It says that LOTR is one of the greatest games ever made. But we already knew that. It’s funny that we usually hear from people that either don’t like it, or complain about it. Too long playing. Clunky. But it had everything I love in pinball. Great art, some of the best callouts ever... and the two most critical thing needed for greatness. Staged rules, and depth. It had things you could get your hooks into. You could always find one mode, or one thing to get into. The staged rules speaks to that. There were easy modes, and very difficult ones. To start Destroy The Ring, you just needed to start 3 multiballs, but to destroy it, you had to hit shots under pressure. Eventually you started finishing Two Towers, and really went to work on Fellowship. Did you beat Return of the King? How did you feel the first time you earned 3 cheese wedges from the elves? It plays long because it’s so deep, and there is so much to do that it has to play long. The rules match the play perfectly.
This is the same reason why Metallica was there at the end as well. The rules match the game perfectly. Do you want to just play a basher game? MET is a bash game! Sparky all day. Grave markers all day. Snake all day. Just keep hitting the same thing over and over, and poof, the game will give you a multiball for it. It’s a true basher. BUT, it isn’t. Because combine that bashing with key shots, and all of a sudden you are lighting shots. You are progressing a bit deeper. You are earning those bashing shots on the real smooth shots. You are locking in those shots for the rest of the game to earn them quicker and less dangerously than bashing them. Get enough of them, and the blue light starts flashing for Crank It Up! Hit the scoop and pick your poison. These modes require a quick bashing of all 4 main spots, but then it quickly becomes a huge risk reward choice. Sure, you can hit the scoop and get the F outa town, OR, you can increase the jackpot massively. And of course, you need to then double it at the end before exiting. Well, really you probably already drained, but if you didn’t, you need to hit that pison first. And during multiball, who doesn’t try to hear “Jack F*****g Pot”? The perfect depth, and strategic decisions needed to do well.
That’s the innovation of pinball. And I make it sound like a formula, but it isn’t. It’s hard to put a game together that has these levels of great play with great rules, that are also fun to play multiple ways. That’s the secret sauce that makes them win.