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The Pinball Podcast

Hard-hitting, soul-shaking, pinball pontification.

The Pinball Podcast - Hard-hitting, soul-shaking, pinball pontification.

The Wizard of Oz – Extended Opinions

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.

PLAYFIELD DESIGN

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!photo 5
  •  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.photo 4
  • 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.photo 5-3
  • Best pop bumper toppers ever?photo 2-2
  • 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.photo 1-1
  • 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.photo 3-1

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.photo 2
  • 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.photo 2-1Pretend you’ve never seen/played WOZ. Can you spot the lane indicator in this next photo?photo 3 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.photo 2-3
  • 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 ™…photo 1-2photo 5-2
  • 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’.photo 3-2
  • 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.photo 1-1
  • 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.photo 3

OTHER ITEMS

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.

Jersey Jack Pinball unveils full playfield for The Hobbit

Well, kinda. You can see the full layout for The Hobbit pinball machine. Right now it’s just the blueprints that we’ve seen, but the layout looks cool. There’s some unique stuff going on, but it’s sometimes hard to visualize how the ball will flow until you get to see how everything stacks up. Who knows how long we have to wait to see photos of the actual playfield, but we’re pretty eager to see what Jersey Jack Pinball has cooking up. Here’s the pic released by Jersey Jack Pinball.

JJP-TheHobbit

Interview – Jersey Jack and Keith Johnson at E3

Imagine my surprise when I was attending the Nintendo E3 press conference and I got a text message from Don and a Facebook message from Matt Riesterer telling me that “Jersey” Jack Guarnieri were going to be on the E3 show floor with the public’s first glimpse at The Wizard of Oz pinball machine. I was heavily booked up with appointments on Day 1 of E3, so when Day 2 rolled around and I had a few minutes, I made it my priority to meet up with Jack and Keith to see what they had to say about the soon to come Wizard of Oz pinball machine.

Playing Wizard of Oz was a treat, even if the game was running on a bare bones set of code. The playfield layout is fantastic, and it felt like I was playing a game from the glory days of early 1990s pinball. There was a slight similarity to Twilight Zone with the double ramps at the top middle, but the game had a smoother flow to it overall. The toys, art, and lighting all looked wonderful, even if without the GI being lit up on the E3 show floor.

The LCD runs in HD resolutions and it blends in beautifully with the backglass, proving to me that an LCD just might be the future for pinball display technology. The animations were very limited, as Jack was reluctant to show more at this time, but the screen looked great even in its limited state.

For those who are worried that Jack decided to pack the machine too much, rest assured that they’ve managed to provide something that is dense in regards to targets and toys, but that the ball flow is still satisfying and smooth.

Take a look below for our quick interview with Jersey Jack and Keith Johnson. It would have been nice to have spent more time with the game, but what I experienced was enough to make me hungry for more. Big thanks to Jack Guarnieri and Keith Johnson for showing the game at E3 and for taking time out of their busy day to accommodate my hectic schedule at the show.

Jersey Jack Pinball at E3