing in a competition, you should know that the thermometer “advances” are worth 0 points. You’ll get 5k for every lit white circle, whether “Double Advance” is lit or not. The game could have been so much better if the thermometer counted down as bonus at the end of the game. When we play this in league, I’ll tell players to add 25K points if they fill up the thermometer and light special. That will make it worth going for. Setting the thermometer aside, scoring is heavily weighted toward the bagatelle. A perfect run is 20k points, and on average it’s worth 10k. By contrast the drops are always 500 (unless I’m missing something). The game would be better balanced if the lit white circles were worth 1000 each, instead of 5000.

I hate to end on a down note. C37 is still a lot of fun to play, and completing the thermometer is a fun goal on its own. It’s just no match for games like ACD and SW, which reward strategic shooting.
11 months ago
This game is the heir to my “tough but fair” slot, previously filled by Iron Man and No Fear before it. This is not a pin that rewards flailing. I’ve had multiballs where I tried that and hit absolutely nothing. Nope, for this game you’re going to have to cradle and aim during multiballs, and manage the “stack”. I know it’s making me a better player. After about 12 games on JP2 I walked over to Space Station and blew it up. Kudos to Keith Elwin for making a “player pin” that flows really well once you get the shots dialed in. And by the way, I think the art on the Pro is exceptional.
1 year ago
I first played Laser Cue at my first ever “pinball party” around 2001, and I remember thinking “Damn, this pin is fun.” 17 years went by and I never saw another one, until one popped up on Craigslist this Friday. I am SO glad I got past the beefcake artwork and lack of speech. This game absolutely rocks, no saucers to slow it down and some surprisingly great rules. Multiball would be out of place, because this game is all about aim. You can sometimes cradle the ball on the itty-bitty upper flipper, and use it to collect the 8-ball shot. Another cool thing: if you hit 6,7 or 8 when they aren’t lit, you can build up their values to 50k (100k for the 8 ball), and really cash in when it’s their turn to flash at you. The 1-5 shots are easy to aim at, but dangerous. Shoot the right targets with the left flipper, and left targets with one of the right flippers, or else you’ll make a “bank shot” straight to the outlanes. Genius layout.

I thought this was a Mark Ritchie game, and it may as well be. It’s similar to Sorcerer, but more open. The same artist is at work here, and she’s great. You may not like the goofy helmets or the the bared abs, but you can’t deny that her work is worthy of an early 80’s Heavy Metal magazine. The sounds borrow a lot from Joust, and they’re great to me, a lot less repetitive than Black Knight (which I also own). Hearing the bell for a split second on every made shot is satisfying. Get the 8 ball, then make that same shot again to collect the Extra Ball, and everyone within 20 feet will know you got it.

Listen, I’m a Bally guy. I never thought I’d say this, but Williams pins of the same era are just more fast paced. I feel the same way with Laser Cue that I did with Iron Man, it’s an adrenaline rush. It definitely has that “one more game” appeal. You feel like a rock star the first time you pass 1M. I think this pin will be the highlight of my home tournaments now.
2 years ago
I traded my IM for a Guardians at my friend’s arcade, and I’m pretty happy about it. I specifically wanted Guardians because it’s a tough game, and I wanted a worthy successor to IM for my collection. I had to tweak a few things to make it fair, and I suspect that’s why it’s rated low by location players. Once I got the game and myself dialed in, I started to love the game. The rules are great in 0.90, much better than AS at this point. Layout is much more like GOT or IM than MET, mean and fast. My only complaints are a few reused sounds from AS (easy to fix), and art that’s a little more colorful than I like (but my favorite color is brown). I’m expecting to keep the game for at least a few years. It’s a great league/tournament pin, and a great “one more play” pin, like IM was. It helps that I like the theme and the music, but the bottom line is great rules and layout.

STERN, one urgent change request: please don’t turn interrupt the Awesome Mix songs for shot fanfare audio, like the Groot lock. Let us just enjoy the music when we’re not in a mode! When the music turns down it’s like an 8-track player is changing tracks. And we all know the Awesome Mix is on cassette. Thanks!
3 years ago
I kept coming back to this EM at Pinburgh. The art is just average, but it has a lot going on for an EM. Targets A and B light the outlanes for special and extra ball. C and D light the spinner target for big points, but it's a dangerous shot. E and F light a saucer back up top for double bonus. The layout is well-balanced but asymmetrical. Play this with friends, and it's a great time.
3 years ago
I prefer this game to EBD for gameplay, but the backglass art is so bad. Actually not the art, but the process - it could have looked much better if it was screen printed. Anyway, with a better backglass it would be a fun one to own for while. Great league and tournament game!
3 years ago
I finally bit the bullet and bought an AS. I thought I was done buying new Sterns, but AS is simply the most fun I've had playing pinball. Donny's art here exceeds his excellent work on MET. It's more refined and detailed, and the colors are perfect. Layered on top of this is some friggin' amazing LCD animation work. The layout is unique (in my collection), and the rules are fun. Jacky's voice gets annoying, but that's what Pinball Browser is for. I'm sort of neutral on Aerosmith as a band, but the songs chosen here work really well for pinball. They're mostly from the band's first 4 albums, and give the game a true classic rock vibe. There's not a bad song on here, so I don't feel tempted to change them out like I do on Metallica.
4 years ago
Steve Ritchie designed GOT with an upper playfield, and removed it for the Pro. This makes the Pro a very different game, and opinions vary on which version is more fun. While I prefer the Prem/LE to own, I think the Pro is almost as fun to play and you get about 90% of the rules and scoring with it. The Pro translite is uninspired, but it's easy to replace. Pro owners will have fewer problems with the orbits, since the VUK and diverter are not there.

The Pro suffers from bogus ratings, so ignore the ranking. Dwight Sullivan rules and Steve Ritchie speed make it a great pin that doesn't get old.
4 years ago
I resisted this game as long as I could; GOTLE is my first LE. What sold me on the game were the rules, sound quality, lighting effects and playfield layout. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to lighting, but the color-changing inserts really blew me away. "Winter is Coming" is a very cool lighting effect. I really love everything about the game except some of the callouts, which I can improve with Pinball Browser.

The upper playfield is a huge addition, and I don't mind the ball disappearing from view while I shoot under it. If my shot was too weak, I'll know it and expect the ball to come back. My only real complaint about the upper playfield is that the castle is kind of cheesy-looking. I know that it's made to survive airballs, but it would have been nice to have a 3D-printed facade here. I'm sure the after-market folks will take care of this.

I don't understand comments like "the upper playfield doesn't add much". If you know the rules, it adds a lot! Modes can be extended and completed there, and it adds a multiball. Plus, playing multiballs on multiple levels is a rush! The Pro is nice, but I'm glad I went for the full game.
4 years ago
POTC has excellent music, callouts, dots and looks beautiful. But let's talk about the rules! POTC is much more like IM than LOTR, and that gives it a strong "just one more game" appeal. Rather than slog through modes, your goal is to set up the perfect multiball, and cash in jackpots with multipliers. Most people walk up to the game and focus on the ship, which is missing most of the game. Specifically, this is how you blow up POTC: (1) shoot the Tortuga ramp enough times to prime it for multiball. (2) Shoot the chest enough times to light jackpots. (3) Sink the ship. (4) Immediately shoot Tortuga, and stuff as many balls up there as you can. (5) Kill the Kraken, and play out Tortuga multiball by collecting jackpots on the rest of the playfield (shoot Tortuga as often as possible to get jackpot multipliers).

If there's a weakness to the rules, it's that so many shots are required to start HEART multiball, and that it resets every ball. And it would have been nice to have a few modes, including a video mode. POTC is not deep by any means, but it has a lot of replay value for me and my family.

POTC has a unique layout that not everyone will love. I think the concerns about "stop and go" are overblown, but I have other games for loops and orbits. POTC is special. Grab a mug of your favorite grog, and enjoy the chance to grab a sip once in a while.
4 years ago
Great pin, have enjoyed it at all of the shows I've gone to. Used ones don't seem to come up too often locally; when one does I won't hesitate.
5 years ago
I really like pins with odd asymmetrical layouts and great artwork - my favorite game of all time is Game Plan's Andromeda. I got to play Strange World recently at an art show in Toronto, and that really cemented my opinion of it: I wanted one! I finally lucked up and brought home a nice one.

While there are no drop targets, I don't really miss them on this game. There are 12 total targets: 6 rollovers, and 6 standups. If you can cradle the ball (not easy!), you can backhand the green and yellow 2s pretty reliably. The toughest shots are the 1 and 4 just above the left and right drains, which require skillful Shatzing. Once I've lit up a few columns, I try to keep sending the ball back to the top rollovers. The danger zones are the yellow #2 rollover, the "big mouth guys" triangle under the #1 target, and the exit from the left side of the pop bumpers. Keeping the ball in play requires skillfull nudging. Drop catches are especially tough on Strange World, because any residual momentum can send the ball up and over the sides. Strange World indeed!
5 years ago
My first experience with Mata Hari was at the Georgia Pinball Open, held at a bar called "The Independent". I was the lowest seed (16th), so I decided to drink some beers and enjoy myself. Long story short, I made it to the final round. I was the lowest seed, so I couldn't pick much. But I did pretty well, and finally got to pick the last game of the round: Mata Hari. I got into a zone where the world was completely tuned out - it was just me and the A/B orbits, drop banks and chimes - totally zen. I finished 1st in that match, and won the tournament and $600.

2 years later (last week), I finally gave in and bought a "player" Mata Hari. It's replacing an Abra Ca Dabra (EM) which is also beautiful, but is no match for MH in the gameplay department. I've got mine set up for "Novelty", so the 2nd drop bank completion awards 100k. This really changes the balance of the game, making the saucer a bit less important. I get the same adrenaline rush from MH that I do from Iron Man - very fast paced. The layout is similar to Jungle Queen/Princess, so I've taken them off my wish list. My one knock on Mata Hari is that the very last tone in the "off to the races" fanfare is flat! I thought it was just mine until I watched some YouTube videos. Nice use of the 4 chimes, though.
5 years ago
Best classic wide-body I've ever played, and I think I've played them all. Embryon has better art, but I very much prefer the gameplay of Algar. Anybody want to trade?

My rating may be skewed a bit, because I just played an Algar restored by Pheobe, and it has to be the nicest one on the planet. Gorgeous restoration, makes me wish I was an artist.
5 years ago
I fell in love with TF at the Southern Fried Gameroom Expo, and added a bgresto backglass (highly recommended). The rules are dead simple, and I'm surprised someone complained that it's hard to understand. Basically: (1) Spell TIME in the tunnel to start "Snail Time"; (2) inlanes and "1" rollover add time, (3) complete rollovers to increase the multiplier during "Snail Time". You can also spell FANTASY to increase the normal bonus multiplier.

TF has cool "Defender"-like sounds, unusual rules and great Oursler layout. The artwork is zany and trippy - perfect for my black light art room. Only 608 were made, so not many people have had the pleasure of playing it.
5 years ago
I went to a friend's house tonight for league, and enjoyed Hot Shots more than any other game. It's partly because I'm a drop target junkie, but it's also a fast-playing pin with a lot of flow. The accelerator on the right orbit is surprising the first few times you experience it - the ball is at the left flipper in no time. Instead of magnets, there are spinning wheels like the ones that used to make your Hot Wheels fly. The backglass art is classic Premier - awesomely cheesy. The theme is one I've always loved, a shooting gallery. The concept is similar to "Ready, Aim, Fire" which is a better game, but is probably much harder to find.
5 years ago
Updated: I've had NASCAR for 6 weeks now, and my opinion of it has gone up. I created a diagram of the rules, and doing that made me realize that it's as deep as LOTR. The game is packed with mechanisms: 6 diverters, 3 accelerator magnets, 3 VUKs, 3 drop targets and a "spinning car". The hauler and test car mechanisms are clever. I'm not a Nascar fan at all, and the callouts are a little grating at first (they grow on you). The music is pure Chris Grannar, very system11-like. The game is all about earning CHAMP letters to get to the wizard mode (I've gotten close several times). It's probably the most balanced game I've ever played: all the shots are important. I like that after lighting Extra Ball, you have to earn it by completing the drops. "Hard Racin'" rewards combos of the right ramp and right orbit.

I suspect that NASCAR suffers on location, because there are so many mechanical things that could break and make it no fun to play. However a dialed-in version of this game is fast and very fun. Those few laps at the beginning just give me time to grab a quick swig of beer.

The garage kickout can be fixed so it doesn't go down the middle. Use mylar to tape an 1/8" piece of cardboard on the left side of the scoop. That will push the ball to one side as it goes out.
6 years ago
I fell in love with JB at PAPA when I played it in B division. I love the progressive jackpots, the visor/lock mechanism and the bagatelle over the pop bumpers. I haven't seen many people talk about this, but it's one of the cooler aspects of the game. If you don't nudge well, the ball goes down a hole or into the shooter lane. And there are 4 possible outcomes. One weak point is the spiral ramp ("Vortex"). The real skill shot is to hit the traveling row of lights and open the visor. I'd just as soon skip the Vortex and get right to that. Overall, I think Jack*Bot plays like a great System 11 pin with a DMD, which is not bad at all. I would pick Doctor Who over Jack*Bot, but not by much.
6 years ago
Space Station has the best light show and audio of all the system 11s. Lack of inlanes makes a unique challenge, and if the slings are adjusted correctly they act as inlanes about 50% of the time. Half the fun is trying to judge whether the ball will roll down to the flipper, or pop away. Also, the space created by this arrangement makes it a very open game. The two lock shots are satisfying and appropriately difficult. If you're playing this competitively, you're better off ignoring multiball! Instead, get to the upper playfield as often as possible (by shooting the right VUK). The key to high scores is to max out the pop bumper value at 3,000 (advanced by completing 1-2-3), and making the Stop-and-Score shot with a high multiplier (advanced by completing U-S-A).

The art is great *except* for the middle of the playfield, which is reserved for the SHUTTLE-STATION values. This harkens back to the EM era, and takes away from the overall art package IMO.
6 years ago
I just bought my Avatar after having it for 3 months in a temp trade. I've done 7 other temp trades, and this is the first time I liked a "guest pin" enough to buy it. Avatar is like the love child of Congo and Iron Man. It has a great orchestral score and a goofy scifi theme (like Congo), but the gameplay is very similar to IM. I pretty much fell in love with Avatar the first time I locked a ball in the Link. The shaker integration is great. I decided that if I had to, I'd sell my Congo in order to keep Avatar. Hopefully it won't come to that. :-)

My taste in pinball audio is fairly eclectic; I like the music in CSI, for example. I think Avatar has hands-down the best music of any pin; it's complementary to Metallica.

Avatar seems a bit deeper than IM, but you only get one wizard mode. That's fine with me, since I'll never get Do-or-Die multiball in IM anyway. I love the opportunity to set up double scoring for SJPs, and to stack modes. If you watch the PAPA videos, you'll see what a great competition pin Avatar is. PAPA competitors usually go for Link and Ampsuit MBs, because the outlanes are brutal in a tournament setup. But the main attraction for home play is the challenge of completing all of the modes and starting Final Battle.

I could see a top-ranked A division player getting bored with Avatar. For the rest of us, it's a great game when you want to get your ass kicked 10 times, and then have that one great game where it all comes together. I loved that about IM, and I love Avatar for the same reason.
7 years ago
Played this one in competition at PAPA. I thought it was a blast! I love the shooting gallery theme, and it flows really well. Rules make it feel more like an EM than a SS game, but the sounds are great (if a little repetitive).
7 years ago
Metallica is a grand slam! I never listened to the group, but my kid was a fan. I'm a fan of Dirty Donny's artwork, so I took a chance on our first NIB since LOTR. Instead of gushing about how great it is, I'll mention the few things that aren't. The snake shot is a bit too hard on mine, and Sparky's voice can be a little grating at times (like Fran Drescher on speed). The rules are already great at v1.06, and most people aren't aware of half the rules in the game. It took me a while to work out what's going on with the inserts (see "Metallica Owner's Thread"). I highly recommend a PinPac and good set of headphones. Party on!
7 years ago
I've had several offers to buy mine. I've sold Centaur and Black Hole, but I think Embryon is a keeper. It's not just a beautiful game, it's also pretty fun to play. Getting multiball started isn't easy. I kind of wish there was double scoring during multiball, but basically you just get the satisfaction of starting it. I definitely recommend Oliver's ROM, which adds a little light show.
7 years ago
This is a very tough pin, not one for beginners. Ramps are steep, shots are narrow, and the outlanes are a bit greedy. I've played hundreds of games on No Fear and Iron Man, and DH is much harder. "Most of my partners end up dead."

The reward if you get the shots down? Very good flow, great modes with lots of hurry-ups, and a surprising amount of depth for 1995. The humor is great if you appreciate Clint's low-key demeanor. Music is very classy, and I love the end-of-ball music which sounds like bongos. Bongos were big in Dirty Harry movies!

To get the most from DH, you need to get the left ramp shot down so you'll be "promoted" and you can start the Safehouse assignments. Ignore the HQ scoop for the skill shot, and use the gun to shoot the left ramp instead! It's way more satisfying, and it's a good way to get promoted quickly.

I like the artwork a lot, not sure why others don't. It has an 80's vibe to it, but I think the line drawings are very well done.
7 years ago
This is a great one to own for a few years. Layout, artwork and rules are great and it's just a fun, fun pin. Audio quality however is fairly low quality, especially when you get pins with DCS and SAM sound into your collection. If the audio was redone using modern technology, this game would be a top 20 pin for sure.
8 years ago
Hard game to find. I started looking for one after playing it at Lyons Classic Pinball, and found one with a CPR playfield. Centaur's playfield artwork is in my top 3 for the era (the other 2 are Fathom and Embryon), and the sound is amazing. Gameplay isn't "deep" but is fairly sophisticated: ORBS and 1234 targets must be hit sequentially. Combining inline drop targets with a captive ball was genius.

I sold my Centaur for a few reasons. The ORBS targets are flaky unless you mod them (search YouTube for "centaur drop target"). I also didn't feel up to painting the cabinet after I bought the stencils, and the price had risen to a point where the fun/$$ ratio no longer made sense.

If you're a die-hard SS junkie, you'll love this game. But if you're drifting into DMD like I am, it's pricy in restored condition. My advice is to find a beat-up Centaur, and just enjoy it as it is.
8 years ago
Very creative and high-quality toys (skull and microscope). Starting centrifuge MB during another MB is the way to get the most out of CSI. SFX, speech and music are outstanding. I recommend leaving both posts enabled; this is not meant to be a "flow" game. But it's still really fun; the deep Multiballs are very similar to Iron Man (a Ronnie Lopp signature). The three modes are great too; I love Ballistics - shooting at bullets! Definitely no corners cut on this game.

I bought CSI to flip after a year or so, but I think it's a long-term keeper now. The music is hands-down the best of any pin I've owned - it's great if you love cool jazz and gritty cop show music.
8 years ago
I guess this is a "love it or hate it" pin, and I love it. RFM definitely gets the most play at my parties. It's fairly linear and mode-based, as are many 90's pins. Sound quality is excellent, even with the stock speaker. RFM is a steal at $2500, less than half the price of its older brother. Plus it's just cool owning a part of pinball history. It's beautiful too, with the Youssi / Freres artwork.

Gameplay is great, a lot like AFM but with interactive targets - I love splatting Martians. The humor in the modes is great to me. Maintenance is easier than DMD pins, but the computer scares me. I bought a spare Cyrix CPU, because I don't want to spend the $$$ to upgrade to NuCore. Board-level repair all the way!
8 years ago
Gorgeous back glass on this game can't make up for the terrible layout. Too much clutter for me.
8 years ago
Great Mark Ritchie pin with the best backglass artwork ever. Hard to find one in good shape because most of them got played to death. I would have held onto mine if there was a CPR playfield in the pipeline.
8 years ago
I should have kept this one. Darn this limited space! Great game for 1200-1500, definitely worth having for a few years. Audio is well-served by a good subwoofer. I didn't like James Spader talking so much, but it's not a deal-breaker.
8 years ago
Great game to own for a few years, but the gofers got annoying to me after a while. The jump ramp shot and Newton ball are good fun. Good quality game with excellent artwork.
8 years ago
I had this game for about 3 years. I sold it shortly after NGG, but I think Whirlwind is the better of those 2 games.

EDIT: I bought another WW, and will be doing a playfield swap once CPR finishes. It will probably stay in the collection this time.
8 years ago
I bought my LOTR NIB in 2003. There have been several times I got tired of it and thought about selling it, but if I step away from it for a few months I'm always glad I kept it. I've been told by friends that visit a lot that I am NOT to sell LOTR :-) There's a reason this game has held its value: it's well-executed, has great sound and speech, and flows really well. If I could only have on Gomez game, it would have to be either RFM or LOTR. I couldn't make that choice, so I have both.
8 years ago
IM is all about flow. There are no VUKs or saucers, so the ball never stops. Depth is comparable to T2 and other 90's DMDs. This is no LOTR or TSPP. IM is all about mode and multiball stacking. Where LOTR is like a dance partner, IM is like a sparring partner.

Strategy: beat Iron Monger MB on the first ball, use the second ball to set up the other modes, and then execute all the modes together on the 3rd ball. Try to start double scoring just before the wizard modes. On my best game, I had fast scoring, Bogeys, War Machine and Whiplash multiballs all running at once. It was a huge rush.