Playmeter Magazine:

Critics Corner

by Roger C. Sharpe

Oldies But Goodies

Playmeter Homepage

Reprinted with permission from Playmeter Magazine: May 15, 1980.

If the game has a movie tie in, can you charge movie prices?

The year continues to speed by and with it one can witness the changes being undertaken in the industry. As was noted by this writer some months back, the video surge has taken a great deal of steam out of the sails (and sales) of pinball. But never without hope, the turning point may be rapidly approaching. Not only are this month's batch of machines varied and strong unto themselves, they are also setting the stage for some soon-to-be-released efforts that should set pinball back on the path and once again into the hearts of the players.

Problematically, everyone is waiting for the next breakthroughs. The rumors fly concerning possible takeovers, changing technology and placing greater importance on the unusual and innovative in both design as well as graphic and sound treatments. One of the larger stumbling blocks, however, when viewed in perspective of this election year and the tightening of money, is the effort of some in the industry to raise the price on games to the player.

Coming at a point when amusement centers and game rooms are increasingly having to compete for the entertainment dollar, it is distressing at best to think that pinball games at fifty cents per play for approximately two and a half minutes of fun is up against some-thing like a two hour movie costing only $3 to $4. Somewhere the logic is missing and yet the movement seems to be gaining momentum-- unfortunately pricing itself out of the reach of the major market--teens. Admittedly the increase is necessary on some vague level but the repercussions trouble me.

Anyway, whatever the price of games to operators or players, there are some notable machines at hand that might just begin the switch back to the steel ball. And, no matter how you react to these games, they'll be the ones you'll be seeing this spring and summer--so for pinball's sake, let's hope for the best.

Gottlieb's SPIDERMAN

Well, here it is--the premier game in this company's new "Star Series 80." And with a new system to boot, Gottlieb is sure to snare some players in its web.

PLAYFIELD: An improvement on the "squat body" format, The Amazing Spiderman begins the playfield action with two lanes on the top right (A-B), a rollover button and some kicking rubbers and a left side set up of three kick-out holes ( 1-2-3) . Move down, and there's a center target at the middle and two thumper bumpers just below. At the right is a bank of five drop targets and a lane behind. The left offers a spinner lane and a central bank of three drop targets. While moving down this left side one finds a short lane and frontal target plus a flipper. The bottom finishes off the action with a one-flipper left side and a doubleflipper right side built around a conventional wire lane and form.

ANALYSIS: The new playfield size has been incorporated extremely well for shooting angles from any of the four flippers and also utilizes memory and recall for the first time by Gottlieb. Dimensionally, this size as well as Stern's Big Game takes pinball design into a different and more realistic realm than was the case with the old Atari size.

The action here is locked into the drop targets on the right for building up bonus multiplier as spotted by the green light in front of the appropriate target. Get the top three kick-out holes and there's a step up in the drop targets for more than vie multiplier at a time, up to a possible five-times bonus. Get the whole bank and the three drop target bank increases to a potential extra ball and the play goes from there. A countdown bonus at 20,000 no matter the multiplier is tied into the number 2 kick-out hole and getting A and B lanes lights values in lanes for multiplier as well as increased bonus values. The play is smooth with good reverses possible and long shots from any of the flippers as well as decent rebounding capabilities. Scoring and special values can come frequently by maximizing the targets and the kick-out holes with more than enough good shot selections to keep the good players playing.

GRAPHICS: True to Marvel comics, "Amazing Spiderman" is just super and translates well in presentation and technique for the pinball medium. Old G. M. has done himself proud on this one by remaining faithful to the theme and offering up an exciting combination of bright colors that capture the eye.

PLAY:Spiderman is a good three ball game, although I have a hunch it would be even better in the old five ball format, but that's another story. So for three-ball play in extra ball areas, try a 200,000-point start and follow it with 350,000 and 500,000 point limits. On free play you'll probably want to add about 100,000 points to each of those levels, depending on the caliber of play in your location.

PROS & CONS: What can I say about Spiderman? I like it and yet I've heard some differing opinions about it being too hard, too easy, too slow, not having enough shots or excitement, and various other reac tions. For my money it's the best effort from this company since the days of Sinbad and the shape of the game is a definite improvement on the old "squat body." There are some problems with power from the tips of the flippers, but for the most part everything is accessible from any of the flippers. Most particularly appealing is the chance to get into the flow of the game and make some good solid shots, especially for the unskilled player looking for a fair game to play. The total package is great to look at, including the silver cabinet and it's a shame that the sound doesn't have the volume potential to compete with other games in a noisy location, even with the speaker being above the glass on the head of the machine. My distress is in the rumors that Gottlieb has decided to stop making con ventional-size pins, as I write this. (Hold onto your Torch machines_ they'll be collectibles if this rumor proves correct.) I feel this would be a grave mistake at this juncture of pin ball development and far too radical for this conservative manufacturer. I only hope they reconsider this reputed decision, no matter how strong their upcoming pieces appear to be.

Finally, it is reassuring to see Gottlieb forging ahead and trying a new system that offers increased capabilities in the use of memory and recall. Definitely on the way back Spiderman paves the road nicely with a complete package that should get them back into the mainstream.

RATING: ***1/2


The game that debuted in Chicago at the AMOA and showed what the future of larger sized games should be, is finally at hand and drawing rave reviews from almost everyone out in the real world, and with good reason.

PLAYFIELD: The top of Big Game starts with three lanes (B-l-G) and leads down to a three-thumper bumper area that's flanked on the left by three drop targets (1-2-3) and another three drop target bank on the right (4-5-6-). Behind the right side targets is a three rollover button passageway and behind the drop target bank on the left is a short loop spinner lane. Move over a bit and a longer spinner lane with an added kick-out hole gets the ball back to the top of the field. At the center of the board on the far right side is yet another three drop target bank (7-8-9) while for balance the left side offers two targets and a short lane flush against the cabinet. The bottom is a wire lane and kicker conventional bottom with a nice touch regarding the double set of flippers_the wire form leads down behind the bottom flipper so that the ball can't go between the flippers and down the outhole.

ANALYSIS: There is so much here that it's hard to decide where to start. The scoring is "so big" to coin a phrase from the Stern playbook, with its seven-digit displays. But it's needed on a game that has infinite play possibilities when it comes to gathering points. The whole premise is to fill in the three "bingo" type numbered cards in the middle of the field (X-Y-Z) which light randomly depending upon where the ball hits on the playfield, which of the numbered drop targets are hot down, and whether the appropriate card is lit. But even without the card, there's a whole 'nother game in Big Game which has to do with spelling out the name of the machine and sending a ball into the left side spinner at 2,000 points a crack, with a possible 5,000 points for each letter and a potential 35,000 points for the kick-out hole when lit.

Add it up and one good timed shot can mean upwards of 100,000 points_which ain't hay, even for Big Game. The shots offered are swift and angular from the flippers to the targets directly with reverses or up through the thumper bumpers, or even around the little alleyways and passages around the backs of the top target banks.

And a nice Harry Williams touch is the last ball in play value with an increase of 5,000 points for each completed line in the cards, which get those point totals into the strato sphere, not discounting the 2X or 3X values that accrue from getting the numbers lit on the cards. A 27,000-point reserve bonus, which when totaled on 3X gets you to 81,000 points, has the cards staying alive even after completed_and utilizes the memory and recall in this game for a good, building continua tion of play throughout.

It's all integrated, smooth playing, and topped by some super sounds that tie in nicely with the theme of the big hunt for the big game player.

GRAPHICS: Powerful. Pure and simple. Nothing fancy, just the ominous look of a tiger staring out at the passerby from the protection of green foliage. In fact, green in the predominant color on Big Game and should help allay any fears that this might be a "jinxed" color for pinball. It works and the playfield picks up the motif and carries it off without taking away from the action.

PLAY: Once again, remember that we're talking about seven-digit action here, as well as gonzo points on the last ball in play and some pretty hefty spinner shot possibilities.

On three-ball extra play, try a 300 000-point start and follow it with 650 000 and 990,000 point limits. For free play you'll probably have to branch into seven figures unless you want to limit the number of free plays to two, so try a 100,000 to 150,000 point increase to each limit and see how the players acclimate to it.

PROS & CONS: Big Game is a gem of a machine that offers some interesting play action, strong graphics, and compatible sounds with more than adequate volume. The size is a saving grace that doesn't make the player's arm weary and also eliminates the need for useless bottoms found on the majority of squat body machines. Also, Stern seems to have solved some of their mechanical problems, particularly in the flippers with power to all areas of the machine well within reach.

The only weak point, if you can call it that, is that left-to-right and right-to-left shots from the flippers are difficult for the top drop target banks due to the placement of the thumper bumpers. But from re bounds off the bumpers reverses from the flippers, everything is accessible. The bottom metal guide rail over the interior and out lanes tends to deaden the ball, but all in all the layout of features makes this an excellent shooter's game that has its own strategies and subtleties.



The new generation of Bally pins begins to come in view with this most recent effort that adds sound and graphic appeal with some interesting design.

PLAYFIELD: The action begins with three lanes at top and four pop bumpers. Move down and there are four yellow targets (S-l-L-V) and a triangular spread of three thumper bumpers. This is the top of the game and leads down to a middle