It's been over 15 years since LOTR pinball came out. The deep coding work by Keith Johnson, Chris Granners music / sound work, and custom callouts by John Rhys-Davies have made LOTR one of the best pinball machines all of time. For a home buyer LOTR is a game that you can own for years and not see everything. A cousin of mine purchased a LOTR shortly after it was released in 2003, has 5,000+ plays on the game and only a couple years ago reached Valinor not knowing a game he had for 10+ years contained a mode he had yet to play. To many pinball players LOTR is considered the pinnacle of ruleset depth and variety.
Keith Johnson has now been the lead on 3 JJP games since the company was formed in 2011. The three games are WOZ, Hobbit, and most recently Pirates. On a Head2Head Pinball podcast last year Keith described WOZ as LOTR 2.0 and Hobbit as WOF 2.0. Just to note, Keith's comments were made before Hobbit received several final massive updates, most or all of which had a lot of code work added / polished by Ted Estes in addition to Keiths work.
Hobbit in my opinion has the best theme integration out of the 3 games with actor audio, and video assets from all 3 films as well as multiple takes on a licensed music track thanks to David Thiels incredible audio work. Those assets are used in all modes including 30 book modes, the games main multiball (Smaug MB), the 3 Arkenstone wizard modes, and the final super wizard mode "There and Back Again". The 3 Arkenstone wizard modes in Hobbit are unmatched in terms of depth with each containing multiple stages along with unique assets. Like LOTR the main modes in Hobbit are progressive based meaning you need to perform specific tasks on the playfield to complete them rather than just hitting the same shot again and again or hitting random switches.
WOZ is another extremely deep game. There are assets from the movie but not as much contained in Hobbit which to be fair makes sense as Hobbit is using assets from 3 considerably long films. Some, but not all, of the modes in WOZ are progressive based including Emerald City MB, Castle MB, Munchkin MB, Fireball Frenzy, and the games mid wizard mode Battle the Wicked Witch. There's also around 10 switch based modes (crystal ball, munchkin, haunted modes) which while fun are not progressive based. Personally I view WOZ's code as a mix between LOTR and Simpsons meaning progressive and switched based modes are equally split throughout the game. WOZ like LOTR has players completing tasks on the playfield that are all building towards the next level of progression in the game.
Pirates is Keith Johnson's most recent game and some would argue his deepest game to date. Pirates ruleset contains 100 chapter modes, 5 movie mulitballs, 5 wizard modes, and while not yet coded a super wizard mode. Unlike LOTR, WOZ, and Hobbit that contain licensed assets featuring film actor audio and video Pirates contains limited licensed assets. However, Pirates is still considered one of the deepest games in pinball partially due to the character select feature that changes how the game is played based on a characters abilities. Chapter modes are not progressive based in the sense of LOTR and Hobbits main codes but are also not switch based. Instead chapter modes in Pirates have the player hitting specific shots on the playfield representing the characters from the scene the chapter is based on. Movie multiball modes are somewhat progressive depending on the one played and all 5 wizard modes are entirely progressive based with multiball stages. All modes feature callouts from an actor from the films, Kevin McNally, and custom music created by David Thiel.
What do you think?