I'd like to give some context to Kaneda and POTC... I was the one that went with him to Sunshine Laundromat to play it on location and show him why in my opinion it is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pinball machines out there. I have a perfectly set up game at home. I was visiting NYC for work and figured I could seamlessly transition to playing with him at this location game. I was dead wrong.
The game was so poorly set up and was such a different experience than I am used to at home. Here are a list of the issues it had on location:
- flippers were ridiculously weak so shots just could not be made. Almost all ramp shots would go halfway up the ramp and come back STDM.
- set up as steep as possible, with the bubble on the highest mark, so that the balls could not make it up either ramp
- 90% of shots to the chest were rejected, partly due to the weak flippers and also due to a problem with the fork mechanism
- could not hear any music/call outs, and the external volume button was turned off on the settings.
- multiballs were two balls instead of three (I couldn't figure this out because I don't even think this is a setting)
- when the ball rolled down the left orbit over the left flipper, it did not roll along the guide and instead was already off the wall. Whereas I can normally loop 5 shots at home through the Fountain of Youth shot, here we could barely make one loop. It also meant it was hard to hit the MAP hole, and so there was only a single time we were able to plunder.
- the action button did not work, such that I could not change the Pirate inlane awards nor collect gold. Big part of the game was missed here. No arrr frenzy. No strategy on setting up playfield multipliers etc. No tortuga multiball.
- at home, when the ball comes out of the depths scoop, I usually hold up the left flipper and it hops to the right flipper, which has a great visceral feel to it. Here that didn't work either and would instead go into the right sling.
- plunger was offset, and maximal plunge would make it at most to the ship skill shot, rather than to the left upper flipper. Literally not one plunge would get there.
- cannon shot rejected, I believe because the target ship was stuck against the left side of the game and possible due to the steep angle of the game
- spinning disk did not much change the ball trajectory, not sure why. At home it is a fun randomizer. Here it really did feel just ornamental.
- no ball saver, so the combination of all the above problems led to many quick ball drains
I'm a pretty decent player and regularly score a million points at home, start most of the multiballs, and make it to at least one mini-wizard mode every 5-6 games, but on this POTC neither of us could get above 70,000. Friends come over my house and love the game. It just wasn't possible to make the shots and progress through the game at Sunshine. We played about 20 times, and only could start a multiball twice: once as a mystery award and the other because of repeated skill shots to the ship. I know these rules inside and out at this point but could only talk about them rather than demonstrate them in action, let alone work through the dynamic layers of strategy that come alive when you progress through the game normally.
To Kaneda's credit, he tried to come in with an open mind and give the game a chance. If I was being intellectually honest I would say that if my main experience with POTC was that particularly machine I would also think 'this is no fun'. It was honestly an eye opening lesson for me that to most pinball fans, our impression of a game is inevitably dependent on how well the particular machine is set up, particularly our view of the shots and code and mechs. I've honestly never seen such a poorly set up new game on location, and I must admit that the other Stern games there were working pretty darn well. I'm not sure if that is unfortunate coincidence, or just the reality of Stern building their games to play well on location. It is possible that POTC is just a difficult game to have on location, and is best appreciated in the home setting.