Friday, October 17, 2014

PAPA Visit Part 4

OMG!  I realized that I drafted this up, but then never posted it!  What a fool I am!  Well, last time I talked about games made by the Italian manufacturer Zaccaria, and how I think that they bring a certain freshness to pinball that I haven't seen in a while.  Today I want to talk about the last machine, the VERY LAST MACHINE that JoshJoyana, and I played as we left PAPA headquarters. Sitting there, in the midst of the standup arcade cabinets by the door out was the greatest foe of all.

Now, let's back up for a second and take in the full majesty of what we're looking at here.  What appears to be a standup arcade cabinet is actually a pinball machine.  The field is very short (about the size of Granny and the Gators, or the Super Mario pin), and is displayed vertically.  HOWEVER, this is not actually how the playfield is oriented inside of the cabinet.

Whoa, how's this possible?  Anyone who is familiar with how Pinball 2000 works can skip this section.  Basically, the playfield in Varkon is placed in the middle of the machine at the regular 7 degree angle that pinball has traditionally been set at.  What you are looking at when you play Varkon is a 45 degree mirror looking down at the playfield.  Even though the angle seems to be so steep as to mess with the ball's physics, the ball actually moves at a regular pace.

This simple trick is my first favorite thing about Varkon, the illusion of weaker gravity.  If the art is to be believed on Varkon, the player takes the role of some sort of space explorer/warrior poised on the outside of Varkon's lair.  The game is working towards entering that cave and facing off with Varkon himself.  Since the ball seems to fall slower than the angle would allow, it really feels like the player is on another planet.

Instead of having two buttons on the side of the cabinet to control the flippers, the buttons are on the usual spot on an arcade cabinet.  This takes some getting used to.  

The game is pretty straight-forward.  There are six letters that spell out "Varkon".  Two on the upper lanes, one by the right flipper, and three standups to the left of the left flipper.  Hitting all these shots enables the player to shoot a scoop in the upper left portion of the playfield and move to the lower playfield to show off against Zarkon.

The best part of the game, no questions, hands down, is getting to the that lower playfield.  All the lights on the machine go dim and the lower playfield lights up, showing Zarkon's hideous true form!  He's just a face!  A space face!  It's bad ass!  As we were leaving PAPA, Josh and I couldn't shut up about Varkon.  

This game perfectly encapsulates what I loved about the PAPA HQ; the span of games represented there range from beloved classic to obscure experiment.  Each has something to teach about what works, what doesn't, and what's possible with pinball.  It's a shame that there's only one game built like this one.  I could see this being a really fun format to play around with.

This concludes my retrospective of my PAPA HQ trip.  Again, thanks to Elizabeth Cromwell for kindly extending her time to show me around and let me take a stab at some of the machines.  It's a trip that I won't soon forget!  Next week I want to talk about some surprising pinball reading I did yesterday!

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