Playmeter Magazine:

Critics Corner

by Roger C. Sharpe

Oldies But Goodies

Playmeter Homepage

Reprinted with permission from Playmeter Magazine: October 15, 1979.

In a bottle, throughout history, and around the world

Although this is the October issue for me it's still September and on the TV is a Mets/Chicago Cubs doubleheader which really doesn't matter too much anymore. But it was good for most of the season.

At least the August collapse didn't happen until September and the refrain, once again, can be wait until next year. Now, instead, thoughts can turn to the glory that might be: The Bears (who let me be tormented on national television with a loss to Dallas just a few days ago); the Bulls who have finally signed Greenwood and harkenthe return to form of Tom the Tree; and finally, those Black Hawks who probably won't get Bobby Hull, but then for those of you outside of Chicago, all of these things possibly don't matter, and maybe you're even skipping this paragraph to get to the good stuff. So will 1.

Can you feel it in the air? The inevitable countdown to the show of shows? Rumors and promises abound with the glories of new machines yet to be seen and vaguely talked about. One thing is for sure: some of the models on the horizon are going to knock you out.

Although the glut of machinery hasn't abated, with more games out than one can count, most of this year's crop have been encouraging additions to any location, and the question only remains what to do with the not-so-old-stuff that's still earning money? Who knows what the answer is. One thing is for sure, however, the turnover has been on this side of incredible.

The surprise, as reported in a previous issue, is the lack of foreign game on these shores and the rapid departure of Astro Games (remember Warlords and Black Sheep Squadron?), the absence of Atari in pins after only six models and a stab with Monza last year, and the lessening of the sitdown market with a greater emphasis instead on wide-body games.

There has been one entrant into the pinball sweepstakes with Game Plan, but for the most part, the majors have been jockeying for position and trying to firm up their market shares with an increasing array of machines. One after another they come, almost like lemmings heading to an eventual death in a sea of arcades and funlands.

The big four have indeed done themselves proud, and innovative design and the refinement of electronics has suddenly almost preordained the next big break, with conventionality. Wait, in less than a month and a half, I have a feeling you'll see what the immediate future will hold.

In fact, next month, as has become a ritual in this space, you'll get a sneak preview of what to be on the lookout for at the Hilton. Until then, suffice it to say that this month's lineup is a strong one with games which will undoubtedly be on display in the manufacturer's booths. So let's take a look and see what's in store.

Gottlieb's GENIE

Genie It's almost fitting that this is the leadoff machine for this month's reviews, since almost everyone has been waiting to see what this company would do with a wide-body game. And here it is, Gottlieb's first.

PLAYFIELD: The action begins with four top lanes (A-B-C-D) which are just off of center at the right. This leads down to two thumper bumpers and a right side kick-out hole (which also controls countdowning bonus) as well as a sliced lane that leads back down to the plunger.

Below this level, also to the center and right of center is a four drop target bank which controls bonus multiplier values, a center slightly angled spinner (Gottlieb's own wide variety), a target just to the left and two side targets at the right.

Taking a more moderate interpretation of Atari's Middle Earth two playfields in one concept, Genie also offers yet another level in design. Move over to the left side, and at the top is a seven drop target bank (four red and three white), an access wire to the right of this for getting back to those lanes, an opening from the left thumper bumper, a left side target that controls extra ball value and three star rollover buttons along with two smaller flippers for some extra play, and a left side rollover lane down to a repeat performance of the A-B-C-D lanes.

Below this is yet another thumper bumper before one gets to the maze of lanes and openings for the three flipper, two kickers, a right side two lane and post and a left side short lane and post set up bottom.

ANALYSIS: What can one say except there's a helluva lot going on in Genie. It is a well designed and thought out playfield that offers numerous shot possibilities and fine play from all of the five flippers. One problem encountered has been the strength of the small top flippers and even flipper-tip strength, but the game plays and plays with adjustments from the player.

The bonus multiplier value pops up almost randomly with a yellow light just in front-of the lower drop target bank, and all that's needed is to get down at least one target to gain the multiple before the light goes off. The top targets will reset once all the reds or whites are hit and then reset with a value of 5000 points for each and an extra ball popping up from the target at the right side, if memory serves correct.

Get the lanes out and there's also a lit target for the extra ball and get everything and the right side special light comes alive. Points and play abound by going for the center spinner for action back to the top and some good nudging. And once the bonus gets to the 20,000 point level, it's collect time if you can get to that top right kick-out hole. It is a remarkable game, a great wide-body and one of the stronger efforts from Gottlieb in recent vintage.

Some feel the play may be too slow and have tried to jack the back legs up, but this is ineffective and really takes away from an excellent piece of workmanship that makes Genie one of the more memorable wide-body games, with its reverses off the flippers and good long shots from side to side. Genie

GRAPHICS: The magician/wizard weaves a spell for a couple of "genies" that might make Barbara Eden try for a comeback in a very visual treatment that uses some softer shades and a blending of tones in oranges, yellows, blues and greens. Along with these typically Gottlieb graphics is a sound system that is pretty much tied into the theme depending upon how you set it since Ive run across two variations on the sound. (In fact, as an aside for those not necessarily enthralled with the music mode of Totem, you can change it to a second striking sound system that may breathe new life into the game—check your distributor o instruction booklet inside the game.

PLAY: Three-ball seems to be the choice with Genie and the play car sustain higher than normal limits due to the scoring potential and length o time a normal game takes. In extra ball areas try a 220,000 star followed by 440,000 and 660,000 points. On free play you might wan to raise these levels by abou 100,000 points each—depending once again, on the caliber of your players.

RATING: ####

Williams' TIME WARP

Time Warp Waiting in the wings to make its mark is the next "hot one" from the company that has really turned things around in 1979. And, although Flash is a tough act to follow in conventional sized pins, this four-player neatly complements Stellar Wars and Tri Zone as a worthy successor to the crown.

PLAYFIELD: Three lanes (A-B-C) and a vari-valued kick-out hole to the left start the action that leads down to a left side rectangular red target and five thumper bumpers. Get to center field, and it's a three drop target bank on the left and a five drop target bank on the right. Also on the right is a nice touch that is one of the things which makes this game.

A long lane leads up to a top right bulls-eye target, with a wire gate that blocks passage back down (normally, unless the shot is too hard) and, instead, leads the ball to a collect bonus kick-out hole which then kicks the ball out to the middle of the field. It's a great feature and works well here. The bottom is almost conventional with the wire lanes and flippers, except this time we're faced with blue banana flippers.

ANALYSIS: Time Warp has a lot going for it in the way of shots and continuation of play from one shot to another. This is especially true with the design and layout of the drop targets with rebounds going from one side to another to cop an extra target or two from a single flip. The problem is in controlling the banana flippers with more precise shots needed here than on the Disco Fever board. Time Warp

It could cause players trouble in adjusting as it has me, but then I was spoiled playing the game as a whitewood when it had those old regular flippers and haven't been able to do as well since.

Anyway, the top lanes offer some flashing lights once again with each lane needing to be made twice on one ball in order to light the special. The top kick-out hole gives some point values and also holds the keyfor an extra-ball with its step up values and four long flashing arrows at the center of the field when it's extra ball time, but the big thing is that you can get bonus multiplier value here and the potential is 10X.

Yes, folks you read it right. Not since Playmatic's Chance has a game of recent time had such a high multiple value, although on Time Warp the maximum is 12,000 points times whatever value, which isn't too shabby since you can keep on collecting it from right side set up.

The left side targets bounce up in value from 5,000 to 30,000 points for getting the bank down, while the right side targets offer bonus multiplier values as well as lighting corresponding thumper bumpers on the board; so the scoring potential is there if you can master the flippers with their innumerable reverses as well as straightaway shots.

GRAPHICS: Take time and freeze it in one frame with an artist's touch that seems to bloom even more with each succeeding effort. That's what you have with Time Warp and Connie is its creator. There are good deep blues and other bold color highlights that indeed take the player on "a pinball journey into the future and past." Visually, it is a delight with a backglass and carryover theme playfield, replete with pyramid and a fantasy of ideas, reality, and dreams rolled into one.

PLAY: Despite the bonus multiplier value that's possible and the carryover of features from ball to ball with the left side targets only, you'll really have to gauge the limits by how well the players are hitting it.

It's a three-ball format once again although five-ball play won't hurt it. In extra ball land, go with a 150,000-point start followed by a 300,000- and 500,000-point limit for three-ball play. On free play with three-ball raise this by about 50,000 to 75 000 points per limit. On five-bail play you should be able to get away with an additional 100,000 points for each making it about 300,000 to start with 450,000 and 650,000 to follow.

RATING: ###3/4


HG Sweet Georgia Brown was never sweeter as Bally adds to its long list of celebrity pinball machines with yet another sure winner that hits from the top of the key and touches only net.

PLAYFIELD: The saucer kick-out hole begins the top with an evermoving letter value (G-L-O-B-E). Down a bit and there's three thumper bumpers in a triangular configuration. A double spinner at the middle of the field follows with a post separating the two.

At the left is another spinner while on the right for a balance of action is that great innovation: the in-line drop target that gained its impact on Paragon, although the whitewood on this machine had been in the works for quite a while. There are four drop targets in the line with bonus multiplier values attached from 2X to 5X and a kick-out hole behind worth 25,000 points and then a special, and a ball that's kicked back up to the top. Go back to the sides of the game, and at the left is a flush line of five targets which are carried over in a memory and lead, once they're all hit, to an increase in a right side "slam dunk shot" that harkens to the one found on Williams' Contact.

The values here go from openinga right side gate leading into the flipper to extra ball and specials. As for other memory the bonus build-up goes the route of 20,000 - 30,000— 40,000 from one ball to the next for an over 200,000 point out-hole bonus capability on any given turn. The bottom offers a double left side flipper and a singleton on the right, with the two left flippers being complemented by only a kicker and no wire form. HG

ANALYSIS: On this signature post and backglass G.K. and G.F. effort, Bally has a winning combination with a variety of full court shots. In fact, Harlem Globetrotters' main appeal is going to be its center spinners and the accessibility and better use of the in-line targets. It's a neat package that returns to good basic pinball with left to right and top to bottom continuity that even allows for some excellent reverses from either side.

The recessed target at the right is trouble at times when you want it and a piece of cake when you don't, but the options for getting back to the top and away for a breather are many and spelling out G-L-O-B-E on top for its extra point value and ultimate special possibility, make the effort back to the top worth the try.

The left side, however, is going to be an alluring feature for players along with the in-lines on the right three spinner delight of build-up value with the left side spinner something Stern has had good success with, and those center two spinners for getting out-hole bonus values increased.

GRAPHICS: The startup music is enough to get anyone whistling, and the likes of Curly Neal and the rest of the late Saperstein's wonders (who are recognizable the world over) is a tribute to Bally's insight into what is a marketable commodity in pinball tie-ins.

These goodwill ambassadors are stunningly represented here in a backglass that can only be described as being yet another marvel in the long line of artistic giants from this company. It looks super and the playfield is a star-studded extravaganza as well with the return of red, white, and blue, along with some yellow to keep that home court advantage.

PLAY: For three-ball, extra ball play you might want to try Harlem Globetrotter at a 150,000 point, 300,000, and 500,000 set-up. On free play, increase these limits by about 75,000 points depending upon your location. For five-ball play, which this machine can take— although with the carry over in super bonus values you're talking about some big score possibilities—you

might be able to get away with a 300,000 point start followed by 500,000 and 750,000 for free play areas, with a decrease of about 50,000 to each limit for extra ball play.

RATING: ####

That's a look at three biggies for this time around, games which have a lot going for them with sound, graphics, and play appeal—enough for anyone. But if you think these are good, wait until next time when you'll read about the likes of a comic book hero turned hit TV series pinball machine and an upcoming blockbuster movie/pinball tie-in topping the list. And it these efforts from Gottlieb and Stern aren't enough to whet the appetite, there'll be more as usual, plus my annual picks of places to go and where to eat in the one and only Windy City in the AMOA preview for November.

A final note is an update of the Sharpshooter ratings game and comment feedback report which continues to please me on a personal level. The response has been great with few negatives thrown my way regarding the design of the game and its play appeal as well as earning potential. Some negatives have been regarding the absence of a knocker for specials and the dynamite explosion in its place.

Another area of response has been to the speed of the game and the fact that some players are just finding it too tough to beat. On the brighter side, and in the majority, some comments include the following from an East Coast operator who told me that he had only doubled up on one other machine, Flash, but felt he would also get a second Sharpshooter since it was so successful in his location.

Almost everyone has given favorable responses as to how well the game is holding up and the fact that the sound is simply great with its tie-in to the theme: the gun shots and galloping hooves seem to be making this game something special.

For the second installment, the ratings read as follows:

And that folks is it for this time around. Keep your games clean, talk to your players to see what they like or don't like about certain machines, and check out the games before you put them on location and, as always, be well and prosper.

P.S. For what it's worth, the Cubs won a doubleheader.