Written by robin, published February 11th, 2010. 8 comment(s).
Anyone who's ever been to the Vegas strip knows it's not easy winning on slots. In pinball that's really not different, although modern games will do their best to give you just the award you need. But let's not go ahead of this story and start at the beginning of this part three of our series in "Gambling and pinball".
In our previous story we looked at poker and pinball and in part one we had an overview of games featuring roulette wheels. All good and well, but we saved the best for last: what about a fully working slot machine in a pinball game?
But is it not with mixed feelings that I look at slot machines. They may be held partly responsible for the closing of Williams Pinball division in 1999. Casino gaming and particularly slot machines were big business during the 1990's (as more states in the U.S. started permitting casino gambling) and this may very well have helped in Williams' decision to kill of pinball and focus entirely on this lucrative new business. And do you remember what type of games replaced our beloved pinball machines in bars and pubs? Yep they were replaced by slots.
But there has always been competition between pins and slots and this goes all the way back to the 1930's. Some manufacturers found a way of combining them to create the ultimate entertainment.
Probably the very first marriage of slots and pinball machine is Mills "One-Two-Three" from 1938. The game has a huge slot machine in its backbox and listed the winning combinations , just like a classic slot machine! It could even pay out nickels from a "secret" door on the front bottom of the machine if the player scored a winning combination.
Russ Jensen describes this in his story about "Scoring Themes":
The pingame's "competitor" in the 1930's, the "bell slot machine", was also used as a pingame scoring theme. A few very early pins had slot symbols (Bells, Cherries, Lemons, etc.) next to their score holes, but Mills' ONE-TWO-THREE, which first
appeared in 1938, really "took the cake".
That game had three slot machine type reels behind its backglass which, instead of "spinning" as in a slot, "advanced", one symbol at a time, when the ball in play hit bumpers on the playfield. At the end of the game, if the reels ended up on a winning slot machine combination, a payout would be made based on
that combination in the same manner as with a slot. This game
was so popular that it was produced for quite sometime. There
were also a few pingames, such as Mills' 1935 game TEN GRAND,
which actually contained a Mills slot machine mechanism beneath
Now, let's go back to the good old days when Williams still made great pins. I think their 1971 electromechanical game "Gold Rush" (also known in different versions as "Yukon", "Klondike" and "Jackpot") must have been the first game featuring real visible slot machine reels on its playfield. The game had three of these reels near the top of its playfield, which awarded up to 3 replays for winning combinations. A fun fact about these games is that a number of them left the factory with some wiring errors causing the game to award incorrect scores on some reel combinations.
The first solid state game to feature slot machine reels was Lucky Seven, again by Williams. They branded it as a "Distinctive pinball experience" and it sure was! This machine also used tree targets which would advance ("nudge") the position of one of its corresponding reels. The best combination was naturally three 7's.
A game that really takes slot machine reels to the next level is 1995's "Who Dunnit". It has three big reels in the center of the playfield, under a big transparent window. It is very cool to be playing multiball while the reels are spinning madly underneath the playfield. But what really makes this slot machine come alive is the accompanying sound effects, simulating an old mechanical slot machine. A very nice blend of digital sound effects and live action. The feature must have taken a big chunk out of the game's budget but totally worth it.
As budgets went down and a lot less money could be spend on toys, it is no surprise that Stern created a digital (dot matrix) version of a slot machine in its 2001 game High Roller Casino.
This slot machine is not totally digital, it still features a moving handle . But what's even better is the fact that you can shoot balls in it!
Well, that concludes our search for pinball machines featuring a slot machine mechanism. Do you know of another one? Let us know in the comments!