Tag Archives: Zaccaria review

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.

20210503221907_1

#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: 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.

20210503002121_1

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