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Pinball

brian

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#1
Pinball is the greatest sport known to man. I wasn't always a disciple of the silver ball, but Midwest Gaming Classic got the ball rolling. Around March of every year, a big retro game convention rolls through Southeastern Wisconsin and some huge vendor hall is filled with retro arcade games and pinball machines set to free play. Unfortunately the vendor hall is packed and you have to wait to play most of the machines.

Regardless, I live in Minneapolis now, and this is a pinball heaven. All sorts of classics and new machines around me to play. Medieval Madness! Funhouse. Taxi. Twilight Zone and the Addams Family. In my area, I have some 70+ machines to be played. spread out over 4 locations.

Where can you play pinball? Well, here are two sites to locate machines near you:

http://pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play

http://pinballmap.com/

Why pinball? Well, arcades are neat and all, but honestly, it's pretty easy to play retro arcade games and the like on your PC/whatever system using emulation. Pinball, not so much. Yeah, the premise is hit a ball into some target blah blah blah points, but there are all sorts of minigames and objectives with-in the game that adds a level of complexity. And while there are videogame approximations of pinball, they don't really replicate the mechanical aspect or the lightshow from a true machine, and the ball doesn't ever really behave the same.

Any other pinball lovers around here? It's a bit of a dying art. As of right now, in the US, only Stern in the Chicago area is regularly producing new tables, and some New Jersey company just released a Wizard of Oz table that looks flashy but is kind of boring to play.
 

brian

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#3
There are some good machines there but someone I know from Portland said that they're not in very good shape. Hopefully that has changed.
 

Pirate

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#4
There are some good machines there but someone I know from Portland said that they're not in very good shape. Hopefully that has changed.
I actually don't play the pinball machines when I'm there, so I can't say. Almost the entire second floor is dedicated to pinball, though.

I go straight for the Mortal Kombat II machine. :)
 

Taxi

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#6
The Ground Kontrol pins aren't in too bad of shape, at least the last time I was there.

I have a Whirlwind machine here at the house, but I'm mid process of cleaning it, so it's not playable right now. :( (I should probably work on that.)
 

brian

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#7
I have a Donkey Kong cocktail table that's taken apart. I feel your pain.

I've played Whirlwind once or twice. I wasn't very good at it but it seems like a nice machine. I love how it says "There's a Storm coming!" and activates a fan on top! (This is the same machine, right?) Looks like a neat one to own.
 

Pirate

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#8
The voices from the Whirlwind machine are hilarious. If you seek shelter, some strange hillperson says something like, "Well, looky here." Creepy. :)
 

brian

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#9
Taxi, would you say owning a pinball machine is worth the effort, or is more a pain in the ass? I keep looking at craigslist for deals and once in a while, a decent machine comes with-in the price I'd want to pay. But then I realize I live in an apartment for one, and also up three flights of stairs.

I can get a lot of playtime out of a machine I like though. And I could always just sell it before I move if I don't feel like bringing it with.

As it stands, I probably dump at least $20 a week on pinball at all the local places.
 

Taxi

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#10
Well, I'd say it's worth it, but I have had very few issues with my machine. I've had it for about 12 years (went in half with a friend of mine) and this is the first time we've done any major work on it, and really it was working fine when I decided to clean it, it only had minor things that were broken (lights that don't light, and a spinning target) but their impact on play was minimal.

I bought my pin before the prices went crazy. We got ours for about $1500, and it was in like-new condition. The guy we bought it from (In Roseville, CA) worked on pins as a hobby, and he had several in his collection, and he was awesome at restoring.

I search for pins on Craigslist every day. Somebody is actually selling one of the pins I want to get (Twilight Zone) for $5K, but they've done a full LED restoration on it, and I don't want LEDs. (I'm old school.) The stairs are probably going to be your biggest obstacle, but it can be done. Just get 3-4 friends to help you, and a handtruck can be a big help as well.
 

brian

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#12
Yeah Taxi, the prices right now are pretty insane. I'm with you on the LED mod thing too - it can look pretty snazzy, but it kind of drives my eyes nuts. The tavern near me has a couple "classic" machines modded with LEDS (Terminator 2 and Dracula) but they both just seem off.

There's a pinball store not too far from me that I've been meaning to check out. They have a sale today and if nothing else, I'll go to try some of the games on freeplay, they have a few I haven't seen out in the wild yet. Hoping to play Back to the Future and Batman!
 

brian

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#13
I went to the store - the games I was specifically looking to check out, Taxi, Batman, and Back to the Future were not ready to be sold yet. Bummer.

There were two in my price range that would be "ok" - Secret Service ($750), which is incredibly cheesy 80s, and Comet($1100), one of the William's rollercoaster themed games. Comet was in good shape, but the game is fairly simple. Good for the era, cheesy music, but I think I should hold out for a machine that really grabs me. I haven't played Back to the Future, but at the very least, even if the game is just ok, I'm a fan of the theme. I can see growing tired of Secret Service and Comet pretty quickly.

The Taxi pinball machine is fairly simple when compared to something like Whirlwind, but it's fun, and the music is great. They were thinking it would cost around $2000 when ready. My main drawback with this one is there's one (albeit in poor condition) not too far from me - no sense in buying a machine that's fairly accessible.

I guess one concern is when it comes to something like Secret Service - sure, it's cheap, and I could have some fun on it, come time to move it seems like it would be tough to sell or trade it when I grow tired of it. The Williams games or a popular movie license will keep people's interest and it wouldn't be too tough to sell or trade on short notice.
 

Taxi

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#14
Sadly, it seems the machines I want are the ones that EVERYBODY wants:

Twilight Zone
Addams Family
Medieval Madness
Funhouse

So the prices are always high.

Although 5K for that TZ I saw on Craigslist isn't too bad. I could always just get it and replace the LEDs with real bulbs. Hmmm.
 

brian

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#15
I suck so much at Twilight Zone and Addams Family. Getting better at Addams, but I don't know if I've had a game on Twilight Zone last longer than 3 minutes. Oof.

I love Medieval Madness and Funhouse. Both great games. Both out of my price range until I win the lotto. No love for Taxi, Taxi? I love the hell out of the music. It's very simple compared to any of the games you mentioned, but it has a pretty good flow to it. I could see owning this one.

Another underrated one that I like is Fire! Again, it's the music. It's not a top-tier machine by any means, but the theme is put to good use, the artwork is amazing, and it geeks me out when you launch a ball (your firefighter) up a ramp(ladder), the ramp collapses and your "firefighter" gets trapped in a building. - I'm not sure I'd want to own this one, but I love the novelty of it all.


Something like Back to the Future probably isn't a great game, but the license is cool enough. Unfortunately they couldn't get Michael J. Fox to release his likeness to the table, so they have some weird stand-in for him on the art.
 

brian

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#16
And yeah, you could replace the LEDs.

However, I think every Twilight Zone I've played has been near impossible for me to see from dim or burnt out bulbs. At least you wouldn't have that issue with the LEDs.
 

Taxi

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#17
That Fire! looks like a lot of fun. Very similar in design to my Whirlwind, and definitely from the same era, probably a System 11 machine.

I've never played a Taxi game IRL, only virtually. It's a good game, but I would probably never buy one, except for the name of course. :D

TZ is a tough game to learn, but it's very rewarding once you get it down. (I'm sure there are still parts of it that I don't know. But that's part of the fun.)
 

brian

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#18
Maybe I'll hit up TZ later today. Fire! is a bit younger than your machine, circa 1987, but is indeed a system 11.

I really need to talk my itself out of this.
 

brian

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#19
Yeah, still suck at Addams Family and Twilight Zone. I think they're both designed with lots of shots to piss you off, rather than to reward you. Grrr.
 

brian

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#20
There's a Taxi for sale near me for $1500. Tempted. It seems like a terrible idea when you live in an apartment without an elevator and you're on the 3rd floor though.