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YES! Weekly’s ten best pIn ball machines

by Amy Kingsley

Revenge From Mars

Kmart Super Center; 1302 Bridford Parkway

Tucked inside the sprawling Super Kmart off Wendover Avenue is a game room with a singular treat: a Revenge From Mars pinball machine. The table wins points for playability, goofy alien artwork and stock Frenchy phrases like “Ve vill turn zem all into French friezzz!” that goad you on in your extraterrestrial-slaying pinball quest. My only confusion with this table – which speaks poorly of the current political climate – is that I couldn’t figure out whether I was supposed to destroy aliens or French people.

Elvis

College Hill Sundries; 900 Spring Garden St.

A friend of mine really likes this table for its accessibility to the lay pinballer. It’s got plenty of bells and whistles, and a lot of tricks that are pretty easy to figure out, even if you’re not that gifted with flippers and tilting. If you’ve got even a glancing interest in the works of Elvis, this machine will supply you with all the trivia you ever wanted to know. I have it on good authority that College Hill will soon be replacing their Silverstrike Bowling game with the highly-anticipated Pirates of the Caribbean Two table.

Austin Powers

The Flying Anvil; 219 W. Lewis St.

If you’re easily annoyed by fictional spy Austin Powers’ catch phrases, you might want to steer clear of this one. But I actually found the flashy lights, garish colors and frequent bursts of “Yeah Baby!” to be pretty enjoyable. This table is a little tough for the novice, but it has enough features to keep more experienced players interested.

NASCAR

Suds ‘n’ Duds; 2114 Walker Ave.

Of all the tables sampled, this one represents the best merger of theme and pinball. A metal track runs around the entire perimeter of the machine, and the ball is powered through to a soundtrack of engines and squealing tires. The NASCAR machine has a tendency to throw two balls at you during the game, which can rattle players who haven’t yet mastered the art of trapping. It’s fast, dirty and a bit over-stimulating, sort of what I imagine a real NASCAR race would be like.

Terminator 3

Blind Tiger; 2115 Walker Ave.

The movie came out a while ago (right before Schwarzenegger ran for California governor, right?) but this machine looks brand spanking new. That’s a good thing, because it’s got a lot of elements and moving parts that, were they not in good working condition, might be more hassle than fun. As it is, the designers made use not only of the playing surface, but also incorporated a shooting game on the backglass. So watch out, if you don’t fire quickly enough, you’ll lose the game.

Monster Bash

Carousel Grande Cinema; 1305 Battleground Ave.

This machine has some kind of rock ‘n’ roll monster plot, but I’m not quite keen enough to pick up on all the nuances. Nonetheless, the toys on this table are admirably fun and kitschy, which is what you should expect from something called Monster Bash. Not to hard to play, with lots of saucers and graveyard-themed holes.

Poker World Tour

New York Pizza; 337 Tate St.

This is quite a popular machine; I saw it in at least three of the places I visited for this story. Maybe it’s the busty lady on the backglass, or perhaps some poor sucker thinks he can win some actual money out of this thing. Either way, I had a good time with this table. My only complaint is that I couldn’t really follow the poker game unfolding underneath all the pinball action.

Batman

Celebration Station; 4315 Big Tree Way

The Batman table is a handsome machine, all done up as it is in black, yellow and chrome. The playability on this one is high as well, so it’s easy enough for beginners like me. The right flipper sticks a bit, but that problem isn’t a deal-breaker. Plenty of ramps and drop targets keep this game exciting and challenging.

Terminator 2

Great Stops; 1411 W. Lee Street

This predecessor to the Blind Tiger’s machine hasn’t fared the turn of the century very well. But its outdated colors and graphics do provide a measure of amusement. It’s got a few ramps, a handful of saucers, and bumpers that have likely seen better days. This particular table is also located in a Laundromat where, if all you’re doing is playing pinball, somebody’s probably gonna try to shake you down for your spare change.

Stargate

Skateland USA North; 3801 N. Church St.

The kind folks at Skateland opened their doors a few minutes early for me so I could try out this machine. Unfortunately, I pulled the plunger too hard on my first play and sent the ball up a ramp that deposited it in the left outlane. I dumped another dollar in the machine in an attempt to play again to no avail. Next time I make the drive out here, I’ll stick to roller-skating.

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