ANOTHER Lost Soul list for people to flame. Maybe the 17th time is a charm?

In the arcade glory days, pinball was king. Novices pumped in countless quarters and the best players became local heroes. Unfortunately, pinball has fallen from grace. Fewer tables are made and many in places like theaters and laundromats are poorly maintained or quite often broken. Many places have video cabinets instead, which are easier to maintain, take up less space and can still make their establishment some extra money. This list is for those tables that were fun, eye-catching, memorable, and just plain GOOD.

This table is really special. It had a reverse-mounted TV inside that was projected into the center of the screen as a hologram for FMV targets and score counters as well as animated video displays used for the various modes that recreated scenes from the movie. The custom quips from the original cast members was pretty well done, and the unique display was eye-catching enough to give the table a striking prescence in many arcades. The one unfortunate aspect of this table was that the screen was difficult to maintain and cost a hefty amount of money to be fixed if it got broken (plus the game was largely unplayable without it since you had no idea what was going on or where to shoot the ball).

While many believe this table was inspired by the movie “Mars Attacks” it actually is not. It’s simply a coincidence that the table and the movie came out within a year of each other. That aside, this is one of the few tables that I still have fond memories of to this very day. It had a flying saucer in the middle, moving martians and a strobe light that flashed SUPER bright when you blew a saucer out of the sky. With it’s wide-open playfield, beginners were able to reach all the exciting features and advanced players could extend their opportunities and attempt to Rule The Universe (which was the ultimate goal of the table). As a table, and as an experience, Attack From Mars provides hours of fun.

This table is one of the most complex I’ve ever seen. It was designed by Pat Lawlor (who also created Funhouse and Addams Family). While the table is rather unforgiving, it has frequent multiball modes, good voice-acting and unique artwork. It has a shrunken head (which speaks with a distinctly Jamaican accent), a temple where you collect jewels to activate rewards, a variable push-target, and an idol shot that contains a powerful magnet. The ultimate goal is to travel across the seven continents (each featured as a separate mode) with Robert Ripley to collect strange objects. After completing all the continents, you could activate a trip to Atlantis and rack up MASSIVE bonus points. It also featured Bozo the Mind-Reading Dog and a roller-skating penguin!

This table was the two-player version of Hot Shot. It’s a billiards themed table with clear goals and a fun scoring system. It was rather hard, as Electro Mechanical games were back in the day, but many experts and collectors find it to be a classic due to the skill it takes to hit all 14 drop targets (which represent the striped and solid balls). It had a ball-saver gate and a unique center kick-out hole, plus it was one of the first tables to feature a saved high-score function, encouraging competitive play for the first time.
There’s not much else to say, as EM machines are fairly simple, but Big Shot is still popular among EM players to this day.

Twilight Zone, like it’s namesake, is a really wierd table. At the time of it’s release, it had more newly-patented features than any other table in history! It features the music and quips from the show itself, and lots of modes that represent panels needed to unlock the “Lost In The Zone” mode. It had town square madness bumpers, a functioning gumball machine that cylcled pinballs, a mini-playfield with invisible magnetic flippers, an analogue clock for a timer instead of a typical countdown display, a player piano, a slot machine and even a unique ceramic pinball called the Powerball. There were several odd animations on the dot-matrix that would play at unexpected times and a unique skill-shot rounding out the package. It’s unique playfield, unusual rules and crazy animations kept repeat play going strong in many arcades.

Now for the only digital pinball table on this list (although some have made unofficial re-creations of it). Pinball Pulse only has one table, but that one table is a lot more fun than multiple tables in other offerings (especially the boring tables from Dream and Zen Pinball 3D). It features a cool Greek Mythology theme and good design. One very cool thing is that the things that happen on this table (with the possible exception of the Medusa and Pegasus figurines) are all totally possible to see on a table in real life. The various modes and voice quips are good, and the daily challenge mode pushes you to achieve a different goal every day. It also saves your credits you earn so you can buy continues and keep trying to top your high scores.

With the 3 Spider-Man movies came this great table. It’s actually similar to Attack From Mars, with a lowerable center spot target bank, easy to raise multipliers and several multiball modes. Featuring scenes from all 3 movies like a Black Suit Multiball, Fusion Malfunction, Parade Attack, and more, fans will find lots to love here. The speech clips by the original cast members are good (Mr. Jameson sounds especially excellent) and fight scenes with the green goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman and Venom provide exciting multiball fun. Truly a great table for Spider-Man fans.

Funhouse was a table that introduced animatronics to pinball design. Rudy, the talking dummy, is the star of this table. he provides Constant commentary about the action and follows the ball with his eyes. He’ll respond if you smack his face with pinball, and he even gives each player a nickname for the duration of their play. Funhouse features the most comical start to multiball ever, where you advance the clock to midnight so that Rudy falls asleep. Then you shoot the ball into his open mouth for him to spit it out and activate multiball and have him constantly scream at you to stop running around since the funhouse is supposed to be closed. Funhouse also features a dual-plunger system with its crazy steps area, meaning there are multiple skill shots to try and achieve, plus a trapdoor that rises open on the playfield and a wind tunnel that activates mystery mirror bonuses. With it large clock on the playfield, it pulls off some nice light affects, and Rudy makes for some entertaining interaction. Overall, the only flaw of this table is that Rudy’s voice would often give out, making his mouth move silently while he simply shouted out random words, which got annoying.

TOTAN featured a deep set of rules and beautiful artwork, along with a unique setting and an interesting playfield. The table had you spinning Aladdin’s Lamp, flying on magic carpet ramps, sneaking into the sultan’s harem, making wishes and visiting the bazaar for rewards while an evil genie battled you every step of the way. The ultimate goal was to find jewels to infuse magic into your scimitar by completing tales and then rescue a princess from the clutches of the evil genie. You’d open Ali Baba’s cave, smash Roc’s with Sinbad, win the Great Camel Race and could even get the ball launched off a ramp as a fireball that you could hurl back at the genie for a jackpot. With it’s engaging features and quality animation, TOTAN was a high-earning table. It featured no fans or motors, providing a good return on investment and easy cleaning and maintenance too.

When my local aracde was closing down, I actually bought this table from them and never regretted that decision. This was a great homage to the trilogy of movies based off of Tolkien’s novels and featured all the memorable moments as feature modes. There was Gandalf Vs. Sarumon, Escape The Ringwraiths, War Of The Ents, Attack Of Shelob, Warg Battle, and Destroy The Witch King. The mini-playfield That represented the Path Of The Dead was fun, and the glowing palantir looked neat. The ultimate goal was to play all three movies (each represented by a different multiball mode) then activate the Destroy The Ring mode. There was a giant ring to shoot the ball through, two vertical up-kickers, a figurine of Balrog to smack with the ball, and unique shots for every fellowship member. There were also three separate skillshots and really good lighting effects. The only real problem was that some shots were way too hard to achieve without some sheer dumb luck, and the ball could often get stuck in wierd places. Also, this may have been only me, but the tilt sensor seemed insanely sensitive. Many players press the flippers hard enough to shake the table a bit, and something even that small could trigger a tilt warning (and you only got 1 warning before the game forced you to lose your ball).
The custom speech form the movie cast was well done, and the multiball modes were exciting. Overall, one of the finest tables of its day and still a joy to play.

There ya have it.

There will be a follow-up list in the future, since there are definitely more than 10 great tables out there.

The rest of this outro is locked behind a $20 paywall. Sorry.

Cheers...


List by LostSoul (12/10/2018)

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