REPLAY BEER AND BOURBON

Games at Replay Beer & Bourbon

In the early 1930s, my grandparents lived in one of Chicago’s southern suburbs. My grandmother has always been fascinated with Asian clothing, art and culture. When they lived in Chicago they were afraid to go to Chicago’s Chinatown because of the crime and violence shown in movies of the day, such as the ‘Charlie Chan’ movies.

It was a shame that they had these fears, because Chicago’s Chinatown is a charming place in its own way, especially during the Chinese New Year celebrations. My grandparents missed out on all the entertainment, dining and drinking establishments Chicago’s Chinatown had to offer because of fear.

Today, it seems as if some people in our society have similar fears – they often fear people who they have been told by the media live different lifestyles than what the so-called ‘majority’ of people are accustomed to. Unfortunately, these sort of fears keep a certain number of people away from parts of Chicago that in fact are more welcoming than threatening.

One of the Chicago neighborhoods that I feel has an undeserved negative reputation is Lake View / Wrigleyville, also known as Boystown. I can say with certainty that there is a good number of interesting entertainment, dining and drinking establishments in Boystown that welcome any and all people that are willing to put aside their fears for just a little while.

But what, you may well ask, does this have to do with pinball? That is a fair question for certain, but if you’ll indulge me by reading on, you’ll find out.

Terri and I were recently invited by friends to join them for an early Sunday brunch in the Lake View neighborhood, with a few drinks afterwards to catch up with each other’s lives.

After a great brunch of omelettes and bottomless mimosas at SIP near the intersection of Southport and Irving Park, our intrepid crew went south on Clark Street, past Wrigley Field to a local place called Replay Beer and Bourbon.

Replay Beer and Bourbon in Lake View
Replay Beer and Bourbon in Lake View

Replay is located on the famous Halsted Street gay bar ‘strip’. During our visit the neighborhood was still recovering from the Saturday St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival of debauchery.

Somehow Replay hadn’t popped up on my radar as a place to visit, but it is a very interesting and in many ways unique retro barcade.

Replay doesn’t have a particularly impressive or inviting exterior but that all changes once you show the doorman your ID (21+ only because they do not have a kitchen) and your eyes adjust to the relatively dim lighting of the interior.

Inside Replay Beer and Bourbon
Inside Replay Beer and Bourbon

The first thing that I noticed inside Replay is that it has quite an impressive collection of vintage video games along the walls of the bar, including Galaga, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, Asteroids, Mortal Kombat, Burgertime, Super Mario Bros., Cruisin’ World (twin), and Centipede. Closer inspection showed that these games are all set to ‘free play’.

Brunchtime is not Burgertime
Brunchtime is not Burgertime

Having wrapped my head around that, I also found over 25 beers on tap; the majority being craft beers, with some favorite mainstream beers thrown in. The bar tender told me that they also have seasonal beers on occasion.

The draft beer list
The draft beer list

Add to THAT a countless array of bottled beers, over 40 bourbons, 18 whiskies, 13 scotches and 9 brands of rye. Wow!

Lots of bourbons, whiskies, scotches and ryes
Lots of bourbons, whiskies, scotches and ryes

Replay’s mixed drink menu also features Pokemon specialty drinks such as the Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Bulbasaur, Golem and Charmander. cleverly presented with the tagline “Gotta Drink Them All”.

Perfect after a hard day's fighting at the gym
Perfect after a hard day’s fighting at the gym

But wait, that’s not all!

Free popcorn actually worth eating! Outdoor patio/beer garden (in the summer months) with its own bar. A networked jukebox with an impressive selection of tunes. And ’90s television reruns on the video screens (e.g. American Gladiator) unless there is sports on (usually soccer).

Classic TV or sports too
Classic TV or sports too

Whew! I’d say that’s a lot to offer; but still no pinball mentioned yet. What’s up with that?

I’ll be totally honest and confess that I didn’t think there was pinball at Replay, until by chance I happened to the furthest corner away from the entrance where there were three shiny and well maintained pinball tables just waiting to empty my wallet of dollar bills.

The pinballs at Replay are:

  • The Sopranos (Stern, 2005)
  • Metallica Pro (Stern, 2015)
  • Junkyard (Williams, 1996)

The three pinballs at Replay
The three pinballs at Replay

All three games appeared to be in excellent condition, but I am told that the one machine that we weren’t able to play (The Sopranos) had a couple of things broken on the playfield, although it was still playable.

The Sopranos
The Sopranos

All games were $1 for a 3-ball game except for Junkyard which is also 6 games for $5. It’s a shame that they aren’t set to free play like the video games but I guess you can’t have everything.

Junkyard
Junkyard

Metallica Pro
Metallica Pro

The easiest way to find the pinball games is to look for the Ms. Pac-Man game and then do a 180-degree about-face.

So in summary, Replay Beer and Bourbon is a place that is fun and welcoming, that has pinball and I had no idea existed.

I hope that if you are in that area for a sporting event or concert at Wrigley Field that you will take a short walk or hail a cab to Halsted, north of Newport, and check out what Replay has to offer.

ARCADE EXPO 2017

The Museum of Pinball

Last year we paid our first visit to the Museum of Pinball in Banning, California, for the second ever Arcade Expo show. This year we are back for Arcade Expo 3.0 which has moved from the usual January slot to the busier show season of March.

Once again, the Arcade Expo venue was the Museum of Pinball, at 700 South Hathaway in the semi-desert landscape at the base of snow-capped hills south of Banning.

The setting for the Arcade Expo show
The setting for the Arcade Expo show

The Museum of Pinball is sited in its own compound, consisting of the main museum building and numerous satellite storage units.

The Museum of Pinball building
The Museum of Pinball compound

The Museum of Pinball building
The main Museum of Pinball building

There was plenty of parking on site, both at the front of the building and elsewhere on the compound, while street parking was also an option.

Parking at the front of the building
Parking at the front of the building

Meanwhile for the adventurous, RV parking and camping was available a short distance from the main Museum building.

The campgrounds
The campgrounds

We arrived on Friday afternoon when the Arcade Expo show opened to the public. Although it was reasonably busy then, Saturday was when the most visitors arrived.

The queue for admission on Saturday
The queue for admission on Saturday

Entry cost $45 per day for the shorter Friday (2:30pm-midnight) and Sunday (11am – 7pm) sessions, or $55 for Saturday’s full day (11am – 2am). Children’s passes were priced at $20 a day, while a 3-day pass costs $120 for adults or $55 for kids aged three to twelve.

Even before visitors got into the Museum building there was plenty to see in the forecourt, from food trucks to beer and ice cream tents and vendor stalls.

Mexican food from this food truck
Mexican food from this food truck

Ice cream, drinks, burgers, hot dogs and more from these food vendors
Ice cream, drinks, burgers, hot dogs and more from these food vendors

Crepes and grilled cheese sandwiches available here
Crepes and grilled cheese sandwiches available here

Outdoor seating proved very popular with the great weather
Outdoor seating proved very popular thanks to the great weather

Local brewer, Brew Rebellion, had a stand here too
Local brewer, Brew Rebellion, had a stand here too

Mexican ice creams and sorbets were also available on Saturday
Mexican ice creams and sorbets were also available on Saturday

A little further along we have more stalls and some shooting games.

Rifle games in a side building
Rifle games in a side building

Gun games
Gun games

Into the vendor area
Into the vendor area

The biggest vendor by far was Marco Specialties who were showcasing the latest Stern Pinball games and also had a special guest.

Three Batman 66 premium models
Three Batman 66 premium models

A Pabst Can Crusher, three Ghostbusters, a Kiss and a Metallica
A Pabst Can Crusher, three Ghostbusters, a Kiss and a Metallica

Two Aerosmiths, another Pabst Can Crusher and another Metallica
Two Aerosmiths, another Pabst Can Crusher and another Metallica

Many of the Stern Pinball games featured artwork by ‘Dirty’ Donny Gillies, and the man himself was here at the show to meet guests and autograph various pinball items.

'Dirty' Donny Gillies with some of his artwork
‘Dirty’ Donny Gillies with some of his artwork

In addition to Donny and the latest games, Marco also had a selection of pinball spares on sale with their usual offer of free continental US shipping on orders made at the show.

The Marco Specialties parts stand
The Marco Specialties parts stand

Sharing the tent with Marco were Captain’s Auctions who had a stand of their own.

The Captain's Auctions stand
The Captain’s Auctions stand

Outside the tent, the David Trotter was stoking interest in his Launch the Ball movie venture and looking to raise the necessary funds from investors.

David Trotter on the Launch the Ball stand
David Trotter on the Launch the Ball stand

In the tent next door, more arcade vendors had their stands set up to sell assorted video game systems and trinkets.

Video game items for sale
Video game items for sale

Video game items for sale
Video game items for sale

Video game items for sale
Video game items for sale

Also set up outside was a small music stage where bands and lone performers entertained guests to the show. Some acts were more annoying than enjoyable, but some talented musicians also played here with the music resonating around the compound.

Earlier in the day we had live singing to a pre-recorded backing track
Earlier in the day we had live singing to a pre-recorded backing track

The audience was small but enthusiastic
The audience was small but enthusiastic

In addition to the food and drinks vendors we saw earlier, there was also a side window where visitors could purchase items from the cafeteria inside the main building without having to leave the glorious sunshine.

More drinks and snacks
More drinks and snacks

Inside the cafeteria
Inside the cafeteria

Inside the cafeteria
Inside the cafeteria

Just outside the cafeteria, at the entrance to the main building – was a large canvas where visitors were encouraged to leave their mark.

Sign you name or leave your message
Sign you name or leave your message

And so we come to the main part of the Arcade Expo show – the games halls. We say ‘halls’ because the building is split in two, with pinball machines on the left as we enter and video games on the right.

The main Museum sign
The main Museum sign

To the pinballs on the left
To the pinballs on the left

To the videos on the right
To the videos on the right

Before we get to either of those though, there’s the Museum’s gift shop.

Get your Museum of Pinball souvenirs here
Get your Museum of Pinball souvenirs here

Arcade Expo T-shirts
Arcade Expo T-shirts

Assorted gamer swag
Assorted gamer swag

Assorted gamer swag
Assorted Pac-Man swag

Entering the main pinball hall, we have a jaw-dropping array of machines ranging from the early electromechanical to the newest LCD screen models, arranged in rows which disappear into the distance.

The central rows in the pinball hall
The central rows in the pinball hall Click to expand

The hall is divided into sections dedicated to the various manufacturers. The Data East/Sega line is the first visitors get to see.

The Data East row
The Data East row

The Data East row
The Data East row

Part of the Williams row
Part of the Williams row

More Williams games
More Williams games

Part of the Bally section
Part of the Bally section

More Bally and Williams games
More Bally and Williams games

Some of the modern Stern games
Some of the modern Stern games

There is also a comprehensive selection of Stern Electronics games
There is also a comprehensive selection of Stern Electronics games

Some of the electronic Gottlieb games
Some of the electronic Gottlieb games

More Gottliebs in the foreground and Sterns in the background
More Gottliebs in the foreground and Sterns in the background

More Gottlieb games
More Gottlieb games

There is also a dedicated area for Bally electromechanical games, with one row of wedgeheads and another of Gottlieb EMs.

Looking from the Williams solid state games to the Bally EM area
Looking from the Williams solid state games to the Bally EM area

Part of the Bally electromechanical games section
Part of the Bally electromechanical games section

Bally games, with part of the row of wedgeheads behind
Bally games, with part of the row of wedgeheads behind

More Bally EM games
More Bally EM games

More Bally EM games
More Bally EM games

Two Bally Freedoms - one early production or prototype and one regular game
Two Bally Freedoms – one early production or prototype and one regular game

The original bottom of the playfield
The original bottom of the playfield

The main production version
The main production version

Keeping all these games up and running takes a veritable army of hard-working tech volunteers. They were easily identified by their distinctive red T-shirts.

Another game gets urgent attention
Another game gets urgent attention

Sometimes you need a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth...
Sometimes you need a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth…

More Ballys and wedgeheads
More Ballys and wedgeheads

Gottlieb EM games
Gottlieb EM games

Even the seats are pinball-themed
Even the seats are pinball-themed

Elsewhere around the pinball hall, various clusters of games are grouped together by manufacturer or according to another common theme.

Three Capcom games with an Alvin G added to the mix
Three Capcom games with an Alvin G added to the mix

This room uses black lights to showcase UV-reactive properties
This room uses black lights to showcase UV-reactive properties

More UV effects
More UV effects

In the very back corner of the pinball hall is an area dedicated to tournament play. This weekend there were various pinball tournaments – both IFPA-accredited and not – contested in the area.

The tournament area on Friday
The tournament area on Friday

The tournament area on Friday
The tournament area on Friday

During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday
During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday

During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday
During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday

During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday
During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday

Trophies for the Split-Flipper and One -Handed tournaments
Trophies for the Split-Flipper and One -Handed tournaments

There were also two side rooms – one with games just for the younger visitors, and another lounge with table-top games and a ball bowler.

The kids games room
The kids games room

The table-top lounge area
The table-top lounge area

Here’s our exclusive Thirty Minute Tour video of the show. This skips the video games hall – we have a separate video of that – but covers everything else, including the stands outside and in the vendor area.

The video game hall there were hundreds of arcade games including all the classics and many rarer titles.

You can see them all in this Fifteen Minute Tour of the video game hall.

There were also a few physical pinballs to be found in the video hall, including three on the Pinball Arcade stand and another at the American Outreach Foundation.

The Pinball Arcade stand
The Pinball Arcade stand

The American Outrach stand
The American Outreach stand

Starship Fantasy also had a large stand filled with their regular assortment of pinball plastics, ramps, backglasses and playfields. You can see all they had in our video above.

On Saturday there were two more events of note.

In the Trading Card Hall of Fame, Walter Day and Billy Mitchell were hosting several talks and Q&A sessions, as well as unveiling the latest trading card subjects.

Billy Mitchell answers questions from the audience
Billy Mitchell answers questions from the audience

Walter and Billy introduce the latest people to be commemorated on a trading card
Walter and Billy introduce the latest people to be commemorated on a trading card

Then, on Saturday evening there was a special VIP meal to unveil Tim Moyers latest restoration. After last year’s Getaway, Tim returned to Arcade Expo with a Frontier. It was revealed at a party in the Beer Revolution taproom in Banning.

Beer Revolution in Banning
Beer Revolution in Banning

The unveiling party
The unveiling party

Entry to the VIP party cost $40 per head and included free drinks and food.

Inside, five pinballs were set up; Frontier, Ghostbusters, NASCAR, Big Buck Hunter and Iron Man. Frontier was on free play, but the others were coin-operated.

Frontier headed the line-up of five machines
Frontier headed the line-up of five machines

The star of the show
The star of the show

Tim with his Frontier
Tim with his Frontier

Once everyone had had the chance to try the game, food was served on the patio.

Chicken supreme, lasagne and rigatoni was served outside
Chicken supreme, lasagne and rigatoni was served outside

The evening ended with live music
The evening ended with live music

And that brings us to the end of our coverage of this year’s Arcade Expo show.

The Museum of Pinball has an amazing and unrivalled collection of pinball and video games, and gives the perfect basis for a large show such as Arcade Expo. The space available both inside and out means plenty of machine, parts, collectibles, food and drink vendors can be accommodated. This year’s hot sunny weather was especially helpful in getting guests to explore all corners of the compound.

The Museum’s remote location can’t be ignored though, and the distance from the Los Angeles metropolitan area (combined with the lane closures on the main freeway) must act to deter the more casual attendees, as did the price of entry.

$55 per person for Saturday appears high but is actually pretty good value when you consider the number and range of both pinball and video games available to play from 11am until 2am. It is, though, probably high enough to deter any families with only a casual interest in arcade games. Not that that seemed to affect numbers too much, especially on Saturday – the busiest of the thee days.

We would like to see more seminars from local pinheads. Last year’s Archer talk was a unique feature of this show, and there are surely plenty of local collectors and developers who would be willing to share details of their work.

MAGIC GIRL: FIRST LOOK

Magic Girl backglass

It was just under two years ago that we brought you our exclusive report on the prototype Magic Girl game from Zidware when it was brought to the NW Pinball and Arcade Show in Tacoma, Washington.

An awful lot has happened in the time since then. A rescue plan to get the game made came and went, legal action was started in an attempt to recover the funds for buyers of Magic Girl, Retro Atomic Zombieland Adventure and Alice in Wonderland, and Zidware seemed destined for bankruptcy, either voluntary or involuntary.

That legal action is still ongoing, but in the third quarter of 2016, a new company – American Pinball – announced that they would be building Magic Girl as contract manufacturers for Zidware.

Incredulity turned to mere scepticism as pictures of cabinets appeared. Pinball News toured the American Pinball facility and saw how the playfields were indeed being put together on a small production line.

The 25 Magic Girl games were promised for pre-Christmas 2016 delivery, but that deadline was missed. However, John Popadiuk from Zidware contacted buyers to say delivery of their games would begin in March 2017.

Although the release of machines has been patchy, a few have been either delivered or collected.

Pinball News got our hands on one of them to pull it apart and see how much of a game has been delivered.

Our customary In-Depth Review of Magic Girl is coming, but these reviews take a long time to write and process all the pictures – we have more than a thousand pictures to work through! We also have a number of pinball shows over the next few weekends, and each of those need detailed reports.

But we understand that interest in these games is high, so we are bringing you a First Look review, where we give you a sneak-peek at the game, from the cabinet artwork to the playfield.

Naturally all our pictures are also available in high-resolution if you want to explore the details further and we have added a ten minute video of Magic Girl gameplay.

The granular detail will come in our full In-Depth Review, but in the meantime, we present our first look at Magic Girl from Zidware.

Zidware's Magic Girl
Zidware’s Magic Girl Click to expand

Magic Girl is a standard-width game, but not much else is standard. For a start, the playfield is longer than normal, and the playfield glass is also around 10cm (4 inches) longer than regular pinball glass – something which makes getting non-glare glass something of a problem.

The cabinet and backbox designs are also custom. The backbox has angled bottom edges and bespoke hinges, while the cabinet is an unusual shape – much less tall at the front and much deeper at the back.

The Magic Girl translite
The Magic Girl translite Click to expand

The score display is at the back of the playfield like Cirqus Voltaire, allowing the translite artwork to cover the whole backbox front with the minor exception of the backbox speaker mountings.

The reverse of the Magic Girl translite
The reverse of the Magic Girl translite Click to expand

The translite art is fantastically-detailed, with intense colours and rich purple hues dominating. This design really sets the scene for what we will find on the playfield a little later.

The cabinet art is somewhat different – equally interesting but using a different colour-set and exploring different aspects of the theme.

Right cabinet side art
Right cabinet side art Click to expand

Left cabinet side art
Left cabinet side art Click to expand

The cabinet front
The cabinet front Click to expand

The backbox side art
The backbox side art Click to expand

As we said, the backbox hinges are bespoke designs, featuring the trademark Zidware lightning bolt.

The backbox hinge
The backbox hinge Click to expand

While the custom design adds another layer to the look of the game, in this instance it was certainly a case of form over function, as this bracket on our review machine was bent in transit – the hinge’s rigidity no doubt being weakened by the large central cut-out.

Round the back, the design also varies from the usual.

The back of the machine
The back of the machine Click to expand

Although it looks pretty conventional, the power switch is incorporated into the mains power inlet, making it trickier to depower. Several ventilation grilles are included but there are no details of the machine on the game sticker. The only identification comes in the form of a machine-specific plaque bearing the MGxxx game number.

That’s our first look at the outside of Magic Girl. Under the (custom-size) glass we have the game’s playfield which we will examine in detail in our In-Depth Review.

The playfield
The playfield Click to expand

As you can see, it’s a packed playfield – packed with mechanisms, artwork and colours. There are shots, targets, LEDs and plastic pieces all over, with barely any part of the playfield periphery not turned into a scoring or feature opportunity. Several targets appear to be deliberately impossible to make and can only be hit by sheer chance.

The instruction card
The instruction card Click to expand

The replay levels card
The replay levels card Click to expand

The game’s display is mounted on the inside back wall of the cabinet. This results in part of it being obscured by the taller playfield features, but there’s no reason the information on the display cannot be crafted around the obstructions.

The game's display panel
The game’s display panel Click to expand

A display designed around the playfield components
A display designed around the playfield components Click to expand

Despite being jammed with shots and targets, the game only has two regular flippers.

The game's two flippers
The game’s two flippers Click to expand

We say ‘regular’ flippers because there are also two Twilight Zone-style magnetic flippers on a mini-playfield mounted above and at the back of the main playfield.

We will examine that along with all the other playfield mechanisms, lights and artwork in our full In-Depth Review.

Until then we will leave you with two more sneak-peaks.

The first is a look at the underside of the playfield.

The underside of the playfield
The underside of the playfield Click to expand

The main driver board is mounted under the playfield which keeps the interconnects with the solenoids, switches and LED boards short.

LEDs are a mixture of custom boards for RGB lighting and sockets for single-colour devices. There is an Arduino board mounted at the bottom-right of the picture above to control the RGB LEDs.

Although the bottom of the playfield appears to cram in as much as possible, there are actually many missing mechanisms and devices.

Some of the many unused connectors
Some of the many unused connectors Click to expand

In truth, Magic Girl is a long way from complete. Whole sections of the playfield are inoperable because the mechanism which feeds them is missing or the code to control them isn’t written yet.

The game’s control system appears quite mature and functional though. Apart from the boards mounted under the playfield, everything else lives in the base of the cabinet.

Inside the cabinet
Inside the cabinet Click to expand

The large metal box at the back contains the control system, and we will – quite literally – lift the lid on that in our In-Depth Review.

Until then, here’s a ten minute video of gameplay on Magic Girl.

It was shot to demonstrate a number of things. First, how well the lighting effects and artwork work together. Second, how the display animations look. Third, how the music and effects sound, and finally how the various shots work or don’t work.

Together, these elements should give you a good idea how complete Magic Girl is as a game.

We’ll be back soon with the In-Depth Review, right here at Pinball News.

DIALED IN! LAUNCH PARTY

As the European Jersey Jack Pinball Master Distributor, Alfred Pika, aka Freddy, hosted the European launch of JJP’s latest Dialed In! pinball machine designed by the legendary Pat Lawlor. The venue was Freddy’s Pinball Paradise In Echzell.

Freddy looks on as attendees try out Dialed In!
Freddy (left) looks on as attendees try out Dialed In!

Attendance at the launch party was by pre-registration. The modest entry fee of €3 ($3,17/£2.60), as well as any donations for the available food and drinks, benefited a local kindergarten.

There was one prototype LE machine for the couple of dozen attendees to try out. Software was only about 30% completed, but, surprisingly, the game felt very polished with many modes to try.

All eyes on the game
All eyes on the game

Pat Lawlor is one of the greatest pinball designers of all time, having designed many beloved tables, including the record selling 1992 The Addams Family, and his last Stern game CSI in 2008.

Lawlor began designing pinball machines in 1987 and produced eighteen games throughout his career, including many of the best-selling games in the history of the industry.

Jack Guarnieri recently recounted in the JJP newsletter how Pat’s return to pinball came about. Back in 2011, Jack rented a building in Harvard, IL from Pat and invited him to see the work JJP was doing on the The Wizard of Oz. As Pat witnessed first-hand JJP’s vision embodied in the making of their first game, he started toying with the idea of coming back to the industry.

In January 2014, to much excitement in the pinball community, JJP made the official announcement that Pat was coming out of nearly ten years of retirement to design an unlicenced game for JJP.

Pat and Jack
Pat and Jack (picture: Jersey Jack Pinball)

During the design of the game, Pat took the opportunity to revisit the actual cabinet design. In an interview with Pinball Magazine, Pat outlined his initial design goals:

  • Move the electronics back in the backbox for ease of access and added reliability.

  • Redesign the cabinet for better acoustics

  • And Improve serviceability access of cabinet head.

One of the most impressive serviceability design we saw was the new LCD mount.

After you remove the translite, the LCD screen is mounted on a impressively smooth swinging arm which extends and pivots to either side to provide full access to the cabinet head electronics.

Andy Hengstebeek, Freddy's right hand pinball man, shows the underside of the playfield
Andy Hengstebeek, Freddy’s right hand pinball man, shows the underside of the playfield

It is also the first game to feature bluetooth connectivity, and the innovative ‘selfie mode’ showcased the game camera. It employs face recognition technology to capture portraits of the player and close bystanders. This mode and the cascading ’emoji mode’ were big hits with the attendees.

The innovative selfie and emoji modes
The innovative selfie and emoji modes
The innovative selfie and emoji modes
The innovative selfie and emoji modes

The crossing hashlines inserts in the playfield are a familiar sight from the Wizard Blocks prototype game that Lawlor sadly never got to complete due to WMS Industries shutting down their pinball division in 1999.

The Quantum Reality Theater toy in the middle was very impressive with a bright and crisp interactive floating image similar to Pinball 2000 for which Pat Lawlor was also a major creative force.

Dialed-In! overhead view
Dialed-In! overhead view

The event was also the last day to order the game from Freddy at specially-discounted advance ordering prices. With a constant line to play the game during the whole event, and judging from the very positive reception of the game, one may guess there were quite a few games ordered that day.

In addition to the monthly openings of Freddy’s Pinball Paradise, the game will also be travelling around Europe to these upcoming events:

  • March 15th – 17th, Milan, Italy, Double Pinball showroom.

  • April 1st & 2nd, Le Treport, France, Flip Expo.

  • April 8th & 9th, Oberösterreich, Austria, Comic Con.

  • April 13th &14th, Badendorf in der Steiermark, Austria, ‘Auf Die Kugeln Fertig Los 3.0’ tournament.

 

Freddy’s Pinball Paradise

On the outskirts of the small village of Echzell, a 45- minute drive north of Frankfurt, it’s hard to miss these two pinball machines, beacons to all aficionados of the silver ball.

A welcoming sight
A welcoming sight

A closer inspection reveals no coin doors, leg mounts or bracket backbox hinges. We can all breathe easy as it seems no game was sacrificed for the making of these ingenious props.

Screen capture of a drone video from Freddy’s facebook page
Screen capture of a drone video from Freddy’s Facebook page

The store is on the left side, while the pinball hall is on the right. The hall is impressively spacious at 600 square meters (~6,500 sq. feet), a hint of its previous incarnation as a supermarket. The walls are adorned in a country and western decorative theme, with horse saddles, wagon wheels and horseshoes.

It houses about 170 pinball machines on free play, from 1960s electromechanical games to the latest Stern and JJP machines. The shop was founded in the summer of 2012 and the Pinball Paradise hosted the 2013 IFPA World Championships.

Alfred Pika, a.k.a. Freddy
Alfred Pika, aka Freddy

Freddy started buying and fixing games in his basement when he was just 14-years-old. Along the way he also started a successful business, Pika Autoteile GmbH, which sells parts and accessories for US made cars.

His right hand man for all things pinball related is Andy Hengstebeek. Andy is the main caretaker of the collection and he also looks after the shop.

Dark Rider conversion game for 1979 Bally Star Trek
Dark Rider conversion game for 1979 Bally Star Trek

Andy told me about the rare Dark Rider conversion game in the collection from German company Geiger-Automatenbau. Only 150 of these conversion kits were made. Andy found this game in an old gym. The playfield was completly white from rubbers having disingrated, but the playfield was pristine underneath.

He explained that these Geiger conversion kits came out a few years after the originals, and by then usually people had moved on to the latest pinball playfield layout and feature gimmicks.

In addition to all the popular WMS and Stern DMD games, the many solid-sate and Electromechanical machines there are many notable games at the Paradise, such as Cactus Canyon Extended, Atari’s Hercules, Akkon Automaten’s Sexy Girl, and the following games:

Rare 1982 Williams Defender in beautiful condition - only 369 made
Rare 1982 Williams Defender in beautiful condition – only 369 made
1985 Bally Cybernaut
1985 Bally Cybernaut
1979 Bally Paragon, European version with only 3 flippers
1979 Bally Paragon, European version with only 3 flippers
1984 Bell Games Tiger Rag conversion
1984 Bell Games Tiger Rag conversion
1984 Bell Games Super Bowl conversion
1984 Bell Games Super Bowl conversion
Geiger La Retata LA Police conversion kit for 1986 Williams High Speed
Geiger La Retata LA Police conversion kit for 1986 Williams High Speed
Geiger Lady Death conversion for 1978 Bally Mata Hari
Geiger Lady Death conversion for 1978 Bally Mata Hari

Freddy also sells the convolux plastic protectors which Pinball News had the opportunity to review in 2014.

Convolux plastic protectors
Convolux plastic protectors

Many of the games at the Paradise were outfitted to showcase these protectors. Here, on two 2013 Stern Star Treks, you can see how much Convolux protectors can change the mood of a playfield.

Star Treks with the Convolux plastic protectors
Star Trek with red Convolux plastic protectors
Star Treks with the Convolux plastic protectors
Star Trek with yellow Convolux plastic protectors

Here are some pictures of the inside of the Paradise.

Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise
Inside Freddy’s Pinball Paradise

Freddy’s Pinball Paradise is open once a month, usually the last saturday of the month. Current admission prices are €18 for adults and €10 for children aged 12-16 years.

More details are available at:

A nice last look at the end of a fun day of pinball
A nice last look at the end of a fun day of pinball

CAPTAIN NEMO: IN-DEPTH REVIEW

Captain Nemo Dives Again

Welcome to the latest in our continuing series of In-Depth Reviews, and today we are delving deep into Quetzal Pinball’s Captain Nemo Dives Again.

We have been following the development of Captain Nemo Dives Again – which we’ll simply refer to as Nemo from here on – since Antonio Ortuño first announced his plans to build thirty machines back in March 2012.

It’s now five years later and the games are finally being delivered to buyers. Five years does seem to be a common timescale for small-scale boutique game manufacturers to actually deliver their first game.

So, we assume you know the structure in these In-Depth Reviews. We’re basically going to rip the game to pieces, investigate every aspect and show you every angle, inside and out, starting with the outside and the cabinet artwork.

The left cabinet side
The left cabinet side Click to expand

The right cabinet side
The right cabinet side Click to expand

The backbox sides
The backbox sides Click to expand

The front of the cabinet is dominated by the standard single-slot coin door but there is still space for a nice frame design surrounding it.

The cabinet front
The cabinet front Click to expand

If we had one criticism of the decals, it would be how the exposed edges are white and can sometime show up on the corners. Otherwise though, they look great.

The backbox decal edges
The backbox decal edges Click to expand

Now would be a good moment to mention how our review machine was specified with gold trim which was available at extra cost at the time of order.

The polished gold finish
The polished gold finish Click to expand

Standard Nemo machines don’t have this gold finish, but it does look excellent and is very nicely done as we shall see throughout this review.

The game's translite
The game’s translite Click to expand

The translite brings us to something unusual about the game when compared to other production machines.

You might notice how there are four white dots om the translite picture above. These are actually the plastic rivets which appear to hold the translite to the clear acrylic sheet which covers and protects it.

The plastic rivet attaching the translite to the clear plastic sheet
The plastic rivet attaching the translite to the clear plastic sheet Click to expand

These are used in preference to the more common edging strips which clamp the translite to the glass on all four sides. The lower two of these rivets have plastic ‘nipples’ which can be used to lift the clear panel/translite sandwich to gain access to the backbox.

Another plastic rivet, this time with a 'nipple' to aid lifting the panel
Another plastic rivet, this time with a ‘nipple’ to aid lifting the panel Click to expand

However, there are a couple of problems here. Firstly, the translite isn’t firmly attached to the clear plastic cover. The rivets don’t actually hold the clear sheet to the translite very successfully. It seems a static bond was expected to attach the two parts, only this didn’t really work. So, the translite needs to be taped to the clear protective sheet using Scotch Tape or similar.

The translite is attached using Scotch Tape
The translite is attached using Scotch Tape Click to expand

The clear acrylic sheet is also too thin and can flex too easily, allowing it and the translite to fall out.

Then we come to the other problem; the translite doesn’t actually transmit much light. The white layer is so thick it blocks almost any light from passing through. It’s an easy problem to remedy – make the white layer thinner – but as it stands the translite is too dark. We’ll look at this a little more when we examine what’s in the backbox.

The translite thickness
The translite thickness Click to expand

Moving away from the visible part of the game and poking our camera around the back we find some interesting features.

The back of the machine
The back of the machine Click to expand

First of all, there’s a fan mounted on the back of the main cabinet. It’s an unfortunate consequence of using PC components for a game design that cooling is an important factor, and Nemo is no different in this regard. In fact, there’s an additional vent on the top of the backbox too.

The air vent on the top of the backbox
The air vent on the top of the backbox Click to expand

It may be unobtrusive and nearly silent, but this cabinet fan, when combined with others we shall see shortly, does provide some ambient noise when the game is otherwise silent. It really is minimal but it exists and, as with all games using the same type of cooling, in a home environment it could irritate.

Power is supplied by an IEC connector, and there are two lifting recesses at the very bottom of the cabinet which are very welcome nods to those who regularly move machines around.

The bottom of the back of the cabinet
The bottom of the back of the cabinet Click to expand

We’ll examine what’s actually inside the backbox and cabinet towards the end of this review, but now let’s move on to the part of the machine were the real action takes place. To do that we need to dive under the glass.

The Nemo playfield
The Nemo playfield Click to expand

The final artwork pieces are found on the metal bottom apron.

The bottom arch and gold trim
The bottom arch and gold trim Click to expand

The two side decals on the apron show the same rococo design, with the central decal featuring the game logo and the machine number out of the thirty machines produced.

The bottom apron decals
The bottom apron decals Click to expand

Nemo is a two-flippered six ball game, with the flippers in the usual place, front and centre, and it’s there that we start our tour of the playfield.

Nemo is a six-ball game
Nemo is a six-ball game Click to expand

The game is supplied with white flipper bats and red flipper rubbers – real rubber, not one of the polyurethane alternatives. The flipper bats do not carry any logo or branding at the pivot point.

The flipper area
The flipper area Click to expand

A large red Dive Again (shoot again) insert sits between the flippers, and the playfield is drilled with flipper alignment holes which should help with setting the flipper bats to the correct angle if you ever need to do that.

The flipper alignment guide holesThe flipper alignment guide holes Click to expand

Any balls which pass between the flippers soon find themselves falling into the trough, the entrance to which is covered by the bottom apron.

The view between the flippers into the troughThe view between the flippers into the trough Click to expand

As is customary in these In-Depth Reviews, we will continue our tour of the playfield features by moving clockwise, pausing only to admire the reflective quality of the gold-plated apron.

The mirrored apronThe mirrored apron Click to expand

Just above the apron in the left outlane is a panel listing credits for the game design, artwork, toy design, display animations, mechanical design, software and music/sounds.

Credits in the left outlane
Credits in the left outlane Click to expand

Incidentally, there is a corresponding copyright notice in the right outlane for Gustavo Díaz, a.k.a. Lord Hiryu who created the artwork, giving the year as 2012- when the original announcement of the game took place.

Credit text in the right outlane
Credit text in the right outlane Click to expand

As you can see, the inlane ball guides are lit with pure green LEDs. Lighting throughout the game uses LEDs and most are coloured. The coloured ones are single colours, and 44-style bayonet lamp holders are generally used to mount them. There is one incandescent lamp fitted to the game, but we will come back to that one later.

The left inlane ball guide
The left inlane ball guide Click to expand

In inlane ball guides are made from clear transparent plastic, topped with a printed butyrate featuring the phrase ‘Mobilis in Mobili’ which is the motto of the Nautilus and roughly translate from Latin as ‘Movement amidst movement’ to describe the vessel’s underwater adventures.

The left inlane and outlane
The left inlane and outlane Click to expand

There is one inlane and one outlane on the left side. Both feature traditional mechanical rollover switches to detect the ball and contain a large round insert – ‘F’ for the outlane and ‘I’ for the inlane. These combine with two corresponding inserts on the right to spell out F-I-R-E, and they have the lane change ability to rotate the lit and unlit inserts with the flipper buttons.

The F and I inserts in the left inlane and outlane
The F and I inserts in the left inlane and outlane Click to expand

The left inlane is also where the left ramp finishes. It deposits the ball just below the rollover switch, meaning you can’t repeatedly shoot the ramp to light the F-I-R-E letters.

The lower left playfield area
The lower left playfield area Click to expand

The left slingshot is a pretty basic assembly, with two leaf switches, a kicker arm and two single-colour green LEDs, surrounded by a white rubber ring stretched around three clear star posts, with the whole lot covered by a single printed slingshot plastic.

The left slingshot
The left slingshot Click to expand

Above the left outlane is an adjustable post with three positions to vary the width of the outlane entrance and thus the game’s difficulty.

Above that is a cluster of clear star posts which form a rebound area designed to add some randomness to the ball’s movement and make it harder to control.

The left adjustable post and rebound area
The left adjustable post and rebound area Click to expand

The next feature on Nemo’s playfield is the bank of drop targets

The game's drop targets
The game’s drop targets Click to expand

These four drop targets spell out N-E-M-O and sport an image of the Nautilus stretched across the four targets. Each target has a matching blue circular insert in front, and completing them resets the bank and adds a ball to the next multiball.

The individual drop targets are not resettable like they are in, say, The Hobbit. So only the whole bank can be reset to the up position, which it is between balls and between players.

The N-E-M-O drop target bank
The N-E-M-O drop target bank Click to expand

It is possible for the ball to get stuck on top of the drop targets – something which is only cleared when the game resets the targets as part of the ball search routine.

A ball hang-up on the drop targets
A ball hang-up on the drop targets Click to expand

Up the playfield from the drop targets is the entrance to the left lane.

The entrance to the left lane
The entrance to the left lane Click to expand

This lane travels up the left side of the playfield in what is often the position for an orbit lane. However, on Nemo this instead leads to a trap hole which in turn drops down to a subway tunnel.

The left lane
The left lane Click to expand

There is a large rectangular insert which lights when the lane is shot.

The insert in the left orbit
The insert in the left lane Click to expand

When the ball makes it all the way to the top of the lane, it passes over a rollover switch and into a trap hole. This leads to a subway which send the ball to the left side of the playfield and into an upkicker.

The top of the left lane
The top of the left lane Click to expand

The upkicker includes a nicely polished piece of curved metal which directs the ball onto a short metal ramp. This ramp joins the left ramp return to deposit the ball in the left inlane, as we saw earlier.

The left upkicker
The left upkicker Click to expand

Just to the right of the left lane is the game’s Extinct Volcano captive ball shot.

The captive ball
The captive ball Click to expand

This is another fairly simple mechanism, with just a single ball trapped behind a couple of posts. When shot, the ball travels up a short lane and hits a red circular standup target to register the hit.

The extinct volcano captive ball shot
The extinct volcano captive ball shot Click to expand

Although it looks quite a tight shot, in practice it’s pretty easy to shoot the captive ball. However, if you are not playing the appropriate mode and the Extinct Volcano insert isn’t lit, it does nothing; not even evoking a sound effect.

Our next feature is the first of the game’s two ramps – the left ramp.

The left ramp
The left ramp Click to expand

The ramp is made up from a metal U-turn which leads to an extended open metal rail. All these pieces are shiny metal (gold in this particular machine) and work very effectively despite their unusual design.

The entrance to the left ramp
The entrance to the left ramp Click to expand

The left ramp is where the skill shot award is collected if it is made directly after the ball is launched. It is also one of the jackpot shots and is one of the two shots during Protect the Sea mode.

The left ramp inserts
The left ramp inserts Click to expand

The left ramp U-turn
The left ramp U-turn Click to expand

The left ramp’s U-turn mechanism transfers the ball onto the metal ramp return which joins up with the return from the left lane’s upkicker. An attractively laser-cut metal panel prevents the ball falling off the ramp as it joins.

The left ramp return
The left ramp return Click to expand

The ramp return then sends the ball down the left side of the playfield, dropping it into the left inlane. It does this after the inlane switch, so there is no sound or lighting effect as the ball returns to the flipper.

The end of the left ramp
The end of the left ramp Click to expand

While one of the captive ball posts site on the left side of the ramp entrance, on the right side we find the first of two white rectangular standup targets.

The Hera standup target
The Hera standup target Click to expand

The Hera target is paired up with the Cles target on the right side to light lock for multiball at the left lane and the right saucer when both are shot.

Our next shot is the centre lane which is a fairly wide shot and easier to make than, say, the equivalent lane on Iron Man.

The centre lane shot
The centre lane shot Click to expand

The centre lane features a white rubber band on the left side of the entrance which makes the shot a little more demanding by rebounding any wayward shots while also providing some lateral movement for balls exiting the pop bumpers on that side.

The rebound ring in the centre lane
The rebound ring in the centre lane Click to expand

The centre lane leads up to the top of the playfield and to the three S-E-A rollover lanes which are bathed in a pool of blue light.

The top rollover lanes
The top rollover lanes Click to expand

There are one-way gates on either side of the S-E-A rollover lanes, which means any ball shot up here is guaranteed to enter the lanes. They feature the usual lane change ability, while lighting all three S-E-A inserts extinguishes them all and increases the end-of-ball bonus multiplier.

Pop bumper area artwork
Pop bumper area artwork Click to expand

The top rollover lanes lead to the pop bumper area, which contains the familiar arrangement of three pop bumpers and a central flasher insert.

The pop bumper area
The pop bumper area Click to expand

Although the pop bumpers provide reasonable ball movement action, they rarely send the ball back into the S-E-A lanes.

There are two exits from the pop bumpers – to the left into the centre lane, or to the right into the right lane – with the rubber ring in the centre lane helping to prevent the ball heading straight down the middle from that exit.

There is a potential ball trap on the lower bumper.

A ball trap on the bottom pop bumper
A ball trap on the bottom pop bumper Click to expand

This seemed to happen quite often on our review machine and required a ball search to free it, since it wasn’t easily cleared with a gentle tap of the cabinet side.

Above the left exit from the pop bumpers is a green circular standup target representing the Underwater Forest.

The Underwater Forest standup target
The Underwater Forest standup target Click to expand

This is used to advance the Underwater Treasures mode and can be surprisingly difficult to hit when needed. The blue rubber pad on the left and white rubber ring on the right mean it has to be an accurate shot to register.

A slightly easier target is the Bay of Vigo standup below and to the right which features in the same mode.

The Bay of Vigo standup target
The Bay of Vigo standup target Click to expand

This target is a little more open and accessible than the Underwater Forest one, and like its counterpart it requires multiple hits to complete the feature.

Below the Bay of Vigo is the Cles standup we mentioned earlier.

The Cles standup target
The Cles standup target Click to expand

This pairs up with the Hera standup to light lock for the start of multiball. Its insert flashes rapidly until the target is hit, at which point it lights solidly.

The Cles standup is positioned on the left side of the entrance to our next feature – the right ramp.

The right ramp
The right ramp Click to expand

This is another all-metal ramp with even the ramp flap having a shiny finish. Like the left ramp, it can score jackpots in multiball and advances the Protect the Sea feature.

The right ramp inserts
The right ramp inserts Click to expand

Despite having a pretty tight turn at the top, the right ramp is not a tricky or temperamental shot. The metal construction makes it nice and smooth, and there’s some satisfaction to be had comboing the two ramps to advance through the mode rapidly.

The turn at the top of the right ramp
The turn at the top of the right ramp Click to expand

The right ramp turns and heads down the right side of the playfield
The right ramp turns and heads down the right side of the playfield Click to expand

Successful shots to the ramp are recorded by a microswitch mounted on the ramp return which shares the attractive, open design of its left-side companion.

The switch on the right ramp
The switch on the right ramp Click to expand

The right ramp return also drops the ball into its respective inlane, however this time it falls above the inlane switch, allowing advancement of the F-I-R-E inserts.

The end of the right ramp
The end of the right ramp Click to expand

Moving right, we come to our next major shot which is the right lane.

Inserts in the right lane
Inserts in the right lane Click to expand

Were it not for the one-way gates at the top, the position of this shot could be thought of as an orbit lane. However, the gates mean it always leads to the S-E-A rollover lanes and the pop bumpers.

The one-way gate at the top of the right lane
The one-way gate at the top of the right lane Click to expand

The right lane is one of the shots during Build the Nautilus mode, and also starts Super Bumpers for increased scoring.

The right lane
The right lane Click to expand

The final major shot is on the far right and is an eject hole.

The eject hole lane
The eject hole lane Click to expand

This is a reasonably tricky shot and the ball can bounce out if the shot is too hard. However, even if that happens it will often register and award the lit feature.

The eject hole on the right of the playfield
The eject hole on the right of the playfield Click to expand

Those features include the start of multiball which happens instantly, without any delay while a display effect completes.

Inserts in the right lane
Inserts in the right lane Click to expand

The ball guide into the right eject hole
The ball guide into the right eject hole Click to expand

Below the eject hole lane is another rebound area which sits above the right outlane.

The rebound area above the right outlane
The rebound area above the right outlane Click to expand

As with the left outlane, the right side includes an adjustable post with three positions to vary the width of the lane entrance. The game is shopped with the post in the middle position.

The right outlane post has three possible positions
The right outlane post has three possible positions Click to expand

There’s just a single inlane and one outlane on the right. These contain the R and E inserts from F-I-R-E

The right ramp terminates at the right inlane
The right ramp terminates at the right inlane Click to expand

The R insert is mostly covered by the end of the right ramp, and its metal construction also partly obscures the ball as it bounces around, deciding whether to head for the inlane or the outlane.

The R and E inserts in the right inlane and outlane
The R and E inserts in the right inlane and outlane Click to expand

While the left ramp drops the ball in the left inlane below the rollover switch, that’s not possible on the right side due to another ramp occupying that position.

The right inlane and outlane
The right inlane and outlane Click to expand

In this case it is the ball launch ramp which claims that area of the playfield, so let’s take a look at that feature next.

A ball waiting in the shooter lane
A ball waiting in the shooter lane Click to expand

The ball shooter lane begins in a fairly conventional manner, with a wooden shooter lane and an auto-launch mechanism to propel the ball into play.

Rather than shooting the ball up to the rollover lanes as might b expected, the auto-launch instead sends it into another U-turn ramp which feeds the right inlane, much as it does on Indianapolis 500.

The ball shooter lane
The ball shooter lane Click to expand

The ball launch ramp
The ball launch ramp Click to expand

This is another attractively-mirrored metallic construction, although it is sometime unable to cope with the speed of the ball as it is launched, allowing it to fly off and drop into the outlane. This is more a function of an over-exuberant ball launch solenoid, and it could maybe do with a slightly weaker coil.

The end of the ball launch ramp
The end of the ball launch ramp Click to expand

If it is launched successfully, the ball quickly drops into the right inlane and rolls down to the right flipper for a skill shot on the left ramp. The ball moves pretty quickly, so you need to be paying attention or the ball will drain before you’ve had a chance to flip it.

The right inlane and outlane area
The right inlane and outlane area Click to expand

That brings us back to the flippers and means we’ve looked at all the main shots in the game, but we still have the single largest playfield feature to examine – the LCD panel.

The in-playfield display
The in-playfield display Click to expand

This 9.7-inch LCD panel is the only display in the game and so conveys all the usual information about score, ball number, credits available, mode status and diagnostics menus. The background image for most of the game is a continuation of the surrounding artwork. This helps blend it in, although the display is significantly brighter than the playfield.

The in-playfield LCD monitor
The in-playfield LCD monitor Click to expand

The high score entry screen
The high score entry screen Click to expand

The panel has the usual clear plastic window covering it and making it flush with the playfield, but it also has a larger Mylar sheet protecting it. In fact, it looked like there were two Mylar sheets, one larger than the other, with the top one bubbling a little around the edges of the lower one.

The Mylar covering the display
The Mylar covering the display Click to expand

When the game is powered up, the display shows the loading progress.

The playfield display during game start-up
The playfield display during game start-up Click to expand

At the start of a game, the player needs to choose which of the three main modes they wish to play. Each one requires different shots to advance through it.

The three mode choices
The three mode choices Click to expand

The completed modes and progress towards the Kraken wizard mode are shown on the playfield’s inserts.

The three modes and the wizard mode inserts
The three modes and the wizard mode inserts Click to expand

Other inserts on the playfield show awards available or collected.

Three playfield award inserts
Three playfield award inserts Click to expand

We said just now that the display is the biggest playfield feature, but there’s another game feature which is just as large, although it lives on the game’s back panel rather than on the playfield.

That feature is the Nautilus.

The Nautilus model
The Nautilus model Click to expand

The Nautilus is made from flat plastic sheets which interlock and slide over each other. There is a solenoid behind the model which moves it left and right during certain game events. It’s not that exciting, but it adds a little more movement to the game.

There’s another back panel feature, and this one takes the form of a power meter timer.

The timer on the back panel
The power meter timer on the back panel Click to expand

There are eight red LEDs arranged in a circle, and at the start of Protect the Sea mode they all light up. Gradually, one-by-one they begin flashing and then extinguishing as your power diminishes. The same information could be shown on the LCD panel, but it’s nice to see those bright red LEDs uring you to complete the mode.

The bottom part of the playfield
The bottom part of the playfield Click to expand

To help explain how the game plays, here our ten-minute video of the gameplay, from the initial game start right through to Kraken mode.

That completes our look at the playfield. Now it’s time to get the keys out and delve inside the game to see how it’s put together. A nice touch is the laser-cut Nemo key fob which comes with the game

The laser-cut key fob
The laser-cut key fob Click to expand

Let’s start with the easy part, and see what’s in the backbox.

The translite panel is secured with a barrel lock at the top.

The translite backbox lock
The translite backbox lock Click to expand

Inside the backbox
Inside the backbox Click to expand

Nemo has two backbox speakers mounted at the top.

One of the backbox speakers
One of the backbox speakers Click to expand

The sound from these speakers is projected through cut-outs in the translite panel.

The top of the translite
The top of the translite Click to expand

One of the speaker cut-outs
One of the speaker cut-outs Click to expand

The speakers are each fed with their own audio channel from an amplifier in the base of the cabinet, where there is also a third speaker.

Meanwhile, remaining in the backbox we find a switching power supply which drives the backbox’s three white LED strips.

The power supply in the backbox
The power supply in the backbox Click to expand

Connections to the backbox LEDs
Connections to the backbox LEDs Click to expand

Some of the power supply’s outputs also go into the cabinet, while mains power for the supply comes in from the cabinet.

Cabling from the cabinet to the backbox
Cabling from the cabinet to the backbox Click to expand

The backbox hinges and folds down as normal. With no backbox latch, it is held upright by two wing bolts. These look flimsier than their Williams equivalents but are actually the same diameter bolts.

The ground braid is clamped by the backbox bolts
The ground braid is clamped by the backbox bolts Click to expand

So there’s not much in the backbox – just a power supply, two speakers and some LED strips. To find the really interesting stuff we need to open up the cabinet, starting with the coin door.

Surprisingly there’s a coin mech fitted.

The coin mech supplied with the game
The coin mech supplied with the game Click to expand

It’s a single coin device and we’re not sure which coin it takes – quarters, Euros, or something else. In any case, there were no controls to set the game pricing scheme in the menus in this version, so it’s a moot point.

Inside the coin door we have more interesting items to examine.

Looking through the coin door
Looking through the coin door Click to expand

At the top, we have the yellow-sleeved lock bar lever and a coin door switch. We originally thought this switch would disable the solenoid power, but it didn’t. In fact, we couldn’t see that it made any discernible difference to anything.

In the bottom, we find a cash box which can be bolted into the cabinet using a lock mechanism while at the bottom left corner of the coin door we have two diagnostic buttons and the game’s volume control.

The menu buttons and volume control
The menu buttons and volume control Click to expand

The volume control is a little basic and could really do with housing in a discrete box with a knob added to finish it off more neatly.

The volume control board
The volume control board Click to expand

The two buttons on the left are used to diagnose problems, adjust the game settings or depower the game.

Nemo runs on PC hardware using a Linux operating system. Pressing the red button shuts down the current session and allows a change of user just like pressing the power button on a PC.

Pressing the power button
Pressing the power button Click to expand

Using any of these options requires a mouse and/or keyboard so this isn’t a button you would generally want to press. You can, however, press and hold the button to depower the PC. This doesn’t shut down the whole game as LEDs remain lit and the display continues to operate, however once the PC is shut down you can press the button again to start it up again.

The black button is the more useful one as that takes us into the diagnostic and configuration menus.

We are presented with five menus: Game Settings, Language, Diagnostics, System and Return. For all menu options, the left and right flipper buttons move through the menu options, the ball launch button is the ‘enter’ key and the game start button is the ‘back’ key.

The menu system
The menu system Click to expand

Game settings opens more options to enable or disable the sound, change the number of balls per game, adjust how many (if any) extra balls are allowed, the number of permitted tilt warnings and the duration of the ball saver.

Standard game settings
Standard game settings Click to expand

In this version of the software (0.911) quite a few of these didn’t work properly, but they have been corrected in the latest release (0.912) which came out around nine days after our review session.

The game supports four different languages – English, Spanish, French and German.

The four supported languages
The four supported languages Click to expand

The diagnostic tools are limited. The Show Playfield selection adds an overlay to the monitor showing which switches are closed and which are open. As a switch changes state, it is shown on the playfield map, although the map is overlaid over a busy background and the text all overlaps, making it hard to work out what’s going on.

Diagnostic menu options
Diagnostic menu options Click to expand

Fire coils allows you to energise individual solenoids; again, using the flipper buttons to choose the coil and the ball launch to activate it. The name of the coil is shown, but it is underneath the playfield map and so mostly illegible.

Other menu options are to log actions or to end the ball in play.

The System menu is where you update the game code, or shut down/reboot either the whole game or just the PC.

System menu options
System menu options Click to expand

Return takes you out of the menus and back to the game.

Time to lift up the playfield and take a proper look at Nemo’s hardware.

The lock bar is a standard Williams-type mechanism, with the familiar latch bolted to the front top of the cabinet above the coin door.

The lock bar latch
The lock bar latch Click to expand

Lifting the playfield, we find that it rotates about a pivot point towards the back, but doesn’t slide forward. The playfield can only be lifted so far due to objects in the base of the cabinet getting in the way.

Inside the cabinet
Inside the cabinet Click to expand

Because the playfield doesn’t slide forward, to work on the game you need to use the playfield prop arm. This is attached to the underside of the playfield and can slot into either of two prop brackets for different heights.

The playfield prop arm
The playfield prop arm Click to expand

The playfield lifts and can be propped up
The playfield lifts and can be propped up Click to expand

The two playfield prop brackets
The two playfield prop brackets Click to expand

With the playfield raised we can see the underside of the playfield.

The bottom of the playfield
The bottom of the playfield Click to expand

The wiring is relatively straightforward with microswitches used throughout and all the LEDs mounted in lamp-style bayonet sockets.

The trough and ball eject solenoid
The trough and ball eject solenoid Click to expand

The ball trough and ball shooter solenoid
The ball trough and ball shooter solenoid Click to expand

The coils are a mix of Williams-branded ones and others from APB Enterprises.

The flipper assemblies
The flipper assemblies Click to expand

Socketed LEDs under the playfield
Socketed LEDs under the playfield Click to expand

The drop target assembly
The drop target assembly Click to expand

The playfield plywood
The playfield plywood Click to expand

The in-playfield display panel
The in-playfield display panel Click to expand

The only PCB mounted to the playfield is a bespoke interface board which brings together all the solenoid, LED and switch cables so they can be bundled into one playfield wiring loom.

The playfield cables connect to the interface board
The playfield cables connect to the interface board Click to expand

The switch, solenoid and LED cables come to the interface board
The switch, solenoid and LED cables come to the interface board Click to expand

The interface board
The interface board Click to expand

The playfield isn’t the only place we find switches. The cabinet has a few for the flipper buttons, the start and launch buttons, the power and menu buttons, and the tilt bob.

The front left corner of the cabinet
The front left corner of the cabinet Click to expand

These switches are connected to another interface board which sends them back to the control system on a ribbon cable.

The left flipper switch, start button, menu controls and plumb bob
The left flipper switch, start button, menu controls and plumb bob Click to expand

The right flipper switch and launch button
The right flipper switch and launch button Click to expand

The only incandescent lamp in the game, even though it's disconnected
The only incandescent lamp in the game, even though it’s disconnected Click to expand

On the right side of the cabinet base is a metal power switch box. This contains the main game fuse and covers the rocker power switch which is accessed from under the cabinet in the traditional place at the front right corner.

The power switch box
The power switch box Click to expand

Towards the back of the cabinet base we have three more parts of the pinball system. In the middle we find the cabinet base speaker.

The cabinet speaker
The cabinet speaker Click to expand

It’s not a huge speaker but it’s perfectly adequate for this application and more than capable of handline the power thrown at it.

To the left of the speaker is a traditional transformer for solenoid power and various other voltages.

The transformer in the base of the cabinet
The transformer in the base of the cabinet Click to expand

As we said before, Nemo is a PC-based game, so there is a switching power supply for the PC motherboard and this is found to the right of the cabinet speaker.

The PC power supply
The PC power supply Click to expand

The PC power supply
The PC power supply Click to expand

With the backbox power supply that’s three different power supplies so far, but there’s one more to go and that’s a small switching supply on the left side of the cabinet base which is for the playfield display.

The power supply for the display panel
The power supply for the display panel Click to expand

That just leaves the large metal box to examine.

This arrangement is quite similar to the Jersey Jack Pinball system which uses a similar metal box to house its control system. As we shall see, the similarities don’t end there.

The large metal box in the base of the cabinet
The large metal box in the base of the cabinet Click to expand

We saw in the menu system how you can update the system software. This is done by plugging a USB stick containing the new code into one of the two USB ports on the front of the box.

Two USB ports on the front of the metal box
Two USB ports on the front of the metal box Click to expand

To find out what they connect to we need to remove the cover from the metal box.

Inside the metal box
Inside the metal box Click to expand

Inside we find four main components. The first is a Micro-ATX PC motherboard made by MSI, model H81M-P33. This contains on-board graphics for the playfield display and supports any of the 4th generation Intel Core processors, although we didn’t pull it to pieces to see which processor was installed.

The PC motherboard
The PC motherboard Click to expand

If the metal box and the elements within have more than a passing resemblance to the way Jersey Jack Pinball games are built, the sound board mounted next to the motherboard is the exact same Pinnovators board found in JJP games.

The Pinnovators audio board
The Pinnovators audio board Click to expand

Although the Nemo implementation doesn’t use the coin door digital volume control found on The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit, the connector is on the board if someone wished to add it.

The board contains four channels of amplification although only three are used in Nemo for the one cabinet and two backbox speakers.

The third item in the metal box is a custom power driver board called the Quetzal Pinball Controller or QPC.

The custom Quetzal Pinball Controller power driver board
The custom Quetzal Pinball Controller power driver board Click to expand

This is where the two interface boards connect and thus where the switch inputs are fed back to the PC, and the LED and solenoids are driven. There is also AC voltage rectification and smoothing to provide some DC voltages.

The Quetzal Pinball Controller board
The Quetzal Pinball Controller board Click to expand

This is a custom Quetzal board which also provides fuse protection against short circuits.

The power driver board
The power driver board Click to expand

The fourth and final main hardware component inside the metal box is a 120GB Kingston SSD containing the game code and assets such as music and display animations.

The 120GB SSD containing the code and assets
The 120GB SSD containing the code and assets Click to expand

The box also contains a small fan to assist with airflow and cooling in addition to the fan mounted on the processor.

All of which brings us to the end of our look inside the Nemo game.

The Captain Nemo playfield
The Captain Nemo playfield Click to expand

When the game is shipped it doesn’t come with a manual, but it does have two copied of the game flyer from 2012 and a pair of spare slingshot plastics.

The flyers and slingshot plastics included with the game
The flyers and slingshot plastics included with the game Click to expand

Quetzal’s Captain Nemo Dives Again game looks excellent and for the original asking price of between €4,000 and €4,500 provides good value for money.

The game is not perfect of course. The software is still quite incomplete and lacks the polish expected of modern games, while the playfield and backbox lighting are both pretty dark.

But all these can be fixed. The hardware problems are overwhelmingly of the variety which call for tweaks rather than wholesale redesigns.

When Antonio first announced Nemo it was stated it would be open source. Many things have changed with various aspects of the design and specification of Nemo in the intervening five years, but it could make an interesting project to either enhance the existing rules or even create an alternative ruleset which owners could download.

Antonio is not finished yet, though. He is both building the remaining games and continuing to develop the software based on customer feedback.

It’s great to see that at least one of the boutique pinball manufacturers is delivering their contracted games without all the drama and heartache experienced elsewhere.

Finally, huge thanks to John Gilbody for the use of his machine which made this review possible.

We’ll be back with another Pinball News In-Depth Review very soon.

KINGS & QUEENS: PINBALL, IMAGISTS & CHICAGO

Thunderball artwork

An exhibition that begs the question ‘Is Pinball a Legitimate Art Form?

In recent years, there have been several art exhibitions in the greater Chicago area that have attempted to tell the story of how pinball, art and Chicago are interwoven. I feel none have done as complete and easily-absorbed presentation as the current showing of Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago at the Elmhurst Art Museum.

The exhibit’s Curator, New York’s Dan Nadel, has studied and written books and articles on the Hairy Who Chicago Imagist artist’s collective which have many works displayed in this exhibition.

Dan is also the co-editor of The Comics Journal and has published essays and critiques in such publications as The Washington Post, Frieze and Bookforum. Dan has curated past exhibitions presenting psychedelic and alternative art collections for museums in New York, Los Angeles and Lucerne, Switzerland.

Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago has three elements of interest for the Pinball News reader.

Pinball

The exhibition has sixteen classic games loaned to the museum by Jim Schelberg, Logan Arcade, Scott Sheridan, Mark Weyna, Sharon Paschke, Vince Giovannone and Steven Malach. These games are intended to not only be viewed as works of ‘visual’ art, but also played as ‘interactive’ art that flashes, makes sounds and captures the visitor’s imagination.

Five of the sixteen games at the exhibition
Five of the sixteen games at the exhibition

Games from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are represented;

  • Gottlieb’s Kings and Queens, Atlantis, Sheriff, Duotron and Expressway
Gottlieb's Sheriff heads this block of machines
Gottlieb’s Sheriff heads this block of machines
  • Bally’s Fireball, Old Chicago and Nip-It
Bally's Nip-It
Bally’s Nip-It
Bally's Nip-It
Bally’s Nip-It
  • Williams’ Apollo, Black Knight, Black Knight 2000, Blackout, Time Warp, Firepower, Gorgar and Spanish Eyes
Williams' Gorgar, Black Knight 2000 and Apollo
Williams’ Gorgar, Black Knight 2000 and Apollo
Atlantis, Fireball and Black Knight
Atlantis, Fireball and Black Knight
The exhibition's title game
The exhibition’s title game

It is worth noting that Elmhurst was the spiritual ‘home’ of D. Gottlieb and Co. who in the 1960s-1970s produced pinball machines considered to be the ‘Cadillac’ of pinball games.

Imagists (Art)

In the main exhibition gallery alongside the Williams Blackout game is the original oil on canvas Blackout (1980) proposal for the game’s backglass, designed and painted by Ed Paschke who, of course, was well-known in the Chicago Imagist art scene and had his works featured in Playboy magazine and, for a number of years, in the first floor windows of the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company department store.

The Blackout game and proposed backglass artwork
The Blackout game and proposed backglass artwork

Ed’s proposal for Blackout was deemed to be too ‘far out’ by Williams executives and it was adjusted in collaboration with frequent collaborator Constantino Mitchell to bring it a little closer to a normal pinball style of artwork.

Ed Paschke Blackout artwork
Ed Paschke Blackout artwork
The backglass artwork used in the game
The backglass artwork used in the game

The exhibition shows a number of Paschke’s works such as Cobmaster, Chicaucus, Hairy Shoes, and Green Ava. Mitchell is also represented in the exhibition with his acrylics Deadly Weapon, Female Thunderball, Robo-War backglass and Thunderball backglass.

Constantino Mitchell's Thunderball
Constantino Mitchell’s Thunderball
Another Thunderball
Another Thunderball
Robo War is a featured artwork
Constantino Mitchell’s Robo-War is a featured artwork

The last pinball collaboration by Paschke and Mitchell would be the backglass for Gottlieb’s Bad Girls (1988).

Any exhibition of Chicago Imagist art would be incomplete without at least some of the works of Barbara Rossi, Christina Ramberg, Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum, Roger Brown, Ray Yoshida and Suellen Rocca.

Karl Wirsum's Zing Zing Zip Zip
Karl Wirsum’s Zing Zing Zip Zip
More Chicago Imagists works
More Chicago Imagists works
More Chicago Imagists works
More Chicago Imagists works
Another Chicago Imagist piece
Another Chicago Imagist piece
Ed Flood's Silver Crown
Ed Flood’s Silver Crown

Elmhurst Art Museum comes through with high marks by showing some of the most iconic works from these artists including Wirsum’s Click (1971) and Nutt’s Officer Doodit (1968) which have become larger than life examples of the Chicago Imagist style.


Chicago

If pinball wasn’t invented in Chicago, the so called ‘second city’ has become pinball’s center of gravity and where it has achieved its pop culture status.

An impressive number of pinball’s classic manufacturers such as Bally, Williams, Gottlieb, Data East, and Chicago Coin as well as many of pinball’s best recognized personalities such as engineer Jim Shird, author-historian Roger C. Sharpe and artist Greg Freres have at one time called Chicago their home city. Stern Pinball, probably the largest pinball company in the world, designs and produces new games in Chicago to this day.

Many reasons exist for this, such as the large graphic arts community found in Chicago’s advertising agencies and the Chicago art collectives such as the Hairy Who and and other self-described artistic outsiders drawing (no pun intended!) inspiration from comic books, carnivals and arcades.

The presence of such incubators as the School of the Chicago Art Institute, Northwestern University, The Chicago Cultural Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art (to name but a few) each made significant contributions to the pinball-friendly climate in Chicago.

During the early 1930s when pinball was beginning to become popular in America, Chicago was becoming known as a capitol of ‘adult’ entertainment. This rubbed off on pinball possibly in error and possibly not. Many pinball games in Chicago were in fact owned and operated by ‘gangsters’; as many cash-based businesses were in those days.

Likely because of pinball’s ties to the mob, mayors of cities such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles came to the conclusion that pinball was a form of gambling rather than an entertaining game of skill. Former New York mayor LaGuardia even went so far as to label pinball as a ‘tool from the devil’.


Coda

Elmhurst Art Museum’s Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago blends and ferments these three elements into a brew worthy of the latest frothy yellow refreshment from Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, IL.

By coincidence or design, Two Brothers Brewing supplied samples of their new craft brewed American Pale Ale Pinball for the opening night of Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago on February 24th. I’m sure that you are thinking that Martin sent me to cover the exhibition because there was beer, and you’d be half right.

The launch party for the exhibition
The launch party for the exhibition

In addition to the exhibition itself, Elmhurst Art Museum has planned these events as an enhancement and extension of it:

18th March at 1:30pmKings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago and Elmhurst College collection highlights tour with Suellen Rocca.

31st March at 6pm – Documentary film screening of Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists at Elmhurst College

21st April at 6pm – Talk with Suellen Rocca, Curator and Director of Exhibitions at Elmhurst College

29th April at 12pmTilt Roger Brown eyeballs popular culture. Works from 1970-1997 presented and discussed

29th April at 1:30pmKings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago and Elmhurst College collection highlights tour with Suellen Rocca

Kings & Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago runs until 7th May, 2017 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, after which a modified version will run from 19th May to 21st August, 2017 at the Illinois State Museum.