Category Archives: Pinball

Table Review: Circus for Zaccaria Pinball

20210503224054_1A lot of people can’t fathom just how much time we put into these tables prior to writing any review on them. It’s a big effort that takes part in phases. Before I put my fingers to the keyboard, we always make one final run through each table in a set. In the case of Zaccaria’s 1977 release Circus, it made a massive difference. Originally, we all rated it GOOD except Eala, who fully conceded that childhood nostalgia bumped it to GREAT. If Oscar can get away with naming Firepower #2 of 100 Pinball Arcade titles, we can let Eala slide with that one.

But then, during our final play-through, the rest of us (except stuffy-old Jordi) admitted we underrated Circus. It’s worthy of being Certified Excellent by The Pinball Chick team.

A few things strike me about Circus. #1: it’s a looker. Zaccaria is (in)famous for its generic, broadly-themed tables. Having a name like “Circus” with no flare or pomp is typical of their output, but at least this one looks memorable. It terms of layout, it’s not all that different from some of their other tables, especially Moon Flight. But the bright Blue/Red/Yellow/Green scheme here is distinctive and charming.

#2: The intuitive layout is perfect for introducing people to the late EM era of pinball. Really, Circus is electro-mechanical in-name-only. It flows like an early solid-state. Unlike Aerobatics, there’s a clear driver here: the left spinner lane has a free ball attached to it if you charge-up the value enough. You take aim at either spinner, both laid along primary angles, and the value increases. The challenge comes from gaining control of the ball, as either spinner feeds the roll-overs that lead to the bumpers. The center roll-over doubles the value of the multiplier.

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#3: the Bonus Score Value saucer, laid along a dead-center angle with a backboard to catch the ball, is one of the most difficult saucer shots we’ve had to experience since starting The Pinball Chick. The straight-away angle makes shooting it at the correct speed to not hop over it incredibly difficult. Hitting this shot banks the points you’ve charged-up for the spinners, and resets your progress if you’ve not yet lit the extra ball special. However, you can also get an extra ball if you fully charge the points AND have lit all the C-I-R-C-U-S letters, which lights the special on the Bonus. It’s one of the most surprisingly challenging shots in all of Zaccaria Pinball, and one you’d never see today, where instead a designer would almost certainly make it a cellar instead. It makes Circus a deceptively deep table and one of the best for teaching new players primary angles.

Circus is a ton of of fun. It’s got its problems: the outlanes are absolutely brutal no matter what mode you’re playing in, but that’s typical of Zaccaria anyway. It’s also one of the more sloggy tables, since grinding-up points requires repetitively shooting the same lanes over and over and over, which is to say nothing about dealing with the bumpers when you’re short either the I or U in C-I-R-C-U-S. It’s certainly not going to WOW everyone. Jordi thought the table was perfectly fine, but he wasn’t as impressed by the pair of spinner shots either. But, if you want to hone your Zaccaria EM skills, all the basic shots are on display here. If Zaccaria had any licensing outreach in the 70s, they could have attached the Ringling Bros. name to this and Circus would be remembered as one of the greats of its era. You can say that about a LOT of Zaccaria tables, but in the case of Circus, it feels like it deserved to be remembered more than it is.

20210503221835_1Circus
For Zaccaria Pinball
Nintendo Switch DLC: EM Table Pack 1
Normal DLC: Electro-Mechanical Pack
Certified Excellent Table
Designed by Zaccaria
Released in 1977
Art by Lorenzo Rimondini
Cathy: Great
Oscar: Great
Angela: Great
Jordi: Good
Eala: Great

Table Review: The Addams Family for Arcooda

Yes, Addams Family is one of the many delisted Pinball Arcade titles. But, it’s not GONE gone. At least if you have $499.99 to spare, plus either a dual-monitor digital pinball table or a relatively beefy PC + two monitors, one of which is a wide-screen. If that’s true, The Addams Family is one of the 76 tables included in Arcooda ‘s digital table software solution, and one of many tables where Arcooda’s version absolutely slays the now-delisted standard version. Even the non-Lawlor-loving curmudgeon Oscar had to concede that Arcooda Addams Family is a masterpiece of digital pinball conversions.

The secret-sauce for Arcooda is having subtle changes to Pinball Arcade’s standard-edition layouts, mostly de-cramping the space. Not even portrait mode versions of the tables (which every PC version of Pinball Arcade has) feature the true-to-life dimensions Arcooda offers. While the physics are still the same as Pinball Arcade, with all foibles that come with that (such as live catches being far too easy to pull-off), the actual gameplay of the tables is SIGNIFICANTLY more accurate than it ever has been just by having the dimensions and geometry be less-relative. If you want an example, look at the two pics above. The layout on the left is Arcooda’s build, while the layout on the right is the dimensions for the normal (well, Gold) version of Addams Family. The standard version, even with the ball size changed to compensate, is going to feel squished. Don’t get me wrong: the standard version plays fine. But, the Arcooda version IS the coin-op done digitally.

For our Arcooda reviews, we’re actually at the mercy of having to switch back to the standard version to get close-ups of the tables. Sorry. Anyway, the staircase and multiball/extra ball lane is where you can truly feel the difference. This is a legendary ramp, and no digital version of it feels more accurate than Arcooda’s.

In the case of Addams Family, longtime fans of this, the greatest-selling real table of all-time, will find their muscle memory will be accurate. When playing the two versions side-by-side, we found the real big difference was on the center staircase shot and the center multiball-lock shot, and the graveyard bumpers having more breathing-room (just wait until we talk about how fixed Twilight Zone’s bumpers are). Really, every shot is truer to the real deal, so much so that our games of digital Addams play out not-that different-from real Addams. From the maddening lack of ball save, to the joy of stringing together quadruple combos, to the anger-inducing multiball magnets, to the thrill of reaching Tour the Mansion. While I still firmly believe whatever was the best of 1992’s tables was destined to set all the sales records, I also admit that Addams Family’s success is no fluke. It’s table that offers something for fans of every table type. Sharpshooter fans will find some of the most precise target-shooting of any table from this era, not to mention one of the most punishing of bricked shots. Finesse fans will find a table that rewards flexible strategies and a large variety of modes. Fans of kinetic gameplay will love a table that incentivizes ball control and ultra-quick reflexes. Even pick ‘n flick fans can excel at a table where slowing the action down and grinding up extra balls through shot repetition is a viable strategy. A lot of tables desire to be something for everyone. Addams Family truly is.

Speaking of kinetic, Addams Family’s graveyard has one of THE great risk-reward cluster of bumpers of the DMD era. The bumpers are used to charge up the swamp-shot, also known as the Thing Flip. Many professionals base their strategy around completing this shot, which is often more valuable than the much-higher-risk multiball jackpot. Angela, an absolute dead-eye with bat flippers, used it almost exclusively to defeat Dad and I in a first-to-four series, 4 to 1 to 1. It’s maybe pinball’s most thrilling shot, so much so that I actually hate when it’s done automatically. Especially when Thing misses. Hell, I can miss all on my own, thank you very much.

Addams Family is so popular, so legendary, that many silverball die-hards these days feel obligated to list it as an overrated table. They’ll cite elements like the brutal magnetic field of the multiball experience, or the Seance, which many players choose to just trap the ball and run out the clock on. They might even agree with my hypothesis that arcades were so red-hot in 1992 that whatever was the best table released in the first quarter of that year was fated to be the best-selling ever, and it just happened that Addams Family, releasing in March of 1992, was the lucky one. Exchange Addams for Doctor Who, which released in September of 1992, and Doctor Who eventually claims the record. Exchange Addams for Terminator 2, which released in July of 1991, and Terminator 2 *murders* the record. 1992 was an overall banner year for pinball in general, with FIVE tables selling over ten-thousand units, and it’s not like Addams Family was a box office juggernaut. It did fine, but wasn’t an unfathomable smash-hit.

Purists will probably complain that it can’t be called “true to the arcade” because they had to slightly alter Fester’s appearance (and Pugsley’s too). If it bothers you THAT much, given that it affects the gameplay (checks notes) not at all, you’re officially too shallow for this review to matter at all. Oh and worth noting: if you have a Kinect camera and Windows 10, the glasses-free 3D view is absolutely incredible.

Be that as it may, the pinball table is that: the biggest hit of the sport’s most popular era. As I write this, I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of an arcade goer, circa 1992. I wasn’t even three-years-old when Addams Family released. But, I imagine the familiar toe-tapping theme and gothic look of the table must have been quite the siren call for players. Maybe not creepy in the same way Funhouse’s Rudy was, but instead a more inviting and whimsical party of macabre. And also, let’s face it, Raul Julia’s infectious charisma is on full display. He didn’t phone-in his performance for the pinball machine. He absolutely lets loose and delivers some of the most famous samples in the history of gaming. “It has to warm up.. SO IT CAN KILL YOU!” still sends chills down my spine. “WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU?!” always leaves a smile on my face. Addams Family can be brutal to the point of demoralizing for newcomers, BUT, it really wants you to have fun, even in failure. Hell, even after arcades were dying, Addams Family pinball was considered viable enough that real money was sunk into attempting to develop a port of it for the Nintendo 64. This is six years after it came out. And that project was cancelled because the technology at the time, specifically the N64, couldn’t do it justice. Pinball Arcade came very close, but it’s Arcooda’s software where the digital version lives up to the legend. It’s not the only one. Expect many of their other tables that failed to get perfect scores from us for Pinball Arcade to Mamushka into The Pinball Chick Pantheon of Digital Pinball. Black Hole? It’s making it in. Twilight Zone? Made it. But it’s probably Addams Family that was the most transformed by it. This IS the Addams Family. Well, with easier live catches.

Special Note: YES, Arcooda is still active. Pinball Chick associate Dash, who will be submitting Arcooda scores for our reviews going forward, ordered the $499.99 kit off their website. It arrived just days later. While Farsight is off the grid, Arcooda is active, along with their customer support and service. You can trust them.

The Addams Family
for Arcooda Software
Developed by Bally, 1992
Design & Concept: Pat Lawlor & Larry DeMar
Art: John Youssi
Sound: Chris Granner
DMD: Scott Slomiany

Cathy: MASTERPIECE
Oscar: MASTERPIECE
Angela: MASTERPIECE
The Pinball Chick Pantheon Inductee

Table Review: Cine Star for Zaccaria Pinball

Cine Star is a polarizing dumpster fire of a machine that has one truly breathtaking shot. A true, blue Boardwalk-style table that makes a whole lot of noise, where a good one-third of balls (minimum) will be unplayable by all but the most skilled players. Angela called it “the worst ‘real’ digital table she’s ever played” while Dad called it “thoughtless.” All five of us agreed Cine Star is a one-trick pony. But, for three of us, that one shot is so fun to shoot that it raised what should be a quintuple-PITS occupant into something that’s at least worth a look.

Even if that one shot is so absurdly over-balanced and illogical that it makes Bride of Pin•Bot’s billion-point shot look conservative.

A ball in Cine Star plays out like this: you serve the ball, and it’ll go down one of two lanes and land directly on a bumper. At this point, a small supernova takes place and the ball goes crazy. It’ll almost certain volley back and forth off the bumpers, taking out a few of the twelve star-lights. But that’s not your focus. You just want to gain control of the ball. There’s around a 33% chance the ball will either suicide-plunge down the outlanes in the blink of an eye, or maybe fall lifelessly down the drain. BUT, if you can somehow gain control of the ball, you’ll take a deep breath, take aim, and fire at this:

And it has a duck on it, which caused Angela to call it the Quacker Cracker.

Every spin you manage to shoot scores 10,000 points, with a maximum value of 100,000 points.

At this point, I’ll note that Cine Star only has five digits to track the score. So, if you played a REAL Cine Star, you wouldn’t even know what the score is. Of course, that means the digital version is one of those rare tables that is genuinely better in every conceivable way to owning an authentic machine. At least you don’t have to keep track of every single roll-over in your head.

This one shot, a feast-or-famine shot (we called successful 10-spin shots BINGOs), is the only reason myself, Eala, and Jordi didn’t put Cine Star in The Pits. I’m embarrassed to admit how much fun I had shooting this damn spinner. It’s glorious. Dad and Angela said it was enjoyable too, but the table’s entire layout, luck-based arrangement, and overall poor balance made this among the worst tables we’ve reviewed so far. I agree, but man, that shot is fun. Of course, the rest of the table is dead real estate. If you happen to hit all twelve star lights, the special is lit. The special is tied to the Quacker Cracker and activates about three seconds after you hit a BINGO on it. Of course, if the ball ricochets and drains before the value registers, you don’t get the points OR the extra ball, and that happens maybe one out of three times too. So, whether or not you enjoy Cine Star comes down to how much you’re willing to overlook historically-bad design for one amazingly satisfying shot. Your millage may vary.

Cine Star
For Zaccaria Pinball
Nintendo Switch DLC: EM Table Pack 1
Normal DLC: Electro-Mechanical Pack
Designed by Zaccaria
Released in 1975? 1976?
Art by Lorenzo Rimondini
Cathy: BAD
Oscar: THE PITS
Angela: THE PITS
Jordi: GOOD
Eala: BAD

Table Review: Aerobatics for Zaccaria Pinball

20210503003200_1Zaccaria Pinball’s early efforts are much maligned, and perhaps rightfully so. They started out like the pinball version of Frankenstein’s laboratory, building tables out of spare parts from other tables in order to make clones of popular tables from other companies. Bizarre, but we all have to start somewhere I suppose. But, let it be said, they eventually became a solid, dependable manufacturer of quality pinball machines. The best of their early efforts, at least in this chick’s opinion, is Aerobatics. Unless I bump a table’s status in our final run, it’s the only one of the forty-one digital recreations of real Zaccaria tables I awarded MASTERPIECE status to, EM or solid state.

I can also get why many people wouldn’t think Aerobatics is worthy of that distinction.

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IF there is a driver for Aerobatics, the left saucer would probably get the credit. But, I genuinely enjoyed shooting the top one more. Plus, it starts every single ball with the left special highlighted already, so you have a chance off-the-serve to turn it on. Actually, I think the main weakness of Aerobatics is that the top light resets at the start of every ball. I wish it didn’t. Let’s say you have one of the other three lights on. Having to shoot the spinner to try and light the first step in the specials would have added some much-needed depth. If it had been that way, Angela and Oscar would have gone MASTERPIECE in their rankings, Jordi would have bumped his rating up to GREAT, and Aerobatics would be in the conversation for the best EM conversion in all of digital pinball. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

What makes Aerobatics the one for me is every shot is exciting. All four of them. Okay, so it’s not a deep experience, and there’s arguably no primary target OR even really a genuine driver for the table. In fact, it’s absolutely viable to alternate between shooting the two saucers and letting the crowding of the table and the inevitability of missed shots run its course. The advance-bonus shot on the right wall? You can put up mighty scores using it without ever once taking direct aim at it. Hell, that goes for the three drop targets as well. In fact, while writing this very paragraph, I decided to test that theory by playing the 5-ball arcade mode on Switch and aiming specifically ONLY at the saucers, no matter what. 12,750,100 points later, I’m #2 on the all-time Leaderboard.

“Wait, you were able to circumvent 95% of the table, put up a near world-record, and you’re calling THAT a masterpiece?” Yep, and here’s why: there’s no Zaccaria electro-mechanical table where the art of the nudge matters more. When to nudge and when not to nudge, and which direction to do it. This is especially highlighted in the outlanes.

Mind you, extra-balls earned off specials are limited to one per turn, but I can’t stress enough how much a weight-off it is in any Zaccaria EM when you finally see that EB light turn on. You breathe out a sigh of relief. Every. Single. Time.

Normally, I’m not a fan of open inlanes, but in Aerobatics, they’re arguably the key element in a table that has no true primary shot. Using the spinner, you change which of the five lights for the top saucer are lit. If it’s the second or fourth light, the special for the outlanes lights-up. If the ball drops down the outlane, you get a free ball. But, whether or not a special opportunity is active or not, you have a chance to save the ball. Sometimes you don’t have to do anything. The ball will bounce off the post at the base of the outlane and be put back into play. Sometimes, you’ll need to save it manually. Either way, when do you ever see a table where the outlanes are the most thrilling element? It turns what is already a really fun, energetic table into one of the most satisfying of its kind you can get in modern digital pinball. Aerobatics does a lot right. Fine-tuned scoring and proper risk-reward balance married to fast-paced kinetic energy. Sure, there’s not tons of flexibility for players, but every single shot is a genuine thrill to hit. Even after playing every “real” table Zaccaria has to offer, I still don’t think the little Italian silverball company ever topped this early effort from 1977. It’s fantastic!

Aerobatics
For Zaccaria Pinball
Nintendo Switch DLC: EM Table Pack 1
Normal DLC: Electro-Mechanical Pack
CERTIFIED EXCELLENT TABLE

Designed by Zaccaria
Released in 1977
Art by Lorenzo Rimondini
Cathy: MASTERPIECE
Oscar: GREAT
Angela: GREAT
Jordi: GOOD
Eala: MASTERPIECE

Zaccaria Pinball – Deluxe Table Pack 1 Table Ranking (Xbox One & PS4 DLC Pack, Tables sold Individually on Steam)

Think of Zaccaria Pinball’s Deluxe series as being their take on modern pins like those by Jersey Jack or even Stern’s post-DMD works like Stranger Things. The scoreboard is now an animated LCD screen and modes have explanations and rules given to you. If Magic Pixel’s goal was to create original tables that feel like they could be real, two of the three tables succeeded. I could believe that Red’s Show and Cine Star are real tables. Spooky Deluxe? Probably not. It doesn’t seem like it would physically work. Ironically, Spooky is the best of the set and the first table during our Zaccaria play time that has won an excellent table certification here. Zaccaria Pinball is a solid, genuinely fun pinball set that frustrates me sometimes with the sheer amount of confusing options, but make no mistake, this is a solid pack to introduce yourself to their potential.

But, there’s a few problems with the first three Deluxe tables that have been released on Xbox One (this set is coming to PS4 in August, 2020), and one table we have to temporarily classify as “broken” until the engineers at Magic Pixel fix a target. The major issue is that tables have their scoring shut off during modes, which is so annoying. Of course, this applies to Zaccaria’s “Remake” collection of 27 original creations that a Buyer’s Guide will be created for here at The Pinball Chick. We’ve tried to limit our exposure to them, but in a brief play session with the “Remake” version of Spooky (not to be confused with Spooky Deluxe or the “Solid State” Spooky that are found in other sets in the Zaccaria Pinball collection), the same issue happened: modes freeze scoring for anything but the targets in the mode. BUT, I’ll argue that there, at least the tables are less busy and less prone to bounce AND you get a much bigger time limit that’s within reason. 40

BUT, make no mistake, even with one table that we were forced to classify as “broken” and a lot of frustration, these tables are FUN! And that’s what matters. $4.99 gets you two quality tables, one that WILL be quality upon a bug fix (which they need to get around to doing fast, since these Deluxe tables are going to be their signature DLC series going forward), and probably some of the most uniquely challenging shooting in digital pinball. They’re onto something, and hopefully will only get better with experience.

Zaccaria Pinball – Deluxe Tables Pack 1

Price: $4.99 (Xbox One), tables sold individually or in bundles on Steam (Check Pricing)
Total Tables: 3
Quality Tables: 2
Certifications: Spooky Deluxe (Certified Excellent)
SET RECOMMENDED

THE BROKEN

#3: Cine Star (Would be GOOD)

Remake of Cine Star (Unverified release date)
REST OF THE TEAM
Oscar: Good (#3)
Jordi: Good (#3)

Gutsy to base a table on Indian cinema, but I really dig the non-conventional theme. I wish that Zaccaria’s original tables had better art in general, stuff that looked more like classic pinball art, but it’s visually my favorite of the three tables. (It’s also possible it’s Middle Eastern cinema. The pyramids in the scoring LCD I just now noticed).

Originally, I had Cine Star Deluxe #2 of the three tables in Deluxe Pack 1. While Oscar and Jordi always had the same order, I appreciated the more old-school design with new-school elements that Cine Star offered. Of course, like all the Deluxe Tables in the pack, actually getting balls to consistently enter and flow through orbits is quite the chore and, even after sixty-hours combined on the three tables, we still couldn’t hit shots with the type of consistency that they should be at. “What table are they shooting on that balls rim-out of orbits or brick the rails so consistently?” Oscar, not exactly a slouch at precision shooting, said while playing this. Which is not to say it’s a bad design. It’s not. It’s maddening, frustrating, and bound to be a massive turn-off to all but the hardest of hardcore pinheads. But bad? No. When you get on a roll.. rare for Zaccaria’s deluxe tables.. you’re in for a treat. Unlike Red Show or the upcoming Spooky, Cine Star is a table carried by a signature shot, and it’s a doozy. Behold: The Stunt Tower!

The gawdy Sinbad toy or whatever that’s supposed to be is so distracting from what should be the most spotlighted shot in all of Zaccaria Pinball. I’d be mighty impressed if they end up topping this. Of course, like everything else on Cine Star Deluxe, the potential is greatly hampered by the fact that you can activate all five lights and hit the target, but the accelerators might fail and you might not score the point. And sometimes, when you have some of the lights but accidentally shoot the entrance to the tower, which sends the ball part-way up the ramp, you can no longer get certain lights to work, meaning the fifteen million points it contains are lost to you for the remainder of that ball. It contributes greatly to the “unfinished prototype” feel of this particular table.

The idea is there’s a light switch on on the tower and five lights. Each light corresponds to an accelerator along the ramp. If you light all five lights and shoot the ramp, the ball spirals up the Stunt Tower and you score 15,000,000 points. The instructions say 10,000,000, but it paid 15M every time we’ve shot it. Either way, this is one of the most ingenious centralized targets I’ve seen. A Brian Eddy-style shot that combines rewarding points with a visually-satisfying payoff. I love the Stunt Tower. I’d love it even more if it worked with consistency, but as I noted in the caption, it has a moderately high fail rate, so high that it landed the table in the BROKEN category. Albeit with less anger than Doctor Who: Master of Time of Champion Pub for Pinball Arcade. No, this is a different type of anger. A “I’m disappointed in you” type of anger that will be undone by some patchwork.

It’s not just the Stunt Tower. The rest of the table is much more janky than the other tables. I’m not even exaggerating when I say we didn’t even begin a mode in the majority of the games we played, and not for a lack of trying. Getting anything but the Stunt Tower is a huge waste of time. All other targets essentially shut down during modes in Zaccaria’s deluxe tables. The modes are often based around all the tight squeezes that make me question whether precision shooting is even a viable option. That’s why I guess I liked Cine Star more. There’s two primary-angle shots that you need to use the Stunt Tower, and it’s possible to put up a dynamo score without activating a single mode. Dad’s World Record run had him complete one mode, score the tower once, and hit a few basic combos. It wasn’t that hard. Part of that is because the Xbox leaderboards are scantly populated by truly competitive players. Hopefully coverage here at the Pinball Chick will fix that.

This is not a two-ball capture ball target, like you’d see in Theatre of Magic. It’s actually only a single-ball target. The second ball is my ball and it’s marooned. This is the worst dead zone I’ve encountered so far as The Pinball Chick. In roughly one out of three games played on Cine Star Deluxe, Dad or I would maroon a ball in the capture ball. This slot is too easily accessed. Serves off a plunger can be lethal too, so calling an attendant isn’t risk-free. However, even full strength nudging won’t free a ball from this dead zone. This is commonly hit enough that it should never have made it out of play-testing and contributes to the table’s BROKEN status.

So, just for now, we have to regretfully list Cine Star Deluxe as “broken” because it’s just too damn glitchy. If the Stunt Tower were reliable, it’d be fine. In fact, one solution they may consider is that you score fifteen million (or, again, is it REALLY supposed to be ten million?) by lighting all the lights and then entering the tower’s accelerated run. The points are awarded at the top of the tower. By moving it to the base of the tower, you get the points you earned regardless if the mechanics fail to work. If this were a real table, there’d be an operator option for exactly that. I’ll be putting this #2 if the bugs are fixed. By the way, don’t wait for the fix to play this if you buy the set. Working or not, that Stunt Tower shot has to be played to believe.

THE GOOD

#2: Red Show

Remake of Red’s Show (1975)
REST OF THE TEAM
Oscar: Good (#2)
Jordi: Good (#2)

Red’s Show is visually loud, to be sure. But I really think this is the most pinball-looking of the three tables in Deluxe Pack 1, even if I prefer the less noisy Cine Star.

A busy, flipper-heavy, combo-heavy table, Red Show is somewhat confused on what it wants to accomplish. The super-wide-body layout that’s absolutely over-flowing with targets and modes gives it that mad-scientist vibe, with very little in the way of dead space. The boys disagreed with me and placed this #2, but I felt the biggest issue with Red Show was, once you get the timing down, you can ignore the table’s modes and the relatively higher-risk angles they follow and instead shoot combos for easy points until the cows come home. Combos in Red Show are worth increasing multiples of a million points. For Spooky, they build off 100,000 multiples, which keeps the balance of that table focused on playing modes. I find it absurd that Oscar, a scoring-balance purist, would argue in favor of a table that FUBARed the scoring to the degree Red Show did. His counter-argument is that the orbits are higher-degree-difficulty shots with high potential to clank them. My counter-counter argument is ONE MILLION IS TOO HIGH A MULTIPLE!

I can’t stress enough how ridiculously tight this shot is. Even if you set the ball to the small-size, the margin-for-error is small to the point of demoralization.

All the Deluxe tables have the same issues. Serving off the plunger is absolutely fucking pathetic and sometimes.. not most of the time, but often enough that it’s annoying.. the balls go straight down the outlane. The plungers all do a pussy-shit launch that has no skill shot or anything attached to it and just sorta of clumsily puts the ball somewhere on the playfield with momentum pointing straight at the left outlane. Just inexcusable. Good pinball should NEVER feel like you’re cheated, and the deluxe tables constantly feel like they’re cheating you. So many of it feels like it’s done in a deliberate way that it almost feels the designers are trolling you. “Haha, I wish I could see the look on their faces when they plunge a ball and it immediately goes down the outlane.” A pinball designer’s #1 mindset should be asking “is this a fair challenge” and plungers in all three Deluxe tables are anything but fair. It’s a problem. They also all have too-difficult to activate multiballs. For Red Show, there’s a spinning lock under the base of the giant toy, and at most, we each locked a single ball in it. In several hours playing just this table (which included Oscar setting the World Record high-score on Xbox One for 3-Ball Simulation), we didn’t get a single multiball until we figured out that you basically have to treat that target like it’s a completely different shot with it’s only timing and set-up instead of being a natural part of the table’s flow.

It took us a long, long time to figure out the multiball shot in Red Show. It’s because it’s so unconventional that there’s really no real-life analog to it. The trick is to wait for the ball to settle on the upper-central flipper. Without trapping, the ball will sometimes settle and allow a tee-shot. From there, it’s actually a relatively easily-timed shot that locks the ball. Alternatively, you can do a standard ball trap with the upper-left flipper and do a tap-shot, though if you have the physics set to “arcade” this is very difficult. With “simulation” physics, Dad actually clocked the timing of the tap shot and became able to activate multiball with ease. I confess, I never got the hang of it.

Which is not to say it’s not fun. The front of the table where the entrances to orbits are makes for a pretty good sharp-shooting experience. The issue is the table is too big and has such shallow access points to the upper-tables that actually getting to them is an overly difficult slog. Want proof of this? Try the Challenge mode, which as of this writing, has three people on the Leaderboard, myself included. Shots are too tight, entrances to orbits too small, and the table too large to have a special mode where you have to shoot specific targets. Those are done dumbly anyway. “Hit the spinner” would have been difficult enough. “Spin it 20 times” is flipping the player off. It just is. The third task was locking a ball. Which, again, possibly the worst ball lock in the history of the medium belongs to Red Show. It’s too small a hole with too poor of access and too sharp an angle. Spinning multiball lock? LOVE IT! Spinning multiball lock where they placed it? Oh piss off. It’s not reasonable. But, ultimately, we all three voted “GOOD” on Red Show. The theme is fun, targets are distinct and well spaced from each-other. The upper mini-field is very rewarding. It’s got a great pace and a wonderful sense of reward. If I sound frustrated, it’s because this should have been a slam-dunk GREAT table and it’s not. Orbit access shouldn’t be this maddening. Red Show is fun, but it’s one of the biggest brick layers in modern digital pinball.

THE GREAT

#1: Spooky

Remake of Spooky (1987)
REST OF THE TEAM
Oscar: Great (#1)
Jordi: Great (#1)
THE PINBALL CHICK CERTIFIED EXCELLENT TABLE

Time to talk about the elephant in the room: the Deluxe tables are ugly. That art is total amateur hour. It looks like how a Halloween-themed cake’s frosting would be decorated. A really cheap one you buy from Walmart. I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings saying this, but it just isn’t pinballish. And it’s going to prevent a lot of people from trying Zaccaria’s tables, because bad art will be equaled to bad gameplay. So, spread the word that this is well above average table in terms of gameplay, even if it looks like a dollar store Halloween window decal.

Spooky Deluxe is proof that Zaccaria Pinball is digital silverball’s biggest hidden gem. You guys won’t believe the treasures we’ve unearthed in Zaccaria Pinball, which includes official bootlegs (you read that correctly) of tables designed by all-time legends like Ed Krynski or Norm Clark. Spooky Deluxe proves they are worthy contributors to the legacy of the medium. The fun, frantic Japanese Fan design is actually the most conservative of the three tables in Deluxe Pack 1, proof that “less is more.” The bird’s nest of four ramps incentivizes combo-shooting, but doesn’t totally succeed in eliminating wood chopping. I was able to build up a few record-setting scores by abusing the spinner and a couple targets that are worth between two million to five million. Really, the key to success in any Zaccaria Pinball remake table, be it the ones actually labeled “remake” or “deluxe” is to restore the ball save via the lane lights. You can shift the lights left or right, and lighting all four restores the ball save (or scores 2,000,000 points if the ball save is already active) for about thirty seconds. Since the ramps feed the lanes, you can really just keep reloading ball save over and over and over again. You can tell the difference between players who get this and players who don’t on the leaderboards, as there’s usually gaps in scoring range.

Spooky has the Necronomicon just laying around behind the ball lock. Meanwhile, the ball lock sometimes does fail to lock. It’s not as annoying as the Stunt Tower in Cine Star, and I guess it’s hypothetically possible that my shot wasn’t accurate enough. But I swear, sometimes in modes that require you to shoot the lock, the ball fully goes into the cage but doesn’t lock or count.

So, what’s the problem? Well, like other other Deluxe tables, the modes have too short a time limit and disable all other scoring. Forty seconds to shoot four orbits and then trap the ball in a semi-unreliable ball lock is kind of unreasonable. Thankfully, Spooky Deluxe has a pair mini-modes that end as soon as you complete the one and only stated goal (either shoot the BAT target three times or shoot the ball in either ball lock three times) for a cool five-million points. In my world record game on Xbox One (I am, as of this writing, the World Champion in Spooky Deluxe’s five-ball arcade physics mode), I completed exactly ZERO main modes and only one mini-mode. My record setting score was a result of building up the spinner value, along with a successful multiball. I’m also 2nd place in the same mode on Steam, and this time, I didn’t even score the five million point mini-modes even once. Which is not to say the modes are impossible. They just require you to be nearly perfect from the start of the mode, without the ball getting caught-up in a bounce cycle on the slingshot or the bumpers. A few modes I never even came close to finishing. Take for example “Silver Bullet”, which I’ll explain in the caption.

In “Silver Bullet” mode, these are the lights that you have to shoot to move onto the next step of the mode. The thing is, in over twenty-hours of playtime, none of the three of us could figure out a proper shooting angle with either flipper for all of them. The top-most ones can barely be toed off the flipper, but the bottom two especially feel like they only get hit by a lucky bounce. You only have forty seconds, and I assume there’s more to the mode than just clicking off all six lights. Probably shooting the ball lock next to the Necronomicon, since that seems to be the finale to other modes. Making any mode’s target a blind angle that relies on lucky bounces isn’t a good idea. We practiced at this shot as much as humanly possible in both arcade and simulation modes and legitimately couldn’t find any angles that could access all six lights. It’s a blind angle. For a mode. That’s not good design.

Make no mistake, Spooky Deluxe is a very problematic table. But, it’s also a whole ton of fun. It might be the most sloppy of any table we’ve unanimously rated “GREAT” here at the Pinball Chick, which might sound like damning praise, but I consider it a challenge to the Magic Pixel team: you’re going to keep getting better, but you gotta start making these Deluxe tables more player-friendly. Spooky seems to troll players a lot. The BAT light target that activates multiball is positioned at a slight off-angle just above the drain, in a way that causes the ball to do a suicide plunge towards the drain. That’s not adding challenge to the table. That’s adding a luck element. Don’t do that. The designers of these tables have to remember the ultimate maxim of pinball design: the best challenges are the ones players put upon themselves. Have faith that you don’t need to screw players to make a table hard. Did you see how many times I choked away a world record before I finally got it? I’m doing just fine myself, thank you.

Pinball FX3 has a Local-Multiplayer Problem

Before we start, I want to note the irony that, for nine years now, my fans at Indie Gamer Chick have complained that I don’t put enough stock (or any at all) into local co-op when I review some games. What can I say? Maybe if my Daddy had sat me in front of a Double Dragon coin-op instead of a Firepower pinball machine when I was a child, it’d be different. Alas.

I’ll cut to the chase: local multiplayer scores in Pinball FX3 don’t count for online leaderboards. Among the three modes offered for each table, if you don’t play single-player, you can’t chase records. This won’t matter to a lot of people, but it does for Oscar and myself. While I’m not exactly an elite-level player on the majority of tables, I have briefly held a few world records on a variety of tables, including Masters of the Force from Star Wars Pinball on Switch and, no matter how I did it, I am still legitimately the console world champion of Mustang for Pinball Arcade. My Dad is currently a top player a few Zaccaria tables on Xbox and hovers near the top 10% of several Pinball Arcade tables, and has been a top Judge Dredd player for the month a few times in 2020. But, when it comes to Pinball FX3, we have to chase records alone. That sucks for us, because the majority of our video pinballing we prefer to do via duels. Over 80% of the total accumulated playtime (and we’re talking hundreds of hours) spent playing Pinball Arcade for our review was spent competing against each-other. Frankly, we learn way more about tables via a duel than we do playing solo, because it puts a sharper focus on what targets matter and where the scoring balance lays. If Oscar is able to build a lead through sharp shooting and guile only to watch me evaporate it by exploiting a scoring quirk and repeating low-degree-difficulty shots, it proves the table has a problematic rule sheet.

Well, we can’t do that with Pinball FX3, and that really sucks since all our highest scores actually have come in versus mode. It’s really to the point where we don’t even duel at it anymore. Our competitive spirit burns, but we also want to, you know, be on the leaderboards. There’s not a single Williams table, with the exception of Safe Cracker, where we haven’t put up a total that would be the highest of the week. Mostly Dad, if I’m being honest. In fact, the amount of leaderboard spots he’s given up from those times where we do duel is insane. So, I feel like we need to have a talk with Zen Studios. Take a seat, gang, and note the following:

#1: Playing in multiplayer gives no competitive advantage.

In the day of multiball ball-locks that featured a mechanism physically locking a ball in place, with no “virtual” locks, duels in certain tables could result in players stealing locks you shot. This was a common theme when Oscar and I dueled at tables like Swords of Fury in Pinball Arcade or Fathom. Dad and I coined the term “unlocked door” for it. Hypothetically, if you wanted to cheat in a high score, you could play a two player – four player and and use all but the main game to secure the locks, presumably at higher risk, and then use the main game to start an instant multiball. It’s dirty pool, but it could be done. Only, there’s no table in Pinball FX3’s Williams collection that has unlocked doors. If anything, it would be hypothetically harder, because for those tables that do physically lock a ball + use virtual locks (such as Fish Tales), you might not get a plunge when you lock a ball, but instead have to play off a kick-out. Kick-outs are almost certainly higher risk.

#2: You might have to deal with being iced.

“Icing” is a sports term used for deliberately stalling a game in a pressure situation in order to build up the nerves of your opponent. Examples are calling a time-out before a field-goal kick in football, or before crucial free-throws in a basketball game. Competitive pinball players do it too, along with my father and I when we duel each-other. If one of us has an especially high-scoring ball and is hitting their shots at a high clip, whoever goes next is likely to play deliberately slower and more conservative their next ball. There’s also unintentional icing: if you watch a player have a long, prosperous and high-scoring ball, sitting there waiting for your turn could throw-off your game greatly. Combine this with the pressure of having someone you’re immediately competing against, and really..

#3: It’s more impressive to set a world record in a duel!

I mean, it is. Both my father and myself have won multiple weekly or monthly high scores on a few tables or been near the top of the boards. But my Dad’s recent climb to the top of one of Xbox One’s Zaccaria Deluxe tables (Cine Star, 3 Ball Simulation, which granted, need a much bigger competitive field to truly impress) happened while dueling me. That made it more special to him, since he set his record in part because he was beating me in the process. The funny thing is, we were both smoking the targets that game, to the point that it either one of us could have walked away with a world record that match (in fact, my score would have put me third on the board if Dad hadn’t topped it). Hell, imagine if Pinball FX3 had a physical, local-only tournament. It’d be a shame if top players showed up and performed extraordinarily only to not have their scores appear on leaderboards. Who cares if it shows up as the person who owns the machine’s user name? Nobody. Just ask my Dad, who is on top of a few leaderboards under the name IndieGamerChick despite never going by that name. Well, except when he plays fantastic rounds of digital pinball.

The Pinball Chick presents The Pinball Arcade: The Complete Buyer’s Guide & Table Rankings

A project I’ve been working on with my Father and Jordi for the last nine months. It took hundreds of hours of playtime across three platforms and hundreds of hours of writing. The end result is the biggest game review ever written anywhere: The Pinball Chick presents The Pinball Arcade: The Complete Buyer’s Guide & Table Rankings. It’s over 64,000 words long (more than The Outsiders, The Great Gatsby, or the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), covers all 100 tables (including all delisted tables) and all eight still-available DLC packs. It’s, as far as I can tell, the largest review in the history of video games.

I’ve worked very hard on it, and I also did my best to make it a fun, fast-paced read that’s peppered with factoids, stories, legends, and humor. As a Buyer’s Guide, it’ll be a permanent link at the top of The Pinball Chick, like the Pinball FX3 Williams Buyer’s Guide. I hope you enjoy it. If you find any errors, please contact me immediately so I can correct them.

Please also share the link. It’s pretty much a book-sized review that’s free for everyone. Man, I hope Pinball FX3 gets some more of these tables.

Read: The Pinball Chick – The Complete Pinball Arcade Buyer’s Guide & Table Rankings

My Pinball Controllers

As of right now, I don’t own any physical pinball table, not even a tabletop toy. I used to have one in the past, though. A Spider-Man based table I had when I was a teenager that was battery-controlled to run the lamps and scoreboard, and that I owned for a couple of years until I sold it at the yearly open street market of Koninginnedag here in the Netherlands. I don’t recall what I got for it, but looking back, it was far too little regardless of the actual amount. I was an idiot, I should’ve kept it.

When I play pinball these days, it is on my PC or my PS4. It’s not perfect, but with titles like Zen Pinball/Pinball FX, Farpoint’s Pinball Arcade, Zaccaria Pinball, emulators, and a few other titles, I have access to countless titles. Since I don’t have a dedicated pinball controller yet like the awesome MAME-based tables I see on my Twitter feed now and then, I have to control them with more conventional means. In practice, that means a controller or a keyboard, so here’s a listing and loose rating of the controllers I have used so far.

I’ll split this list between keyboards and game controllers, as every single controller is better than every single keyboard when it comes to computer (or console) pinball for the simple reason that controllers have analog sticks, which means you can actually control the plunger with some level of accuracy. Plus, they tend to have a second stick which lets you nudge in more than one direction.

Keyboard types

blue-close-up-computer-computer-keyboard-265631

I can only wish my laptop keyboard still looked as clean as this after years of heavy use…

Laptop keyboard

Just about every laptop keyboard is awful in every aspect. Computer pinball is usually controlled by the shift keys and space bar, and on a laptop keyboard, you have three major issues when it comes to playing computer pinball on them:
#1 They tend to be really small, all the keys are cramped in a tiny space.
#2 Since laptops are tiny, keys can be shifted around and other keys added. As a result, often the shift keys are not where they are supposed to be, and the space bar will be too small.
#3 Cheaper laptops even use membranes or chicklet keys. Membranes are impossible to use for pinball as they can have trouble registering even two keypresses, like both flippers, and chicklets just don’t feel good to use. The Apple magic keyboard is an infamous example of a chicklet keyboard that only die-hard followers of the Cult of Cupertino can love.

Standard keyboard

Dome-switch keyboards, scissor-switch keyboards, capacitive keyboards and the like. I’ll group them all together, as there is really no big difference between how they can be used to play pinball. As long as each key is registered individually and the shift keys and space bar can be easily hit, these work fine for computer pinball.

Mechanical keyboard

Now we’re talking. Mechanical keyboards have that satisfying feeling when you depress keys and are often made for either typists or gamers. Low latency, clearly registered keypresses, and you have a fine pinball controller.

Other keyboards

What about an on-screen keyboard, or a projection keyboard, I hear nobody ask? You have to be kidding.

Of course, there are better options than keyboards, which brings us to:

Game controllers

black-blur-close-up-control-539986

Opinions differ, but I just think these controllers look cool. Plus they work beautifully.

Generic game controller with analog stick

In the days before Windows Vista, these were ever-present. You still see them occasionally, although less so on modern PCs as very few of them were USB connected. Here, I’ll limit it to controllers with at least two shoulder buttons and an analog stick. The immediate advantage over keyboards is that analog stick: you can adjust the plunger just as you would in real life! I’ve ranked this generic entry last since, on modern PCs, you want a modern controller.

Xbox360 Controller

For many years the standard PC controller, and with good reason. While the D-pad is absolute garbage, and if you disagree I challenge you to actually play a game that uses the D-pad for navigation, both shoulder buttons and the left analog stick feel great to hold. With this type of controller you can do everything you need to in a pinball game: plunge to shoot the ball with as much force as you want, have two or even four dedicated flipper buttons, a second analog stick to simulate nudging in up to three directions (if the game supports it), and enough face buttons to map whatever you need to. Even magna-save for those unfortunate tables that depend on having a dedicated magna-save button.

Dualshock 3

Mainly limited to the PlayStation 3, although it can also be used on a Playstation TV if you are one of the 9 other people who own one. Not that there are many worthwhile pinball titles on the Vita or PSP to use it, but I digress.
What makes the DS3 better than an Xbox360 controller is the way the controller fits in your hands. I always find holding an Xb360 controller awkward, and it’s a hassle to use my index fingers on the triggers (flippers). This is not the case with a DS3, where my hands find the right buttons perfectly. Combine it with a perfect analog stick and you have a very satisfying controller for console pinball. The one downside is that it is badly supported for PC.

Good luck finding a legit one these days, though. In the past five years all the DS3s I bought turned out to be fake and these never play quite as well as my originals.

Steam controller

A recent addition to my gaming setup, and unfortunately, it has been cancelled. I picked mine up for almost free in the December 2019 Steam sale and ten minutes later they were sold out forever.
Apart from being delisted, it’s also one of the strangest controllers you’ll ever see. It has only one analog stick, but to compensate for that it has two large capacitive circles. On the shoulders, it has the two you expect, but it also has two extra ones on the back. Looking quite similar to the strange add-on Sony announced for their Dualshock 4s, come to think of it. I guess I know where they got that idea from.

The moment I got it, I retired my old Xbox360 controller, since the Steam controller is extremely versatile and every button including the capacitive circles can be remapped. With some pinball games not using normal controls but insisting on space alien setups, the Steam controller is a godsend since you can just remap them to make it work normally. And while the analog stick is small, it is very responsive and allows me to make better adjustments with plunging than both the XB360 and DS3 ever could. In that aspect, it’s even better than the DS4, so it has become my main pinball controller on PC.

Dualshock 4

How do you make a good controller better? By making it slightly bigger, apparently. Sure, the DS4 also has a lightbar and a touchpad, but no pinball game on the PS4 actually uses these. And you don’t need them, since the flippers and analog sticks are just perfect. Fine control over a plunger, responsive flippers, the only way it could be better was if the analog stick had even better control.

Horipad FPS Plus

O hi there, Dualshock 4 with a better analog stick! The Horipad FPS Plus is my current main pinball controller for one reason: it has a little slider at the bottom and a small nub at the back which work together to limit how much range the right analog stick can travel: either half or quarter. This is incredibly overpowered since in a lot of tables in Pinball Arcade you can make a skill shot 100% of the time by setting it to the halfway point, and then just pull fully back. The analog stick is also very easy to adjust just a little bit, feeling even better than a default one, so making skill shots is easier than ever. On top of that, the L1/R1 shoulders are digital, not analog, so they register full force immediately. This is perfect for a pinball simulator since on a real table you just slam the buttons and the flippers move. One last feature this controller has that is relevant to pinball control is that it has a turbo feature, which comes in handy on tables like Fish Tales where some video modes are brainless button mashers. Just set the X button on autofire until you win the mode, and get back to actually playing.

PSP / Playstation Vita

Included for completion sake only. On the dedicated handhelds, you can’t normally use a separate controller, so the console itself is the controller. Well, to keep it short, I am not a fan of the triggers on either the PSP or PS Vita, and when it comes to playing in vertical (or tate, たて) mode, things get worse. You’re forced to use the tiny face buttons instead, which means you’re probably holding the console in a cramped claw until your fingers give out.

male-hand-claw

What my hand usually looks like after trying to hold a tiny handheld console sideways for any length of time.

The PS Vita has a tiny advantage here – but only when it comes to PSP games – since you can optionally assign two corners of the screen to button presses, but it’s still not something I can ever recommend.

The 12K Club

One of the things my Father and I discussed in the planning stages is how we handle conveying to non-pinheads the historic impact of classic tables. We’re going to be covering them a lot, since Zen Studios has plans for more golden age conversions for Pinball FX3. Plus, we’ll be reviewing some high ticket items, like the $599.99 1up Arcade Attack from Mars and Star Wars pins by them. But, the thing is, it’s hard to give people the context of why, say, Firepower is such a big deal. In theory, the easiest way to do that is to say how many units it sold to arcades.

But, that comes with a problem: the numbers don’t sound impressive if you don’t know what the numbers mean. When I told someone the best selling solid-state table was Addams Family at 20,070, they responded with a stunned “wait, that’s it?” It’s hard to explain how astonishing an accomplishment that is. It’s one of only two solid-states to break the 20,000 unit mark. Only four tables cleared the 18,000 threshold. Remember, pinball tables are made for arcades. Yes, there was the occasional enthusiast or over-zealous father who bought a brand new table for the family rec room. But, for the most part, pinball machines were designed to be routed. Having 20,000 of one machine on route is remarkable.

Zen Studios could make a fortune if they port Addams Family to Pinball FX3, and then have their designers make an original sequel to it.

So, where is the threshold for true majesty? After careful consideration, we’ve decided on 12,000 units. While my Father and I agree that 10,000 units is a nice, visually pleasing number and a wonderful achievement, 12,000 is the elite class. It means the table was competing directly with the top video games of its time. It’s a number only two electro-mechanical tables ever achieved: Capt. Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy by Greg Kmiec and Royal Flush by the legendary Ed Krynski.

And so, for your consideration, here are the twenty-three solid-state members of the 12K Club. And for giggles, we’ve included all the remaining solid states that have sold 10,000 units. If we’re missing information, please leave a reply with a link and we’ll correct. Thanks to the Internet Pinball Database for helping with this.

20,000 Units

#1: The Addams Family (20,270 Units, 1992, Pat Lawlor & Larry DeMar for Midway)
#2: Eight Ball (20,230 Units, 1977, George Christian for Bally)

19,000 Units

#3: Flash (19,505 Units, 1979, Steve Ritchie for Williams)

18,000 Units

#4: Playboy (18,250 Units, 1978, Jim Patla for Bally)

17,000 Units

#5: Firepower (17,410 Units, 1979, Steve Ritchie for Williams)
#6: High Speed (17,080 Units, 1986, Steve Ritchie for Williams)
#7: KISS (17,000 Units, 1979, Jim Patla for Bally)

16,000 Units

#8: Star Trek (16,842 Units, 1979, Gary Gayton for Bally)
#9: Mata Hari (16,260 Units, 1978, Jim Patla for Bally)

15,000 Units

#10: Twilight Zone (15,235 Units, 1993, Pat Lawlor for Midway)
#11: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (15,202 Units, 1991, Steve Ritchie for Midway)

14,000 Units

#12: Harlem Globetrotters On Tour (14,550 Units, 1979, Greg Kmiec for Bally)
#13: F-14 Tomcat (14,502 Units, 1987, Steve Ritchie for Williams)
#14 Tie: Gorgar (14,000 Units, 1979, Barry Oursler for Williams)
#14 Tie: Evel Knievel (14,000 Units, 1977, Gary Gayton for Bally)

13,000 Units

#16: Power Play (13,750 Units, 1978, Greg Kmiec for Bally)
#17: Fish Tales (13,640 Units, 1992, Mark Ritchie for Midway)
#18: The Getaway: High Speed II (13,259 Units, 1992, Steve Ritchie for Midway)
#19: Black Knight (13,075 Units, 1979, Steve Ritchie for Williams)

12,000 Units

#20: Strikes and Spares (12,820 Units, 1978, Gary Gayton for Bally)
#21: Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (12,716, 1993, Mark Ritchie & Doug Watson for Midway)
#22: Pin•Bot (12,001 Units, 1986, Barry Oursler & Python Anghelo for Williams)
#23: Sinbad (12,000 Units, 1978, Ed Krynski for Gottlieb)

That, my friends, is the list. Those are the twenty-three pins that are among the greatest selling coin-operated games of all-time. Unless arcades make a serious comeback or pinball has an inexplicable boom, no new table will ever join their ranks. A sobering, sad reminder that we’ll never see the marvelous new tables of the 21st century ever get the recognition they deserve.

Here are the remaining tables that sold 10,000 units.

#24: Star Trek: The Next Generation (11,728 Units, 1993, Steve Ritchie for Midway)
#25: Space Invaders (11,400 Units, 1980, Jim Patla for Bally)
#26: Xenon (11,000 Units, 1980, Greg Kmiec for Bally)
#27: Funhouse (Approximately 10,750 Units, 1990, Pat Lawlor for Midway)
#28: Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man Pinball (10,600, 1982, George Christian for Bally)
#29: Star Wars (10,400 Units, 1992, John Borg for Data East)
#30 Tie: Silverball Mania (10,350 Units, 1980, Jim Patla for Bally)
#30 Tie: Lethal Weapon 3 (10,350 Units, 1992, Joe Kaminkow & Ed Cebula for Data East)
#32: Supersonic (10,340 Units, 1979, Greg Kmiec for Bally)
#33: Lost World (10,330 Units, 1978, Gary Gayton for Bally)
#34: The Six Million Dollar Man (10,320 Units, 1978, Greg Kmiec for Bally)
#35: Flash Gordon (10,000 Units, 1981, Claude Fernandez for Bally)

That’s it. Unless you count the home version of Fireball (another Greg Kmeic design that hit 10,000 units), those are the only thirty-five solid state pinball machines to sell 10,000 units.

What do YOU think should be the cutoff for legendary status? Should it be higher than 12,000? Lower? Should the club be instead the 8K Club? The Pinball Chick belongs to the entire pinball community, and we want to hear from YOU! So leave a reply in the comments saying what you think the “Club” should be!

Star Wars Pinball (Pinball FX3/Nintendo Switch Review & Table Rankings)

It’s not an indie, but following my scathing review for the 1983 Nintendo Pinball (or at least the arcade version of it), a frankly insane amount of interest in pinball drifted my way. And that’s just fine with me, because pinball is one of the great passions of my life. I’ve got real tables. I’ve read books on it. Some of my fondest memories involve the pastime. Like being a four-year-old and having my Dad put a chair in front of our Firepower table, and even then barely being able to reach the flippers, yet still being dazzled by the lights and the action and the noises (and I hate loud noise, so that tells you something). My Dad loved the game, and while gaming was something we never shared, pinball was always there.

“So Father, let me get this straight.. you figured out that I was your son when I was in a completely different ship from you and firing on the Death Star, but you didn’t realize Leia was your daughter when she was standing right next to you?” “Yea? Well you have the Force too and you didn’t realize she was your sister when you kissed her.” “Hah, shows what you know because I totally did and I’m totally into that!”

And then I developed epilepsy at the age of sixteen. But my father was not prepared to have me lose pinball. So we just removed the especially dangerous lights, or used duller LED lamp lights. The situation still sucked. I couldn’t play the tables with the lights out. I couldn’t play routed tables on location or visit the Pinball Hall of Fame when I was in Las Vegas (well, IN THEORY I could if the tables are arranged in a way where ones with strobey effects are not visible to me). And, most importantly, I couldn’t really get into video pinball as the genre advanced past the primitive “living ball physics” of the 80s and 90s. And that sucks, because we’re only just now, in the relatively recent past, getting the ability to fairly accurately recreate real tables, or design original ones that have all the charm and nuance of real life pinball combined with fantasy and sci-fi elements only possible in the anything-goes realm of video games. This is the golden age of video pinball, and up to now, I’ve mostly missed it.

And then I realized that, on the Nintendo Switch, I can turn the back-lighting down low enough that it all but eliminates my personal risk. And so, mid-September through mid-October is Pinball Month at Indie Gamer Chick. And I’ve decided to start with what is not only the best value you can get in the modern digital pinball experience, but what is one of the best Switch games of 2019. Star Wars Pinball uses the engine perfected by Zen Studios with their Pinball FX series and is a complete set of tables released on other platforms. These aren’t to be confused with real tables based on the franchise, most of which the rights are now owned by Stern and could only be recreated on their Stern Pinball/Pinball Arcade platform if they were able to get the rights that are owned by Zen Studios. Which wouldn’t really be worth it, none of them are all that great, though the 1992 Data East table is probably the best of the bunch. In this $29.99 collection, you get a whopping nineteen tables. And, keeping it real, besides the mini-games, they could probably plug-and-play any theme into the tables, so being a Star Wars fan isn’t necessary for enjoyment.

One of the only things that’s on my wish list for Star Wars Pinball is an option to practice just the mini-games. Maybe that would nerf the challenge, but I think it would make it better since some of the games are kind of confusing and you have to take your eyes off the table, with limited time, to read the instructions. Give us practice, Zen! We’re talking ’bout practice, man!

Most modern video pinball DLC comes in packs that typically average out to a cost of $3.33 per table. For the all-in-one Star Wars Pinball package on Switch, it works out of $1.57 a table. It’s the best value out there, easily. Well, unless you count all the tables you get in the truly bizarre Zaccaria Retro Pack (review coming). But those are.. weird. Here, the only thing weird is how good of a value this is. Maybe Zen Studios missed the memo about charging a Switch Tax.

For Pinball month, I’m going to do my best to focus on the tables themselves, but I want to tell everyone first that the physics for Star Wars Pinball are incredibly accurate. It’s very unlikely that video pinball will ever feel 100% table-authentic, but the team at Zen has gotten pretty close to it. While this isn’t as good as some of the tables in their own Pinball FX3, it’s very impressive. There were only very limited moments of wonkiness, like having the ball stop-on-a-dime when it should have bounced at least a little. Or getting balls stuck on the flippers or even knocked out of the playfield altogether. But, in over thirty hours of playtime, I could count the amount of times something that made me go “what the fuck was that?” on one hand, and I’d still have fingers left over for members of the Skywalker family to cut off with their lightsabers. So, this is a good game on its technical merits. And I also don’t feel that Star Wars Pinball did “on-rail shots” or “railing” where some pinball games give players the benefit of the doubt and guide the ball to targets if your aim is close enough. I hate that shit. I want to live or die based on my skills. It feels patronizing otherwise. Anyway, Star Wars Pinball also offers extra modes (like leagues and a career mode). Me? I’m a table dancer. I mean.. wait that’s not what I meant. Well it kinda is but isn’t. Shut up.

There are built-in table guides, and there’s also special challenge modes that are based around honing your skills.

But, I can’t stress this enough: Star Wars Pinball is a damn good game under any circumstance. There are only five tables that aren’t really fun at all. That means you’re getting fourteen quality tables that bring interesting game play and ideas to the table. A handful of those are absolutely breathtaking. Having said that, all the biggest problems with Star Wars Pinball are common with every table. It’s utterly married to the concept that you’re playing on a real pinball machine, and thus all mini-games exclusively use the flipper buttons and sometimes the launcher button to control. But there’s really no reason it should do that. Yea, this is on other platforms, but they could optimize the console versions to use the controller. Or hell, make entirely new mini-games for the Switch version. Why not? Zen Studios, makers of long-time favorite of mine CastleStorm are certainly capable.

Some of the mini-tables are honestly more fun than most of the indie games I review.

Other niggling little annoyances: the plunger is sometimes hard to judge for the skill shots. The game recycles assets between tables a lot. There’s a Darth Vader animation that keeps popping up and looks like he’s trying to offer someone a hand or attempting to declare a thumb war. The voices often don’t sound right at all. There’s no table where Rian Johnson is strapped to a chair while you just batter his ballsack with the flippers.

But, the pinball is mostly solid, the tables all feel different from each other, and staying consistently creative for nineteen tables is commendable. That applies to even the bad ones. I totally hated the Han Solo table, but I admire that at least they were trying something different. Take my word for it: you won’t get bored after a few tables. Each one refreshes the excitement and sense of discovery that Star Wars Pinball offers. And ultimately, that’s why it’s the best video pinball game I’ve ever played. Well, at least for now. I spent over $200 buying up pinball games and DLC this last week. But, if you’re looking for the best package of pins for the lowest cost, this is where the fun begins.

Star Wars Pinball was developed by Zen Studios
Point of Sale: Switch
Special Note: All the tables in Star Wars Pinball for Switch were sold in DLC packs as part of Zen Pinball 2. The tables are unchanged, so please reference the table index if you need help knowing what packs to purchase.

$29.99 shot first in the making of this review.

A review copy was supplied by Zen Studios to me. Upon the release of Star Wars Pinball, I purchased a copy of it out of pocket.

Table Rating Index

Star Wars Pinball: $29.99 (Nintendo Switch)
Total Tables: 19
Masterpieces: 3
Great: 3
Good: 8
Bad: 2
The Pits: 3
Total Quality Tables: 14
Price per Quality Table: $2.14

Special thanks to Steve Da Silva for his guides, which were very helpful. I’ve linked to them all.

The Pits

#19: Han Solo
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Below Average
Link to Guide

Han Shat First.

I went back and forth between Han Solo and Rogue One for the worst Star Wars Pinball table, like Star Wars editors trying to decide if Han shot first or at the same time or what. Rogue One feels like a hackneyed rush-job. Han Solo is very ambitious. But, after extensively replaying both, there’s no doubt about it now in my mind: Han Solo is the worst table in Star Wars Pinball.

So, where to begin here? There’s four ramps on the lower-half of the playfield, some of which are crowded by bumpers that can rise out of the floor. There’s often not enough room to build up speed to clear the ramps, but with a crowded playfield, most of the techniques you can use to build that speed up are are blocked in some way. The Millennium Falcon toy in the center is also hard to clear since the lane for it is covered. Combo circuits are frustrating because of the wavy ramp design. Modes and mini-games are clunky. It has the most unforgiving outlanes of any table. I have nothing nice to say about this one. Han deserved better. Between this, going out like a bitch in Force Awakens, and the whole fiasco with the Solo movie, the smuggler with a heart of gold has had a tough 2010s.

#18: Rogue One
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Below Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

The still image of Jyn Erso has more charisma than the real Felicity Jones. She’s only twenty-two months away from setting that world record for longest time a human being has gone without expressing a single basic emotion. Fingers crossed for you, girl! You got this!

I really don’t get what they were aiming for with Rogue One. The “highlight” of this table is a cluster of jet bumpers with five light targets. In front of this is a large sinkhole that sends the ball to a VUK that feeds the right flipper without fail. The jet bumpers increase multipliers, have easily to unlock multiplier holds (which allow those to carry over if you lose the ball), and open up simple, high-payoff modes. Ignoring every other aspect of the table, I was able to cheese up nine-figure scores focusing on this one aspect of the table with little resistance. And that’s just as well, because the modes aren’t all that fun.

The one redeeming quality I can say about Rogue One is that it might make a good starter table that has simple to hit straight-shots and easy-to-activate locks and lights. Since the table practically spoon-feeds you the ball and potentially challenging modes are muted by ball save being turned-on, you could do worse than starting with Rogue One. It’s a potentially effective confidence booster. BUT, there’s actually a better tutorial table (Empire Strikes Back) that doesn’t feel like shooting Porgs in a barrel. If you’re brand new to pinball, and I mean still-saturated in amniotic fluid new, Rogue One is the easiest option, but otherwise, this table is just boring.

#17: Solo
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Below Average
Link to Guide

I’m not sure if this table was made by the team of Lord & Miller or Ron Howard.

Not to be confused with Han Solo, this one is actually based on the solo Solo movie. And that’s fitting because it’s every bit as disjointed as the flick is. The Solo table is the most busted of the entire set. Everything is horrible about it. Solo is based on ramps and orbits, but the ramps are too steep and run the length of the table, and the angles of the tables aren’t suitable for building up speed. I’m guessing combos weren’t the point, because actually being able to pull one off is practically a fucking miracle and rewarded with crazy high scores. The slingshots and rails for the outlanes are practically ball vacuums. Orbit exits point at the very edge of the flippers. The front target of the Millennium Falcon has a high probability of falling straight into the drain.

I initially liked this table, but once I started putting significant time in it, I realized this is actually one of the worst in the set. There’s just no polish. I even was able to knock the ball off the table in my final round playing this. And the shit thing is, there’s some neat ideas, like a stealth-based mode. I couldn’t really play it well because I have to turn the backlighting of my Switch all the way down, but it was a neat idea. I wish it had been on a better design. The scoring is unbalanced. The timers are too short. The best mode involves shooting a ball at a storm trooper walking on the board, but even that can be wonky. Man, Han got screwed by Star Wars Pinball even worse than he did by Lando in Empire. No doubt about it: in Star Wars Pinball, Han shot first. And then died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Bad

#16: Boba Fett
Speed: Above Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

Boba Fett, patron saint of failures everywhere, got his own table. Like his real fictional counterpart, his table looks awesome but is ultimately kind of useless.

This table is proof the Speed/Difficulty/Modes ratings aren’t a measure of a table’s overall value. Here, the primary failure is in an overly-basic layout that falls victim to simple risk-reward mistakes. There’s vertical flipper on the left wall that’s very high-risk for shooting the right outlane, yet the reward for successful shots using it is relatively limited. In fact, the most low-risk shots (such as running combos through the ramps) score highest, while the high risk shots put the succubi outlanes in your sights but for minimum score and mode gain. The respect system goes under-utilized. The modes are dull. Boba Fett isn’t a total wash (and it’s very generous with ball-saves and kickbacks), but it’s probably the least properly balanced table in the entire collection.

#15: Might of the First Order
Speed: Above Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Below Average
Link to Guide

Based on tables like High Speed and Haunted House, which are great tables on their own. Mixed together, it’s a freakshow.

Might of the First Order is the single most tragic table in Star Wars Pinball. It has a lot of clever ideas and homages to classic tables that individually work well. But when you put them all together, it’d be like if Keith went to form Voltron and the Lions all crashed into each-other and exploded.

There’s an under-field similar to Gottlieb’s Haunted House or Black Hole, but without a proper transition when you enter it. It’s hard to tell when you’re in that table and no angle with the camera properly expresses depth, and consequently even skilled players will see their rounds with it end almost instantly before they even realize the mode has began. Star Wars Pinball has multiple tables with mini-fields, but they do it the right way: the action pauses while the camera transitions to the mini-field. Here, since it’s trying to pay tribute to classic real tables like Haunted House, the camera stays fixed and the ball enters play immediately. Thus a good idea is turned into garbage. And don’t get me started on how miserable managing multiball is with this gimmick.

Other problems are all over this one. The time limit on bonuses is too short. The mystery sinkhole is too prominent. The mini-games are boring. General Hux looks more like Tobey Maguire than whoever it is that plays him in the movie. And I’m especially frustrated by all these issues because the layout is one of the better ones (mystery sinkhole placement not withstanding), the speed is spot-on, and there’s a lot of fun gimmicks, like the fireball bonus. Might of the First Order is a bad table that, with a few minor tweaks and timing changes, would jump straight over the good tables and land somewhere near the top of the great list. Lots of fine ideas with bad execution. Sorta like Last Jedi, come to think of it. The movie, not the table I’m going to talk about later.

The Good

#14: Calrissian Chronicles
Speed: Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Below Average
Link to Guide

Yes, the prequels are stupid, but look on the bright side: George Lucas never wrote a scene where it’s revealed Mace Windu was Lando’s father. Lucas apparently only knows two black people in the entire world and thinks that Red Tails was the first action movie starring African Americans. You KNOW he at least thought about writing that scene. You know, the one where it’s revealed Obi-Wan knows that Mace fathered a child out a wedlock named Lando and so Anakin having kids with Padme isn’t totally unprecedented.

Lando’s table is probably the most difficult in the entire collection, and also probably the most like a real pinball table that’s designed to make money for route operators. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your personal tastes, but if it were real, Calrissian Chronicles would be a quarter-muncher. I personally enjoyed it, but this is a maddening, unfair, insanely unbalanced table designed to feed the drain like a concubine hand-feeding grapes to Caesar. There’s a multiball-generating captive-ball target, but it’s placed in a way that it has a relatively high-percentage chance of sinking into the drain. There’s cardboard targets, some of which are moving, but they also have a high-percentage chance of draining out. The slingshots feed the outlanes. The lane rails feed the outlanes. The modes are authentic to normal pinball but are all dull and repetitive. This is a brutal table. But, I appreciate that at least one table made a large effort to feel real-life authentic, so it can bring up the rear of the the good tables. But I could totally see where those who consider this the worst table are coming from.

#13: Droids
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Average
Modes: Below Average
Link to Guide

Remove the Star Wars theme and you could easily base this on the mythological Kraken with the mess of ramps that look like tentacles.

Droids probably should be in the bad tables list. It shirks every semblance of balanced, logical pinball design in favor of being the most ramp-heavy table imaginable. It feels like someone was just taking the piss with the table design editor, but then a nightmare deadline came up and someone shoved this tangled monstrosity into the final set.

But, fun is fun. And the Droids table is pure dopey fun. And it has actual value: it’s easily the best table for newcomers to practice shooting ramp combos on. You have clean access to every ramp, the entrance to each is low-risk, medium-low at the very worst, allowing players of all skill levels to get a feel for the timing of combo shots.

Sadly, that’s pretty much all Droids has going for it. Confusing mini-games, clunky modes, and lots of lost potential plague this table. It’s a terrific giggle to watch C-3PO blow up and have to collect his parts, but the actual collection process is messy and unrefined. I recommend playing this one, because there’s nothing out there quite like it, but these are NOT the droids you’re looking for.

#12: A New Hope
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

I hate to say it, but this table feels gimmicky. A straight table would have been preferable to this roundabout stuff.

Another table that I originally over-rated. A New Hope is based in part on Fish Tales. The entire playfield is a series of horseshoe orbits. And a big problem with that is the access to those orbits is too small a target. Considering how crowded the table is, how high-risk the slingshots are, and how the outlanes practically snort the balls, it’s one of the more difficult tables in the collection. I’m not even exaggerating when I say I sunk 20 consecutive balls in the outlane in a span of under three minutes. You have got to keep the ball as far away from the outlane rails as humanly possible. Even if the ball is beginning to enter the inner-most lane, it has a better chance of rimming out and sinking straight-through the outlane. A New Hope seems specifically made to induce rage.

A New Hope also has a problem with transitions between mini-fields and the main table. There needs to be SOME warning.

But, when it’s not doing that, it’s a perfect fine table. It has one of the more fun multiballs (based on the Yavin Death Star raid) that makes it rain jackpots. It’s got one of the best mini-games (a shooting gallery). It even tries to go retro with a dot matrix screen mini-game. I just wish they had rethought the outlanes, because they’re too easy to hit and almost every mode ends prematurely with them.

#11: Starfighter Assault
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Below Average
Modes: Above Average
Link to Guide

Strangely, the plunger is on the left side of the board when you play as the Empire, which resulted in me flicking the left analog stick. I did this nearly every new ball. My brain just couldn’t comprehend that it was still the right stick that controlled the damn thing.

Starfighter Assault is the first table I’m covering today where the mini-games are fun and live up to the theme. I just wish they played better. One plays like a rudimentary space-shmup, another is a first-person view. The issue with them, and all mini-games in Star Wars Pinball, is that even though you move away from the table and enter games with entirely different engines, you’re still controlling the games as if they’re dot-matrix-display minigames that only use the flippers and the launcher. They can still play well, but why not take advantage of the medium more? I don’t get it.

Otherwise, Starfighter Assault is a perfectly fine table. You have to choose whether you’re playing in the Rebel Alliance or the Empire at the start, but that only changes the look of the table and what side you launch from. What I regret about it is how stop-and-go it is. There’s multiple sinkholes and gaps that reset the ball to the flippers, and they’re positioned in ways that an errand shot at the otherwise combo-rich table pretty much halts the gameplay and negates the risk that should come with missed shots. And speed is a constant issue here. The center of the board is narrow, so building up the necessary speed to clear the upper ramp (when it forms) relies on running through combos. Which is not to say it’s not fun. Like Droids, Starfighter Assault is based around racking up combos, and the layout and modes are optimized for being able to make combo-heavy, high-scoring runs. It just hits too many speed bumps.

#10: Ahch-To Island
Speed: Above Average
Difficulty: Average
Modes: Below Average
Link to Guide

Why on Earth did Disney allow them to name the place “Anch-To Island”? Did Michael Arndt sneeze during his pitch meeting to J.J. Abrams and was too embarrassed to admit it, so he just ran with it? “And then finally the movie ends with Rey finding Luke on.. on.. AAAAAANNNNCCCCCHHHHHHH-TOOOOOOOOOO.. uh.. Island. Ahch-To Island! Yep. And then wipe to the credits! While I wipe my nose!”

The primary feature of Ahch-To Island is a prominent spin disc in a cove in the upper-center-playfield, similar to games like Whirlwind, Hurricane, No Good Gofers, or modern Stern releases like Tron or Kiss. I usually dislike them, but Ahch-To’s is implemented in a way where the ball’s exit isn’t quite as chaotic, nor is it as likely to be an unplayable house ball. If anything, I think they might have been overly conservative with the disc.

In fact, Ahch-To Island’s biggest issue is that it’s incredibly basic. Like Droids, this is a table built more around combos. Simple orbital lanes with high-scoring opportunities if you get into the right rhythm. What limited targets are here are fairly easy to hit. Most disappointing is the modes. They’re all pretty fundamental. This was the first table I opened Wizard mode on, and I did so when I was practically drip-fed extra balls. Still, Ahch-To is an incredibly fast-paced, often intense table. Probably a good table for stepping up your reflex game. Also, it spits up more multiballs than pretty much any other table, so if you’re like me and suck at those, this is your chance to improve. And Porgs. Can’t forget the Porgs.

#9: Empire Strikes Back
Speed: Average
Difficulty: Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

The only truly GREAT Star Wars movie is just alright in Star Wars Pinball.

Empire Strikes Back marries a realistic widebody table with video-game style mini-games. And the layout is awesome. Superb ramp placement. Smart short orbits. A fun spinner toy shaped like a Cloud City building. A pop-up ramp in some modes. This is a solid table. And it includes some interesting mini-game ideas, like recreating the lightsaber battle from the movie between Luke and Vader. That game isn’t perfect. You have to use split-second reactions to judge whether Vader is moving left, right, or straight ahead and block his attacks. The issue is, when he moves left or right, the timing for blocking is so unforgiving that you practically have to react the moment he starts to move. I one time had the privilege of facing off against a professional Rock-Scissors-Paper player, rolled my eyes at the concept, then proceeded to lose 20 straight shoots to him. He might have been able to face Vader. For everyone else, the only action Vader does that it feels you have a reasonable time window to block is the straight-ahead attacks. Every time I beat him, it felt like I got lucky.

But, that’s not the issue with Empire. The problem is it has the easiest method of beginning “scenes” (modes) in the entire Star Wars Pinball package. The target to trigger the entrance to the modes is right in front of you. It’s the most basic of shots. So is the entrance, which is a large hole even closer to the front of the flippers. It’s basically handing players the modes. It’s almost as if they weren’t happy with the table or thought the table didn’t have enough going for it so Zen decided to hypercharge the table by always having modes going. They really sold the table short. In reality, the only thing holding it back is the simple mode activation. On the positive side, Empire is the best table to introduce new players to playing through modes, so there’s that.

#8: The Force Awakens
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Above Average
Link to Guide

If the broken auto-launcher gets fixed, you can bump this table up a spot or two. I’d be fine with that.

I went all over the place with this table, and at one point, in a fit of uncontrollable rage, dropped it to dead last in the rankings. That part was mostly owed to at one point locking a ball for multiball, and then having the auto-launched next ball clear the entire playfield and go right down the fucking outlane. It caused me to go full pony (I screamed until I was a little hoarse). BUT, to the game’s credit, I might have been able to have given it a little nudge to prevent that. Still, I think that should be patched out.

So yea, Force Awakens is a pretty decent table with some of the more fun modes. Modes I’d have enjoyed a lot more if the ball didn’t have an uncanny knack for going down the right outlane on the onset of almost every one of them. Especially the one involving the Rathtars, which I never got to experience in a dozen times triggering it because the triggering event always led directly to the ball falling down the right outlane. Okay, fine, maybe it’s a little broken. But the multiballs are fun. The BB8 stuff is fun. It’s a solid table, but one that either needs more work or was designed to be unfair. I don’t get the point in that. When a person buys a video pinball game, it’s made its money. It’s not trying to earn route operators quarters.

#7: Masters of the Force
Speed: Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

Worth mentioning: right before starting the write-up for the Masters of the Force table, I set the world record on it for Switch. After joking about all the records I was setting before the game came out, it was nice to finally become a world champion on one table, even if that has no chance of lasting past this week.

Masters of the Force is another high-concept table that feels very post-Williams. There’s a cube toy that triggers a simple multiball that’s maddening to play well due to the side flippers. There’s mini-tables tied to Yoda and the Emperor that are relatively easy to access but surprisingly hard to play out. There’s nifty simulations of famous Jedi v Sith battles, but they’re done via cardboard targets that crowd the flippers and feed the drains (as do the slingshots). Really, the theme for Masters of the Force is “deceptively difficult.” And that frustration is compounded by being outright screwed by the table. If I had a nickle for every time the Yoda mini-table dropped the ball straight down the drain, I’d.. probably have around 30 cents. But I cussed every time. There’s also a lot of downtime on the table due to an enormous gap in the upper table that really does nothing more than reset the action. I hate those in any game. They’re never good.

Of the 19 tables, as of this writing a week after Star Wars Pinball’s release, this is the lowest global high score on Switch for any of them. STILL COUNTS, FUCKERS! I am the World Champion of this table. Suck it!

And it’s a shame that the table seems to be designed to be so specifically frustrating, because it’s potentially one of the most fun tables. The Balance of the Force concept, which comes down to which flipper you use to hit which target, is well implemented and clever. The mini-tables might feel like glorified dollar-store plastic pinball games, but they work well (most of the time) too. Masters of the Force brings a lot of ideas, good and bad, to the table. That’s fitting, I guess? It’s still fun, but designed to channel your anger to the Dark Side.

The Great

#6: The Last Jedi
Speed: Above Average
Difficulty: Below Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

This is literally the only good thing to ever come out of Last Jedi.

One of the most bizarre tables in Star Wars Pinball. The modes are based entirely around running orbits on the various ramps and circuits, all of which are fairly basic shots. But it works insanely well because the layout is so perfect. It’s debatable whether Last Jedi or Rebels is the fastest table in Star Wars Pinball. But, Last Jedi feels like it uses the speed better, and the homages to other high-octane tables like the Williams classics High Speed, Taxi, and Getaway are all over. There’s also a fun shooting gallery mini-game with BB8, though I wish getting these games started didn’t involve so much lumbering animation. With a game that feels like the table is greased, you don’t want to have too many interruptions in the action, and Last Jedi comes close to falling in that trap.

I might have gone higher on this table, but personal issues playing the game got in the way of my enjoyment. Because of my epilepsy, I’m playing on the pinball games on Switch in handheld mode with the backlighting turned as far down as it goes. Unfortunately, many of the modes on Last Jedi (Scene 3 and the Kylo Multiball) turn the screen almost completely dark. I couldn’t pause the game and turn the brightness back up just for these modes because jackpots or other high scores triggered flashes. So this table might actually be better than I have it rated (a lot of my Twitter fans named it their personal favorite table) but I can only rate these based on my own experience. Meh, it’s still better than the Rose subplot from the movie.

#5: Return of the Jedi
Speed: Average
Difficulty: Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

Eh, better than Porgs.

I hate Return of the Jedi. It’s boring. The movie, I mean. The Star Wars Pinball table is great. Themed around Endor, Ewoks and all, Return is another table that, with adjustments, would work as a real-life table. Which is not to say it’s perfect. There’s a sinkhole with a flipper to the right of it that’s highly susceptible to abuse, as finding yourself in a position to use it as a dumper and reset the ball to the flippers is too simple. Probably to make up with overly-bouncy outlane rails. The right one, especially, sucks with all the power of Starkiller Base and took roughly 90% of my lives, especially when I had just started a high-scoring mode. It seemed like my ball was suddenly an Olympic gymnast and could do the most improbable tumbling act of all-time finding its way into the that fucking outlane. It’s the only time in my entire thirty hours spent with Star Wars Pinball that I questioned whether Zen Studios caved in and rigged a table for difficulty.

I honestly would have welcomed a round of Oh…Sir! over this.

But, Return of the Jedi’s simple, clean layout and easy to navigate orbits make it a fairly smooth table to play. And then there’s the modes, which range from the perfect examples of risk-reward pinball (the Dark Side spin-disc) to modern pinball’s worst excesses (an everybody out of the pool type of multiball that involves a storm trooper firing onto the balls and altering their gravity or outright destroying them). And then there’s the Speeder Bike mini-game, which is, and I’m not exaggerating here, the worst mini-game in the history of video games. And it especially sucks because it feels like it takes forever to get to the game, and as far as I can tell, there’s no way to skip the fluff getting it started.

But regardless, this is one of the best tables, mostly because it feels real. Nice, clean layout. Excellent target placement. The theme was integrated well with modes based around taking out the shield dish or having a final duel with Darth Vader. Proper balance of risk-reward. This might actually be one of the better tables to show a naysayer pinball purist what the best video pinball can do. It might even be the table I end up going back to the most once the review is done.

#4: Rebels
Speed: Above Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Above Average
Link to Guide

It’s amazing how both Clone Wars and Rebels, two shows I wanted to like but couldn’t, ended up inspiring two of the best tables in the entire collection.

In my first run-through of the tables, I had Rebels pegged as the best table, and in the Masterpiece category. But, my extended playtime with it revealed quite a few teeny tiny flaws that drops it down to merely being pretty dang great. It has a target placed in a straight line above the drain that’s far to easy to hit from multiple angles. But, the way they designed it, with walls on either side, it too frequently straightens the path and drops the ball down the sink. The issue is, this is the board’s primary target, and a necessary component for so many modes. This was not the target to up the risk-reward factor on.

And that’s such a damn shame because otherwise is one of the best digital pinball tables I’ve played so far. Really fun, insanely quick gameplay. Maybe the fastest overall table. Besides that damn ramp/target, the other targets are clean and well placed, the ramps and orbits are exhilarating, and it feels just sort of spunky. It probably has the best hurry-ups in Star Wars Pinball too. It’s a lot of fun. But incredibly unfair too.

The Masterpieces

#3: Battle of Mimban
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Average
Link to Guide

I wish this was a little brighter. I might have been better at it.

More than any other table in Star Wars Pinball, Mimban (which I called “Mimbah” for 90% of my tweets related to it. I swear, I’m not a Rush Limbaugh fan) feels like it’s a video game with a pinball theme. It takes advantage of the medium. And I don’t mean it has mini-games that couldn’t be accomplished on a real table. Rather, it feels like it’s taking place during an actual battle. Most of the modes involve cardboard targets or pop up Mimbanese snipers, which, granted, can crowd the flippers sometimes or lead to errand bounces into the outlanes. Also, of all the good tables, this has the weakest multiball, involving imperfect spherical rocks that occasionally get stuck. Some other tables do that too. This one does it worse.

But, I’m an action type of chick, and Mimban is about fast-paced target shooting. Which is not to say there’s not other fun stuff like combo ramps and orbits. But Mimban focuses on hitting things with the ball, not passing over things with the ball. There’s a base bombing mode. There’s a shooting gallery. There’s drop-targets themed like crumbling pillars that ad so well the the decaying battlefield theme. I love this table. This represents the highest potential Zen Studios can do in making video games you play using pinball mechanics instead of simply being pinball video games.

#2: Clone Wars
Speed: Above Average
Difficulty: Above Average
Modes: Above Average
Link to Guide

This is where the fun begins.

You know what’s really nutty here? I’m not a fan of the Clone Wars movie or TV series. But man, did it inspire one wonderful digital pinball table. Clone Wars has one problem, and only one problem: its outlanes are too hungry, its rails too rubbery, and getting kickbacks turned on is a chore. Okay, wait, that’s.. (counts on hand) three problems. Oh, and the slingshots are basically outlane waiters. Four problems. Otherwise, this is a white-knuckle, super-fast paced table. Excellent layout. Great target placement. Some clever modes, including one that places a force-field on the table. Hell, Clone Wars even has the best mini-table in the game. Even the look of the table is striking. This could be a real table. A really good one.

#1: Darth Vader
Speed: Below Average
Difficulty: Average
Modes: Above Average
Link to Guide

I have to point out that the voice actor for Darth Vader in Star Wars Pinball sounds nothing like James Earl Jones. It sounds like literally every single father in America’s impression of Darth Vader. The one he does that embarrasses you in front of your friends.

The best example of how the table attributes don’t matter to the overall value of the table. Darth Vader, a slower, limited-frills table is just wired for fun. Strange design too. The center of the playfield is essentially empty, with the majority of bells and whistles clinging to one sides. Perhaps a metaphor for Vader himself, torn between the type of person who takes Padme out for a romantic picnic and the type of person who commits genocide with his lightsaber. Twice (don’t forget the Tuskens). The Vader table has an optional intro sequence where you have to build Vader’s suit. I can’t stress enough: you sorta HAVE to do this. It’s the easiest ten million points in all of Star Wars Pinball. But then, yes, you have to sit through a recreation of the “NOOOOOOOO!!!” from Revenge of the Sith. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

If you enjoy mutliball, and I normally don’t, this is the table for you. And it does have a little more going for it. But there’s elements that I find confusing. There’s a dead flipper on the right side of the table and I can’t figure out what actions give it power. I can’t figure out why the Lightside/Darkside multiball jackpots don’t seem to work sometimes. And while I’m at it, Darth Vader has one of the best mini-games in Star Wars Pinball, based on taking control of Vader’s TIE Fighter during the trench run from the original movie, but it’s maybe the most difficult to access mini-game in the entire collection. It’s not quite a blind angle, but it’s close. Otherwise, great table. Deliberate. You can pace out the multiballs when they happen. Orbit combos are clean. The theme works. It’s the most popular table in the set for a reason. It’s by far the most fun table in the set. And, by definition, that makes it the best. At least in my book.