Finally! A oft-requested feature is that Jeff and I RANK all of the machines we’ve reviewed in our monthly ‘Featured Machine’ feature. (Feature. Featurefeature.)
SO, we ranked all of our games individually, and then assigned points to each rank, and added our two totals together to create a definitive list. As we review new games on upcoming shows, we will add them to the list. No surprises here, and in the case of a tie (at this time), I gave the win to whichever game we reviewed first. We split up the Elvira games, and we didn’t include the big mashup episodes that listed several games for whatever reason.
This month’s yawnfest is packed full of listener feedback, Keep, Flip, Part-Out suggestions and contest hype! Now with 20% less host health updates! (Well, 18% anyway.) Thanks for Joe Zenkus for the intro and outro and midtros, and to Gene X Hwang (The King of Pinball) for testing the pulse of the pin community with some interviews!
Mark Steinman, our recently crowned King of Pinball for 2013 took some time out of his busy travel and filming schedule to talk with Gene X Hwang. Joined by Mark’s wife, Anastasia, we get a great sit down moment where the three talk Mark’s award, some of the goals of PAPA, and what’s going on in the pinball scene.
Thanks to Gene, Mark, and Anastasia for their time!
There’s a lot of people who make this hobby amazing. From the people who make the games to members of the community, the list of great men and women is a mile long. We’d like to recognize who our listeners and readers feel deserves to be seen as the best of the best for 2013.
There are two categories to the voting, and we’ll only have a single round of votes. You can vote for up to three people for each list, and we’ll count up the votes and announce the winners during our first show of 2014. Our first category is for the God of Pinball, recognizing 2013′s top person involved in creation of pinball machines or digital pinball games. The second category is for the King of Pinball, where we’ll find who rules within the community. So, without further delay, here are the nominees (you may also do a write-in vote).
The Nominees for 2013′s God of Pinball
Skit B Team
Heighway Pinball Team
FarSight Studios (The Pinball Arcade)
Your Write-In Vote
The Nominees for 2013′s King of Pinball
Nicole Anne Reik
Gene X. Hwang
Preston and Patrick (Gameroom Junkies)
Al Warner and Paul Kiefert
Your Write-In Vote
To vote, email us at pinballpodcast [at] gmail dot com with your three picks from EACH category. We’ll be doing a giveaway to go with the voting, and all you need to do to be eligible to win is submit your votes.
NOTE: I wrote this a month ago, and never got around to posting it. I have placed edits within the text based on the latest code update (1.23). Thanks.
I’ve had my WOZ for over three weeks now. I’ve put 147 games on it. Or rather, it’s logged 147 games. I’ve probably played about half of those. That’s still not a TON of time on a game, but KEF mentioned that a sizable update is coming next week, so here are some interim opinions. EDIT – KEF was right, and 1.22 and 1.233 were released.
Code tweaks and additions will be coming, so some issues people are complaining about are really non-issues, or will be non-issues soon enough. I figure the actual playfield isn’t going to change much from here on out (obviously), so I thought I’d mention some of the design decisions that I really like.
The right most pop bumper. It’s open from every side except where the Wicked Witch sits, so you get a lot of action from this one. One of the best ways to get the R or A in RAINBOW is to bank it off this pop, or the Witch targets and hope for the best. Sometimes, it bites you though, popping the ball straight down the right outlane! I’d say the pops, in general, are well designed. When the ball is ‘inside’ the pops, it has a chance to pop up and back behind the castle, there’s a standup target right in the middle there (that doesn’t do much yet), there’s an opening that leads to the middle of the playfield, and there is a drain down behind the crystal ball. I’m not a fan of games that only have one drain, so you’re sitting there watching the pops waiting for the ball to tire and dribble out (besides Bride of Pinbot *cough*). EDIT – There’s also two Winged Monkey targets in there!
The Crystal Ball video integration is already pretty great. When you need to hit the CB, you can see the Witch rubbing the ball. Need a Winkie target? He’s right there in the ball. Haunted Collect ready? Mechanical Owl. It’s a nice, quick nod to your next objective without having to look up at the backglass.
The ramp pulling triple duty. Hitting the ramp might lead you to advance yellow brick road and sends the ball back to the left flipper. Or it might stop there for a lock. Or it might divert to the Munchkinland miniplayfield. Nice use of just one ramp to fill several roles. Reminds me of the plastic ramp on Twilight Zone, which also diverts to the left flipper or to the left shooter lane for multiball.
Winged Monkey (magnet on a rail) grabbing Dorothy (your ball) and taking her to the Witches castle (upper playfield), trapped behind a door (literally) that you cannot access is AWESOME. Talk about a killer integration of the theme.
On a similar note, the lopsided, spinning house, complete with ruby-slipper-adorned legs that pop out from beneath the house when you complete enough shots is a wonderful touch, and a very cool surprise when you see it for the first time.
Ruby Slipper Flippers. They catch a lot of grief, but why? Custom/theme-specific flipper mods are an underutilized no-brainer. What was the last game with any kind of flipper decor? Austin Powers? You’re staring at them almost then entire time you’re playing, might as well dress them up a bit.
Best pop bumper toppers ever?
Everyone on earth has written about how great the LED integration and insert lighting is on WOZ. Well, that’s because it is pretty insane. I especially love the RAINBOW target lights. Matching the stand up targets makes for a perfect look. Love it.
I really like that they used so many standup targets, too. I like drop targets as much as the next guy, but I think in this instance, they would have felt tacked on. The Crystal Ball targets would be easy to swap for drop target, but the change in ball speed off a drop that close to the outlane/flippers might have hurt the gameplay. Many games try to do to much with standup targets. I mean, how often do you see yellow/orange/red, or mix in white to that trio too. ALL THE TIME. On WOZ, its a big block of baby blue Crystal Ball targets, color-coordinated RAINBOW targets, a pink Glinda target, and the other standups are meant to accent the area they are placed in, they’re not meant to stand out. It works.
EDIT – In the code update 1.22, more modes were added to Crystal Ball. You hit all four Crystal Ball targets to spell BALL (duh) then hit the Crystal Ball spinner to activate a random Crystal Ball mode. The five modes included on 1.22 are Lights ON (all the insert lights are on, so you don’t know where your bonus shots are), Lights OFF (all the insert lights are off, so you don’t know where your bonus shots are), Reverse Flippers (left button controls right flipper and vice versa), Weak flippers (flippers run at 2/3 normal power. If you have your flippers cranked up, you might not notice this) and No Hold Flippers (you can’t hold the flippers up/cradle the ball). I think they all run with 1/5x scoring or 2x scoring. Very cool modes, but even with five modes it feels like Lights ON or Lights OFF mode come up 85% of the time. AND there is no multiball save. Since the Crystal Ball kicks out directly to the left flipper, if you’re not ‘on the ball’ (ZING.) when Reverse Flipper mode starts, its going to drain before you even make a single shot. I’ve never played Reverse Flipper or No Hold Flippers, I’ve only seen guests play them. Perhaps that speaks to how rarely they show up. I’ve experienced Weak Flippers only once.
Munchkin Coroner. ’Nuff said.
In the spirit of fair and balanced reporting *cough*, there’s also a couple things that I’m not totally digging. Some can be fixed, some maybe I just haven’t warmed up to yet, some couldn’t be helped, and some I’ll never understand.
The Black Winkie Guard drop target. It’s in a dark corner and it’s a black plastic drop target. In other words, its about as visible as the drop target on T2. What drop target on T2? Exactly. There is a drop target just in front of the VUK to the Castle miniplayfield. I promise. Your shot didn’t miss and bounce back.
There is a kicker/slingshot just below the upper OZ lanes. Usually upper lanes lie above the pop bumpers, even all the way back to the days of EM games. This way, often the pops will kick the ball back up through the lanes, and you can score in different lanes, light the lanes, etc. On WOZ, it still has upper lanes (for whatever reason), but they drain to the right loop feeding the upper right flipper. To keep the lanes active, they installed a kicker right below the lanes. On default settings, the kicker tosses the ball around like a kitten with a ball of yarn. It even SOUNDS wimpy. Just ‘click, click, click’. I turned mine up (which is not advised because the rubber on the kicker wears out pretty quickly, but they’re working on finding a better substitute), but now the ball stays up in the pops FOREVER. It’s not unusual to ramp your bonus multiplier up to 6x just on the initial plunge. Even on wimpy settings, it stays up there for a long time. I have no idea how to fix this, but might try a polyurethane ‘rubber’ and then I’ll mess with the coil/kicker strength. EDIT – Seems to be improved by 1.22. I haven’t noticed the ball hanging out up there nearly as much, and it works like I think it should…whatever that means.
Speaking of the upper lanes. There isn’t a GI bulb under the center lane divider, which isn’t a big deal, but the whole area feels empty. It might have been cool to have a pilinko/bagatelle-style area of pins/targets up there and have the balls divert around that area. There aren’t inserts in the lanes spelling OZ (licensing issue? I think I recall they had to keep the letters O and Z together on the game), so they put this dinky little sign above the area with two small green LEDs telling you which lane is lit. Even the sign is dark and hard to read. It would have been cool to have the lane lights on the backboard a la Fish Tales LIE. Look at the photo, then look from the players perspective. You hardly notice that whole area or sign.Pretend you’ve never seen/played WOZ. Can you spot the lane indicator in this next photo? EDIT – They’ve since announced the 75th Anniversary version (and that’s a whole other conversation/rant) but in THAT version, they added a plastic tornado that seem to attach to the center lane divider, or at least it hangs out in that area.
This next one has more to do with my horribly awful playing ability, but I need a scapegoat. My favorite scoring mode so far is ‘Horse of a Different Color’. You collect horses, then you hit a shot BEHIND the upper right flipper to collect the points associated with the horses you collected. Since the upper flipper is appropriately covered in rubber, and the little space to get the ball behind it is very small, this shot is SUPER HARD to intentionally make. I can make the Spidey Sense shot on Spider-Man if I try. This one is TOUGH though. Maybe I need to go back to a black rubber on the flipper. Or dead drop foam. EDIT – I added a clear Superband to the upper right flipper, and it seems like the COLLECT shot is completed more often, for whatever reason.
This one I know JJP couldn’t help, and that’s all the little ™ symbols that litter the playfield art. EVERYTHING is trademarked apparently, and every use of EVERYTHING needs to be marked as such. The word Scarecrow™ for example. Toto™. Dorothy™. Haunted Forest™. There’s No Place Like Home™, etc. Ok, that last one makes sense. Oddly, Yellow Brick Road doesn’t display a ™…
There’s No Place Like Home mode. I’m hoping this one is made a little more flexible with a code update eventually. As it is, if the ball drains down the extra wide left outlane, it drains down to a pop bumper that faces five targets. Hit all five targets and you have a chance to get your ball back. In the right outlane, there are four rollover targets that spell TOTO™. Hitting all four rollovers launches the ball back into play with ONE shot flashing and a ten second timer. Everything is turned off except the lighting (in a very cool sepia color, by the way). Hit the shot, get your ball back and keep playing. Miss, the timer ends and your ball is over. In TNPLH mode, your first task is to spell RAINBOW by hitting all seven RAINBOW targets. Everything is still ‘on’, so the ball can get stuck in the pops, and there is no timer, so you can take forever to spell it (and it does take forever). Then when you spell it, TWO more shots are lit. Hit both of those shots and then you enter a third stage, I forget what I is because I’ve only seen it once. Same with the FOURTH stage after you complete that. Complete ALL FOUR stages to get your ball back. Ok, its a cool feature, kinda neat if you’re sitting there playing by yourself for a while. However, when you’re playing a four player game, and someone with good ball handling skills ends up in this mode, you might be sitting there for several minutes with no scoring going on, only to have them drain the ball making that whole wait pointless (points-wise, not fun-wise). I’d love to be able to throw a timer on there, kill all the pops and slings, and/or limit the mode to one or two stages. Four stages especially just to blow it late in the game, just drags down the momentum. People walk off to get a drink or hit the head, then you’re waiting for them to come back. Again, very cool, outside the box idea, its just too much. EDIT – On my second game with the Superbands, I completed this mode for the first time. My comments still stand, but I think it worthwhile to mention the change after the ‘mod’.
You thought I was done yammering about the No Place Like Home mode right? Wrong. So, its a pop bumper, which is a fairly ‘violent’ mechanism in any game, for kicking the large, steel ball around. On WOZ, it happens to be right above the tilt mechanism. Also, the whole motivation of the TNPLH minigame is to hit all five targets. As such, you WANT to nudge and bump the targets, but that means you’ll be rattling the tilt bob like crazy. I took the bobber off, and set the game to ten warnings per ball before actually tilting and losing your ball/bonus. There currently isn’t an option to turn the tilt off. I’m not sure if moving the tilt mech to the opposite side of the cabinet would work or not, but something isn’t meshing there. I tilt a game maybe once in 1,000 plays, literally (because I’m an awful player), and I tilted WOZ in the first few games.
Yeah, the GI is dim. I think they’re working on it still, there are mods available to brighten things up and I’m kind of getting used to turning a light on. I prefer to play my pins in the dark, overall.
The Wicked Witch castle is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s basically impossible to aim for any of the specific targets needed to spell RESCUE. Hitting the loop spots you a letter, which is GREAT, but otherwise you’re just randomly flipping around hoping to get a bounce that scores a letter. Often, its impossible to even catch/hit the ball and it just drains. It feels like two miniflippers would have kept the frenzied feel, while allowing a fuller experience. They do some cool stuff up there with the code and whatnot, so maybe it’ll come along and work better eventually (ie. spotting two letters, varied modes, etc.) EDIT – Again, after adding Superbands, the castle seems a whole lot easier to manage. Spelling RESCUE happens often now.
The Wicked Witch toy. The actual toy is nicely painted and sculpted, even if her hat looks tacked on. None of this matters though, because she’s enclosed in a super shiny tube, so you can’t really see her most of the time anyway. She rises up and then ‘melts’ into the playfield, but again, doesn’t matter because all you see is glare. I’m not sure if her enclosure is to protect the toy from hits (I haven’t seen the ball hit the enclosure yet), or to protect the player from getting the ball stuck. In my head, if she had arms that held a broom, she could melt, lifting the broom over her head on the way down, and the broom would act as a barrier. Curve it so airballs roll out of her arms and you’re gold. Cool toy, I don’t understand the enclosure at all though. Wasted potential. EDIT – Just kidding. It still sucks.
Oh, I’m not done yet! STILL MORE IMPRESSIONS OF ECLEWOZ. I’m (not) getting paid by the word *cough*…
I thought the music would get annoying, but it’s not. At all. Most games have a short theme that loops, and WOZ is not really very different. Chris Granner is easily the greatest soundman of all time, in the pinball industry. He’s maybe the single biggest factor that got me excited about WOZ in the first place. He’s put together a lot of different mode based tunes, and the general theme really doesn’t get annoying. It fits the game, you don’t really key in on it and the callouts and sound effects come often enough to enhance the atmosphere. No Crypt Keepers here.
Speaking of which, the sound system KILLS it. Sooooo good. Like SO GOOD. Everything is nice and crisp. The audio cues are well selected and thought out. Sometimes they’ll say something that doesn’t totally fit, but I’ll chalk that up to unfinished code. Not a whole lot of speech from Dorothy, and no vocal singing that I’ve noticed. Maybe that’s another license?
When you get up there to play, DON’T pull the plunger all the way back. It doesn’t help you at all. Pull the plunger back so the tip is around the diamond below the word ‘TIGERS’ on the shooter gauge and you’ll either end up in the upper lanes for a 5k skill shot, or you’ll up your bonus multiplier, or if you’re gentle enough, you’ll feed the upper right flipper. From there, you can flip to hit the witch for 5k, hit the skill shot target in the haunted forest for 7.5k or hit the lit Crystal BALL target for a 10k skill shot. Lots of options. If you do a full plunge, you’ll end up in the pops.
Horse of a Different Color mode is NUTS. Almost every shot has a Horse insert. Hitting the kicker in the upper lanes changes the colors of the inserts. Each color horse is worth a different amount. If you collect several horses of the same color, and then ‘collect’ them via the behind the upper flipper shot, you’ll get a bunch of point. If you have a rainbow horse in the mix, it hurts your score. Cows help it. ALL rainbow horses makes for a TON of points. There’s a lot more to it, and that’s why I love it. A small little scoring mode that is well planned out and innovative and deep, and FUN. If you’re colorblind, you’re hosed.
I’ve had a broken LED board, broken standup target, two broken playfield hangers and a broken slingshot plastic in 147 games. They shipped the parts quickly, but with ground shipping, so I didn’t play it much that first week. PUT WASHERS ON YOUR SLINGSHOT PLASTICS. USE PROTECTION.
I think that’s it for now. Thanks for letting me share my initial thoughts. This is part two of an eighty-nine part series on my feelings about the game throughout my entire lifetime.
Ever since the IFPA came out and officially recognized the Saturn rings as their official flipper rubber of choice, I’ve been curious to see how they stack up against regular rubber rings. To find out, I ordered some rings of each hardness, and I compared them against regular flipper rubber. The video below shows the results.
As you can see, Medium gives you the most accurate bounce as compared to regular rubber rings. Soft is very similar as well. Hard gives a decreased bounce, which would lead to more control and higher scoring, but it wouldn’t be consistent with what we’re used to with standard rubber rings. It’s going to come down to preference in feel, but I’m most satisfied with the medium rings, myself.
974 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes and 0 seconds can be converted to one of these units:
23,379 hours (rounded down)
974 days (rounded down)
139 weeks (rounded down)
I ordered my Emerald City Limited Edition Wizard of Oz from Jersey Jack Pinball on January 25, 2011 at 9:25am. It arrived last week, September 25, 2013 at 12:30pm.
Much has been said/written/trolled about the multiple setbacks as Jersey Jack Pinball became the biggest upstart pinball company to come along since… Capcom? In the late ’90s? Here’s my take, dumping my thoughts and feelings *sniff* about the pin, the process and the payoff, no punches pulled.
When the whole ‘deal’ was announced publicly (on the Spooky Pinball Podcast as it were), there was a bit of buzz right off the bat, but it was still early. The goal was that a respected distributor of over 30 years was going to try his hand at building his own pinball company to bring back the big toys and the wow factor of late ’90s pinball design. The initial deposit was $250. You had to make regular payments (roughly $500 a month, but in lump sums), but you had until August to pull out for a full refund. (I think even now Jack is honoring full refunds if you pull out this late, but I could be mistaken.) It seemed like little risk, and my wife was cool with trying it out and pulling out if we didn’t like what we saw. And at that time, Stern had released Avatar, Big Buck Hunter, Iron Man, 24 and NBA as their previous five titles. None of those did a whole lot for us, personally (although I do like NBA), and some fresh design/competition couldn’t hurt. (I’d still like to see some new designers even now! Is John Borg the ‘newest’ designer in pinball, with only 20 years of experience? But that’s another topic…) The team names thrown around included major players like Nordman, Blacer, Freres, Matt Riesterer of Back Alley Creations, Jerry Vanderstelt, and the major selling points for me: Keith Johnson and Chris Granner. I chose number #839 (of 1000 Emerald City Limited Edition games) because the film was released in August 1939. 8/39. I thought it was a cool nod to fans of the film.
There was an early video of a melting Wicked Witch toy, that dropped into the playfield. I can’t seem to find it now, but that was the first look at what they were going for with the game. Then we got a sample of the music. The familiar ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ loop that everyone following the project heard over and over for years. You can hear it here, over a whitewood gameplay video that was published in October 2011.
We saw the cabinet art and I think a CAD-type drawing of the playfield before the August 2011 ‘pull out deadline’. It’s a little blurry at this point. We didn’t really tell anyone we had bought it that first year or so, just because it was/is kind of an extravagant purchase for middle class folks in Albuquerque, and pins were a lot cheaper three years ago! Again, we were semi-expecting it to arrive between the initial December 2011 date and June 2012 (our waaaay out there, if it’s running waaaay behind date). We knew the game had five flippers, two miniplayfields, an LCD monitor to substitute the twenty-year-old standard DMD, and several toys to match the great pins of the late ’90s. I will say right now that WOZ as we know it today is not the pin that we ordered in 2011. Jack has said that it is not the pin he envisioned initially either. It’s much more than that at this point, but of course in the time since WOZ was announced, until the time I received my game, Stern had released EIGHT games (not including Premiums, LE’s, Classics, etc. EIGHT different licenses.) Needless to say, they had a longer window to work on the game, and Jack seems to have let the design team throw in everything they could dream of into the final game.
The next several months were kinda quiet, if I remember correctly. Eventually we were shown this video, of an animated logo for JJP with music by the guitarist from Creed.
I think shortly after that we went to the Texas Pinball Festival and Jack showed us some of the backglass animations that were developed for the LCD monitor. That’s where the ‘reverse flippers’ rule was leaked (as of this time, it has not been implemented into the game yet.) Again, that was 19 months ago in itself, so things are a little blurry, we may have seen a bit more at that point.
I remember the first playfield art that was shown was the Witches castle miniplayfield. It was very different than I had imagined. In my head, I was thinking it would be similar to The Addams Family, or Twilight Zone. Licensed images, but hand drawn art. I was really shocked to see clipart of the Winkie Guards.
No one said it was going to be all hand-drawn, that’s just what I envisioned. The art surrounding the clipart is beautifully done and reminiscent of TAF and TZ, so its a mix of both, and it actually works pretty well. Either way, that turned my expectations on their ear, and now I really wanted to see where the game was going to end up, visually. At the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown in April 2012, we were shown some plastics for the first time. Again, they were not what I expected, but I still think they look great. Very bright and colorful. Unconventional in their subject matter too. A Winkie Guard and Emerald City Guard adorn the slingshots, each with a green starburst pattern behind them. Slingshot art always drives me nuts. It’s often terrible (Rescue 911 anyone? Spider-Man?), but as its right by the flippers, you’re staring at it all the time! And its closer to your face than the playfield AND its lit up!
At some point, there was discussion of controlled LEDs and how that was thought to be impossible, but Jack had figured it out. We didn’t know how far it was going to change the game. I would say, without question, that everyones first impression of WOZ is that its ‘so bright and colorful!’ You can see it in action in this clip, but seeing it in person is much different.
Every time we would see Jack at a convention, our zest would be renewed. Remember, even in April of 2012 our game had been on order for 16 months, which was AGES and felt even longer. Especially my wife would be more excited after he spoke. ’Well, yeah, Jack is a salesman. His job is to get people excited about his product.’ I would tell her. Jack is a very charismatic guy, with a long background in sales and customer satisfaction. I think without his enthusiastic charm, the project would have died long ago. He made you WANT to stay attached, you WANTED to believe all these lofty promises. With the XBox One coming next month, I’ve been looking back at the promises of what the Xbox 360 would do, as made eight years ago as it was preparing to launch. Many of the features disappeared, never came to fruition, were abandoned, etc. With Jack, his mantra was ‘underpromise, overdeliver’ and he stuck to that. All these lofty promises CAME TRUE. I’m hard pressed to think of anything he said they were working on that didn’t happen or isn’t in the works. Yeah, the topper isn’t all that ‘interactive’, and I’m still praying for some wifi-working online tournaments for WOZ, but the nail isn’t in the coffin yet.
After a year or so of not really telling anyone, we started to tell people that we had ordered a WOZ. Not only that, but we got in EARLY. It had to be arriving any day, right?!! Well, that turned into years of people ribbing us, non-pinheads by the way, ‘So, when is your game coming?’, ‘Did you get your game yet?’ etc. Even last week, my father-in-law asked ‘You ordered it like a year ago, right?’ Er, no, almost three years ago… ‘THREE YEARS?!’
For the most part, the carrot was always dangling RIGHT THERE. Why pull out now? It should ship next month. That’s what we told ourselves for the past year and a half or so after the game publicly debuted at E3 in early June 2012. They made the game. It exists. Location games were rolling out to select locations around the country. We got in early, our game must be one the line, right? Then, in April 2013, nearly a year later, the first games start shipping to actual, home-use-only customers! Well, it turns out there were a jillion giant orders or something in the first day or two. And since I ordered January 25th (the first orders were January 9th I think, with a few people who got in personally with Jack before that), it felt like I was at the back of the line again. We were ‘on January orders’ FOREVER. Six months, in fact. People were (and still are) comparing invoice numbers to try and figure out when their game would ship. When games started shipping, the price went up too. Positions for games on Pinside were hitting $8500-$9k regularly. This was the first time I really thought about pulling out. We waited forever and still not game, so we might as well sell while the slots are hot. On the other hand, we are SO CLOSE! Why would we even think of selling now?
There were many periods during the past 2 years and 8 months (to the day) that I just kinda stopped caring. Yeah, it looks great, so does Salma Hayek, but I’m not bringing her home either. In July 2012, my wife became pregnant with our twins, who were born in March 2013. They were born more than two years after we ordered. We went to a wedding last week for a couple that MET in May 2011. The wait is a substantial amount of the ‘discount’ and the emotions going into the game. Jack will tell you that the waiting was harder for him than anyone, and I believe him, but man… that’s one horrendous wait. Metallica was announced in April/May 2013 and started shipping three weeks later. I ordered one and got it six weeks later. I was deep in the excitement of a new pin, and a pin that I was actually interested in, and a pin that I actually ordered and was shipping! It was a wait, but it was the best kind. It just kept you waking up everyday like Christmas morning, hitting the forums to read the latest news and reviews about it. WOZ doesn’t have that benefit. I should also note that I paid for WOZ with the money I had saved to order a Capcom Kingpin when it was supposed to be reproduced, so THAT project is even more drawn out. It’s still happening, allegedly, but its no where near as real as WOZ. WOZ is not ‘vaporware’, and I’ll give them props for that. Still, we had planned an unboxing party, and ordered a custom cake, in March 2012. We’ve since cancelled the party/cake/fanfare.
At a certain point, even I had seen so much of WOZ that early details about the NEXT JJP game, The Hobbit, were more exciting to me. Then I started kicking myself. Why am I getting excited about details for a game that is two years away when the game I ordered 2 1/2 years ago still isn’t here?!
I did play WOZ twice at the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown in April 2013. I limited myself to just two quick plays. I already knew everything about it, right? What’s the harm in slapping a ball around for 2 minutes? I waited in the long line to play it, and my games were brief. I didn’t let my wife come near it, as she stopped caring about it about a year and a half ago and had never even seen the playfield assembled until we unboxed our game last week. So what did I think after my two quick games? My first thought was ‘How can I find the money to order The Hobbit?’ haha… WOZ was clearly sooooo far ahead of any other recent pins that I was wanting to get in on the next game NOW. (I didn’t order The Hobbit by the way, although the playfield looks great and I love the theme. I’ll wait until it actually comes to life before considering it.)
Wizard of Oz was in the theaters last week. So is the new Metallica movie. Both companies nailed it when choosing licenses. Also, for a couple days before Stern Star Trek shipped, we owned both of the most recent pins available, and could compare them side by side. Metallica is a great game, but the comparison is similar to the way Pinbot looks sitting next to Road Show. It’s not an EM/SS divide, but it’s definately the biggest, boldest expansion of pinball since the integration of the DMD in 1991…. TWENTY TWO YEARS AGO. (RIP Pinball 2000…) Can you imagine if we were only playing Super Nintendo for the past 22 years and then the Xbox 360 came out? It would be a game changer (literally! ZING!).
I hope WOZ is the game changer. Pinball has been growing by leaps and bounds since WOZ was announced. Not BECAUSE it was announced, but its plain to see that the innovations of JJP have pushed their competitors to change their game plan and battle for your pinball dollar. The success of JJP has also inspired many others to start their own ’boutique’ pinball companies, and there are more pin projects alive right now than ever(?). I expect to be blown away by whatever JPop is working on in his secret bunker. Predator looks awesome already. Heighway Pinball has made their mark overseas. The Spooky Pinball People have launched their own business model for home pinball sales with original themes/titles. No one can deny the mark JJP has left on our hobby already, missed deadlines and delays aside.
Speaking of which, now everyone is asking me ‘Was it worth the wait?’ It’s a bit of a mixed bag honestly. First, a few small issues put a damper on the experience. We got the game unboxed and set up and noticed that the plunger wouldn’t move. It turns out that both playfield hangers were snapped.
As such, the playfield was resting on the plunger. The autoplunger specifically was pressing down so the plunger wouldn’t move. So… if we wanted to play that first night, we needed to raise the playfield. I snapped a pencil and stuck it under the part of the hook we could see.
We were able to play that first night, but couldn’t put the glass on because the lockdown bar wouldn’t attach as the playfield was too high. Then, after a handful of games (8-10?), one of the RGB LED boards went out, and since they are wired in series, everything wired after it went out. I eventually found the bad board and swapped it with the furthest similar board in the line, and that brought about 85% of the lights to life. The RAINBOW lights were still out, making ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ mode nearly impossible to complete. While I was looking for the bad board, I noticed a lug on one of the standup targets was snapped off. It snapped in such a way that it could not be rigged/repaired. I ordered new hangers, a new RGB board and a new target and Lloyd had them ordered to ship an hour later. Great service. I was bummed that they were shipped by ground service though, which meant the game was ‘broken’ for the next six days until the parts arrived. I swapped the hangers with the hangers on Pinbot so I could play with the glass on. We have babies in the house now, so my pinball time is severely limited as it is.
Next, I’d already seen everything about the game over and over for years now. No surprises out of the box. That’s not a bad thing, I mean, you know what you’re getting when you buy an Addams Family right now, right? Doesn’t make the game any less interesting, but it makes the NIB experience a little diminished I guess. Learning some of the rules and seeing them in action is still pretty exciting, even for a seasoned pinball guy. When you see inserts flicker like flames in ‘Firefight’ mode, or everything turn sepia-tone as you try to rescue TOTO, it really feels like something new and different.
Was the worth the wait…? Honestly, I’ll never know. It was a wait whether we wanted it or not. In June 2011, I had a chance to buy a TRON LE for $5k, which seemed insane then, but I could have played it for two years until WOZ was available and then easily sold it for over $10k. Even paying a premium for WOZ now, I would have a lot of cash in pocket and my money wouldn’t have been tied up for the past several years. I’m not bitter about it, but it is a pinball game and they’re way more fun to play when they’re in your home and not in pieces in a warehouse across the country for years.
WOZ is excellent, easily the visual showpiece of nearly any collection, and it’s more than just a pretty face. It’s a fun game. The rules are fantastic, the shots are fun, the randomness of the two outlane ‘ball saver gimmicks’ are interesting. Code updates seem to be coming about once a month now, which is fine, it still has a long ways to go, but it’s deeper and more fleshed out than Metallica is already. The team at JJP has been great about replying to concerns, joining in forum conversations, answering questions, adding stuff to the game that the community wants, etc. I probably wouldn’t have done this if I could go back. All the games are supposed to have shipped by this January. Games have been available from distributors and people who have pulled out for several months now. It feels good to be part of an upstart that changed the face of the game, if not forever, for right now at least. It was a weird journey, and I’m glad it’s over, but as a great man once said ‘Hey! It’s only pinball!’.