I have always loved pinball. From a young age when I used to play for hours on end in the arcades on the tables, pinball has always held a fascination for me. And, in fact, I would say it has been a huge passion in my life - alongside writing, antique collecting and black and white photography. This article is a tribute to pinball machines. Indeed, they are, to me, works of art in their own way.
I focus on three pinball machines that I used to play on many years ago, 'Twilight Zone', 'Theatre of Magic', and 'Circus Voltaire'. These were my three all time favorite pinball machines, and I will attempt to tell you why, within this article.
Go into any arcade worth its salt and there you will find a pinball machine. The familiar flashing lights, sounds and chrome ball bouncing off the bumpers and cushions is a sound that has always been close to my heart. I have always held a love for pinball machines, and used to spend countless hours on them trying to break my high scores.
I am not exactly sure what it was that attracted me to them. But the fact remained that I just loved everything about them. And even now, when I walk into an arcade, I am looking to find a pinball machine I can spend some time on.
The best pinball machines for me, are the ones that keep me busy. The tables that have plenty of missions to complete are always the ones I go too. In this article I will list the pinball machines that I personally believe give me what I am looking for in a pinball table. This is my own personal choice, and you may, no doubt, have your own favorites to list. For now, here is the top three in my list. See if you agree.
'Twilight Zone' [designed by Bally, in 1993] This table, for me, was one of the hardest I have played on. It was not a table for beginners, by any stretch of the imagination, and this was because of the pace of the ball. Beginners, too, might very well have become too frustrated with the ball being 'drained' [lost] constantly.
The pace of the ball meant that you had to be alert, at all times. The unusual thing about 'Twilight Zone' was the fact that the ball was not chrome at all, but ceramic. This made the ball fly around the table at a much faster rate than a chrome ball would have done.
This was because a ceramic ball was lighter and so would be faster. And, I should imagine, that the makers decided on a ceramic ball simply because it was cheaper too, than a chrome ball would have been.
However, having said that, this is the one thing that disappointed me with 'Twilight Zone', the fact that the ball was not chrome. I do prefer chrome balls, as chrome and pinball simply go together. This was the only thing that disappointed me about this table.
Overall, the table was hard, very hard, but it was also complicated and very challenging too. The main features of this table was the 'gumball machine' - which was life-sized. The gumball machine locked the balls inside a mechanical clock, whose arms would spin madly around.
It also had a mini playing field with magnetic [invisible] flippers. The good thing about the ball, was that it was not affected by the countless magnets within the machine's playing field - as the ball was ceramic. Brilliant table to own.
THEATRE OF MAGIC
My second table I would rate was a toss up between 'Circus Voltaire and 'Theatre of Magic'. And I found it very hard to choose between the two. This was simply because I loved them both. I love flashy tables, lots of sound, and plenty of missions, and both tables have these in abundance.
However, if I was pushed, I would have to go for 'Theatre of Magic' [by Bally, 1995]. to take second place. This was one of the most popular tables of 1995. What I loved about this table were the 'modes' - as there were plenty of them.
Going through the modes, you had the 'Tiger Saw, the 'Levitating Woman' , 'Escape the Trunk' 'Spirit Cards', 'Escape a Safe', 'Metamorphasis', 'Straightjacket', and 'Hat Trick'. Nearly all of the modes are self-explanatory - apart from maybe the 'Tiger Saw' [in which a saw rolled around the screen sawing various items - including a pinball machine?}.
This mode is completed when you hit the captured ball three times? The other mode, which was maybe hard to understand, was 'Spirit Cards'. This consisted of having to flip spirit cards around on the screen, with the spinner shots awarding points?
Again, hard to understand, but does not take anything away from the overall joy of playing this table. For me, 'Theatre of Magic' runs 'Twilight Zone' a very close race indeed for first place. I used to love playing on this table.
Next we come to 'Circus Voltaire'. Again, another superb pinball table. I have always felt that this table was very underrated indeed. Why this should be the case is a mystery, because what you get is brilliant sound, artwork, and features. A lot of people who played this table, back in the day, found the theme 'creepy' - and not in a good way. But I found this table to be right down my street - in terms of 'creepiness.'
To cap it all, I couldn't help but think, when I played this machine, that I am playing on a very classy table indeed. You can tell, when you play it, that it is made with love and attention to detail - with light shows, pop-up bumper, pop-up bash toy, and countless multiball modes.
I particularly love the 'Ringmaster' and especially his voice. As the voice seems to suit the character brilliantly-well. I also found that the table itself is quite stunning to look at . And, in fact, I would go as far as to say it is stunningly-beautiful - definitely one of the better tables you can play pinball on.
'Circus Voltaire' may not be to everyone's liking, but for me, it is right up there with the very best pinball machines I have played on over the years. Another thing which I love about this table is the animated backglass which, again, gives the player the sense that they are playing on a beautiful machine. In the dark, it really is breathtaking. Circus Voltaire is a table that any collector of pinball tables would be more than happy to own.
Some people think that a pinball table should not be so difficult to work out. However, I do like the fact that some tables are difficult to work out. Because that alone, is a puzzle in itself, and I enjoy working out puzzles to get the brain thinking and analyzing.
DEFINING AN AGE
Pinball machines have, for me, always defined an 'age'. That is to say that they always represented the decade they came from, Whether it was Rod Serling's 'Twilight Zone' of the '50s' or 'Terminator 2' of the '80s.they simply defined that time period. They were the type of machines that divided opinion - you either hated them, or loved them.
So, there you have it. My three personal favorite pinball tables that I feel, have everything I am looking for, which is great sound, great modes, speed of the ball, and plenty of missions and lights.
In my next article on classic pinball machines, I will be concentrating on the ones that I have not mentioned, as yet. Pinball classics such as 'Terminator 2', and 'Dr Who'.
Twilight Zone Pinball Machine
The classic 'Twilight Zone' pinball table. For me, one of the best tables I have played on.
Pinball Classics - Circus Voltaire
Another all-time favorite table of mine. Absolutely beautiful to play on and to look at too.
Pro Pinball; Fantastic Journey
For those who want the next best thing to a real life pinball table, you cannot go far wrong with the item I am showing on this Amazon module.
For anyone who cannot, as yet, afford a real pinball table the 'Pro Pinball' series. for PC and games consoles are the best, I feel, you can get.
You have to remember that this is NOT a game, but a SIMULATION of a real pinball table.
This is the next best thing to actually owning a real table in your own home. I own the whole series of Pro Pinball, so can vouch for just how realistic it is.
Pro Pinball is rare now, and general games stores do not stock it. You are lucky if you can pick up a Pro Pinball simulation at car boot sales, or stores that sell second-hand PC games.
So, if you love pinball, and you have a PC, get this while you have the chance.
Pro Pinball: 'Fantastic Journey' by 'Empire Interactive', is just like owning your very own pinball machine in your own home.
However, word of warning, this is ONE single table [not multi-tables] so keep that in mind if you wish to purchase.
From the physics and movement of the ball - and even its reflections - to the simulated glass, lights, bumpers, and magnets, this table has it all.
I own all of the 'Pro Pinball' series of tables, for computer, and the only difference, between 'Pro Pinball and a real table, is just that... the computer.
Other than that, this is a real table by all intents and purposes. it is not a game, but a SIMULATION. that is the difference.
The playing field of 'Fantastic Journey' is clear, crisp and well-defined. The theme is based on Jules Verne's '20.000 Leagues Under the Sea'. In which the player has to manipulate steam through various Victorian contraptions.
There is a lot of 'steampunk' too, to this table. [steampunk, being the fusion of Victorian technology [19th century] with 20th or 21st century technology.
With flashing lights stereo sounds,missions to complete as well as crystals to collect, this table truly is 'fantastic'.
Like its real-life counterparts, this table also has the normal, multiball and ball lock, as well as bumpers and magnets.
'Fantastic Journey' truly is one of the best simulated pinball tables you can play on. I should know, I own a copy.
Pinball has always defined an 'age', a period in time when pinball reflected the theme of what was around at the time period. Pinball and the collecting of pinball tables is not consigned to the past, as some people may think.
No. There is a thriving pinball community around the world whose love for pinball keeps the genre alive and well. And for all those who love pinball such as myself, do not let it die away, but...
KEEP IT ALIVE
The Complete Pinball Book - Collecting the Game & its History
If you want to know all you can about pinball, this book will inform you. Fantastic read.
This is a quite fantastic book. Very very in-depth in reference to the history of pinball throughout the decades. It is clearly illustrated, deeply interesting, and a wonderful help to lovers and collectors of pinball tables. The book concentrates on the very early versions of pinball,through to its electro/mechaniical incarnations, to near completely digital. conversions. The change-over, over a period of time I found, is quite amazing.
The author, Rob Roy, has hit on a winner with this book, for all lovers and collectors of pinball worldwide.
Terminator 2:Judgement Day
Another great example of pinball at its best. 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'. Released in 1991, to the arcades, 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' quickly became one of the most successful pins of all time.
With fantastic music from the film, light effects and sound effects which are mind-blowing and voice-overs from Arnold himself.
This table is one of the most sought-after tables for pinball collectors everywhere. Brand new Terminator tables can cost over three thousand dollars.
Pro Pinball: Big Race USA
For me, Pro Pinball, for PC and games consoles, is the closest you can get to owning a real pinball table in your own home. This is surprising because the tables came out during the '90s, and you would think that they should look 'dated' by now, but they don't. The sheer graphical excellence of each table is outstanding and, actually, has to be seen to be believed.
The series, produced by 'Empire Interactive', and which includes: 'The Web', 'TimeShock', 'Big Race USA' and 'Fantastic Journey', all play and feel just like a real pinball table. The physics of the ball, the way it moves and reacts, is very very realistic - as are the reflections throughout the ball and the simulated glass panel.
And with stereo sounds, flashing lights and dot matrix video displays what more could a pinball lover want? To my mind, the 'Pro Pinball' series are the best pinball simulations in the world. I shall be featuring each table in turn, in my series of articles about pinball and pinball tables. The table you can see to your right is that of 'Pro Pinball: Big Race USA', which I have in my collection with the other three 'Pro Pinball tables.
Pro Pinball - Big Race USA
You want the next best thing to a real pinball table? You cannot go far wrong with Pro Pinball: Big Race USA. Outstanding graphics.
Theatre of Magic
One of my all-time favorite 'pins'. Wonderful table.
Pro Pinball - Fantastic Journey
Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey, is just like every other Pro Pinball simulation. By all intents and purposes, this is a real table within your home. Wonderful graphics, sound and animations show why Pro Pinball simulations are the best in the world.
Keeping pinball alive should be the mantra of everyone who loves playing the 'silver ball'. Pinball is not just something that you play in the arcades. No, it goes deeper than that. You are playing on something that has 'history' behind it - a history that is rich in tradition.
Pinball defines and represents the age it came from. And long may that be the case. Pinball will never die, as long as there are lovers of the genre that...
KEEPS IT ALIVE
Is pinball a thing of the past? Or should the genre be kept alive? That is the question I want to ask those who read this pin. I am assuming, however, that those who do read this lens, has a love for pinball. But either way, is the genre as relevant now as it was in the past?
Is pinbal a thing of the past, or is it as relevant now, as it was then?
Two items for sale here, that should satisfy any pinball fan's urges to shoot the 'silver ball'.
Pinball Arcade, for Android, Iphone and other mobile devices, rivals that of 'Pro Pinball' for authenticity and realism.
Each table from the past, has been lovingly re-created to give the player an experience of breathtaking realism. From 'Circus Voltaire', to 'Twilight Zone' Pinball Arcade, is defining the rules of what it takes to design pinball simulations as good as these.
By downloading the app to your mobile device, you are then given a choice to play all of the tables for free - until you reach a certain amount of points that is
Then it becomes your choice as to whether you want to continue on with your game, in which case you have to pay to receive the full table, or you can continue playing for free [again, only up to when a certain amount of points are reached].
The tables range in price but they are all fantastic to play. Downloading the app to your mobile device is simple, from then on, it is just a case of which table you want to try, before you buy.
New tables are brought out every month, and I can personally vouch for just how superb and realistic this app' is. No pinball fan should be without this, it is superb.
This collection of 'Williams pinball tables - which includes 'Funhouse', 'Black Knight, Pinbot', 'Space Shuttle' 'Whirlwind', Taxi', and 'Gorgor', re-creates all of the tables from the 'Williams' production line.
Each table has been lovingly re-created to give the player the feeling that they are actually shooting balls on the real tables that 'Williams' produced from years ago.
I have played the vast majority of these tables, and I can vouch for how realistic each 'Williams' table is. If you are a fan of pinball, the I would recommend this item without hesitation.
Does not quite rival the brilliance of Pro Pinball, I feel, but good enough to to satisfy any pinball aficionado. .
Pinball Classics - Gorgar: Pinball Hall of Fame
The 'Gorgar' table, from the 'Williams' Collection.
A Selection of Pinball Related Items
If you love and enjoy pinball, then these selected items listed here, could be just what you are looking for. This is especially so if you cannot purchase a full size pinball table.