Here's my review of playing this game for about 2 hours today. Shout out to Helicon Brewery for being the absolute king of location pinball!
Shot summary - I was a little weary after watching the stream and hearing a lot of negative feedback but after playing it today, I'm picking up a pro tomorrow. That should get my point across fairly easily. It has brought one of my fav shows to pinball and it executes well with a fun layout, excellent music and effects, their best LCD art to date and a two tier toy. While not fully baked, I rather buy in now and enjoy it instead of waiting on the sidelines only to hold out on the fun until the inevitable code updates happen.
+Smooth shooter. Layout is very AFM so it feels familiar but not identical but I was a little worried about the ramps being plastic. Luckily they didn't detract at all to the experience. Love that left orbit shot to the right flipper (very DP prem). Right orbit was my concern but shooting it into the pops was still satisfying although I am a sucker for pops in pinball. Right inlane shot has to be my fav as you can loop it around but it's not fast enough to be impossible (ala JP2 top right flipper loop) but not slow enough that it doesn't feel fun/exciting. Just a great shot and mixes up the formula as part of the code is looping. Left inlane was fine as gives you a little time to breath which was nice to have as this game plays rather fast, as you would expect. No lock on the pro was fine as it does pause enough and when you got into Tele MB, the ball is shot right when that van comes crashing down which was a nice touch.
+LCD Screen - no question, the best stern has put out to date. I own JP2. I know it improved in that game but you can't ignore certain scenes (especially with people) where you cringe a little and go, well it's a pinball machine so what do you expect. I didn't feel any of that here with Stranger Things (ST) - the dogs, the atmosphere, the demogorgan... I feel they really played to their strengths and avoided the pitfalls (like people) so I didn't feel like I was playing Dreamcast Crazy Taxi! They did and excellent job and I found myself trying to look up at it. I make fun of stern all the time regarding this but they nailed it here. btw - extra ball animation is a complete shout out to AFM replacing the alien getting hit in the face with the demo. Nice touch too.
+Sounds/Music- This one is BIG for me. If you're a player that doesn't need to hear well to enjoy, then you're the opposite of me and prob don't place a lot of value in this category but I do. Case in point, with Wonka, it absolutely tore me out of the gorgeous table and layout b/c the slot machine effects and the announcer and lack of good music really pissed me off - to the point where I passed on owning the game...it drove me crazy. ST on the other hand just nails it. The sound effects, the spooky music, it really put me in the ST universe. It's hard to describe in a review but I couldn't have handpicked better myself. In the current code though, it's clear they are targeting suspense/scary vs humor which they need to balance better but I'm aware the lines are in the code already so just a matter of time. The important part is what's been coded thus far is really impressive and that's important b/c after the fact replacements is hard and often ends up disjointed. Music wise that's easier but I do a lot of add ins for games and it's always better when the original team nails it and Stern crushed it here.
+Demogorgan- I had to call this out separately b/c I've read about all the whining and complaining related to this toy and my expectations were probably lower than they should have been but I really enjoyed it. Here's the surprise for me. I might have read this somewhere on these forums but it truly feels like the hole in one shot from NGG. I love the temporary giant ramp that drops in front of you and it becomes a game of not only hitting it but timing it so it goes in the hole. I wasn't successful many times (although I'm also not very good) but when I connected, it gave me the same satisfaction from my time of NGG ownership and I loved that shot. It's much more fun to shoot than the AFM mother ship b/c of that extra element resulting in having a tiered approach to what is normally a one approach bash toy. Loved it. Hit it or sink it. It's hard but super satisfying.
+/- = code. This is def leaning towards the + category b/c the modes seemed varied (and could get to that promised "deep" code), the video assets looked very good, the tie in to the effects and music already impressed me. I just want more.....and that's the negative. I know it's early but believe me, the code foundation is set and it is solid. Really enjoyed what I played and I'm eager to see how they build. It's going to get even better and I have no issue buying in now so I can begin to enjoy what's there and then continue enjoying all the new updates that hit. It's like buying an episodic game that just continues to get better. It's the opposite of a game with broken or incomplete code that results in boredom or wasting time - I truly enjoyed each second I had with it.
-/+ Art. Tough one as well. It's not clipart stern bad. Yes it might appear to favor that style more than what we've seen recently but the PF art especially along with the purple really has it's own look. It stands out from the rest of the games and it does surface that 80s touch, especially with the fonts used. Too many inserts no question but looking over it and seeing how they represented the scenes from the seasons in interesting ways, from the poisioned grounds, to the vans to billy and steve's face over to something else - it's a lot to look at but satisfying, especially as a fan. It's a negative b/c it could have been SO much more. So much - hello season 3??. I'm happy that it's not terrible though but I'm looking forward to some sick side blades (we need more Billy and Steve) and a better translite. Speaking of, it's not great but not terrible - in fact that summarizes it well for art and for that alone, with this type of powerhouse, it's leaning negative which is a shame but they gave us enough to enjoy.