Veemonroe's ratings

Pinsider Veemonroe has rated 176 machines.

This page shows all all these ratings, and forms Veemonroe's personal top 176.


Rating comments

Veemonroe has written 176 rating comments:


6.080/10
9 days ago
Played a few times at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

Red Show has two nice banks of drop targets and a trio of standups in the middle of the playfield, arranged in a loose fan layout, making the pin overall fun to shoot. I wasn’t 100% on the rules, but it looked like the idea was to hit the lit standups for points, and then to smack the drops to advance your bonus.

The playfield was colourful and pleasing to look at, but - sadly - the appalling backglass let it down. No idea what the theme even is, but it seems to be something to do with pop stars who are… I dunno, in a red circus tent.

Anyway, it needed more than a modicum of skill to play and I’d heartily recommend it to EM fans who can endure the backglass.
6.128/10
9 days ago
Played a couple of times at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

I own Stern’s Godzilla and, thus, I can’t help making a comparison. Sega Godzilla has a massive Godzilla emerging from the playfield… and, well, that’s it.

The actual game is a couple of ramps and some drop targets, and the gameplay is largely about stacking multiballs. None of the mechs move (especially the Godzilla) and I spent my entire playtime wishing I was playing Batman Forever, also by Sega, which has a lot more going on.

The lighting and overall art style looks like Godzilla crossed with Blade Runner, i.e. very dark and rainy. In a darkened room, it would be hard to see the ball.
3.438/10
9 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

Honestly, I’m not sure if this was the specific machine I played or the 3 Coins pin, in general… but this was terrible. The ball bounced around the cluster of pops, and then immediately dribbled down off the bumper into the drain. No opportunity to nudge; I tried and immediately tilted.

So, basically, it was so luck-based in practice, it may as well have been a bagatelle. I’m sure fans of this pin will tell me it was set up wrong, and maybe it was, but it was c**p.

Not a massive fan of the artwork either. The designers of Caperville managed to design something that didn’t look like it was drawn by a 7-year-old girl in MS Paint, so I’m sure the artists working on this one could have also managed something that stood the test of time.
7.622/10
9 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

I really enjoyed playing Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy. It’s an EM with a solid layout for the period and some fun features, including a side flipper with a line of drops, and a double flipper arrangement that can ‘double-flipper bitch’ the player. The artwork is beautiful, as is the backglass, and - with a JJP Elton John PE on order - I’m a sucker for the theme.

The one I played was fast and fun. If I ever look for an EM, I’d could be open to owning one of these.
6.572/10
9 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

Honestly, this has terrible reviews, but it is nowhere the worst (or the worst looking) classic I’ve ever played. It has a pretty standard layout with a couple of orbits with spinners, some lanes and pops, and a remarkably fun U-turn shot midway down the playfield. As it’s a wide body, you’ve got four flippers (count them) to play with.

The mirrored, illuminated backglass is beautiful and I love the Giger-esque artwork. Not something I’d own, or suggest you should own (unless you get offered one super-cheap or are a huge fan of the Aliens theme). However, it’s a perfectly fine player for a couple of quarters.
5.018/10
9 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

This is apparently a rare pin and, frankly, this is a good thing. The backglass is at least as blurred as Hollywood Heat. It has the gimmick of four flippers arranged in two pairs, with a huge hole around the middle (on the ropes). The multi-flipper arrangement is difficult to get the hang of and creates as many opportunities for draining as 1950s EMs, which are far too luck-based to be fun. As such, the best technique seems to be to try to keep the ball in play in the upper playfield.

It does feature a very loud ‘end of round’ bell noise, which was fun in the Dutch Pinball Museum, but would be significantly less fun in a home collection in a fifteenth floor flat with bad-tempered neighbours.
9.220/10
10 days ago
Played for the first time at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

Funhouse felt, to me, probably the best pin of the late 80s/early 90s - an era that also spawned Pinbot and Whirlwind. The joy of this pin is a combination of the varied, challenging upper flipper shots and the fun theme, with Rudy howling (audibly, even in a noisy arcade) when you hit him in the face.

The combination of the toys, shots and theme make this a stone-cold classic of the ‘simple to learn, hard to master’ variety. It was a joy to play with a lot of kinetic satisfaction, more so than Roadshow (a later pin I like), which was sat next to it.
6.258/10
10 days ago
Played several times at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

It’s the definition of a ‘meh’ ‘forgettable’ pin. A fan layout with two main ramp shots that are fun to combo, but not terribly exciting/imaginative to shoot. Terrible red artwork and a ping-pong ball shooting mode in the backbox that is less fun/novel than merely annoying.

The central lock mechanism for multiball seems to be the main feature of the pin followed by RPG mode, which I can’t remember what it was despite only playing the pin yesterday.

I prefer Terminator 2 because, although the rules are simpler, it’s more focused in its objectives.

Not a bad pin and I’d definitely be delighted to play it as the only thing on location, but it is eminently forgettable with its main innovations done better elsewhere.
7.620/10
10 days ago
Played multiple times at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

Toy Story 4 is the definition of a ‘decent’ pin and, like most pre-Elton John JJPs, it desperately wants to be liked and I desperately wanted to like it more than I did.

It has JJPs usual stunning lighting, beautiful screens and high-quality presentation. The flippers felt a bit clicky and ‘meh’. The gameplay itself is milquetoast. The main shot is up a ramp to the left that could accommodate a tank. Otherwise, you can just shoot into the cluster of pop bumpers where the ball bounces about for a while. The skill shot seems unmakeably difficult (or just achieved by luck) whereas the rest of the pin lacks tension, except for a few timed pop-ups.

The pop-up Gabby made me wish I was playing The Hobbit, and the pop-up jump ramp made me wish I was playing No Good Gofers. In short, it just existed, rather than being something I actively wanted to own/play endlessly.

That said, the iPad tablet on the playfield makes it very easy to work out what to shoot once you start flipping, which is ideal for pinball newbies, and it has a well-scripted progression system of completing modes, etc. when the screen tells you to do so. The small flipper shot was actively fun, but - sadly - it was the only super-fun thing on the pin.

This pin definitely has an audience, but it isn’t me. Not sure whether it would work well with young kids (mine like Indy500 and The Walking Dead), but it’s definitely a relaxed and accessible title. I suspect it might appeal to people who also like Elvira House of Horrors, but are happy with more lights and less innuendo, fewer mechs and no boobs.
6.481/10
10 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

I liked the eye-catching blue cab, although - unfortunately - it didn’t seem to match the Excalibur theme (I expected something more nautical). The pin itself is a ‘knock down all the drop targets’ fest with a partitioned off upper playfield with extra flippers for the orange drops, and a central ramp.

It’s okay, but that’s all it is. It’s not the strongest Gottlieb of the era and is overshadowed by many other, better pins (especially in a museum with literally 100+ other pins).
7.035/10
10 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

South Park has some great toys, including a toilet and a Kenny bash toy who falls over when you ‘kill’ him. The shot geometry and rules are pretty standard, however, consisting of an unadventurous fan layout with about four shots (plus two main targets in the centre) and a ‘collect character three times’ set collection ruleset.

The animations were entertaining. I couldn’t hear the sound effects.

It was enjoyable, but I had no desire to return. Likely a good choice if you’re a huge South Park fan.
7.889/10
11 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

A very fun pin that reminds me a bit of JJP Elton John (I believe it’s by the same designer). It’s got an interesting layout - flowy, fun to shoot, but also challenging, and the EJ ruleset of completing songs in modes. I absolutely loved the Encore mode of a 45-second no-holds-barred multiball - it was totally unexpected, and the most fun surprise possible. I also enjoyed the dancing Elvis - it’s a super toy.

The artwork is obviously classic dork-era Stern assembled from blurred photoshop images, and inexplicably red. Music is great, with being Elvis.

This pin is down at 178, which is inexplicable to me. It’s criminally underrated. If you check my profile, I’ve rated more than 100 pins now, and this should be Top 100.
9.231/10
11 days ago
Finally got to play one at the Dutch Pinball Museum (and the Williams iPad app).

Honestly, this pin is criminally underrated. Whether it’s the variety of shots, including the Hole in One, the simple - but satisfying - ruleset (complete a round of golf while hitting gofers), or the goofy callouts from aforesaid gofers, this was fun… fun… FUN to play. I prefer it, on theme, to The Addams Family and on walk-up gameplay to Twiglet Zone.

The music is great, the timed gofers are great, the golf (a game I don’t play or like especially) was goofy and great. Possibly my favourite Pat Lawlor to date.
7.017/10
11 days ago
Played several times at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

A pretty standard playfield layout with ramps laid out in a rough fan, and a cluster of pops, but more satisfying to shoot than a significant fraction of other pins from the period. The only shot that seemed worth going for on my play (and I went through the replay) was the multiball, although I don’t think I actually got it and scored well regardless.

The playfield on the one I played was poorly lit. Rules aren’t terribly complex and, sadly, I couldn’t hear the call-outs. Probably one for the gents who like boobs (the one I played had an, erm, custom backglass).
6.628/10
11 days ago
Played a few times at the Dutch Pinball Museum.

Cyclone isn’t the greatest System 11 that I’ve played. It’s not even the best System 11 I played for the first time in the Dutch Pinball Museum.

It feels very much a novelty machine, with the main focus the Comet (easy), Cyclone (hard) and Ferris Wheel (boring) ramps/features, plus a difficult drop target. Below the ramps are a bunch of very dull pops and a handful of stand ups. It feels underpowered and dated somehow, especially given the flippers were relatively weak on the one I played.

The overall experience was akin to desperately trying to cross a fairground, but not being able to get to the rides somehow. And, when you did get to them, they weren’t terribly interesting and over quickly. The backglass art was also ‘meh’ as if it had been assembled in MS Paint.
5.643/10
11 days ago
Played at the Dutch Pinball Museum. I’m not a fan of Pac-Man, especially gimpy PAC-Man with blurry graphics and a joystick that moves like a drunk in treacle. Thus, I spent as much time on the small, dark, mediocre, lower pinball playfield as possible. It turned out this gave me power pills and made the ghosts on the arcade Pac-man easier to defeat, which is kinda clever, but it doesn’t make each individual game any better.

I can imagine fans of arcade games and pinball will love this one.
6.968/10
11 days ago
I was very keen to play Haunted House at the Dutch Pinball Museum as I’ve always been a fan of this, and its cousin Black Hole, on the Pinball Arcade app.

Sadly, I was disappointed. The general idea was similar to Spirit, which I like, with numbered standup targets to shoot for on the mid-level playfield, drop targets and standup targets on the upper playfield, and - like Black Hole - drop targets on the lower playfield.

However, unlike Spirit, the Haunted House seems somehow empty with two main targets on the left mid-level playfield, a scoop on the right, and only two or three other drop targets/stand-ups spread over the multiple playfields. The one I played was somewhat drifty and I found the playfield art, compared to Spirit/Black Hole, garish and oversimplified.
6.059/10
11 days ago
Counterforce is a slow, floaty Genie-like pin with a difference. Alien spacecraft descend the inserts below the drop targets and you need to shoot them down before they get to the bottom. Except the ball moves VERY SLOWWWLLYYY and the alien spacecraft commiserately moved QUITE slowly. Honestly, the pin I played, the ball drifted back to the flippers so slowly, and the spacecraft moved so slowly, the game played like geriatric space invaders.

Recommended if you like this sort of thing, but I’d personally buy/own something else.
5.866/10
12 days ago
Played a couple of times at the Dutch Pinball Museum. Rating may be skewed by the left flipper being sticky on the machine I played.

It reminded me a fair bit of Gottlieb’s Genie, being a wide floaty pin. However, there are fewer things to shoot for and the positioning of the two sets of flippers and spinner feels like it creates an ‘upper playfield’ where the ball can bounce about for long periods, without approaching the lower flippers, reducing the overall tension and excitement of the game.
7.542/10
12 days ago
Played once at the Dutch Pinball Museum (and I had to request to play this).

It was, erm, hilariously funny. Aim a stream of tiny balls constantly at lit targets, like firing a gatling gun or playing live-action space invaders. If you don’t hit the targets fast enough, i.e. instantly, the balls shoot back to you. Three hits from incoming balls and you lose the game. I lasted about three entertaining seconds, really enjoyed myself, but the attendant had disappeared before I could ask to play again.

It’s not exactly pinball, as it doesn’t have flippers, but it’s a fast, amusing arcade game in the same pinball-like tradition as Strikes n’ Spares. Highly recommended if you are a collector with a large collection who fancies a change in pace.
7.195/10
81 days ago
Played at Pinball Republic a couple of times.

A simple, but satisfying-to-shoot EM with two lovely banks of drop targets and a relatively straightforward layout. Unfortunately, the one in PBR felt slightly easy as I managed to knock down all the drops and then was desperately looking for a way to bring them back up (apparently there isn't one).

Scoring after you've knocked down the drops is apparently by looping the orbits and the pop bumpers, which is a bit sad as the drops are definitely the best bit.
7.265/10
3 months ago
Played at the London EAG trade conference.

There was a Pro and a Premium set up at the Electrocoin stand, so I got to play both and can compare and contrast.

PREMIUM (drum roll)

The Premium feels like the game that Stern intended to release. It feels a bit ‘dodgy seafront arcade on a rainy February afternoon’ in terms of the aesthetics, but much less so than the Pro. The pop-up shark is great. Not because it looks like a scary horror shark, but because it pops up regularly and it’s fun and - the first time you see it - it’s like ‘ooohhh, shark’. And, after that, you know when to shoot the shark (which is helpful).

It is… a very cute shark. A small, compact shark.. maybe, a baby shark (doo, doo, doo doo). I really enjoyed seeing it (not feeling the theme then, probably).

That said, the Prem is a bit swings and roundabouts compared to the Pro. On one hand, you get the pop-up teeny shark. On the other hand, you get an apparently pointless upper playfield.

With the Prem, as an intermediate player, I was struggling to get a good enough score to get a really good feel for the machine. However, I ended up in a loiter with some players who were way better than me, so I could get a reasonable picture of the gameplay from watching their games.

Keith Elwin, in one of his interviews, said that he didn’t like upper playfields because the ball stayed there too long, and it removed the peril from the game. He designed a ‘quick exit’ playfield for Jaws and my experience, and watching others, is that the ball exits the upper playfield almost immediately. And, while it is there, it doesn’t seem to do that much.

This wouldn’t be so bad, but I found the upper playfield shot (and, weirdly, the shot beside it to the left of the boat) really difficult on the Prem. The ball trickled back out or rejected so many times. Having looked at the geometry of the playfield on the Prem, the problem seems to be that there’s a wave ramp (half-pipe) behind the boat, and the ball doesn’t seem to easily make that ramp onto the upper playfield. This problem obviously doesn’t exist on the Pro.

I will make the caveat that I’ve never seen the film Jaws. With that in mind, based on my play of Stern Jaws, this is a pin about shark fishing. It’s kinda the sequel to Fish Tales where, instead of a rowing boat in a lake, you take out a little trawler into the deep ocean… tie some knots, smoke moodily with your fellow fishermen, occasionally fire a harpoon at a passing shark… all the while setting up your bloodied bait bucket for the final hunt.

I’ve talked a lot about the artwork already, but the red font superimposed on the film clips adds to the ‘slightly-decayed seaside resort pier arcade’ feel.

The shark, obviously, doesn’t eat the ball and upper playfield doesn’t look much like a boat. With that out of the way, I can talk about other playfield features. The chum bucket is just laughable. It looks like the cap of a bottle of strawberry-flavoured kiddie cough syrup (sorry), not a horrifying bloody bucket of bait. It doesn’t seem to move a lot either - at least, not that I noticed.

The top ‘reel’ spinner is also a bit ‘bleurgh’. It doesn’t seem to change the ball path too much.

The fin is quite small and, thus, easy to overlook, especially as the blood-red lighting effect for the chumline wasn’t that prominent (in daylight/artificial light, anyway). I kind-of didn’t notice it several times, which is probably a good thing as I sensed it was designed as a distraction for players. It kept popping up and moving at regular intervals and it really didn’t feel a good idea to shoot at it, as my ball got out of control. Maybe it was designed to give big risk-reward, but I didn’t manage to work that out (maybe someone else can help?).

When I did notice the fin, it reminded me of shooting the moving buck in Big Buck Hunter. So, if you like making that shot in that game, it’s making its triumphant return here in Jaws.

I’ve been very negative so far but, moving onto the gameplay, I have many positive things to say. This is an Elwin, after all. As with Elwin, always, he innovates, and he does fun and interesting things. Had I never played (or owned) Godzilla, JP2, A:IQ or Iron Maiden, I think I would have been wowed by the layout. Unfortunately, these other games do exist and, to be honest, I hoped for more.

Just to caveat, I didn’t get to see the video mode, but I didn’t see anyone else in our huddle of players getting to the video mode either.

I did enjoy the staging flipper, which allowed for a harpoon shot (and to cradle the ball while waiting for the film clips to catch up with the game - a similar problem exists with Godzilla). It was very simple, clever and fun. I also loved the skill shot above the pop bumper and that, with each skill shot you completed, you were asked to do more complex and difficult shots. Again, innovative and satisfying.

I also liked the save gate on the right-hand side of the inlane, making its return from classics like Centaur. Really great, simple and satisfying feature.

Jaws also has returning features from other Elwins, such as the post that hold the ball for modes in JP2. This time, there are two posts, one on the right and one on the left-hand side. I don’t think they make the gameplay super-amazing, but they do allow the film clips to finish before you need to start shooting the ball.

Overall, I think this is going to be a very popular Elwin for tournament play. Several tight shots, fast gameplay and some interesting features. There’s definitely a shark hunting theme coming through about securing a bounty, finding your fish, and reeling him in. The Jaws assets are extensive, with lots of film clips, and very limited repetition.

However, for me, it felt like just another Stern - a focus on flow, lots of shooting the red flashing shots, and a disappointing range of toys. If I was going to rank the Elwins, based on my brief play, I’d go:

JP2/GZ — Iron Maiden — Jaws — A:IQ.

It’s better than A:IQ, in my view. The theme is better and more strongly implemented, the code is more comprehensible, and the pop-up shark is just very good fun. However, it can’t compete with the shots of JP2, or the toys of GZ, and I’ve no idea how well it works for Jaws fans.
7.439/10
3 months ago
UPDATE April 2024. Played another Pro at the Dutch Pinball Museum. It’s now running more updated code. There’s some nice thematic code around timed shots to deploy barrels, shoot the fin and catch the shark. I still find the Pro too stripped down to really feel the theme. It’s a shame because, if they’d had a higher playfield toys/mechs budget, with this code, it could have been truly super.

I played both Jaws Pro and Prem at the LondonEAG trade convention.

There was a Pro and a Premium set up at the Electrocoin stand, so I got to play both and can compare and contrast.

THE PRO… [Drum roll]

Jaws Pro continues Stern’s time-honoured tradition of including as little on the Pro edition as possible. It has good flow, obviously, but this comes at the expense of being a flat blue playfield with a few ramps and wireforms on it. I found the Pro much easier than the Prem, largely because the ball just whipped around effortlessly on the wires.

The art package is just average. I can’t say much positive about it. The art on the Pro, in person, reminds me of something you’d find in a rundown seafront arcade with 80s cigarette burns still on the carpet. It’s… sort of, well, blue, watery and nautically themed. The playfield is similar, and the lack of stuff on the Pro really draws attention to the very basic and functional artwork. Compared to Labyrinth, Scooby Doo, Elton John and even Galactic Tank Force the whole thing feels, well, bargain basement, which is shocking given the prices Electrocoin are asking in the UK :(

The lack of lifting boat/shark on the Pro really affects the ‘pinball moments’ in the gameplay and the usability of the game overall, in my opinion. When the shark would normally pop up, there’s a big flashing white insert that reads ‘shark’. It’s not the same and it will make the pin significantly less appealing to casual players (because, you know, it’s fun when you start shooting a pin and - suddenly - a shark pops up. A flashing insert that reads ‘shark’ doesn’t do the business at all).

The fin is barely noticeable - I kept forgetting it was there (more on that in a moment).

I will make the caveat that I’ve never seen the film Jaws. With that in mind, based on my play of Stern Jaws, this is a pin about shark fishing. It’s kinda the sequel to Fish Tales where, instead of a rowing boat in a lake, you take out a little trawler into the deep ocean… tie some knots, smoke moodily with your fellow fishermen, occasionally fire a harpoon at a passing shark… all the while setting up your bloodied bait bucket for the final hunt.

I’ve talked a lot about the artwork already, but the red font superimposed on the film clips adds to the ‘slightly-decayed seaside resort pier arcade’ feel.

The shark, obviously, doesn’t eat the ball and upper playfield doesn’t look much like a boat. With that out of the way, I can talk about other playfield features. The chum bucket is just laughable. It looks like the cap of a bottle of strawberry-flavoured kiddie cough syrup (sorry), not a horrifying bloody bucket of bait. It doesn’t seem to move a lot either - at least, not that I noticed.

The top ‘reel’ spinner is also a bit ‘bleurgh’. It doesn’t seem to change the ball path too much. The fin is quite small and, thus, easy to overlook, especially as the blood-red lighting effect for the chumline wasn’t that prominent (in daylight/artificial light, anyway). I kind-of didn’t notice it several times, which is probably a good thing as I sensed it was designed as a distraction for players. It kept popping up and moving at regular intervals and it really didn’t feel a good idea to shoot at it, as my ball got out of control. Maybe it was designed to give big risk-reward, but I didn’t manage to work that out (maybe someone else can help?).

When I did notice the fin, it reminded me of shooting the moving buck in Big Buck Hunter. So, if you like making that shot in that game, it’s making its triumphant return here in Jaws.

I’ve been very negative so far but, moving onto the gameplay, I have many positive things to say. This is an Elwin, after all. As with Elwin, always, he innovates, and he does fun and interesting things. Had I never played (or owned) Godzilla, JP2, A:IQ or Iron Maiden, I think I would have been wowed by the layout. Unfortunately, these other games do exist and, to be honest, I hoped for more.

Just to caveat, I didn’t get to see the video mode, but I didn’t see anyone else in our huddle of players getting to the video mode either.

I did enjoy the staging flipper, which allowed for a harpoon shot (and to cradle the ball while waiting for the film clips to catch up with the game - a similar problem exists with Godzilla). It was very simple, clever and fun. I also loved the skill shot above the pop bumper and that, with each skill shot you completed, you were asked to do more complex and difficult shots. Again, innovative and satisfying.

I also liked the save gate on the right-hand side of the inlane, making its return from classics like Centaur. Really great, simple and satisfying feature.

Jaws also has returning features from other Elwins, such as the post that hold the ball for modes in JP2. This time, there are two posts, one on the right and one on the left-hand side. I don’t think they make the gameplay super-amazing, but they do allow the film clips to finish before you need to start shooting the ball.

Overall, I think this is going to be a very popular Elwin for tournament play. Several tight shots, fast gameplay and some interesting features. There’s definitely a shark hunting theme coming through about securing a bounty, finding your fish, and reeling him in. The Jaws assets are extensive, with lots of film clips, and very limited repetition.

However, for me, it felt like just another Stern - a focus on flow, lots of shooting the red flashing shots, and a disappointing range of toys. If I was going to rank the Elwins, based on my brief play, I’d go:

JP2/GZ — Iron Maiden — Jaws — A:IQ.

It’s better than A:IQ, in my view. The theme is better and more strongly implemented, the code is more comprehensible, and the pop-up shark is just very good fun. However, it can’t compete with the shots of JP2, or the toys of GZ, and I’ve no idea how well it works for Jaws fans.
9.352/10
3 months ago
UPDATED rating in April 2024 after playing at Happypin’s house. Although fun, and novel, it doesn’t have the lastability for some reason. It feels like a classic designed for Bally-Williams fans, and I played it again enjoying the saucer, the centre post and the shots, but wishing I was playing a different classic pin that made better use of them. Harlem Globetrotters, for example, has a centre saucer that benefits from creative nudging. The one on Pulp Fiction is just… there (and scores in the code).

Played at LondonEAG trade show on the Namco stand.

Got to say, I’m a bit of a Schrondinger’s Pinball Player. I got 116,000 on PF when I was in a two-player game and being observed by several PBR regulars, but the minute 5:15pm struck and I was (almost) alone, I promptly got 570,750 and 879,480, neither of which was embarrassing!

Anyway, this was the highlight of EAG for me. It is what happens when a game designer asks the question ‘what happened if I (re)made a 70s/80s pin using modern technology’? I’ve asked that question myself and was taking notes on how Pulp Fiction communicates information about the game state to the player.

The artwork pops. The build quality is as solid as a machine from the era it’s a homage too. The music as foot-tapping as the film.

I found the callouts slightly unclear, there were a lot of them, but they were movie sound clips and didn’t actually communicate game information. There was the occasional bit of game information displayed on the backglass, but - mostly - the game expected you to rely on your knowledge of classic pins (and their imitators).

So, it knows its audience…

Play-wise, this is a classic pin, but with modes, lighting, ball saves and multiballs from the 21st century. If you don’t like 70s/80s pins, for example you’ve played in a classics tournament or you’ve been to PBR, and you just find them hard… annoying… prone to side-lane drains… you will NOT like this pin. Nothing on this pin will make you like classics. It is a love letter to 70s pins. The target audience for this pin are people who love classics, but would prefer the tech wasn’t 40 years old now.

I saw a couple of people get really super scores (over 1 million), and there’s a lot of nudging needed to get this pin to play nice. You need to cradle up the ball, make deliberate shots, and know how a slap save works. Tonnes of moving the machine to get balls into the top saucer or to bounce them up off the centre post (as I did at one point, yay!). If that isn’t your thing, this pin won’t change your mind.

I *really* enjoyed Pulp Fiction. It was challenging, but fun.

Lots of stuff to shoot for, including a scoop at the end of a lane for modes. Some lovely inline drop targets for briefcase boogie multiball, and some lovely central drops protecting a scoop for pawn shop multiball (the easiest multiball).

From what I could see from the playfield, completing both multiballs and all the ‘scene’ modes started a wizard mode. No one got to it while I was watching, and scores were over 2 million.

This is an instant classic. Just a wonderful pin. The only downer was the one I played didn’t have a topper.

Anyway, best in show by far!
9.420/10
3 months ago
UPDATE 22nd Feb: I've hired an Elton John PE prototype (the one at London EAG) for a month. So far, super-fun pin, but we've no idea what we are doing. It's not easy, it has super flow, great snappy flippers, incredible light show, and... some of the toughest upper flipper shots in pinball - I'm getting a great workout on my upper flipper skills.

Played on two days at the LondonEAG trade show in the Pinball Heaven booth.

I *loved* this pin. If someone held me at gunpoint and said I had to buy a pin from London EAG, it would be Elton John (sorry, Jaws).

My problem with Elton John is the same as my problem with super yachts, namely… the price.

First things first. I’ve played quite a few JJPs, mostly Dialed In and Guns n’ Roses, but also The Hobbit and Wizard of Oz at the Pinball Office. They tend to have slightly softer-feeling flippers than a Stern, rainbow lighting (often excessively applied), a tendency for an unsatisfying soft plunge as the skillshot, and - in some cases - they’re a bit floaty and have too many multiballs. They always look beautiful, but the gameplay and aesthetics never seem to come 100% together for me - maybe only 90%.

As others have said, Elton John doesn’t play like a typical JJP. It’s very fast, quite brutal and reminds me (possibly due to designer) of Fish Tales, if it was much more complex, had more sparkly rainbows... and was not about fish.

Like most JJPs, the production quality feels high and luxurious, with a gorgeous screen, extensive lighting, and a generally more ‘solid’ feel than the latest Sterns. it’s very VERY rainbow sparkly. JJP tend to go overboard with the RGB lighting, regardless of theme, but this is turned up to 11. It totally fits the theme, but - if you aren’t into rainbow sparkly pop - your mileage may vary.

Unlike Guns n’ Roses, the insert lighting contained actual information about the game state. The skillshot didn’t involve a wet soft plunge with a noodly plunger, but went right up the playfield, and I actually had to earn a multiball (rather than getting one for pressing the start button). It had a gorgeous lock shot to the right-hand side for Crocodile Rock Multiball that had the kinetic satisfaction of the Fish Tales Caster’s Club, and the musical rock accompaniment for the multiball made it a great pinball moment.

Overall, the game seemed to have a great balance of challenge and satisfaction for an intermediate player. I had to dial in the shots to get anywhere and, once I had, I wanted more. There were some really satisfying shots, of a variety of difficulties, including the hurry-up to the left-hand side, and a good balance between stop-start and easy flow, with the game rules seeming to reflect the difficulty/challenge/ease of the shots. The central drops, in particular, felt very satisfying to shoot with a good risk-reward to them.

As with many of the other machines, it wasn’t big on toys, but the lighting (and piano) made the playfield feel more packed than it probably was. The piano display is just great - not sure whether it’s a toy, but it looks goooodddd…

I really, really enjoyed this pin. Probably not one for totally new players, but my initial impression is JJP seem to have really brought everything - lighting, sounds, artwork, layout and gameplay - together for this title. It feels like this title leaves an average Spike 2 Stern in the shade (and, sadly, the price reflects that). Would love to play it again, and to hear what better players than me thought :)

UPDATE ON DAY TWO: The shine wore off slightly on repeat play (metaphorically and literally, in the case of Elton John). A bit like how I realised it had a basic plunger alongside all that bling, I was trying to deliberately collect E-L-T-O-N letters and wardrobe items, and it didn’t feel there was that much rules-wise behind all the lights and colour.

I started croc rock multiball twice in the same game, struggled to shoot for rocketman multiball because I didn’t know which flipper to use for the shot above the flipper and, I don’t know… it was like a lot of other JJPs I’ve played where there’s lots of information on the big screen, but none of it seems terribly important.

I guess I was comparing it to Jaws yesterday, and Pulp Fiction today ;) It’s a good fun pin, shoots gorgeous, but I’m still not sure about the lastability. I sense it might play a bit ‘noodly‘ if you really got into it, i.e lots of multiballs and everything scores. There are some really famous pins, e.g. Twilight Zone, which have that playstyle, except without the multiballs, so that’s not a diss at all.

To me, it’s the best shooting JJP yet and absolutely beautiful.

A personal worthy second place in a strong field.
7.893/10
3 months ago
I played what I think was a Galactic Tank Force (LE) - it had the grey powder coat - at the London EAG trade fair in January 2024.

I’ll admit to coming in with REALLY low expectations of this one. I love the theme, concept and idea, but I’d read about the shoddy 3D printed plastics. Also, I disliked both of American Pinball’s titles (Houdini and Oktoberfest) I‘ve played in the past.

I’ve got to admit to being pleasantly surprised by Galactic Tank Force. It’s the best of the American Pinball titles I’ve played so far (sadly, I’ve not had the chance to play Hot Wheels). The machine looks good with great lighting, an attractive backglass, cabinet and solid retro-feel artwork on the playfield.

I didn’t notice the models looking horrible on my play, and I quite liked the illuminated plunger that looked slightly like a gun turret. The dubstep doesn’t seem out of place as a sound track either.

Play-wise, it’s not quite right, but in a subtle way. It has the feel of a pin where, if it was released in a year without X-thousand other new pins, it would have been a contender. Sadly, it was, and it isn’t.

I played it straight after Labyrinth and the problems, in comparison, were obvious (to me, anyway). First, the tank is - as others have said - not a sane shot to make. It is really close to the flippers. I tried pressing the extra button on the right-hand side of the cab to see if I could activate the defence save bumper (Atomic Shield) between the flippers, but that only seems to activate in response to something else (it popped up at one point - after I’d destroyed a tank?).

As such, if you want to shoot the tank deliberately, you need to rely on nudging out of the EM-style rubbers/lanes between the flippers to save your ball. Clue, they don’t work so well.

Second, shooting the tank wouldn’t be a problem if there was something else obvious to shoot for. After all, everyone who plays AFM knows that the saucer is a risky shot and, if you’re an accurate shooter, it’s easier to safely build up a score via the ramps and orbits. The problem is, as explained on the rules card, the missions are activated at the right-hand saucer by rolling through the inlanes. Thus, you need to be shooting for something else before the ball can roll down the inlanes…

So, what do you shoot for straight off the plunge? The tank, presumably, while the ball save is on. And then, well, everything that isn’t the tank in a game called ‘Galactic Tank Force’.

Third, the team who programmed this evidently *loved* the video clips. Because they are constantly interrupting the gameplay and they go on for about three seconds longer than you wanted to hear them. Yes, it’s fun hearing Plotnik or Captain Kyan for the first time, but do you really want a long spiel greeting a new cadet or explaining Empress Annoya’s evil scheme each time you start the game or start a feature? I’ll stand corrected if these are skippable, but - if not - I found they interrupted play.

Fourth, after playing Labyrinth, which had very informative inserts for new players, the lack of information communicated by the inserts on GTF was subtly noticeable. It wasn‘t as bad as JJP’s Guns and Roses, but I had to read the rules card - the game just didn’t help me out as a new player.

Fifth, the playfield layout feels remarkably standard. It’s not really innovating. Not a problem, but it needs to be doing something else exceptionally well. The pops were also very tepid. So, the best shot in the game was probably an orbit into the inlanes… :(

Sixth, the rules just feel slightly subtly ‘off’. The lower playfield is murderous - you just don’t want to be there. The tank creates SDTMs and the slingshots are really vigorous. So, you’d expect the rules to give you lots of points for staying in the lower playfield, right? But, I seemed to get a lot more points shooting the super-repeatable left ramp during a Plotnik mode than going for the tank. So, why go for the tank? Worse still, central bash toys are usually designed for newbie players. A new player flails around, hits the bash toy a few times and - hey presto - something fun happens! With GTF, if you shoot the bash toy, you insta-drain. Not fun :(

Anyway, in conclusion, a bit of a weird one. Not sure who the audience is, TBH. It’s not playfield/shot/layout fans. It doesn’t have a compelling theme. And the gameplay isn’t targeted at a particular group of players (e.g. families), either.
9.340/10
3 months ago
I played a Labyrinth at the London EAG trade fair at the Retro Arcade Specialists stand (with David).

Barrels of Fun (terrible name) have knocked it out of the park with their first game, Labyrinth. It looks absolutely stunning in real life. It has (Stern) premium/LE features all over, including some seriously chonky scenery, lighted speakers, beautiful powder coating and side art, and amazing sound quality. Even the attract mode is eye-catching and beautiful.

David went into raptures about the unboxing experience, which includes individually-wrapped legs, tools for setting the pin up, and even spare slingshot plastics. The optional mirrored backglass is also really nice (sadly, a topper or plunger wasn’t available, but I’m going to assume they are as good).

Now we’ve got that out of the way, how does it play? Well, very smoothly. Really good flow between shots and nothing weird or awkward. Some really nice details that communicate the theme, e.g. the multiple hidden diverters mimicking the changing patterns of the labyrinth, and the way that the ball - on my first plunge - entered the playfield in one location and left in another (just like a maze! A-mazing!). During Brick Keeper Multiball, a ball was thrown out from under the left ramp, to the wild cackling of a goblin.

The layout feels both fresh and unfamiliar. The top scoop with the drop target reminds me, oddly, of the alien mothership in Foo Fighters, but if it was more solidly engineered (not two sticky-up pins!) and started modes instead of a multiball. I started several modes and a multiball (Brick Keeper Multiball), and smiled a lot while I played. It was seriously fun.

The team on this pin simply hasn’t put a foot wrong, but… and here’s a BUT…

I’d say I’m an intermediate pinball player. My high scores are about the 85-90% percentile on Stern Insider Connected on our home machines, but I come routinely last in PBR league. I felt I could get quite a way into this machine without dialling in any shots - a couple of modes, a multiball and so on. It was really forgiving. It made my meagre skills feel like Keith Elwin (or maybe Bowen Kerins) playing this game, or maybe just the deaf, dumb, blind kid in the famous song.

So… I suspect serious tournament players are going to find this tediously super easy. It is the Cactus Canyon of the modern era. It Is totally charming, has silly stuff that pops up and cackles at you, is seriously super fun, will make you smile… and can never be in a tournament because the other players would be drawing their pensions before the end of ball one.

However, if you’re buying a pin for friends, family and casual players, especially families with kids in (because this is super kid-friendly), then I would urge you to BUY BUY BUY like a maniac. Because this pin has been lovingly designed for YOU.
6.780/10
3 months ago
Played at Pinball Republic, London.

A very tough solid state game mascarading as a electromagnetic pin.

Unlike other Sterns of this era, such as Nine Ball or Meteor, the central rubber post doesn’t fill the flipper gap sufficiently to stop the ball - so lots, and lots of drains, especially with the all-important drop targets towards the centre and edges of the playfield. The slingshots on the one I played were super-bouncy.

The chimes are unbelievably annoying. A nostalgia trip no one wanted to take.
5.454/10
3 months ago
Played at Pinball Republic, London.

I had an ‘exciting’ few minutes shooting down drop targets to shoot into this huge pointless sports stadium ramp, and then up through a gate, along a tube and into a saucer.

It genuinely looked like the playfield had been randomly assembled from games that made more sense, with multiple components that looked cool but didn’t do anything interesting. A low point for pins at PBR, which normally has good stuff on site.
5.987/10
3 months ago
My husband and I had a bunch of plays on the Venom Pro at Funland in Russell Square, London.

His one-line review: “It didn’t fill me with joy.” My take was that it played like “a freemium mobile phone game transmuted weirdly into physical form”.

On the Pro nothing really moves - I can’t comment on the Premium/LE. I went through the (moving) replay a couple of times.

The art and music package feel great - lively, colourful and vibrant (which, unfortunately, just adds oddly to the overall mobile phone game feel).

The shots are very smooth. It’s not any faster than, say, TNA or Foo Fighters, but you can just shoot (on the Pro) anywhere and the ball will zip around the playfield like it’s on a Star Wars hyperloop (I will refer to other, better games here). This means that aiming is optional, and you can just keep flipping the ball anywhere, without negative consequences.

Obviously, if it had good code, this frictionless play would be an asset. However, the code is not… good.

For starters, nothing is explained, so you get concepts like ‘choose your team-up’ thrown at you randomly, with no idea what a team-up is or the impact of a ‘+1 Miles Morales combo’. I’m sure the score maximisers will have a field day in tournament, but it’s inaccessible on a walk-up play and, from choosing different team-ups and hosts, the differences are marginal (on the Pro).

Added to this, the insert lighting has the slight issue of tiny lights buried next to huge artwork in places, making it harder to gauge the game state at a glance. Take advice from the golden oldies. AFM does this right, people. Huge insert lights with lettering on.

My first play was really fun. I got through a bunch of levels, did three multiballs and was excited to see what I would see next, as the game unravelled its narrative secrets on the way to Level 50. Varied boss fights with timed flipper shots? Increasingly varied and engrossing modes? Then I played a second game… and a third... And I was still getting the exact same Carnage and Mayhem multiballs, with little change or improvement in anything that wasn’t entirely numerical (at one point Stern Insider told me I’d achieved a 5-way combo. After achieving a 3-way and a 4-way one. Should I be impressed? ) I even started a mini-mode - Stern Insider told me, but I hadn’t actually noticed.

I assumed I’d missed something. Eventually, I just trapped up the ball and tried shooting at stuff - lit or unlit - in the hope of starting a big, whoopy whomping mode of multi-levelled awesomeness. But, no, it really was that grindy. Ball after ball, game-after-game, starting the same two mediocre multiballs, spaffing the balls around the playfield like Ferraris on glass, and then getting a set of incomprehensible stats (e.g. infected defeated) that progressed me towards Level 50.

It really does play like a mobile phone game in physical form. If it had offered me a shovel to do three-in-a-row mining sim, or to dig a geometrical field of cabbages, I would have felt the same sense of tedious, pointless repetition in the hope of longer-term excitement.

A miss for me. Genuinely, the worst thing in Funland [which has eight or nine Spike 2 Sterns] right now that isn’t broken.
9.615/10
5 months ago
UPDATE: Have owned a Centaur for a couple of months now. This is the JJP of the 80s. Honestly, it’s all about multiball and, unlike many modern pins, they’re thoroughly earned. There is nothing more joyful than starting a two-ball multiball and then adding a couple of extra balls, and ramping the multipliers up to maximum. Total kinetic satisfaction.

This one has definitely grown on me and I didn’t even know the full rules until today. Maybe I’ve got a special affection for it because my Centaur score was my highest score/placing in the UK Open 2023.

It has a very varied layout for a single-level pin with an interesting combination of a captive ball, and inline, standup and drop targets. More interestingly, it has an up to five-ball multiball! Woot!

The B&W art package is cohesive and distinctive, with a real ‘edgy biker bar’ vibe. Callouts are great and memorable for the period (“Destroy Centaur”!) Amazing pin that stands the test of time.
6.022/10
6 months ago
Played at the UK Open.

I’ve got to say, this one didn’t impress me. It had a tramway at the top, which took up a huge amount of real estate on the playfield, but seemed more of a gimmick than anything else. It was also *extremely* heavy. Pretty much the minute I started playing it, I realised it was both floaty and very hard to nudge (as a small woman), and I shouldn’t have added it to my tournament ticket.

It’s not awful, but I wouldn’t choose it over most Sterns of that period or other widebody classics like Paragon (where the size is a feature not a bug). Given how large and floaty it was, there didn’t seem to be that much to do on the playfield, unlike in Paragon, and what there was on the playfield (apart from the ball tramway) didn’t really support the theme that well.
7.048/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinball Arcade Bar in Prague.

I was very excited to spend some time playing BSD as I'd routinely seen it mentioned in the same breath as Fish Tales, my favourite pin of all time. This is largely due to the era (early 90s), lightning flippers and short ball times.

Compared to Fish Tales, I must admit to being... disappointed. The backglass is horrible, although the playfield has nice cartoon art. The 'shooting wolves' video mode isn't as charming or entertaining as 'look, pa, waterskiers' on Fish Tales. I didn't even really notice the 'mist ball' until I read some reviews on Pinside afterwards. Yeah, there's a magnet. The ball moves around really slowly and you can't help but hit it with the ball to start multiball (shrug).

Unlike Fish Tales, which has some wonderful looping shots for all abilities (with a wonderful 'whoosh/whoosh' as the ball flies around the boat), BSD felt very stop/start. Like some of the 80s pins, there's a lot of 'qualify this multiball by shooting this bank of drop targets'. No one in the right mind would shoot the targets directly, as they're in the middle for an insta-drain, so I ended up shooting the various holes/scoops instead, for something to do, while I waited for the ball to bounce around enough to qualify something.

This is definitely a great pin for solid horror fans, but I MASSIVELY prefer Fish Tales, TNA (and Iron Man) as short ball time machines. Iron Man, in particular, has a very dynamic playfield that shoots the ball back at you, rather than it sort of aimlessly richocheting about the lower playfield. Even Flash Gordon (another short ball time machine) is more dynamic than this.
7.638/10
7 months ago
Played at the Joysticks Arcade Bar in Prague.

My favourite of the SEGA pinball machines I’ve played, but sadly let down by the terrible art and the lack of YouTube tutorial videos online. It took me nearly four days to work out how to start modes, rather than just going for the two-ball Creature multiball everytime.

The John Borg layout with the trio of pop bumpers felt a bit unadventurous and walk-up play felt like it depended too heavily on shooting the right ramp to start multiball, shooting the North Pole to spot letters, and then hoping the bouncing ball would start a mode. Despite having a similar layout to Data East Jurassic Park (in the same room), it felt overall less exciting to me due to the lack of the drama of the kickback raptor pit and that there was only one scoop.
8.761/10
7 months ago
Played several times at Joysticks Pinball Bar in Prague.

Probably Data East’s best pin (that I’ve played), Data East Jurassic Park is a worthy forerunner to Stern’s epic JP2. It has some great flowy shots, including the dinosaur shot from the upper flipper, the boat shot, park ramp, and the orbit up through the pop bumpers.

Rules-wise, the focus is on multiball for intermediate players, with a challenging start to ‘tri-ball’ requiring a variety of shots to start the multiball and then score jackpots. Apparently, the dinosaur eats the ball, but it seemed to be broken on the Jurassic Park that I played. Unlike other Data East pins I’ve played, the ‘System Failure’ modes were varied and often interesting, requiring different timed shots and hurry-ups.

I really enjoyed this pin and would like to try one again with the dinosaur working. That said, I (obviously) prefer Elwin’s later JP2, which feels like very much of a love letter to this excellent title.
6.986/10
7 months ago
Got a double replay on a Who Dunnit? at the Joysticks Pinball Arcade.

This is a mildly-entertaining pin with a good narrative. You’re solving a crime. You shoot the telephone to interrogate suspects, who mention the murderer in their dialogue on the DMD. Then, you can identifying the murderer from a line up to close the case.

The layout is super easy because shooting up the middle seems to deliver the ball to the flippers via an ‘elevator’ feature (I didn’t get the significance of the various floors in my game). With no danger of centre drains, you can bash away solving cases and getting multiballs (again, no idea what I did to get multiball) for quite a while. There are a couple of extraneous casino-related features, including one-armed bandit dials where you can get three in a row, and the offer of gambling your score on roulette (I didn’t).

Perfectly fun, but one for theme lovers more than tournament players.
6.383/10
7 months ago
Played a few times at the Joysticks Arcade Bar in Prague.

It feels underwhelming compared to other pins of the same era (e.g. PinBot), largely due to the limited range of interesting shots (two of the ramps go to stationary targets)! I spent a lot of time shooting fires on a huge area of standup targets near the top of the playfield, which felt reminiscent of games with an upper playfield - but a lot less interesting. The flow was worse than Firepower or Blackout from almost a decade earlier.

I kept wishing I was playing Whirlwind (better shots), Black Knight 2000 (better music) or - well - just about anything else from the System 11 era.
9.179/10
7 months ago
Played multiple times at Pinball Republic in Croydon, near London, and in tournaments.

First things first, this is a stunningly beautiful early SS machine. The basic rules are simple (complete Quicksilver), but there is a huge variety of shots, including spinners to rip, drop targets and standup targets near the top of the playfield (and elsewhere).

The example in Croydon is beautifully restored to show off how lovely it is. A real gem.
7.027/10
7 months ago
Played a couple of times in tournament at Pinfest 2023.

An interesting pin with a slightly-above-average layout. Evidently has complex rules as I got nowhere near a good score in competition. I was going for spelling Barracora, which evidently isn’t how you get a high score. Artwork is interesting and Giger-inspired. Some good drop targets and a solidly-enjoyable spinner shot, but nothing truly unusual on a walk-up play compared to Blackout or similar.

Rating is subject to review if I get to play Barracora again (and figure out the scoring).
7.442/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

Rating is subject to review as I only managed to play this once. I’m a Spooky Pinball fan and love unusual shot geometries, so was hyped to play this.

On a walk-up play, the subway system returning balls to the flippers is VERY annoying. I drained twice as a result of the ball appearing from nowhere next to the flippers, although I assumed I’d get used to this on further plays.

I thoroughly enjoyed the locks on the left-hand side of the playfield, but it felt like the unconventional layout didn’t quite work. Largely, it felt like the locks took up too much real estate on the left-hand side and the upper playfields took up too much space on the right-hand side given there wasn’t much there.

As with many modern Spooky pins, the animations were gloriously campy, and the artwork and lighting were excellent. I wish I actually looked at the LCD screen during play! I can see this will definitely have its fans and I’d like to explore it more, but it wasn’t instantly great.
9.251/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

I’ve played this to death virtually on Pinball Arcade, so was biased towards my real-life play on location at Pinfest, but I absolutely LOVED my play of Space Station. The lack of inlanes made the game much easier (for me) than modern pins and I was able to get someway into the game. The multiball is a complete moment in pinball with excellent flashing lights, and the unusual shot geometry feels free and exciting - but comprehensible at the same time. This is a total fav. Wish I’d had the opportunity to play more!

WAY better than Space Shuttle - don’t get them confused!!
6.173/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

This is a preliminary rating because I had no idea, walking up, what to do on Strange Science and the rules card did not help. I shot a bunch of shots across the playfield that was a cluttered mess of ‘stuff’ and not much happened. I played two games hoping to unlock something and it just didn’t happen by accident at my level of play.

So, no idea how good it is, but it looks nice and, as it’s utterly incomprehensible, would be terrible for location play.
7.308/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

I somehow expected this to be an easy pin like Cactus Canyon, but - for some reason - I couldn’t get a game going on the alternating ramps. There was something slightly odd about the geometry on the shots.

I did get to Grandpa’s basement, which had the weirdest design decision in history. Not only was the lower playfield tiny (so the ball was almost pin sized), but it inexplicably used a second set of flippers. Like, why? Has any other pin in history used a second set of flippers for the lower playfield (don’t answer that)? Either way, it fell dramatically short of Black Hole from 1980, which also has a lower playfield and which I also played at the venue for the first time.

Either way, I found the experience of playing this solidly ‘meh’. Nice artwork and LCD video clips though. The art package reminds me, oddly, of Stern’s Elvira House of Horrors.

Happy to revise my rating if I play another somewhere else and it goes better, although I suspect - given it was apparently inspired by Monster Bash - it will always remain ‘meh’ to me.
5.892/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

The guy queuing before me totally blew up this machine, getting a high score, so I can give a view on how it’s supposed to play - as well as how I played.

The door plunger on the game I played was actively annoying. There are reasons this isn’t done routinely on machines. Please just use a big button if you don’t want to use a plunger. The rest of the layout was a mass of cluttered ‘meh’. I shot some stuff, some stuff happened, I didn’t care very much.

I’d heard this was a great Data East title and surprisingly good/underrated. I think there must be a big nostalgia element on this one.
7.308/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

Quite a fun pin with a fast fan layout. Nothing super-special about the layout, but the theme really makes this pin. The music package is amusing from the first plunge, and the DMD animations raise a chuckle. I had a quite good game on this, including several multiballs, and had a great time. Not the greatest pin in the world, but good if you like the theme and can get it for a decent price.
6.559/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

It’s definitely a good pin for the ‘phone-in artwork’ Stern era. Lots of flow, which is in keeping with the theme for the game, but nothing really standout. My general feeling was ‘okay’.

Possibly a lower rating than it deserves because I genuinely don’t know what all the fuss is about.
5.862/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest in 2023.

This is something of a novelty and largely of interest to collectors of vintage arcade machines. There seems to be no way to get the ball back up to the top and actually aiming the ball to advance your horse isn’t easy (the owner of the game warned me several times to watch out as it had a tilt mechanism).

Like many vintage sideshow attractions, it is fun to play as a one-off (or maybe a few times). I enjoyed watching the little horses advance up the field. However, after playing it, I realised why pinball machines had been banned in New York in the 1930s for encouraging gambling. The reversal of the ban was doubtless due to better technology, which increased the skill involved in playing pinball, and not to a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the game.

Turf Champ is more akin to a talking parrot that you insert money into on a seaside pier, i.e. a novelty, than a pinball game as we now understand it.
7.231/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

A speedy EM with a spinner to rip and some great looping shots (as every aeroplane-themed pin should have). I enjoyed it, and would rate it higher, but it was made in 1977 and is very similar in layout to early SS pins. As such, it feels like a mediocre SS and lacks the magic of some of the quirkier EMs.

Had a good game on it, though. I’d recommend.
7.345/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

I was totally hyped to play Blast Off as it’s a top-rated EM with a great space theme. I’m unsure if I completely made a mistake on the rules, but I was disappointed by this one.

The main mechanism appears to be advancing to 10 to blast off, which is a great game mechanic. However, despite getting a reasonable score on the reels, the countdown kept going down - rather than up - for reasons I couldn’t understand, and I only blasted off once (and nothing seemed to happen when I did).

The centre target straight up the middle was easier to hit than I expected, which led to some disappointment, and I’d somehow expected the countdown rollovers to do something but, after aiming for them, they didn’t seem to. The bagatelle was less cool somehow than I’d expected going into the pin.

In short, I had a bit of a disappointing experience. I currently prefer Wizard, Nautilus, Bow and Arrow, and Aerobatics (at the same event).
5.007/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

My god, This is Spinal Tap is comedically bad. So bad, it crosses the threshold of bad and becomes ‘so bad it’s good’, and I played it three times as a result.

Artwork-wise, it’s okay, but the playfield build (ramps, apron, etc.) looks like someone did it at home in their shed and brought it to a show as a homebrew. If Homepin wasn’t confident of welding ramps, they should have gone for the sensible option of assembling from old Bally/Williams parts as others have done.

The huge video screen has no relation to play and is there only to entertain onlookers, should they not already be entertained by watching someone struggling to understand/play this thing. Pertinent information (such as it is provided) is on the DMD screen. I was in a group of three (strangers) playing and we laughed A LOT. Basically, my first game finished in seconds as the ball flew straight down the middle three times from plunge without really touching the flippers - an experience that reminded me heavily of playing classics (i.e. 70s/80s pins) in tournament.

Another player complained the gameplay was floaty and maybe not levelled correctly. I didn’t notice that, or rather, I did notice but just put it down to the overall 70/80s feel of the pin. We also experienced another couple of hilarious auto-drains (so, not just me then). I suggested this table needed a lot of nudging.

Anyway, determined to actually hit the ball with the flippers, I had another two goes on This is Spinal Tap. There was a ‘goes up to 11’ insert dial in the centre, but it wasn’t clear what it was measuring/indicating. The game kept telling me to go for ‘Big Bottom’ or some other shot (I forget the name), but I simply couldn’t see it. The rule card was talking about pods, but nothing on the playfield - that I saw - seemed to be about pods. I, personally, just went for the time-honoured approach of hitting the flashing lights but, as with 70s/80s pins, that didn’t seem to net me a high score, unlike the dude stood with me who was also hitting the ball around randomly wondering what to do.

And then, folks, the ramps… the ramps… I still have no idea how you hit the middle ramp. It looks like it should be hit with a third flipper, but I couldn’t see/find a third flipper. There appears to be no obvious geometric way of hitting it with a two flipper arrangement. I tried backhanding it, fronthanding it, every angle imaginable (I’m not a good pinball player, so I figured the problem was probably with me). Then, I read a review on Pinside saying the middle ramps were inaccessible, which explains it.

Apart from the ‘one more game’ feel of trying not to auto-drain and to work out what to do, I felt the layout was less inspired than Homepin’s previous offering Thunderbirds, which had an entertainingly unconventional - but functional - layout. Apart from the inaccessible ramp, This is Spinal Tap had an unadventurous mix of standard features from Bally-Williams/classics layouts, including three side targets on the lower playfield, a row of three knockdown targets near the flippers, and the hint of a fan layout. I was disappointed. A truly unconventional bats**t layout on this already entertainingly bad pin would have taken the ‘so bad it’s good’ vibe up to 11. More weirdly-thin ramps that go nowhere, bash toys on lifting targets and other such quirky features, please.
5.299/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

The one I played had a faded backglass and a somewhat chipped playfield/cab. As such, opinions/mileage may differ. It does have four flippers, which makes it feel like a bargain-basement Spirit, but nowhere near as interesting. Given I was in a room with 138 other pins, my overall impression was ‘meh’ and I didn’t go back to it after getting a spectacular airball. But, if it was the only thing I could play on a desert island, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
8.030/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023. I had two games due to the long queues to play Scooby Doo CE. I’m a Spooky pinball fan, as I own a TNA CE.

Scooby Doo is a weird one. It is stunningly beautiful, built like a tank and absolutely rammed with features, including an innovative bookcase diverter, wobbly Captain Cutlass, and multiple wireforms. The animations are gorgeous and true to the cartoons.

The problem was that Scooby felt like less than the sum of its parts, and I had no desire to play a third game. My initial impression was that the ball paths were really confusing because of the enormous upper playfield, but I accepted this contributed to the mystery theme of Scooby Doo.

My later impression was that, apart from the bookcase (does that count?), there aren’t any truly interesting shots on this pin. It’s very much a standard fan layout with wide shots, with the only challenging shot being the mystery machine. So, it felt a bit like Elvira (a popular pin on here) where the game doesn’t provide much resistance to players, and the ball just loops around the playfield doing stuff until you drain by accident.

My overall impression was some piece of layout was ‘missing’, despite the packed widebody playfield. The layout needed an extra ‘oomph’ somewhere to give it crunch.
7.585/10
7 months ago
Played at Pinfest 2023.

A very fun EM with a spinner to rip, a satisfying side orbit and huge line of drop targets to shoot for. The most satisfying EM I played at Pinfest by some distance.
8.585/10
7 months ago
I had the privilege to play four games of Magic Girl #18 at UK Pinfest 2023 with the Dutch team.

It’s a beautiful pin with a colourful LCD screen. Mostly, I came away with the impression that I wish it had gone into wider production as it was one of the most fun pins I played at the event. It has simple, but entertaining, Bally-Williams-era rules, some great shots, and a greatest hits of the design from other pins by John Popaduik. It’s also packed with fun features, which don’t impede the gameplay, including a magma save and magnet flippers. I really enjoyed the pseudo-upper playfield, which was reminiscent of 80s pins.

A true highlight of my experience at Pinfest. IF YOU HAVE SKIN, USE IT NOW!
8.508/10
8 months ago
Enjoyed Banzai Run at Electric Circus.

It’s a very good System 11 for location with easy to understand rules (completely standup targets to challenge a rider), and then you wallop the ball to the top to enter the upper playfield mini-game. The mini-game is unique and fun, with multiple levels to complete for all four riders, and two flippers.

I suspect it would get tired after owning at home as there isn’t much to the main game.
9.308/10
8 months ago
Played at Electric Circus near Birmingham.

Great pin with an interesting two-ball multiball. Lots of things to do, given the period and single-level layout, and satisfying to play. A true classic.
7.744/10
9 months ago
Played at London and SE League.

The definition of a perfectly-solid LCD-era Stern. Has a nice dramatic toybox multiball, but it feels like I've seen it all before. The shot through the shots is standard John Borg and the rest of the shots feel pretty wide, simple and 'fan-like'. The upper playfield is somewhat cramped and doesn't really deliver.

A huge hit for Aerosmith fans and I wouldn't be angry if one turned up in my house, but I prefer many other pins (including Rush).
7.569/10
9 months ago
Great fun EM with some spinners to rip and a wonderful 'collection' saucer on the top left. Very clear what to do, if you understand EMs/early SS, and has a strong element of skill unlike, say, Gigi.

Really enjoyed playing this one in tournament at Pinball Republic.
7.049/10
9 months ago
Played on location at Funland in London (a tonne of times).

My goodness, 60th anniversary is the weirdest pin I've played outside of pins from the 1980s (and Orbitor 1). It has terrible art and bonkers design decisions, including the screen being on the playfield. There's even an option to have it play retro chimes (multiple different eras), but the modern music and callouts carry on regardless, which kinda defeats the object of having them.

The highest score at Funland is currently about 18,000 and I got 7,000 a couple of times, but there aren't enough dials to display anything over 9,999, so it's unclear how it displays a high score (on the small LCD screen, I'd presume).

The gameplay feels like a GOAT pinball designer was lumbered with this clusterf**k of a project and somehow clawed a half-decent pin out of it. It is bonkers. Due to the tonnes of drop targets, it feels like shooting anything gives you points. The aim of the game seems to be to get multiball, which is hard. Every now and then, players are offered a mode consisting of shooting something, e.g. spinners, but it's dramatically less intuitive than on The Beatles. Nonetheless, I carried on playing it because it was batsh**t insane and definitely a love letter to 70s/80s pins - just a different one than TNA.

If I had a shedload of money, I'd buy one of these so pinball collector friends could come around and be like "what the unholy f**k is this?" A bit like owning Orbiter 1, but dramatically more fun.
8.615/10
11 months ago
Played at The Pinball Office on 29th April 2023.

What a beautiful pin! Lovely sounds, beautifully illuminated, and an absolute dream to play. I’ve always enjoyed playing Stern Star Trek due to its fast, simple-to-learn-hard-to-master gameplay, and this was a truly exceptional example. Not sure whether the ‘disco ball lighting’ on the Klingon mode was original, or a later addition, but ‘disco Klingons’ were a wonder too.
7.619/10
11 months ago
Played at The Pinball Office on 29th April 2023.

A fun System 11, which I quite enjoyed playing. It seems to have some kind of bonkers medieval-space-castle-siege theme, which was a big draw to the game and a fun thing generally. The game involves loading the cannons by shooting two shots on the lower playfield, shooting the upper playfield, and starting a multiball, and then doing some tasks I didn’t manage to complete. The bagatelle in the oversized backbox is also quite fun.

It was clear what to do on the game, and somewhat entertaining, although I suspect it might get easy and repetitive if you only owned the one game (I’m not a great pinball player and ‘shot’ straight through the replay).
6.876/10
11 months ago
Played at The Pinball Office on 29th April 2023.

I’ve never played an Elektra before, but I have owned a Flash Gordon, to which it has some resemblance in the two-tiered upper playfields, the numbered targets on the upper playfield, and so on.

Unfortunately, Elektra feels like a poorer cousin to Flash Gordon. During my short(ish) plays, I never worked out how to get to the lower playfield, but the enormous plastic panel covering the lower playfield made shooting the playfield above feel weird. The slingshots felt a bit weak and poorly positioned (almost flat), which - combined with the plastic panel - made the ball drift about in an insipid way. Getting to the upper playfield was trivial due to the large number of ramps and, once there, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, but it was definitely more interesting than the standup targets on the lower level.

I’d definitely own one if it was the only classic I was allowed, but - given choices - there are better pins from that era. On the upside, however, the back-glass is nice.
7.872/10
11 months ago
Reviewed on 29th April 2023 at The Pinball Office.

I played this a whole load of times at The Pinball Office as I know it’s a classic pin and a well-regarded System 11. I also, initially, struggled to make the ramp shots and to identify the skillshot, so wanted to get in some practice.

For era, it has fun gimmicks (the coffee mug), solid sound effects, an interesting back-glass with cutouts, and some great lighting effects on the jukebox/back-glass. The rules could be clearer as it took me ages to work out how to serve the customers. Once I did, I got to Dine-Time (the mode) where, again, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. The shots, however, were relatively satisfying with some good flow, and the theme is somewhat charming.
7.738/10
11 months ago
Rated on 29th April 2023. I played Super Hoop at The Pinball Office in the UK. It is in production and the cheapest pinball machine available to buy new in Europe.

I had great fun with this pin. It is simple, which is to be expected given the price point, and plays rather like a 70s/early 80s pin with modern lighting and code. It’s mostly single level with some small ramps and a little hoop up-kicker at the top.

The gameplay mostly consists, as per 70s/80s pins, of completing drop targets, shooting the ramps, scoop and spinners, and locking balls. However, it’s delivered in a compelling modern package due to the multicoloured LED lighting and LCD screen with animations.

I found the gameplay quite addictive in the same way as Stern NBA, NBA fastbreak and other basketball games. This is an excellent choice of budget pin, a good addition to a gamesroom for casual play, and a great option for fans of classic pins in a modern format.
5.196/10
11 months ago
29th APRIL 2023: Played Oktoberfest on location at The Pinball Office in the UK.

I, like everyone else, is curious about Galactic Tank Force (ice cream! Cows! Tanks! IN SPACE!) and decided to spend some time with this earlier American Pinball offering. May I say, after playing Oktoberfest, I can categorically say that the insanity of GTF did not emerge from nowhere. Instead, it was lurking beneath the surface of American’s earlier pins like a very fat Prussian in a World War I-era submarine.

Oktoberfest has more dodgy German stereotypes than a goose-stepping mad blond scientist with round glasses. It has women with pigtails in aviator hats. It has very fat men in lederhosen. It has juggling and shooting ducks in tents. It has tacky folk music that seems to be being played on a sousaphone. Flipping heck (pun intended), it even has gingham-patterned flippers.

The playfield layout felt mediocre, with a preponderance of randomly-orientated target banks, some bumpers with large clogs (?) on and a couple of scoops, one of which had the design recycled for the execrable Houdini. It also has my pet hate, a magnet that throws the ball about randomly. In this case, it throws it about randomly near the outlane, which isn’t as disastrous as it may sound.

I started a couple of modes and a multiball - they felt uninspired somehow, probably because the curved target banks and ‘quack’ targets simply weren’t fun to shoot. I’m not sure what was missing, but the layout seemed to lack ‘kinetic satisfaction’, rather as though it had been assembled somewhat at random without considering whether any of the shots were fun, or how they came together into a complete game.

I played a few games for the novelty value, as much as anything, but it was… both too much, and somehow too little. Too little gameplay and too much of the cringily-deployed theme.

“HOLD MY SCEPTER!” (Sorry, wrong game)
8.173/10
11 months ago
I played Foo Fighters Pro at Funland in London.

Foo Fighters (Pro) plays like Gary Stern, or whoever calls the shots at Stern these days, called Jack Danger into his office and is like:

“Look, Jurassic Park Home Pin was a success, so we’ve got a big new pin design project for you. Brief is that we’re strong in the home collector market, but people are telling us pins like A:IQ are too difficult and complex in bars, and we want to sell more pins to bars and arcades. So, we want a pin that’s as fun to walk up and shoot as one of those arcade basketball machines, but which doesn’t scare off the home market.
Oh, and some retro bars are buying second-hand vintage 80s and B/W era machines to avoid our ludicrous pricing, so make it something they want too. Don’t just do a fan layout or something, or they’ll just buy the MM remake. Be as different from that as possible. We also want a cheap pin for maximum profit, so no complex mechs. Just wireforms, ramps (the shorter the better, metal is expensive) and maybe a few plastics. If you really want to push the boat out, you can use a drop target bank, or maybe a ball lock made of a couple of pins.
We‘ve got Zombie Yeti on graphics, so you won’t have a problem with it looking nice (unlike Bond… grumble grumble, those license-holding f*****rs). Oh, and the theme is Foo Fighters… yes, Foo Fighters. So, good luck and GO WILD!”

Anyway, Foo Pro was very popular on a Friday evening at the Funland arcades with the punters who were logging into Stern Insider and also photographing their scores (for Instagram?). One guy was even chortling at the cartoon graphics while playing (they aren’t that funny… shrug). Who says pinball is an old person’s game. I was probably the oldest person there.

It’s… very very good at being what it is. It’s better than Godzilla at being fast, flowy and combo-tactic, with novel geometries and a wide variety of shots. It’s extremely accessible to new and beginning players, mostly due to the colourful graphics, narrative gameplay and the fact that it’s a complete ‘noodle’-fest (as I’d describe it). By ’noodle-fest’, I mean a pin where you can flail the ball around and it will generally make shots, and cool stuff will happen. It benefits a style of play where you don’t know the rules and don’t care.

Foo has the advantage that noodling leads to lots of combos and flowy shots, which means it feels fun to play even if you don’t aim and aren’t intending to achieve anything. There was a father/daughter duo having a whale of a time making shots on Foo while not ever getting above 20 million (the daughter was averaging about 4-5 million).

It feels like there are two main ‘areas’: the top/upper playfield, and the lower playfield sections (the upper playfield is missing from the Pro, but you can still feel it’s there in the design). There’s a spinner and a ‘ball/lock/bash toy’ near the top, which generates a multiball - again, very accessible for new players. However, starting modes means shooting the little green ramp on the lower playfield, which is a much tighter shot. So, depending on how the scoring is balanced, something for more experienced players too (maybe).

Going by my experience and the punter reactions tonight, Stern have a huge hit on their hands here. It’s a very entertaining box of lights and music, which is accessible to new players and easy to shoot - but with more depth too. I would be shocked if it doesn’t rise into the league of AFM/MM/GZ quite quickly, and stay there.

From my POV, I blasted through the replay on my first game, and self-sabotaged my second as I felt I’d seen everything I wanted to see. I subsequently ended up playing Stern Jurassic Park for about half an hour (again, paying for a single game) and then moved onto trying to make shots on TMNT, and trying to reliably make the Henchman shot on Bond (the father-daughter duo did not want my free Bond credit when I left!)

Again, from my POV, I didn’t especially gel with it, but I’m not its intended audience. I’m someone who likes games that pose a bit of a challenge, and Foo is *so* easy to shoot that it feels a bit like playing football without the goalie - there’s simply no pushback. It was pretty hard to drain on the one in Funland and, when I did, it was balls howling off down side lanes. It reminded me of the Cactus Canyon Continued in Medway Pinball Club (also in London) - very few bricked shots and very very forgiving. You can basically hit the ball pretty much anywhere and it will make a shot, and the games can get very long as a result. I prefer pins that hate me. Foo Fighters does not.
7.282/10
1 year ago
Played at someone’s house in London & SE League.

This is a great pin if you are a fan of Pac-Man. It has an excellent Pac-Man gimmick where you shoot shots to qualify the maze, which you then complete with your flippers, avoiding the ghosts, of course. The theme is well executed.

The problem with this pin is that there are much better 80s pins. It’s a fundamentally mediocre pin that happens to benefit from being about Pac-Man, and which has a single great gimmick - if you like Pac-Man.

Recommended without hesitation to people who like Pac-Man and 80s pins. This is a total nostalgia-fest in a pin.
8.151/10
1 year ago
Played at someone’s house for London & SE League. This is AMAZING fun - much more fun than Heist, for example, on the same machine.

It is the simplest idea possible. Asteroids float around the bottom half of the playfield. You have to shoot the (physical) blocks at the top of the playfield with the flippers/pinball to destroy the asteroids before they can damage/destroy your shield. You proceed through a series of progressively harder levels like a physical version of blockbuster combined with asteroid - simple to learn, hard to master.

In my view, almost enough to sell the P3 system to be honest!
7.386/10
1 year ago
Played at someone’s house as part of London & SE League. The definition of a ‘good’, but not ‘great’ pin. If it wasn’t being presented as part of the very novel P3 Multimorphic system, Heist would be pretty average. It has a Brian Eddy-style fan layout that isn’t doing anything novel and a moving crane that is cool, but not exceptional.

The shots are okay. The rules are okay. It’s, well, okay.

But, for comparison, I had more fun with Rocs (pinball mixed with video game asteroids) on the same P3 system.
8.405/10
1 year ago
I’ve been wanting to play a Meteor for some time and was lucky enough to get the chance at Pinball Republic.

This is drop target heaven. Some really interesting drop target banks and I thoroughly enjoyed the smaller flipper at the top of the playfield. Unlike many drop-target-tastic pins of this era, especially the Sterns (what is Quicksilver about?), the theme is present and correct here.

I can imagine this would truly shine with the new code. A big thumbs up from me.
5.058/10
1 year ago
Played once at Pinball Republic.

This feels like playing Skateball if it was incredibly slow, incredibly floaty and had rubbish Tarzan graphics. It has the dubious privilege of being the most generic, slow-moving 1980s pin I’ve ever played in an era of adventurous layouts and challenging ball play. I got a tonne of points on my first game, got bored, and realised I was only on ball two.

In a venue that also plays host to a Flash Gordon, Paragon, Nine Ball, Harlem Globe Trotters, Medusa, Future Spa and Meteor, and has had an Embryon in the past - this was genuinely below par and a bit grim.
8.152/10
1 year ago
My view on the Bond Pro after 15 minutes of play @ Funland in the Brunswick Arcade in London:

The playfield looks much nicer in real life than on pictures. Stern haven’t returned to their MS Photoshop era;

The skill shot is reminiscent of DeadPool and the pin has a similar feel in some respects, i.e. some novel shots that need dialling in, but then give a great combination of flow and specific cradle shots. The playfield is a lot less cluttered than Deadpool, however (not necessarily a bad thing);

The car with the sunroof VUK is a GREAT toy. Looks much better in person than on a video;

The Bondo rocket with drop targets feels a bit like Littl’ Deadpool, but works less well. It takes up a lot of real estate on the top of the playfield, and the ball tends to dribble off the Bondo and trickle out from behind the drop targets. Literally the most unsatisfying thing in the game;

The video assets are a bit rubbish in some respects. Some really grim fonts;

Code-wise, there’s as much going on as a B/W DMD-era game and, if you assume that’s what you’re getting right now, you won’t be disappointed. I got two different multiballs and they were solid - not amazing, but solid. It might get repetitive if you are a good pinball player playing at home, but a bad pinball player onsite had a perfect good time;

Music could do to be more varied (not just a more frantic version of the theme when you get a multiball), but I like the Bond theme so it wasn’t a huge issue.

I personally wouldn’t buy one (right now), and I think I would probably always prefer Deadpool as the entire package, but the playfield feel is above average for a modern Spike 2 Stern and - if the code improves - it may end up in the same league as Deadpool (I appreciate the Katana shot has its fans. Personally, the car makes up for it).

I played the mighty JP2 Prem afterwards for comparison purposes and I prefer that, but I - personally - would rate Bond above TMNT, LZ, Rush and Mando.
7.615/10
1 year ago
Played multiple times at Pinball Republic and the Pinball Office.

AC/DC is hard to learn because the ruleset is non-obvious, but has strong, challenging gameplay once you learn the rules. I’m not a AC/DC fan and it’s not got the best artwork in the world, but it is among the best Sterns of this era.
7.985/10
1 year ago
Played several times at Astro City in Southend.

I have a PinBot at home and the layout feels identical (and is a great fun layout). Graphics and artwork are excellent on both pins.

The extra rules, such as gambling on shots, add depth and interest, and the DMD is cooler, but it’s not light years better than the 1986 pin.

My husband’s view is that the additions to PinBot do not inspire additional joy over the original pin.
6.189/10
1 year ago
Played at Astro City in Southend. It was poorly lit with a broken ramp, which didn’t help, but it felt like the epitome of a ‘good but not great’ pin - a bit like Stern’s Rush. Lots of stuff on the playfield that didn’t feel rewarding or add to the enjoyment, including a weird spinning little flipper that just slowed down play and got jammed.

I played for ages and got two extra balls, despite not being great at pinball, but I kept trying to hand off my extra balls to my son because I wasn’t inspired to finish even a five-ball game.

Probably pretty entertaining if you like the theme, but I’m a board gamer and didn’t feel like I was playing Monopoly (or any other tabletop title). Instead it felt like it was themed after a rubbish 90s game show.
5.487/10
1 year ago
Played at The Pinball Office. It plays surprisingly decent for a ‘dark-age’ Stern with fast shots and good flow. The Photoshop artwork is terrible, however, and I think NBA Fastbreak is definitely the better pin.
5.974/10
1 year ago
The pinball machine for people who want to play a really small, really bad pinball machine inside a pinball machine multiple times (it is nowhere as exciting as it sounds) per game, interspersed with knocking down drop targets that spell ‘FART’.

I didn’t find much else to do on this pin during my plays at The Pinball Office, and I did read the rules card.

About as enjoyable as a wet fart in a lift. Avoid…
8.995/10
1 year ago
We've had a Cirsa (Spanish knock-off) PinBot for a few weeks. It has a gimped skillshot with no switches and different shaped inserts, among other things.

It's novel for its era (1986) with a lot of variety and novelty in the playfield, in the form of the mini bagatelle upper playfield, ramps and visor. There are several timed shots, and a strong retro feel to the sounds and artwork. The visor multi-ball feels like an early implementation of the castle/saucer in MM and AFM.

For the quality of play, it's very good value for money and seems like something of an under-appreciated pin. My sons, aged two and six, really enjoy playing it. Unfortunately, it's stuck in a room with AFM and Godzilla Prem, and feels a little underpowered, as a result, but it's definitely better than a lot of pins from the 90s, never mind the 80s.

UPDATE: Our El Pinbotto (Spanish PinBot) was out of action for a while and I really missed it, and have been playing it quite a bit. It's good fun and excellent value for money. Really holds up well compared to later pins. The music and sound effects are both really strong as well, with lots of charm.
7.855/10
1 year ago
I first played Batman ‘66 at Pinball Republic and really enjoyed it, especially the Penguin crane. The campy theme is truly charming and the bat phone and crane are great toys. The rules are simple to understand and the artwork is clear and appealing.

Playing it again at Brewdog in Shepherd’s Bush, the charm of the theme had worn off, and the layout felt oddly workman and fanlike - shoot loops, etc. shoot phone, do mode, blah blah…

My husband, who hadn’t played it at Pinball Republic, found it extremely fun though. Presumably for the same reason I did initially.
4.826/10
1 year ago
I’ve played the Premium version of Game of Thrones multiple times in Pinball Republic and it’s good fun. Unfortunately, it was the Pro version I played at Brewdog in Shepherd’s Bush.

Genuinely, it plays like it’s been in Ramsay Bolton’s dungeon for a while. All the soul of this game is lost from the Pro due to the absence of the upper playfield (and the one I played didn’t have a dragon topper or a colorDMD either), and it could be literally any pinball machine with a fan layout. I played once, went through the replay, and gave the credits to my husband - it was that bad.
9.051/10
1 year ago
Probably my favourite early SS game.

I love the vibrant wizard artwork, the individual drop targets that can only be shot from the side (or by a careful rebound) and it even has multiball! Simply delicious, a wonderful shooter’s game and a brilliant test of skill. I would absolutely love one of these.
8.308/10
1 year ago
Played Elvira at the UK Pinball Open in the People's Bank.

It's basically the Medieval Madness castle (the castle shots, not the castle, we'll come to that in a minute) with a couple of crypts and boxes from earlier Elvira games. The layout is pretty standard fan layout, the shots are somewhat 'leisurely' (at best) and the castle doesn't move.

The result is somehow less than the Bally-Williams era pins it's copied off. It plays leisurely like Monster Bash and, despite putting up a mediocre score in the match (in the whole tournament in fact), I found it a bit dull and easy.
8.704/10
1 year ago
Played at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

I've got to say - this is a fun pin. It just has a great pub theme, lots of humour, and the various pin-games (i.e. skipping, punching the ball) are just great. The novelty rotating boxer is also a work of genius.

I suspect it would get quite boring if it was your only pin, but - on location - I kept returning to it because it was such amazingly good fun. I imagine, if I'd played it in a pub in the 90s, I would have just been all over it all the time. Or, at least, all over it until I got better at pinball and it got a bit repetitive.
8.449/10
1 year ago
Played extensively on the Pinball Arcade app and then I FINALLY got to play it in real life at Pinfest 2022.

First things first, the music on this pin is AMAZING. I just love it. The backglass artwork, however, is rather weird.

I loved playing TX Sector on Pinball Arcade, largely because ripping the top right-hand spinner (with associated sound effects) is so immensely satisfying. I also love the simple rules with challenging gameplay, which is typical of these mid-80s Gottliebs. The upper pop bumper shot and spinners was a harder shot on the real pin, which made it less fun for me (as a mediocre pinball player). I'm not sure whether it would be equally fun as the online version if you were good at the game.

Either way, playing on the real game, I preferred Genesis, but this is still a satisfying and excellent pin.
7.446/10
1 year ago
Played a Bride of Pinbot with the Dutch Pinball upgrade kit in the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

Having played the original Bride of Pinbot, this is an improvement. There are more things to shoot for and the kit makes full use of the other shots. I like the speaker panel and LCD display. Unfortunately, the flashing inserts make the playfield state less clear, and - unfortunately - it is still Bride of Pinbot with the exact same playfield layout as the original. There is only so much you can do to fix the limited range of shots.
8.277/10
1 year ago
I've played Full Throttle at Pinball Republic and the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club (probably Mike's pin both times!).

There's lots to like about this pin. It's fast, very smooth ramps, and has a novel 'revs' skillshot using the flipper and the launch button. The full-screen backglass and playfield backglass is a nice innovation by Heighway Pinball and it's a shame they didn't survive as a manufacturer. The pin is also solidly built.

There aren't many toys, the artwork is a bit generic, and I'm not the biggest fan of plastic ramps, but overall it's a solid fun title.
7.783/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic and the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

I've been recommended this pin by several different people as it scratches a similar itch to Fish Tales. It is a fast and furious pin, which is reassuringly difficult. Shooting Whiplash is exciting and War Monger is also satisfying fun.

The problem, for me, with this pin is the terrible graphic design. The artwork looks like it was designed in MS Paint and the toys on the playfield have that cheap plastic look like they came in a kid's cracker. The whole thing is aesthetically terrible and not something I'd want in my front room (where I keep my pins). Superficial, I know, but the artwork on some early 2000 Stern pins is worse than on the much-derided 1980s Premier Gottliebs (I quite like the Premier Gottlieb art).
6.490/10
1 year ago
Played several times at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

I’ve got to admit to quite enjoying this pin. Refreshingly, it doesn’t have a fan layout and some of the shots were relatively challenging. The rules were simple to understand - mostly about shooting the same thing again and again, which wouldn’t be especially fun if all the shots were a standard fan.

As with most Stern pins of this era, the artwork is awful Photoshop film stills. The lighting on the pin I played was terrible, and the Tesseract (which spun nicely) and the moving Hulk look like kids’ toys.
6.144/10
1 year ago
Played a couple of times at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

People kept recommending this pin to me as an easy-to-play classic. Unfortunately, I found it really boring. The layout felt as though I’d played it before several times with a better theme laid on the top (the Sandman centre shot and ramps remind me of Medieval Madness and Attack from Mars). Achieving anything seemed to consist of making the same relatively standard shots over-and-over again.

The artwork is standard grimy movie stills from the dark age of Stern in the mid-2000s and, like other Sterns of this period, the playfield toys look like they’ve come from a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

In short, aggressively average.
7.519/10
1 year ago
Played at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

I’ve played both an original and a remake of Cactus Canyon and the remake captures perfectly what made the original so… not especially interesting (to me, anyway).

Not sure what it is about this machine, but - somehow - despite having lots of cool ideas and toys, the disparate elements don’t come together as well as other pins of the same (original) era, such as Medieval Madness, Monster Bash, Fish Tales or White Water. As such, the whole package feels a bit ‘meh’.

I also strongly dislike the plasticky ramps. On both the original pin and the remake, they feel weirdly cheap and tacky. Maybe too much plastic there, I dunno.

UPDATE: Played in tournament at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club. My opinion hasn’t changed much. This is your classic ‘noodling’ pin - you can just ‘noodle’ the ball around in a vague indecisive way and nothing bad will happen, and you might open some modes and have some fun. I far prefer pins where you get punished for flopping the ball about and general indecision, but if casually ‘noodling’ is your bag - this might be fun for you.
9.222/10
1 year ago
Played several times at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

A stone-cold classic gameplay-wise. Has loads of challenging drop targets - both on the target bank to the right and for the multipliers. The third flipper adds an extra dimension.

Not wild about the cabinet, theme and artwork, but it 100% has that “one more game” feel.
8.878/10
1 year ago
Played several times at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

Great fun pin. Incredibly immersive with the full-screen graphics and the LCD and callouts mean it’s never unclear what to shoot for. The graphics are appropriately dark and scary. I played some of the Aliens mods and it was a real treat for an Aliens film fan.
3.040/10
1 year ago
Played at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

Genuinely, this may be the worst pin I’ve ever played. Or, at least, the most disappointing given that it’s new and has good artwork.

There is very little on the playfield and most of the gameplay seems to be hitting standup targets to spell character names. However, this was done better by Space Shuttle in 1984. There is what looks like an LCD screen, but it’s weird LEDs (or something) where you can hardly see the low-resolution pictures.

It genuinely feels that it was designed by a first-time designer in a ‘draw your own pinball table’ app.

It was actively worse than Thunderbirds, which was in the same room..
8.029/10
1 year ago
Played several times at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

Got to say, I really enjoyed Stargate. It is a very good pin with excellent toys, especially if you’re a fan of the film. I liked the DMD animations from the film, shooting the pyramid “Shoot the Pyramid”, Glider multiball and the modes.

Very quirky graphic design that reminds me strongly of, yep, the film!
6.539/10
1 year ago
I had the ‘fortune’ to play Thunderbirds several times at the newly-opened Medway Pinball Club.

I was keen to play as I knew this is regarded as one of the worst pinball machines ever made. I was pleasantly surprised, possibly because I came in with such low expectations. The cabinet artwork is nice and colourful, and there are several mechs on the playfield, which worked. I quite enjoyed shooting the ramp to make it come down and then locking balls. The ramp in the middle of the playfield was also fun to shoot, although it didn’t seem to do much. There was also a moving target, which was relatively entertaining.

The bottom half of the playfield was weirdly floaty - rather like a widebody 80s Gottlieb (not like awfully, but sort-of). The flippers were oddly clicky. Also, the flipper buttons were beyond awful on an ergonomic level. They had very deep indentations in the centre, so you felt you had to stick your fingers halfway into the machine - very strange and not comfortable for extended play sessions (should you want them).

In general, it was relatively fun on a retro level, but is definitely within the average to mediocre range for 1980-era pins (and similar) and - as a 2020s pin - a definite throwback to an earlier period. The flipper buttons were also a serious low point.
6.542/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinfest 2022 in Daventry, UK.

I like card-game-themed pins, so tried this one. I must admit, it was, unfortunately, pretty ‘meh’. I did enjoy the pop-up ramp and the pegs at the top of the playfield, but there wasn’t anything especially memorable about it except the theme.

Update: Played at Astro City in Southend. Score has stayed the same. It feels like a below-average SS pin that plays like an EM with ramps. The shots and rules are a bit ‘been there, done that’.
8.953/10
1 year ago
Played this on the Williams Pinball app and then, briefly, at Pinfest 2022 in Daventry, UK.

It’s a great B/W-era pin packed with great sound effects, great features and toys (drop targets, planes, the temple), and some varied modes, e.g. the huge multi-ball multiball.

I suspect my rating would go up with more plays!
6.864/10
1 year ago
UPDATE: Played multiple times at PBR getting low scores. This pin feels very flawed. The multiple, appealing-looking drop targets don’t actually do very much. How you get a high score is ripping the lit spinner. However, the only way to light the spinner is the rollover targets on the flipper. Thus, the safest thing to do is to micro-flip the flipper, triggering the rollover, and only then shooting a spinner.

In short, a game that *should be* played largely by bouncing the ball at the flipper to get a top score. I have no big enough eye roll for this. It does look nice though.

****

Played in a Pinfest Classics tournament (and got a high score).

A Stern with three spinners, and the bonus alternating between them, and three drop targets to complete. The shots are satisfying, especially the alternating spinners, but it does feel very much in the school of most early Sterns - and not sufficiently exceptional to deserve the praise (and pre-hype of this pin) due to its rarity.
5.551/10
1 year ago
UPDATE 2023: Played this daily at an arcade in Prague. It has really great music, including a thumping techno-version of John William’s Imperial March (probably one of the best pieces of classical music of the modern era). The strobing light show during ‘tri-ball’ is brilliant. Oh, yes, and the DMD oozes with Star Wars theme. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, this game has very unbalanced scoring with most of the points coming from ‘tri-ball’ (i.e. multiball). Shoot Death Star, start multiball, shoot hyperspace. Rinse and repeat. It’s not mega-difficult to get tri-ball and, as a result, it’s fun at an arcade but your mileage may vary in a home collection. Also, the skillshot is the most gimpy bad video mode imaginable - yuck.

Played on vPin and (once) at Pinfest 2022. I played this because of the Star Wars theme and it's unfortunately a really bad pin. Based on a couple of plays (I wouldn't want to play more), I can't judge exactly why, but there doesn't seem to be a lot to do and most of the shots feel boring. The layout feels weirdly messy and incoherent, the artwork is terrible and the only decent thing about it are the Death Star and R2D2 mechs.

I was playing for ages at Pinfest. Every ball seemed to take 1,000 years to play without actually achieving much and, despite setting off R2D2 jumping about like a mad thing, and having million scores scrolling everywhere, I didn't care. I only finished the game because it felt rude to leave a ball unplayed at a public pinball event.
9.227/10
1 year ago
Played on vPin and in real life at Pinfest 2022 (sneakily, in the competition area).

I must admit to absolutely loving this pin. The back-glass is hilariously bad (there are alternatives), but it is the definition of easy-to-learn, harder-to-master.

The game is about shooting the body parts of a robot to assemble it and, when it's finished, the robot flips over. I'm sure if I was a great pinball player, I could finish the robot, but - as it is - I had the pleasure of some very smooth ramp shots and the brilliant retro "zip-zip" sound effects and light show every time I scored a part.

Very easy rules, but great gameplay. An underrated classic!
8.878/10
1 year ago
Played in competition at Pinfest 2022 in the Classics Competition. I'd also watched a tutorial video before the competition.

Sorcerer was the standout new pin of the day for me. I really enjoyed the variety of shots, the shot into the ball lock, the cheesy fantasy theme, and the basic - but fun - sound effects. A lovely simple, but interesting, SS pin that left me wanting to play again.
7.723/10
1 year ago
Played a few times at Pinball Republic.

I knew nothing about Blackout when I started playing, and didn’t know either the history, the rules or about the ‘blackout’ lightshow.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed shooting the drop-down targets (especially the top right-hand set) and ripping the left-hand spinner. The shots were generally extremely satisfying and the playfield felt stacked with features for the period (multiple sets of drop targets, pop-out holes, etc.).

The sci-fi theme is cool and I liked the 80s artwork.
6.946/10
1 year ago
Played a few times at Pinball Republic in London. This is the definition of a ‘decent’ pinball machine. It has a strong focus on ramps and orbits, and some interesting modes activated by the skull but, sadly, nothing really stands out.

The extreme sports theme, which I found pretty exciting in concept, is underused here. The orbits and ramps could stand-in for literally anything, and the skull doesn’t really help out. It could do with some decent toys: a motorcycle jump, a 360 degree ramp, or similar.

Based on the recent sale of a No Fear pinball machine on the PinballInfo forum, I think this is great value for money for a decent solid pin.
8.184/10
1 year ago
Played a few times at The Pinball Office.

A good fun solid pin with great music and art, and a shootable castle. Had fun playing it, but no interest in owning and doesn’t really distinguish itself from other pins except in appearance.

It reminds me of a Zaccaria, for some reason.

UPDATE: Played again at The Pinball Office probably about 20-30 times. This is a great pin. The shots are tight, but interesting, and I love the upper playfield. Definitely worth persisting with this one :)
7.769/10
1 year ago
Played a few times at The Pinball Office.

This is a stunning pinball machine - probably the most beautiful pin of all time. It is solidly made and a true work of art.

It is fun to play on a walk-up-and-play basis, but the gameplay, especially the individual shots, aren’t as exciting on casual (non-ownership) play as its stunning appearance would suggest. I also find the old-fashioned theme somewhat off-putting, although my five-year-old son is a huge fan.
7.215/10
1 year ago
Played a couple of times at The Pinball Office and also lots of times on the Williams pinball app.

It’s too easy on the Williams Pinball app and a little boring. More challenging in real life, and very flowy, but I’m not especially wild about the theme.
7.492/10
1 year ago
Played a couple of times at The Pinball Office.

It’s a fun football-themed pin with a cute dog theme. It’s enjoyable to shoot the goal, and simple to understand, but doesn’t feel especially exceptional. A good solid pin.
8.683/10
1 year ago
UPDATE 29th April 2023. Increased my rating after playing again at The Pinball Office. This is a tough, but satisfying, pin. There are several ‘locked’ shots (the flail, the shield) low down the playfield, which increases the difficulty. But, once you make those shots, it’s very satisfying to shoot.

Really fun theme with Warhammer-esque graphics and monsters. Love the Black Knight on the playfield. The upper playfield is, sadly, a disappointment with only a ball lock and lock shot there. It would have been nice to have standup targets, lane guides or similar.

***

Played a couple of times at The Pinball Office in London in a line up with some JJPs, a Spooky pin and a couple of American Pinball pins.

I’m a huge fan of BK2000 and was excited to play this. It plays very much like an update of the original Black Knight pins and I really enjoyed it, despite the amazing music being inaudible in the arcade.

Sadly, I didn’t get much chance to get very far into it as the shots are quite hard, but I’m keen to find another onsite somewhere.
5.500/10
1 year ago
UPDATE 29th April 2023: Played again at the Pinball Office in the UK. I’ve improved as a pinball player since my first review of this machine, and - as I (and everyone else) is curious about Galactic Tank Force - I decided to give this earlier offering by American Pinball a fair go.

My conclusion is that this is genuinely amongst the worse pins I’ve ever played. It is up with Thunderbirds for weird, bizarre and awkward shot geometry. The designer took the theme of getting out of difficult situations to heart by creating a wide range of extremely tight shots constrained by narrow lane guides, deployed at strange angles.

By virtue of lots of crouching down and careful aiming, I managed to start off some modes and multiballs, only to discover that the designer had added to the ‘fun’ with an unexpected magnet (because magnets that throw your ball randomly on a pin requiring skilled play about are SOOOO entertaining). He or she had also added some timed modes because, again, nothing makes extremely tight awkward shots more fun than aiming at them while a badly-animated cartoon yells at you to hurry up.

I’m a massive fan of difficult pins, but there’s a difference between difficult and badly designed. This is, well, badly designed. Having checked the high scores, no one was doing dramatically better than me, so this is something created not to be enjoyed.

UPDATE 7th January 2024: Played at the Pinball Office again in the UK. The venue was packed and Houdini (and Oktoberfest) were the only pins unoccupied in the downstairs. I decided to give it another try while I was waiting, as my review had received several downvotes, and I figured maybe I was missing something.

I can unequivocably report that Houdini makes Thunderbirds and This is Spinal Tap look well laid out. The ball paths are narrow, all at unexpected angles, and between railings. To shoot any shot without bricking, you need to trap up the ball (or, presumably, learn the game at home until the shots become second nature - clue, this makes it a bad pin).

To explain why this layout is bad and not just ‘hard’, the railings stop flow from ball path to ball path, making the return shots largely predictable. Thus, you have shots that are hard to aim for, but not terribly interesting. The pop bumpers don’t work as a randomising element because in a cage (very thematic that), meaning there are only a couple of (predictable) paths by which the ball can leave.

Instead of a variety of shots of differing difficulties, here, there’s a single easy shot to the central playfield, but everything else is of pretty similar difficulty. Again, not a good design.

In summary, this isn’t a ‘difficult’ pin (I love difficult pins), it’s a badly designed pin. There is no kinetic satisfaction from any of these unnecessarily narrow shots. Honestly, if this was an older design or more frequently on location (where players can’t dial in the shots through repeat play, hiding the problem), it would have a basement rating.

If you own it at home and love it, great, but it fails dismally on location.

***

Played a couple of times at The Pinball Office in the UK.

Beautiful-looking pin, but the gameplay feels weirdly average. It plays like I’ve experienced everything on the game before on another pinball machine, but Houdini wraps it up in a nicer modern package.

The Houdini I played was in a free play line-up with a Spooky pin, an Oktoberfest and a couple of JJPs and, after the initial couple of plays, I had no desire to play again.
4.738/10
1 year ago
Played once at The Pinball Office in the UK.

Honestly, this is comedically awful. It’s got about one shot and WAY TOO MANY modes involving the execrable Jar Jar Binks. One mode involving Jar Jar Binks would be enough and a mode about shooting Jar Jar in the foot [sic] was more than enough. One play was plenty.

If you want a video/pinball combo game, Revenge from Mars is way better.

In summary: Absolutely appalling.
8.872/10
1 year ago
Played twice at The Pinball Office in the UK in a line up including other JJPs, Spooky and American Pinball pins.

It was obvious there’s a lot of rules depth here, and the presentation of the pin (i.e. film clips, playfield, lighting and Smaug toy) are gorgeous.

However, I also found it desperately confusing and not especially accessible on a walk-up-and-play basis. There were lots of instructions in tiny lettering at the edges of the huge LCD screen, which were hard to read while playing, most of the insert lights were lit, and the game I played didn’t have an apron rules card either. I didn’t score particularly high because I was mostly reacting to stuff popping up on the playfield, and trying to lock balls in Smaug.

It was probably my second favourite out of the JJPs I played (Dialed In, G n’ R, WOZ and The Hobbit), and I’d be happy to explore it in more depth, but I wasn’t totally wowed by it.

UPDATE: Played again at The Pinball Office. I got some stuff going, e.g. monsters, modes and multiball. It seemed pretty fun with a lot of depth, although I still didn’t understand the rules.

UPDATE: Played again, for quite a while, at The Pinball Office, having watched a playthrough on Youtube. It delivers on the advertised experience of a deep, absorbing adventure game. Some interesting mini-modes, including one of knocking down drop targets going up and down individually. All the modes work better with more balls flying around, due to the wide-open playfield, and getting the multiball is dead easy, so this is a multiball-heavy gameplay experience. Games are long, floaty and forgiving.

Worryingly, I got to Into the Fire, a final mini-Wizard mode, after a handful of games, and am no pinball wizard, so - despite the purported complex rules - your mileage may vary. After that game, I had minor RSI and had been concentrating so hard I’d no immediate desire to play again.
8.878/10
1 year ago
Played several times at The Pinball Office in the UK in a line-up of Spooky, JJP and American Pinball pins.

I absolutely LOVED this pin on initial play and keen to explore it further. I understand what people mean by this is a sleeper hit.

It doesn’t have a licensed theme, which probably explains why it was so thematically delightful. You’ve got a mobile phone that generates disasters in the quantum realm, and which an evil corporation are trying to get back. The rules naturally follow - shoot the electricity guy to charge the phone, shoot the phone to trigger a disaster, shoot the quantum tunnel when you see a strange effect.

It is beautifully presented with useful lighting (i.e. the things you need to shoot), some lovely effects and toys on the playfield, and clear graphic design.

Really nice pin as an initial impression - reminds me of a modern version of Whirlwind or Earthshaker.

UPDATE: Played again at The Pinball Office. Still a hugely fun shooter, but less impressive this time. The modes were relatively simple and it didn’t feel like it has as great of a variety of shots.
6.012/10
1 year ago
Played twice at The Pinball Office in the UK in a line up of JJP, Spooky and American Pinball pins.

On a walk-up-and-play basis, this is a complete cluster f**k.

Pinball machines have lighting for the purpose of communicating the game state to players. This has been the case since the invention of pinball lighting. Every single insert is illuminated at exactly the same time in G n’ R and, what’s worse, they’re colour changing. It’s a visual nightmare.

The LCD screen, despite being huge, also manages to convey very limited information. The apron rules card wasn’t much help either. It told me to collect band members, but didn’t bother explaining how.

In short, the gameplay may be great if you had it at home and memorised a rules video (and love horrible strobing lights), but it fails on some fundamental design basics as a pin that you can encounter casually and learn to enjoy.

UPDATE: Played again at The Pinball Office. The owner, Chris, was kind enough to talk me through the rules, including how to collect band members and start songs. It was pretty fun on second play, but didn’t feel exceptionally unique to play - it is just about hitting standard features (e.g. spinner, pop bumpers) to start modes. Great lighting, but the flashing inserts make the state of the playfield less clear - you have to focus on the small arrows amid the light show.

UPDATE: Played again at the Medway Pinball Club and upgraded the rating. It's definitely an above-average pin. It just really REALLY suffers as a walk-up and play. Like most pins, it also doesn't work very well if you can't hear the music. The flashing lights work well when you can hear it sounds like a concert, although I still find there are far too many strobing lights for the pin to provide useful information - so, lights downgraded still to 'terrible'. Folks, lights on pinball machines aren't just there for decoration!

UPDATE: Played at The Pinball Office and lowered the rating. Honestly, this game is tedious if you can’t hear the music. It has a limp short plunge that dribbles indecisively into the right inlane, flippers like a limp noodle, and this huge time suck of qualifying boring shots before anything happens. Not one of JJP’s best.
8.923/10
1 year ago
Played several times at The Pinball Office club in the UK.

I wouldn’t say this is a brilliant pin, but it is extremely good fun. You’re trying to score basketball points, often by shooting the middle ramp to dunk the ball.

Thematically excellent, it feels like you’re playing a game of basketball, and is easy to walk-up and play. Possibly more a novelty pin than a great one, it’s still great for casual play!

I loved the flipper, ball and basketball net in the backglass, as well.
6.596/10
1 year ago
Played several times on location at Brewdog in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

This is a simple pin with a limited ruleset that depends on the ship/kraken toy for its entertainment value. Compared to the other pins in the same venue (Stern Star Trek, Star Wars (Pro) and JP2) it felt deeply outclassed, as there wasn’t much to it and it didn’t feel like a huge challenge either: despite being a rubbish pinball player, I got to the kraken multiple times on each play.

I could imagine I’d get bored of it pretty quickly at home. I also found the Pinbot-esque path splitter up at the top right-hand side of the game really annoying. It took up a lot of real estate on the playfield, but didn’t do very much.
7.786/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic, Croydon, London.

Probably the best Zaccaria I’ve played on site. Not sure why. There’s some weird alchemy about the artwork, music and range of shots (especially achieving the orange special) that makes it more than the sum of its parts whereas normally Zaccaria’s are less than the sum of their parts. Sadly, the one at Pinball Republic wasn’t in great shape - a large plastic was loose, and there seemed to be something wrong with the targets (maybe they were supposed to be like that, but they seemed to be in plastic casings).

Pretty fun to shoot.
7.946/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic, Croydon, London.

I spent a long time playing GoT Prem. Not sure if I like it, or just find it enjoyably frustrating because the version in PR was so prone to outlane drains and I was practicing my nudging. By the last games, I was practically dragging it across the floor to stop the drains.

The layout is relatively interesting due to the battering ram shot and the large, prominent upper playfield with full-sized flippers. There’s a LOT of code, which is great, but requires some figuring out.

Not terribly impressed by the cabinet artwork, playfield artwork and backglass, Sadly, it’s a bit generic film artwork. GoT is also packed with plastic ramps - again, I’m not a fan.
8.362/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic, Croydon, London.

Good pin to play, but I can’t get past the theme and artwork. It is extraordinarily ugly and, due to being about zombies, very unpleasant to look at. I’m viscerally repulsed by it.
7.195/10
1 year ago
Played multiple times at Pinball Republic in Croydon, London.

It’s a very attractive pin that is the epitome of average. It’s fun to play and weirdly similar to a very large number of other pins of its era, but that’s no bad thing because there were many fun pins made around this time.

Better than, say, Bride of Pinbot.
5.716/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic, Croydon, London.

I’m sure the positive ratings for this pin are driven by nostalgia (and maybe that it was the first (?) pinball machine to feature a shaker motor) because it is not good.

The artwork is functional, the playfield is poorly visually signposted, and - thus - the rules are incomprehensible upon walk-up to the pin. I played it, didn’t understand it, watched three tutorials on YouTube after returning home… still didn’t understand it. I’m someone who, on the same trip, played TWD, GoT and multiple other modern Sterns.

Then, I read a rules sheet and realised that I simply had to hit the lit shots and then hit the side ramp - and that was it. So, the fact that I didn’t manage to work out what I should be doing while I was on site was a clear demonstration that it’s not well laid out or visually signposted by today’s standards.

The only fun thing on this pin is the shaker motor and, to be honest, to a modern player it’s a bit ‘meh’. So, in total, not a great pin in 2022.
6.119/10
1 year ago
Played several times at Pinball Republic, Croydon, London.

I found it bland. The layout feels weirdly bare and the playfield artwork is functional at best. I wasn’t remotely excited by the spinning disks nor the fan topper (my five-year-old son loved the fan). After playing, I thought maybe I’d missed something, so I watched a PAPA tutorial and, again, I couldn’t even finish the video because it was too dull to watch.

I’m sure this was fun and innovative when it came out, but it feels like it hasn’t aged well at all. It feels like a thousand other pinball machines, but with a cooling fan on a hot day.
6.828/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic in Croydon, London. I tend to gravitate towards it when I’m supervising my five-year-old son on the pinball machines because it’s in the same row as pins he likes (Spirit, Genie and Black Rose).

It’s the epitome of mediocre. Visually, it’s got that horrible Stern combination of uninspired movie art, inserts that don’t colour match, plastic ramps and toys that look literally like toys.

The gameplay feels like it’s missing something. Maybe a ramp? There’s a couple of ramps and a suit of armour to shoot. I’m sure it has deep rules, blah blah, but it feels like I could be playing literally anything else and it would feel either be the same or better.
8.327/10
1 year ago
Played online and at Pinball Republic.

A very underrated pin with deep code (for its era) and a wide variety of shots. I personally prefer it to the Addam’s Family, but - like many people - I am slightly freaked out by the talking heads.

A brilliant buy given how much so-called ‘top-tier’ pins go for.
7.122/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic in Croydon, London. Like many Zacs, this has colourful playfield artwork (the cabinet art is terrible) and a big gimmick (pop-up robots).

Unfortunately, also like many of the Zacs I’ve played, the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts and it feels strangely forgettable compared to other pins of its era (e.g. Laser Cue, Space Shuttle).
9.400/10
1 year ago
Played at Pinball Republic (two different pins) and on Williams Pinball app.

I find this hard to rate. My husband loves it. It’s a flowy pin with attractive artwork, which - with modern lighting and mods - can be made stunningly beautiful.

Unfortunately, I find it a bit simple and shallow. I’m a terrible pinball player, but can routinely get to the multiball and that seems to be the entire focus of the machine. Despite absolutely loving Alien Poker, which has next-to-no rules, I somehow feel cheated by this one.

UPDATE: This pin is definitely growing on me. It has a great theme and getting the multiball is harder than it looks. I play it everytime I see one on route. A true classic of its time.
6.918/10
1 year ago
I played Galaxy at Pinball Republic in Croydon, London.

Galaxy is a solid 80s Stern, but not better - in my opinion - than Meteor, Seawitch or Nine Ball. The layout feels oddly uninspired and forgettable compared to similar pins.

Okay if it’s the only Stern, but not amazing in a line-up with others.
9.040/10
1 year ago
Metallica LE/Prem is a brilliant pin for people who prefer Bally/Williams era pins (because it strongly resembles one), but like to play something more up to date.

The hammer, snake and electricity toys are brilliant and I absolutely LOVE the inline drop targets. Why don’t more modern pins have them? It (obviously) has great music too.

The real genius of this pin is that it feels somehow familiar, yet modern, at the same time. Really great pin.
9.193/10
1 year ago
A wonderful Bally pin with a huge variety of targets packed onto the playfield, including inline, side drop targets and a challenging upper playfield.

The bumpers on the lower playfield, and the placement of the saucer above them, is a work of genius, adding lots of interest and challenge. Likewise, the bumper on the upper playfield and the drop targets add lots of interest and challenge - more so than the superficially-similar Black Knight.

Fully restored, this is also a stunningly beautiful pin with a colourful playfield and mirrored backglass. I also love the movie music (not intrinsic to the pin, but can now be purchased as a separate Squawk and Talk board),
7.740/10
1 year ago
Highly entertaining comic book pin with lots of toys on the playfield.

The side start button is a bit weird (there’s no plunge on the front), but the ‘super game’, which starts with a multiball, is pretty entertaining. I enjoyed the numerous ramps, the rotating ‘dead world’ toy and the little grab claw. That said, the gameplay felt strangely generic and I didn’t return to it after the initial play.
7.128/10
1 year ago
Played a few times at Pinball Republic in London.

I really quite enjoyed Corvette. The revving engine in the corner and the little cars that you need to race add fun and variety. I had fun with the multiballs and ‘hitting the flipper’ video modes.

A decent pin :)
8.840/10
2 years ago
Played a few times on Brighton Pier in the UK.

If you’re looking for a Star Wars pin, the Mandalorian is definitely superior in terms of theme and playfield toys.

However, as a mechanical play experience, Star Wars is underrated. This is a very fast, flowing machine with a variety of clearly-labelled shots. It is highly enjoyable to shoot and play, and I’d definitely recommend it for that.
8.191/10
2 years ago
I’ve played this pin multiple times at both Pinball Republic and Plonk Golf in London (because there are loads of them).

I just don’t get the love… Maybe it’s nostalgia because, by modern standards, it’s a pretty average mode-based pin with some good toys (the hand grab mech is a highlight).

It’s fun enough to play, but not exceptional. I find the artwork a bit dark and grungy, but I guess that goes with the theme.

UPDATE: Have played this more times now. It’s very good for its era of manufacture and a charming package overall, although somewhat overpriced compared to other pins.
7.596/10
2 years ago
I've played Stranger Things (Premium) a few times at Funland in Russell Square.

I enjoy it, but only because it reminds me strongly of Medieval Madness/AFM.

Unfortunately, although I enjoy the TV Show Stranger Things, I don't really like how the theme is implemented on the pin.

The artwork, plastic ramps and so on always look a bit tacky compared to the charm of the B/W alternatives, and I keep feeling - when I'm playing it - that I'd far rather be playing MM. I also find that the projectors on the Premium version look terrible under day lighting.

That said, if you're a huge ST fan and like the overall appearance, and you like MM/AFM, you probably can't go wrong with this one.
9.720/10
2 years ago
I own a Godzilla Prem and this is, unarguably, one of the best pins of all time.

It combines a wonderful campy theme with deep rules, amazing toys (the building, bridge and mecha-godzilla), brilliant challenging shots and a fresh-feeling layout.

The artwork by Zombie Yeti is brilliant. Not my favourite pin of all time (that seems to be Fish Tales), but very very close.
9.026/10
2 years ago
UPDATE: Increased the rating on this. It’s the absolute definition of ‘simple but hard to master’. A true joy to walk up and play everytime.

I’ve played Harlem Globetrotters a few times at Flip Out in London, including at a league meet.

It’s a great fun 1970s pin with inline shots, spinners and scissor flippers. Although I don’t fully understand the rules, I enjoy the smooth play and the challenge it poses.

Just a great game.
8.472/10
2 years ago
FURTHER UPDATE: Have played RUSH Prem in league tournaments a few times now. I’m always happy to see it. The music is mellow and not annoying, and I enjoy the mild humour (when I can hear it) delivered in a gentle Canadian accent. There are a *lot* of different shots, all of which are achievable and interesting. The artwork and lighting is also… well, inoffensive. Again, a bit like Canada, really.

UPDATE: Have now played a RUSH Prem at Pinball Republic in London. When set up properly, this is an interesting and challenging pin, and probably one of the better modern Sterns. It has a wide range of interesting, challenging shots, and the code encourages this. When it gets going, it has good flow.

A shame this is about RUSH, a random Canadian band, really… :(

***

I played a non-production copy of RUSH at Funland in the Brunswick Arcade in London.

It’s really easy to start up a mode by shooting the Time Machine. It’s actually easier than LoTR because the magnet on LoTR doesn’t always catch the ball. Qualifying shots is also really easy. If you shoot just about any three shots, you qualify an album (mode) and the ramp comes down. As a result, you can just fire the ball around wildly for the first couple of minutes.

The lighting is nice and the graphic design is okay. The callouts seemed to have been recorded by Rush especially for the pin and have a relaxed, chatty feel. The layout feels a pretty standard fan layout with the pop bumpers-on-a-loop from Aerosmith and Tron (two other John Borg titles). The dual scoops weren’t as exciting as I’d hoped and, in general, I was left with a bit of a ‘meh’ reaction. It‘s a good pin, but - unless the advanced code is REALLY REALLY deep and innovative - I’d predict it’s probably a top 20-30, not a top 5.

I’d definitely recommend it to a Rush fan who wanted a relaxed, easy-to-play design.
8.270/10
2 years ago
Played a few times at FlipOut in London.

This is a fun pin with a strong integration between theme and mechanics. Sadly, I’m unfamiliar with the film, which means I can’t appreciate this pin as much as an ardent fan.

It is hard to put in a bad word for it, apart from the recurrent fault notice on the LCD screen and the fact it reset mid-game. The rolling rug in the centre that sets off ‘rug mode’ is very cute. There’s some kind of lower playfield bowling game, which I didn’t manage to activate, and an upper playfield with some thematic toys. The actual rug that sits under the pinball machine is a particularly cute touch.

It’s nice to shoot, cute and well meaning generally, and reminds me a little of an updated Bally/Williams-era machine. I, personally, wouldn’t be interested in tracking one down to buy, but I can definitely imagine a Big Lebowski fan doing so.
7.983/10
2 years ago
I played Demolition Man a couple of times at FlipOut in London.

This is a brilliantly flowing pin ruined by a naff 1990s film licence. The pin I played was well illuminated in a dark room, which made it look cool and futuristic, but the playfield art on Pinside shows it’s not especially attractive.

I loved the triggers and I loved the claw. The flow was great. Probably one of the most enjoyable pins to shoot I played all afternoon - on par with Avengers: Infinity Quest.
6.921/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Big Buck Hunter on Pinball Arcade on iOS and, also, in real life at FlipOut in London. I prefer the pin on Pinball Arcade, which may not be a good sign…

The main joy of Big Buck Hunter is shooting pinballs at the buck who runs across the playfield on a rail. The folksy sound effects are amusing and the cow ‘match’ sequence is entertaining. Otherwise, apart from the buck, the pin is pretty mediocre. The real-life pin also had poor lighting and the playfield is pretty drab - not like - say - Fish Tales or White Water.
8.385/10
2 years ago
Played at FlipOut in London.

Great fun and innovative EM with controllable zipper flippers and a spinning disk. Unfortunately, the entire playfield and instruction card was in German, which made it hard to work out what to do. However, the intrinsic ‘fun-ness’ of the various bits made up for it.
9.415/10
2 years ago
I played Iron Maiden Prem multiple times at FlipOut in London along with Avengers Infinity Quest Prem and Godzilla Pro, which were in the same room.

Keith Elwin definitely has a signature style, which is about using loops and ball guides to create a wide variety of novel ball paths. As his first machine, Iron Maiden shows this style in its infancy, with several interesting shots off a third and fourth flipper. There are also some interesting mechs, in particular the ramp with bullseye that becomes a subterranean tunnel and a moving ball lock. For this title, Elwin did, however, stick to some traditional features, such as a ‘shoot up the middle’ shot and a trio of pop bumpers off to the right-hand-side.

Unlike Avengers Infinity Quest, which I’d rate lower than Iron Maiden, there is a well established theme and the pin is not simply a collection of (very interesting) shots and mechanics. The LCD animations provide lots of personality too. I can’t comment on the music because the Iron Maiden I played had the sounds hacked - it played I Will Survive in the Hallowed be Thy Name song slot. Having now listened to the Iron Maiden song that should have accompanied the mode, I much prefer Gloria Gaynor accompanying my play!
8.346/10
2 years ago
Played at FlipOut in London. The Shadow was in mint condition with an alternate (much better) translite and colorDMD.

This is a fun and enjoyable-to-shoot pin. Easy to see what’s going on and the mini-upper-playfield with ‘pong/block breaker’ game was a particular highlight.

I didn’t know anything about the theme when I played and, have to say, it did spark an interest as it seemed absolutely crazy. I was, at one point, dodging sentient knives in what appeared to be an Art Deco hotel - the mind boggles.

The pin I played had a full restoration and seemed ageless. It was only later when I Googled that I discovered that The Shadow was produced in 1994. It is pretty timeless.

UPDATE: Played a few more times and downgraded my rating. It's not one of my 'to-go' pins when I go to a pinball club, although it is still an excellent title.
8.272/10
2 years ago
I played TMNT Prem 10-20 times at Funland in the Brunswick Arcade in London.

It’s a bit of an odd cookie, in some ways. The graphics are cartoony, which would suggest it’s a kid-friendly machine, but the shots are non-intuitive and can feel quite hard to reach. The playfield feels quite cluttered, especially with the extra toys on the Premium model, and it can be hard to figure out what to shoot at first.

The pin is great fun (for casual play) as there are numerous episodes to complete based on the TV show. Each episode has an opening cartoon sequence and a resolution, good or bad, depending on whether you won or lost the mode. This gives a strong feeling of progressing through a story during play.

The spinning pizza multiball is impressive, as is the pizza van multiball (not sure of the official name) where balls spill from the doors of the turtle’s van. I also enjoyed how the Krang model bounced up and down when he ‘spoke’.

I would recommend this pin wholeheartedly to 80s/90s childhood fans of the TV show. It’s also a decent pinball machine. I didn’t get to try the cooperative mode, but I’d say that was a positive - especially for kids or grown-up friends.
9.052/10
2 years ago
Avengers: Infinity Quest Premium is a very enjoyable game with great Zombie Yeti artwork. The ramps are fast, exciting and flowing, and it combines this with some enjoyable fighting modes.

However, I always feel it’s a bit like Keith Elwin at his most workmanlike. The game is, after all, mostly a handful of metal wire form ramps with few toys or other distinguishing features, and - if you buy one for the home - it’s not 100% clear what you’re paying for. The austere design of the playfield lays bare the procedural nature of most pinball machines (shoot ramp X, shoot scoop/target Y, activate battle Z, rinse and repeat).

So, it’s a paradox. It’s very enjoyable compared to many other pinball machines because Keith Elwin is a genius designer (it’s probably in the top 5 of 50 at FlipOut), but - at the same time - it’s not the best pinball machine by Keith Elwin.

UPDATE: Having played this many more times, I’m enjoying it more and more. The ramps are barebones, and not connected well to the theme, but it is exceptionally fun to shoot with very deep rules.

FURTHER UPDATE: A:IQ now ranks among my favourite pins. The playfield has barely any toys, but the entire pin is carried by the interesting shots and the deep programming. I have cycled 40 minutes to play this pin!

FURTHER UPDATE: Still keep playing this A:IQ. The animations, lack of toys, and total disconnect between the superhero theme and pinball mechanics are an issue (probably more to other people than me), but the shots and ruleset are a work of genius. Now considering buying one.

EVEN FURTHER UPDATE: Always enjoy seeing this on location, but now I own a JP2 Prem, it feels to be Elwin’s weakest pin. The lack of toys is slightly disheartening and only adds to the general lack of theme integration. The shots are truly amazing, but the static animations feel a wasted opportunity compared to the cartoon footage on, say, Foo Fighters.
6.575/10
2 years ago
There’s a Cactus Canyon Continued in FlipOut in Croydon (just outside London). It shares a warehouse with several other pinball machines that it’s compared with, including Monster Bash, Medieval Madness and Attack from Mars.

I’ve played MB, MM and AFM on iPad, which may explain a slight bias, but I personally found CCC a bit ‘meh’. It had a couple of decent toys, including a bandit and a moving train. It also has a cute Western theme, but - speaking as a woman with kids - I found some of the animations a bit sexist and not entirely family friendly.

I’d definitely place it in a second tier of 90s Bally/Williams era pins and I suspect some of the people shelling out for the CGC remake are going to be very disappointed.
6.356/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Black Rose on the Williams Pinball app and in real life.

Black Rose is better in real life - the shots feel more interesting, possibly because the third flipper works better on the physical machine, and it’s harder to just shoot the broadside over.

However, the layout feels oddly crowded and the main event seems to be the cannon. It’s not bad - it’s just not gripping enough for me to want to explore further.

Also, I hate the animations.
8.880/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Monster Bash on iPad and the CGC Special Edition remake in real life.

Monster Bash has a great theme, with catchy music, great toys and some of the best callouts in pinball: “I hope the monster is as studly as you, doctor,” “I love that minty formaldehyde taste” and “IT’S ALIVE!”. The CGC Special Edition remake only improves this visual detailing with a large screen and remastered animations.

The game itself is ‘okay’ IMO. It’s very accessible rules-wise, mostly involving shooting certain shots to ‘assemble members of the band’ and trigger their special modes. However, despite having creative toys, including a vampire who leaps from his coffin and a Frankenstein’s monster who rises from the playfield, the actual shots feel oddly generic and shallow.

So, fun to play on site, but not something I’d like to own (my son may differ, but he is only five years old).
7.434/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Twilight Zone at FlipOut in London several times, mostly because it has a reputation of being GOAT and I wanted to understand why.

It is a very innovative pinball machine. It’s mode-based, every mode is different and they involve a wide range of ‘toy’ elements, including a ceramic ‘powerball’, a working gumball machine, a clock, and a mini playfield with magnets. I can see that when this pin was released, there was a real WOW! factor from the ceramic ball and the ball that disappears beneath the playfield.

Playing it for the first time in 2021, I question how good the underlying machine is beneath the gimmicks. It’s evidently a very good machine, but it’s unclear whether it’s better than Medieval Madness, Stern’s Jurassic Park or even something like Fish Tales or Black Knight 2000. It doesn’t help that the theme is a mystery to me - you’re collecting hitchhikers, robots and trying to load a gumball machine. Why? And what is the significance of all the doors?

UPDATE: Revised my thoughts on this, but not my rating. I've played this loads of times at Pinball Republic in Croydon, UK, trying to understand the love. I, personally, aren't wowed by the gimmicks coming to this pin in 2021/2022, and the underlying machine isn't 'flowy' enough for me. There's a lot of 'shoot ball, ball disappears into a gadget, ball returns a short time later'. I prefer more of a tense adrenalin rush.
7.077/10
2 years ago
It’s hard to believe that Black Hole (played on Pinball Arcade) is older than Farfalla!

It’s an attractive pin, but the Farfalla I played at FlipOut was sluggish and boring. It felt very similar to countless other pins from the same era, except for the stunning artwork, and I had no desire to play it again.
8.496/10
2 years ago
I tried BK2000 at FlipOut in London because it had completely captured the attention of my five-year-old son.

Great artwork, great music and sound effects, really interesting layout with the upper playfield. Unfortunately, during my plays, I wasn’t sure of the rules and how to do well - but I am keen to explore the game further. That is usually a sign of a very good pin!
8.094/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Genie on Pinball Arcade and at FlipOut in London. It’s a fun pinball machine that feels like a super-big EM with a huge variety of different shots and an isolated playfield off at the top left.

It’s bright yellow, enormous and very eye-catching.

I don’t really understand the rules, but it is fun to shoot nonetheless and would not be unhappy if one parachuted its way into my front room.
7.244/10
2 years ago
I played this multiple times at FlipOut while keeping an eye on my four-year-old son.

It’s the epitome of a decent pin. The layout is pretty standard for a pin of its era. The shots are… decent. The animations are… decent. What raises it over the mass of ‘decent’ pinball machines, however, is the music - especially the eponymous ‘Pinball Wizard’ track.

Music apart, there’s nothing wrong with it and I happily played it over several other things in the vicinity (e.g. Simpsons Pinball Party and Flintstones).
7.084/10
2 years ago
I played Led Zeppelin (Premium) at the New Brunswick Centre arcade in London.

I suspect that the major appeal of Led Zeppelin is playing it, at home, with the sound at full volume. As an example, you can choose which Led Zeppelin music you want to accompany each game. Unfortunately, the music was turned down in the noisy arcade and I’m not a fan of Led Zeppelin. In fact, I couldn’t name a Led Zeppelin song if my life depended on it.

The result was that I was playing a somewhat mediocre pin with a near-empty playfield, some flashing lights down the side and a lot of abstract artwork - often featuring zeppelins (and angels). The only spark of interest came from a ball lock that rose out of the playfield with a spinner on it; this was mildly entertaining.

In short, I’m sure Led Zeppelin fans love this, but - otherwise - there are better pins to play.
8.594/10
2 years ago
I’ve really enjoyed playing Star Trek: The Next Generation at FlipOut in London. It’s a nicely-flowing game with multiple different modes and some interesting gimmicks, such as the cannons on the side of the playfield.

The ST:TNG at FlipOut has amazing PinSound that evokes the original TV series and puts you at the heart of the action.

I’m not a huge fan of the psychedelic purple playfield and associated artwork - it feels oddly ‘non-space exploration’. It’s probably one of the only downers, apart from the infamous repair workload, on this otherwise exceptional pin.
7.431/10
2 years ago
I played Dolly Parton at Plonk Golf in Hackney. I’m happy to report that it was a surprise hit with me - a wonderfully fluid machine with enjoyable inline ‘superstar’ drop targets. For comparison purposes, it was better than both Hook and Bride of Pinbot in the same venue…
5.117/10
2 years ago
I played this at Plonk Golf in Hackney, London, and promptly forgot about it…

I’m unsure if it was poorly maintained, or whether it is normally grimly grey and dimly lit. Either way, I got someway to transforming the bride and felt there wasn’t much else to do. The playfield is dominated by a very large plastic ramp and a series of pegs on the right-hand side such that it felt, on initial inspection, that the only place you could shoot was the left ramp over and over again.

Watching tutorial videos afterwards, it seems that - yes - the game is mostly about shooting the left ramp over and over again.

Either way, I had believed that Williams could do no wrong in its 90s designs. Bride of Pinbot got this notion out of my head - I could hardly believe the Williams ‘W’ on the speakers because this is total tosh (at least to someone who walked up to casually play).

UPDATE: Played a nicer version at Pinball Republic in Croydon, London. Still of the same opinion on this one - it’s a single shot game with not much to do after completing the Bride. I also hate the sexist call-outs. Sorry to the many fans of this game, but ratings are my opinion and, personally, I’d rather play a huge range of other pins.

UPDATE: Played the Pinball Republic version again and increased its rating, largely because it is better than Star Wars Episode I. It is fun activating the Bride but, unfortunately, after several plays (I’m not a great pinball player), I’d seen most of what this pin had to offer.
8.494/10
2 years ago
It’s hard to rate Lord of the Rings as I purchased it without playing it first. As a result, I’ve never known it ‘on site’ - only in my house.

The artwork is a bit grimy and pixelly, but it totally nails the theme. The Balrog (‘ballrog’) is one of the best toys in pinball, and it combines the wonderful magnetic ring shot with flowing ramps, numerous modes and multi-balls, and evocative callouts from the original films.

UPDATE 1.0: Owned for two months. Lowered the rating slightly. It’s a good pin, but I find the artwork a bit grimy for my tastes. The Balrog, Aragorn sword lock and Frodo ring shot are amazing fun, but most of the other shots feel a bit mediocre. Unlike Fish Tales in which every shot feels like it places you in peril of draining, Lord of the Rings is a long game where mistakes are largely recoverable. As such, it tends to start to feel like a long slog.

UPDATE 2.0: Owned for almost a year. Lowered the rating again. We now own four pins (Flash Gordon, Godzilla and Fish Tales) and it compares poorly with them - both in art style, but also because the individual shots are pretty tedious. You’re shooting a series of basic fan shots over and over and, so, it feels very procedural when you’re playing - rather like how Sam and Frodo must have felt climbing Mount Doom, but in pinball form.
4.026/10
2 years ago
Played at Plonk Crazy Golf in Hackney, London.

I’m not sure whether the illumination was off and it was just badly maintained, but it was entirely forgettable except for the fun spiral ramp and the skull in the centre of the playfield. The epitome of ‘meh’.
7.826/10
2 years ago
I played Royal Flush several times at Plonk Crazy Golf in Hackney. It was quite entertaining because of the drop targets, but I felt I was missing something in terms of understanding how to play.

Watching a tutorial later, it became apparent that the way to score big was to shoot the jokers at the sides of the playfield and *then* shoot the drop targets. This wasn’t obvious from the card on the pin, unfortunately, and I feel it was non-obvious how to play well - unlike, say, Jack’s Open/Lucky Strike.
8.440/10
2 years ago
The Beatles is a fun remake of an early SS machine (Seawitch) with better music, graphics and some extra modes.

I’ve enjoyed playing it at London’s New Brunswick Centre Arcade, but it feels weak compared to Total Nuclear Annihilation (which does the ‘remake of a SS game’ much better). Otherwise, I prefer other early SS machines, such as Black Hole, Spirit and Haunted House.

UPDATE: Played again knowing the rules of Seawitch. This pin is a work of genius, which combines old school pinball with Stern’s mode-based gameplay. It’s a wonderful, charming and mellow shooter that provides great music while challenging your accuracy. I am officially charmed by this one.

UPDATE: Played again after getting a Flash Gordon, and it’s not really as good as FG. Feels a bit generic in comparison TBH, although - obviously - the LCD screen and Beatles music adds a lot..

UPDATE: Lowered the rating again. I tend not to play it on-site anymore now I've got a beautifully-restored Flash Gordon with LEDs and a film music sound board. It's just not as good layout as Flash Gordon, and I'd rather play something else.
6.346/10
2 years ago
I’ve played several games of Mando (Pro) at London’s New Brunswick Centre Arcade. This is a venue that has multiple new Sterns.

I’m a fan of the Mandalorian TV show, but the pinball machine is the epitome of ‘meh’. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not mega-exciting either.

The artwork is functional rather than attractive and the static child/Grogu figure is a missed opportunity. The plastic ramps are an abomination. The music is taken from the TV show and is, obviously, great.

My four-year-old son really likes playing it, to the point where he’s now obsessed with YouTube videos of Grogu (he’s too young for the TV show). However, I think that’s because it shoots fluidly, which is a good thing, but it doesn’t really compare to the Keith Elwin machines (JP2 or Godzilla Pro).

I think the best summary I can give is that it’s okay and it’s fine in isolation. If you buy it for the theme, you’ll probably enjoy it. However, it’s not comparable with great pinball machines like JP2, GZ, Attack from Mars or Medieval Madness, and if you put it onsite with something actually good then it’s probably going be dead-on-arrival.

UPDATE: Played again in spring 2022. I’m now slightly better at pinball and got a couple of longer games going. Sadly, the longer I played it, the less I enjoyed it. In the same way as Bowen Kerins described Kings of Steel as ‘Kings of Right Target’, Mando is ‘Razor Crest’. Shoot the Razor Crest central shot constantly, with the occasional digression during modes, to start multiballs and just about everything else. Also, the clusters of multi-coloured lights at the bottom of the playfield strobe blindingly everytime anything happens in a way that is, at best annoying and, at worst, can cause you to lose the ball.
9.540/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Jurassic Park Premium multiple times at the New Brunswick Centre Arcade in London.

It’s a highly enjoyable pinball machine and among my personal GOAT. The layout is novel and challenging, there’s a strong narrative of progressing through the paddocks and rescuing workers, and - of course - it has an animatronic T-Rex.

On the less enjoyable side, the dull playfield artwork and lack of movie assets detract slightly, and the ball-eating T-Rex could have eaten and thrown balls in more situations/modes.
8.972/10
2 years ago
Played Godzilla (Pro) multiple times at London’s newly-opened Brunswick Centre arcade.

I really enjoyed this game. It combines a wide variety of shots and fast-moving play with a fun campy theme and monster battles (seriously, who *doesn’t* like monster battles). The graphic design is colourful and the music is decent (although I couldn’t really hear it in the arcade).

The only downer was that I was playing a Pro!
9.234/10
2 years ago
I watched a PAPA tutorial on Alien Poker before playing a physical copy at Flip Out in London. It’s a real shooter’s game, thanks to the drop targets that have to be hit in sequence, and I really enjoyed the challenge.

The theme is…. Original. It is definitely the best pinball machine with an aliens-playing-poker theme. Obviously, it’s somewhat dated in theme and the artwork looks like it was drawn in MS Paint by a toddler.

However, great game and definitely better than many games that succeeded (and preceded) it.

UPDATED: Increased my rating. I have a minor obsession with this pin, mostly to do with the extremely simple but challenging gameplay. It is just a really good way to practice making accurate shots at drop targets, and with an absurd cheesy 'aliens playing poker' theme to boot.
8.671/10
2 years ago
I’ve played White Water on the Williams pinball app and, also, on a somewhat broken/un-shopped White Water at London’s Flip Out venue.

I love this machine. Largely to do with the theme, which is perfect for the lakeside holiday cottage that I will never own in a US national forest somewhere. The shots are challenging and I enjoy the raft progression through the game and the skill required to make key shots.

I especially love the ‘rapids’ left ramp, the whirlpool and the upper playfield skill shot. The Yeti/Sasquatch toy is a little tacky/naff, which is a shame, because the rest of the playfield toys… or, rather, the playfield mountains, are great.
9.085/10
2 years ago
I’ve never played a physical version of Black Hole, but love this machine on Pinball Arcade.

The lower playfield is a work of genius - not least because it’s not a ‘safe’ bonus area, but a perilous hazard that you must navigate and successfully escape. It fits the theme of escaping a black hole and places it above similar games of the same era, such as Haunted House.

I’m really looking forwards to playing a Black Hole in person one day.

UPDATE: Played a Black Hole in person at Pinfest 2023. It was a dream to play, with plenty of crunchy challenge, and even more stunning in person. An absolute dream.
4.621/10
2 years ago
UPDATE: Finally got to play one of these in real life at the Dutch Pinball Museum. I upped my rating (slightly). It’s still a pretty limited pin, largely because the playfield has a lot of guff on it, so the balls don’t really go anywhere. It’s super stop-start and then has a simple ‘collect all the things’ ruleset - which is fine if the shots are fun, but not if they’re not. The dated humour didn’t land with me either.

I’ve only played this on the Williams Pinball app, but it is a complete turkey.

Small range of shots, dated and annoying theme, and generally very dull to play.

Avoid.
7.760/10
2 years ago
I’ve played Ghostbusters on both the Williams app and in real life in a local arcade.

This is a great pinball machine, which looks brilliant in person due to the colourful artwork and wide array of playfield toys. I love the animations and, when the game gets going, it gives a real feel of Ghostbusters. 10/10 on theme.

The gameplay itself is fun due to the array of shots and things to do (early on, this can be setting off a mode, capturing ghosts or activating extra functions through the scoops). It can feel a little repetitive and linear, as the Scoleri brothers and ‘Who brought the dog?’ come out every time, but this is definitely an above-average pinball machine.
9.460/10
2 years ago
UPDATE Jan 2024: Deadpool Pro has grown on me since they put one into Pinball Republic currently in Croydon near London. The artwork is gorgeous, the game has humour, and it feels very easy to understand while deep enough to remain engaging. One of the best Spike 2 Sterns.

I had high hopes for Deadpool due to its high rating on Pinside when I played it at a local pinball arcade.

It’s, well… a mess. The shots don’t flow terribly well and there’s nothing obvious or interesting to shoot at (e.g. the boat on Fish Tales or the castle on Medieval Madness). The mini-Deadpool is seriously boring, as it isn’t actually a bash toy - it just sits on the top of an enclosure. The plastic stand-ups would be better off not being there, as they just remind players that this is a ‘pro’ machine.

There were only three ‘modes’ - Mystique, Sabretooth and Juggernaut - and they all just required shooting some ramps in order. It felt a strangely slow and clumsy process compared to the modes on, say, Stern Star Trek, as you had to shoot a scoop first and then try to hit specific shots - often buried at the back of the playfield and difficult to reach due to the mini-Deadpool enclosure.

The whole thing felt like a clunkier version of Tales of the Arabian Nights.

It wasn’t all bad tho’ - I liked the Katana lock.
8.359/10
2 years ago
We played Stranger Things Pro at a local pinball arcade and I REALLY liked this game.

Unfortunately, I only really liked this game because it reminded me strongly of Medieval Madness/Attack from Mars, which are two of my favourite pinball machines.

Stranger Things has a great bash toy/centre shot in the form of the Demogorgon. Personally, I think the Demogorgon would be better if it wasn’t behind an ugly plastic display (it’s a projector in the Premium version), but it’s okay. The Demogorgon itself is fun and exciting to shoot.

The side ramps are also smooth and entertaining, and I got a lot of modes going during my play - mostly, again, because it played really similar to two earlier Brian Eddy games and I evidently had muscle memory.

Stranger Things is noticeably uglier than either AFM or Medieval Madness. The playfield is covered in mediocre movie screenshot-type stuff. The LCD screen is pretty thematic, however. The theme is also, unlike Medieval Madness, not remotely child friendly and is somewhat scary, which means - sadly - however much we liked this game, it’s not something we could buy for our own home.

Thoroughly recommended for the gameplay and it’s 100% made us consider checking out Stranger Things on Netflix.
9.580/10
2 years ago
UPDATE 27th August 2023. Tried shooting the side orbits/ramps and going for all the modes, and I fell back in love with this. It’s truly an amazing game, a stone-cold classic. Our original is a wonderful solid player, but I find tougher and faster than the remakes I’ve played (in a good way). The wide-open playfield makes gameplay fast and furious, and the silly campy theme and callouts never get old.

UPDATE 25th May 2023. We've owned an AFM since November last year (2022). It outstayed its welcome in a home setting as anything except shooting up the middle doesn't get many points, unless you're a very good player, and this means it's effectively - in practice - a single-shot game. I've tried playing it the other way, building up the ramps, etc. but the symmetrical fan layout makes this rather tedious (a similar problem to the one I had with Lord of the Rings).

It's still great fun to play from time to time, great theme and callouts, and very accessible to new players. Rightfully a classic, but doesn't really have staying power except in a large collection.

***

Attack from Mars is effectively a reskin of Medieval Madness, so my comments on that also go for AFM. I personally prefer the sci-fi theme, but the castle in MM is a better toy.

The callouts are great B-movie cheese, and the playfield is clear and easy to understand. Simply a great game. One of the best pinball machines ever made IMO.
7.632/10
2 years ago
“I am the Ringmaster! Defeat me for the Ringmaster Marvel”

My four year old loves Cirqus Voltaire on the Williams app. He loves hitting the ringmaster - he even repeats the callouts!

I was equally enamoured with the game when I first started playing online pinball, and even considered forking out the massive cost to make it our first machine. Having played one in real life, however, it’s nowhere near as impressive. The ringmaster isn’t as tempting a target and the playfield and shots, feel somehow limited and a bit incoherent. The floating ball takes up a lot of space, but doesn’t quite work, and - given the choice - I’d rather play another machine on-site.

That said: great theme, beautiful graphics and not the worst machine. I do think it’s possibly overrated and it’s certainly overpriced.
9.604/10
2 years ago
I’ve played this game numerous times on a real life machine and on the Williams Pinball app, and it is unequivocally, in my view, one of the best pinball machines of all time.

The definition of easy to learn and hard to master, the main rules (shoot the castle) are easy enough for a four year old to understand (I have a four year old). However, destroying all six castles is a serious challenge. The trolls and easy-to-activate multiball add to the fun.

The theme is engaging and family friendly, with fun callouts inspired - I suspect - by Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

In short, I can’t imagine a better pinball machine that is more suitable for everyone, old and young.

Totally lives up to its reputation and exceeds modern Stern machines.

UPDATE: Having played MM multiple times on location, I increasingly don’t play it when there are other pins in the vicinity. There just aren’t a lot of interesting shots. It feels like it is mostly hammering the castle again and again. Watching a PAPA video, there’s more to it than that, but it doesn’t even hold up against Fish Tales in terms of interesting strategies and it certainly doesn’t compare with our GZ Prem.
3.065/10
2 years ago
UPDATE: Played Junkyard A LOT in Thursday night league at Pinball Republic. Honestly, this pinball machine is awful. I actively dislike playing it in league.

The theme is an incoherent mess (collecting junk? Devils? A woman being chased by a dog? Breaking into a junkyard? WTAF?!)

Getting enough points to qualify a decent score involves hammering the ball crane thing over and over and OVER again to start a multiball that involves strobing lights. Or else shooting DOG to get a rubbish ‘shooting toast at a dog’ video mode. Ultimately, it is utterly charmless, incoherent and a bit of a mess. Not one of the best of the Bally-Williams era.

***

I’ve played Junk Yard twice on a physical machine and countless times on the Williams Pinball app. Most of the Williams plays have been daily challenges because I would never choose to play this game.

The theme is incoherent. Most of the callouts are someone’s girlfriend nagging him about raiding a junkyard (who knows…). She’s chased by a dog while in the bath (in the junkyard?). The video modes are random. There’s a time machine… And a devil…

Anyway, there’s a huge void in the centre of the playfield with a crane in it, which is the best bit, and most of the rest of the game is shooting some not interesting orbits.

The lighting on the physical version was also rubbish.

Honestly, my husband, for whom Junk Yard was the first Williams machine he unlocked in arcade mode on the app, now uses Junk Yard as the epitome of a bad pinball machine. For me, it’s in the sour zone of aggressively rubbish, rather than so-rubbish-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-be-rude.

We played it in real life, when we saw one, to see if it was that bad in reality. Reader, it was…!
9.483/10
2 years ago
This may be the best pinball machine I have ever played (on free play). It is like an early solid-state machine, if it was speeded up 10x and had thumping music and a shaker.

Unlike a lot of modern machines, it’s all about the speed and the shots. Completely nails the retro 80s neon vibe, as well.

Simply perfect.

UPDATE: Put my money where my opinions are and have ordered a TNA 2.0. I play TNA every time I go to Pinball Republic in Croydon, UK. It is one of the best five pins I’ve ever played and a pure gameplay pin.

The rules are simple: you just need to fill the grid and shoot the reactor. However, this is harder than it sounds because this pin is FAST and furious. Like simple arcade games, the simple rules and difficult gameplay give it a strong ‘one more game’ feel. To add to the overall appeal, it has a cooperative mode for fun gameplay with friends. The thumping music and disco lighting is also amazing and adds to the Adrenalin-pumping atmosphere. It’s a game that appeals to people who like a challenge and who enjoy banging their head against a wall in the hope of succeeding next time. So, Shovel Knight fans should apply :)

TNA has no toys and barely any theme and, as such, it is unlikely to appeal to ‘collectors’ (which may explain the lower ratings on Pinside). However, if you’re a player, rather than a collector, try to play a TNA on location. I would suggest trying to buy one, but Spooky are making this very hard.
10.000/10
2 years ago
Fish Tales is my first pinball machine and has swiftly seen enthusiastic play in our house - including by our four year old.

It has great flow with the orbits and ramps, and enormous character and humour (“how big was it?”). Underrated pin, from my experience on Pinball Arcade and Williams Pinball, presumably because it’s quite unforgiving with very difficult jackpots and an unfashionable Redneck fishing theme.

UPDATE after five months: Love LOVE LOVE Fish Tales. This is an amazing pin. It has a range of exciting shots, including the accelerating cross-ramp shots on the boat and the ever-difficult Caster’s Club, and play is fast and furious, with the constant peril of an outlane drain. The video mode (“Look Papa, Waterskiers”) and callouts (“You gonna talk, or you gonna fish”) never cease to make me smile.

UPDATE after eight months: This may be my favourite pinball machine of all time.

UPDATE after more than a year: Do these pinball ratings GO UP TO 11? Genuinely, we play this pin every day. It is my go-to pin. I want to do a playfield swap at some point and cannot imagine our Fish Tales being out of action for the duration - it will be too emotionally traumatic!

UPDATE after two years. We now have seven pins, including Stern GZ and JP2. This is still my favourite, most beloved pin of all time.

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