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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wayback Machine - Pinball

I recently had a chance to go visit a local nickel arcade, something I do every so often with my girlfriend. Usually we play the games that spit out tickets, so we can collect them and get prizes, but that's another story. After we had gathered enough tickets to satify our needs, we decided to wander through and play the other games, you know, the regular old cabinet style arcade games. Well I rounded a corner and saw a blast from my past, Star Wars Pinball.

Pinball machines have been around forever, and are probably the oldest school when it comes to video games. Even though pinball is not really a video game, it is a form of entertainment that can still be found in modern-day aracdes everywhere. This is a testament to this wonderful little invention. They have been a staple in modern society, and even spawned a rock opera (The Who's 'Pinball Wizard'). Yes I could go on and on about the pinball machine, and it's history, and importance in modern life, but I think I will stop here and move on to my own experience at the flippers.

I don't remember where I played my first machine, nor do I even recall what my first pinball experience was. I do have a memory in the dark recesses of my mind that involves me as a young kid, in a dark arcade, in a pizza parlor playing some form of the game. I also remember sucking at it. I was awful at pinball as a kid, and in fact I still suck at it to this very day. But man what wonderful things they are. Flashing lights, music, garbled speech, trap doors, and small pinball rollercoasters, all things a kid like me enjoyed. I would always prefer to play the ones that had the most elaborate roller-coasters. In my opinion, the more elaborate, the better.This probably played a big role in my later love of the classic arcade game "Marble madness"

As I got older, I continued to play whenever I found one, and like I said before, I never was any good at them. I think in the whole history of my life, I have only ever once gotten one replay for getting a high enough score, but then again, it may have been a replay based off the "match" feature found on some games when you lose. Either way, I am completely suck when it comes to pinballing. But my suckiness has never stopped me from continuiing to play them whenever I see one that looks like it could be fun. Unfortunately most of the ones I see these days are run down, and half the lights, and bumpers have stopped working. I usually pass on those. I have tried playing pinball games that were ported on to gameing consoles, and never found them quite the same. There is no substitute for an actual physical pinball machine.

For me the greatest amount of fun is unlocking the multi-ball. There is nothing more exciting than playing pinball with multiple balls on the playing field. You really must find a zone, and just focus all your attention on the flippers to keep as many balls in play for as long as possible.

Things that bother me about pinball machines:

- Insanely high replay scores: Usually in the neighborhood of like 200 million points.
- Outlanes: The annoying little lanes on either side of the main flipper drain. A.K.A. Insta death.
- Gravity: Some times a ball will get lodged somewhere in the workings of the hardware. Game over.
- Outlanes without a kickback.

The good parts:

- The bump and jolt associated with playing the game.
- All the pretty colors and flashing lights.
- The rollercoasters.
- Outlanes with a kickback (death thwarted).
- The mini-games.
- Multi-ball.
- The nostalgia of childhood.

So in conclusion, pinball machines are a timeless classic. A possibly dying industry, that still has something to offer today's younger generation of PS3 and XBox junkies. I challenge everyone to go out and find a pinball machine, and re-ignite that relationship with an old friend. You will not be dissapointed.