Hardcore Hobby Hopping
I’m terrible when it comes to getting into new hobbies; that’s because when I jump into a new hobby I usually go real deep, real fast (hehe). One such example is when, on a night like any other, I was laying on the couch watching Netflix with my girlfriend; she turned to me randomly and said, unrelated to what we were watching, “Hey Matt, would you be interested in playing Magic: The Gathering?” Immediately and without thinking, I returned, “Nah, not my thing.” Then I pondered my immediate close-mindedness and said, “Actually sure, why not. Let’s go to our local games store.” Not long after, we went to Games Laboratory in Melbourne (shout out to the guys over there!), sat down by a table, and were given free red and black Magic: The Gathering decks to try out.
Fast forward one week and I was deep into the lore, had at least seven decks, and was playing Magic: The Gathering Arena every night. See Exhibit A of craziness below.
I did eventually wean off of Magic; however, I’ve got it in my collection of card games, ready to play if anyone is interested in giving it a go. But this series isn’t about Magic: The Gathering. It’s about Pinball! And the start of my descent into multi-ball madness. So let’s pull the plunger back and get into my first game.
Deadpool (Stern, 2018)
During the week I was helping my good friend, Jahan, move, he found a local bar in St Kilda called Inkerman Hotel. It had a quiet side-room filled with a variety of arcade games which, of course, included a line of pinball machines. He invited me down a couple of days after sussing it out, where we both played a number of games on the Deadpool (Stern, 2018).
This pinball table has a few cool features on it: a katana used as a ball rail, a Deadpool bobble head, a mini disco ball, a flaming chimichanga truck, and a Wolverine statue – to mention a few. The colours and lights mix in to give it a very new and premium feel, not to mention Deadpool constantly cheering and jeering as you play. The pings, dings, and chks from the slamming of paddles and smacking of metallic balls on rubber and plastic; there’s almost too much going on everywhere, giving this feeling that things are truly manic. When activating a mission, you can also get into combat with one of Deadpool’s rivals. This includes but isn’t limited to:
- Mr Sinister
Okay…it is limited to that list. But that’s a pretty hefty list! More than I thought I’d get in pinball! It’s pretty neat that as you play each mission, fight each new rival, it shows a back-and-forth battle on the LED Screen. You can even see the health of Deadpool and his rival progress as you hit certain objectives to take them down.
Personally, I was absolutely terrible and went through some precious coinage before finally moving onto billiards. It’s when I came back from billiards that things started to pick up; I was improving and was starting to enjoy it more. The survivability of my ball was marginally rising, to the point where I was genuinely having more fun than concern that I’d just wasted $4. Jahan and I took turns with each ball, so it was less of a competition between each other and more of a competition with ourselves. Seeing the max score of 274 million, it became our impossible goal to get as close as possible…which we got nowhere near. And I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the entirety of content that the machine has to offer. After spending our coin, we left as quick as we arrived and I didn’t have one more thought about the new experience that pinball provided…
So a few days later I had one more thought about the new experience that pinball provided, and wondered what digital pinball would be like nowadays. I did play 3D Pinball for Windows – Space Cadet (Maxis, 1995) on Windows XP. Remember that game? I spent hours playing Space Cadet due to the lack of internet I had at home…and even more on a school computer when the teacher wasn’t looking.
Despite realising I had a few pinball packs on Zen Studio’s Pinball FX3, which I obtained from Humble Bundle and never really used, I thought I’d start off with the two tables that come free when downloading the game instead. That way, I can experience it in the way that people generally would. Those two table are Zen Studio’s digitally-crafted 2011 table Sorcerer’s Lair (Zen Studios, 2011), Fish Tales (Williams, 1992).
Sorcerer’s Lair (Zen Studios, 2011)
Sorcerer’s Lair is the first pinball table I played on Pinball FX3, and the first pinball table that I would suggest for anyone wanting to get into digital pinball. I guess there was a reason why it was free after all!
The story, as I’ve gathered so far, is a brother and sister are navigating what seems to be a mansion owned by a sorcerer, who isn’t happy with them invading his home. I mean…who would be happy about two rascals invading their home? I know I wouldn’t! So what better way to get rid of them than to scare them away and drive them out?
Well, with the help of their new friend (a friendly ghost named Whisper), the siblings navigate through the mansion to battle ghosts, skeletons, a haunted tree, and spiders; ultimately aiming to defeat the sorcerer with gathered obsidian, and free Whisper.
It’s a simple yet engaging pinball machine, with easy to navigate ramps and routes. A forgiving drain and outlanes (the place your ball goes when you lose), and challenging yet well-explained missions give you a quick understanding of how most pinball machines work. Some noteworthy missions include:
- Searching for, and finding, Whisper
- Attacking a tree
- Defeating ghosts with the help of Whisper
- Destroying portals to random places across the table
- Helping save Whisper from being summoned by the sorcerer
- Navigating a maze of hallways and stairs in a mini pinball machine
- Defeating spiders and escaping the mini pinball machine
- Navigating through a clockwork and see-saw puzzle
It’s packed full of content that is easy to stumble upon, well explained, and challenging to complete yet difficult to master. It’s definitely one I recommend as a beginner;s digital first. If you have a Switch or a PC, I definitely recommend you download Pinball FX3 for free. Give it a shot! Don’t worry, I’ll wait!
Fish Tales (Williams, 1992)
Fish Tales has a very simple premise: You’re a guy that likes to fish and share tales with your friends. Bad at catching fish? Don’t worry! You can lie about the size of the fish you caught, and get a big or abysmal score depending on whether they believe your lie. “Biggest fish…I’ve ever seeeen!”
You can join a club to get multi-ball. You can boost your boat by going through the boat ramp over and over again to rack up a good combo. You can even…wait…shoot torpedoes at boats and jet skis? I don’t know why you’d want to do that…unless…oh! It’s because you’re a competitive fisherman that wants to take out the competition! That’d be it! This is actually the first time I’ve played pinball where you also play a small minigame on the small dot-matrix display using the paddles. I didn’t think that was actually a thing. Ingenious!
Fish Tales is a pinball table that I recommend you play physically only after you have few tables under your belt. Playing digitally is less of an issue because you won’t be burning through countless coins. I played this early in my pinball career and thankfully, due to the fact that I didn’t have to dole out a single coin (thank god micro-transaction pinball isn’t a common thing), I was able to slowly up-skill myself on the table with a lot of retries and without much hassle. It’s quite an enjoyable table and is a favourite amongst a lot of pinheads (yes, that’s a term for pinball enthusiasts); however, it requires a lot of skill and mastery, can be considered quite unforgiving to a beginner.
This particular machine has paddles an eighth of an inch shorter than most, which while seemingly insignificant, gives you very little margin for error; the ball many a time navigating directly into the drain, with the stumpy paddles too helpless to save it. This is where a more skilled player would nudge/tilt the table—give it a good ol’ whack—at the right time (which you can also do digitally) to curve the ball away from the dreaded sink, and into your favour. The main culprit/danger in this machine is in the middle of the boat; a locked ball that you can hit for a few million points at the risk of your ball, more often than not, rebounding straight into the sink hole. So be ready to tilt if going for it; a couple of nudges will do it. Not too much! Because the pinball machines can pick up on this and end your game short.
While this is a difficult table, it truly is one of the greats and I suggest giving it a shot on Pinball FX3.
Beginner’s Journey in Pinball
Before playing pinball I never thought there was so much deep thought put behind the machine, believing it was simply just moving a ball around to hit things and slide around ramps. Turns out there’s so much more to it! The stories in each machine, the missions, the small gimmicks and features…
Here I’ve given you a rundown of my Beginner’s Journey in Pinball, but I feel there is so much more to play and showcase! So keep an eye out for more pinball articles on SnapThirty!