You can’t really go into an arcade just once and give it a fair review. Not only should you at least try a fair sampling of all of the machines, but oftentimes you just get a bad game with a pinball machine. Anyone who’s ever played a pinball machine knows the feeling when you have three rounds of pinball that last only a few seconds each, and that’s it. I certainly had my fair share of these games, and I don’t want to come off like I know the ins and outs of each and every machine in here. I had around five bucks’ worth of quarters to sample a few of the machines, and that was about it. With that said, here are some thoughts about my experience at The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.
What impressed me the most about The Pinball Hall of Fame was the upkeep of the pinball machines. I have a truly great arcade closer to home, but they do an awful job of maintaining their pinball machines. There are four that aren’t in storage, and of those four, two of them actually work as intended. In these terms, The Pinball Hall of Fame knocks it out of the park. All of the machines that I played worked almost perfectly, and I saw many machines being serviced by people who looked like they knew what they were doing, with boards being carefully taken out and worked on, etc.
The room was a bit dimly lit, but not so much that I bumped into anything. There was plenty of walking space between the machines for one person to stand comfortably or for two people to squeeze past each other.
All right, now that we’ve got all the boring stuff out of the way, let’s get to what you all came here for: the machines!
I have yet to see Homecoming, but I loved the original trilogy so much as a kid. (Yes, even the third one.) This machine is about Spider-Man, so that’s already a plus. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a damn good machine. As I said in my previous article about the Junkyard pinball machine, my favorite kinds of pinball machines are the ones that have you work towards a goal other than simply “get all the points.” Granted, I don’t think the goal was as complex as the one found in Junkyard, but Spider-Man has these three squares that you hit and then you try to hit Sand-Man with it. It sounds less cool when I write it down that way, but trust me, it’s awesome. The board takes advantage of all the space given to fill it with fun and interesting stuff to hit your pinball at, so this machine meets my approval.
Super Mario Bros.
There actually was a Super Mario Bros. machine there, which I didn’t know existed, but I didn’t play it because I assumed it was just the normal Super Mario Bros. game that I’d beaten for the first time a month or two ago. What I did play, however, was the Super Mario Bros. pinball machine. Well, there were actually two different machines there that both had Mario, but I played this one. The theme perfectly captures the irresistible charm of classic Mario, but sadly isn’t a very good pinball machine, at least in my opinion. There’s a lot of empty space on the board, and not much to interact with other than a second level that you can get up to and play a smaller but equally bland game of pinball. There’s also a lot of waiting. The ball moves really slowly and there are a few spaces that are just a little too easy to hit where it eats your pinball for a few seconds to do a little RNG lottery... thing, for points. I guess it’s appropriate for Vegas, but it does not make for a very interesting machine.
Hey look, I’m being topical! Ah, this machine brings me back through time to the days where all the Doctors had all that nice testosterone flowing through their Time LORD blood, amiright IpsoIorum? This machine has all the corny style that classic Doctor Who is known for nailed down to a T. All of the art is delightful, as are all of the sounds. The board itself is somewhere in the middle in terms of fun. There are plenty of places to hit the pinball, especially one particularly cool toy where you have to lock two pinballs in two different places to elevate a platform and unlock a special passageway. If there were just a couple more things to do on the board, it would be perfect.
The Twilight Zone
This was by far my favorite pinball machine, and I wish I could take it home with me to keep. Unfortunately that’s not possible, so I’ll settle for just writing about my one experience with it. I’ve never seen a single episode of The Twilight Zone, but I’m now a huge fan of its pinball machine. There are so many cool toys that you actually get to interact with instead of just flipping the ball into a hole and having the toy move around or light up, etc. The entire board is fun to navigate, and there’s seldom a time when you’ll flip the ball and it will come back without hitting anything. There’s a gumball machine that locks the pinball up until there are three, and then releases them all just like a gumball machine! And then there’s the one thing I really love about this board: the magna-flippers. There’s the common trope of a smaller, elevated board on top of the first, but this one 1) features our rightful leaders, the Illuminati, and 2) hits the ball with magnets. When the ball gets within the circle, you flip the trigger to activate a magnet that sends the ball up. How cool is that?! If I really got to play this pinball machine a lot, it might end up becoming my favorite.
Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t actually play Donkey Kong at the Pinball Hall of Fame. I’ve played the game before, and if I really wanted to, I could buy and play the same game at the cabinet on the 3DS in my pocket for only a few more quarters. But it was there, and I wanted to let you know that. That is all.
This is a claw machine. You know, the machines filled with cheap toys where you think you need skill in order to grab it at the right angle but in reality it’s all RNG for when the claw will actually have a grip strong enough to hold the prize and not let go. This is no different, except that 1) it’s all old-looking, and 2) it’s got cool old-looking toys. Like, really old, and really cool toys. I think this machine might have RNG of 0% and they’ve just been stuck in that machine since the 80's. Whatever the odds were, they did not favor me. I wanted the Blastoise and Mario plushes, but that fat Pikachu plush was calling to me, man! It said, “Picky, we neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed each other!” It was true. But it was not meant to be. Perhaps fat Pikachu plush will remain in his cage with a claw until the decline of humanity. Perhaps we were not worthy of his love.
To close things off, I present you multiplayer pinball! It sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. For each round, the board is tilted either away or towards one player. From what I could gather, the more things you hit before the ball goes through your goal determines how many points you get. This goes on for a while, and then you tally up the total number of points and whoever with the most wins. Maybe it’s the least? I don’t know. The ball moves, as I heard someone once say, “like molasses moving up a hill in the winter,” and the board could not be more bare-bones. They focused so much on the multiplayer aspect of the board that they forgot to make it fun on its own. Perhaps if a similar board were to be done today, there would be more success. As it stands, however, it’s only interesting as a novelty.
There were a few other things that I tried out that I don’t have too much to say about. I tried two “modern” pinball machines, being themed after The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit. They were both noisy, confusing, and oddly empty board that were no fun to play at all, not to mention that they had the highest price to play at one full American dollar.
There was also air hockey. Even though it was clearly retro, not much about the game has really changed between then and now, and that’s a good thing. Air hockey is easily the best competitive game to play at virtually any arcade, to the point where I have trouble taking acades without them seriously. But, I mean, it’s air hockey. What else do you want me to say?
At the end, I had one quarter left. There were no machines I was interested in playing that charged one quarter, so I used it to get some M&Ms from a dispenser. They sure were M&Ms.
From now on, any article that I have to completely re-write due to “getting kinja’d” will contain the following message at the end:
This article had been kinja’d, but was painstakingly re-created for your reading pleasure. Enjoy it or die.