This is not my first P-roc parade, but this one is far more ambitious than my last project: a remake of the 1979 game Flash. (you can read about hit here: http://www.pinballcontrollers.com/forum/index.php?topic=1512.0 )
A bit of history first. Popeye Saves the Planet has the distinction of being one of the WORST of the wide body WPC machines. It came out in 1994, just after the hugely successful Star Trek: The Next Generation. The game is so bad, the distributors threatened to sue Bally/Midway if they tried to enforce their ‘minimum buy clause’ in the sales agreements. Worst of all, they guys at Bally/Midway knew they had a flop on their hands. It only sold about 4,700 units. Some people consider this machine to be the beginning of the end of Bally/Midway/Williams.
So why is the game so bad? We first off, the theme just sucks. A Popeye themed machine could be fun, but why on earth did they go with an eco-environmental theme? I just seemed that they started out on this machine completely on the wrong foot.
Then to add insult to injury, the playfield is IMO overcrowded. I haven’t gotten my machine up and running yet, but just from looking at it, there appears to be so many obstructed shots it is almost unplayable. The upper playfield, while a nice idea, is just too big. On the left side of the playfield is a large blue shoot that is used to select ‘animals’, and on the right side is a huge rotating skill shot drum. Both of these (especially the animal shoot) tend to obscure the playfield. The end result is a wide body pinball machine that plays like a much smaller machine.
My goal in this project is to make a Popeye themed machine that is much more playable through a re-write of the rules, some re-theming, and possibly some changes to the playfield. I have some P-roc code writing experience, but this will put me back on the programming learning curves because now I have a lot more devices to deal with and a DMD to work with.
Right now I am in the ‘idea’ stage while I go through the machine to get it playable again. I am seriously considering getting rid of the Animal shoot on the left side of the playfield, but there is a ball popper that feeds into it that needs to be considered.
The candidate machine was purchased here on the board about a week ago, and I am going through the machine to get it all up a running again on the stock WPC boards so I can make some honest evaluation as to how I can improve the machine.
The machine came to me in ‘project’ condition. It had a bad IC in the chip matrix that kept the game from booting, a missing ball shooter, and lots of rotten rubber. The machine came out of the Las Vegas area, and it looks like the desert heat has indeed done a job on the rubber inside of this machine.
On Monday night I was able to get the machine to boot for the first time buy ‘borrowing’ the ULN2803 out of my P-roc. Lucky for me, the P-roc uses nearly the same setup for it’s switch matrix that the WPC MPU board did. In the excitement of getting the machine to boot, I put some credits on it, and tried to start a game. That is when I made the discovery of the missing ball shooter coil. At least the shooter brackets are still there. I ran through the rest of the coils self tests, and confirmed the other coils all worked. The flippers were not working too well either, but a quick cleaning of the flipper opto board got them going again.
Last night I was able to spend some quality time with playfield. I guess there is one advantage to being a sucky game, it had so few plays on it the playfield looks to be almost perfect under a thin layer of grime. I think this machine will clean up nicely.
So now I just am waiting for my order form marco specialties so I can finish rebuilding my ball shooter, and start doing 'research'.