Monday, January 30, 2012

Pinball Map App

When Jon and I started this blog, we put a link in the sidebar, to a humble little operation called  In the last year or so, this site has expanded and improved, and I now think it is one of, if not THE most important resources for people interested in playing pinball.

Not only did they expand their database to include the Bay Area, Boston, British Columbia, Chicago, Colorado, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle and Spokane, they also built an interactive app for iPhone and Android mobile devices.  Let me be perfectly clear: if you play pinball and you have a phone that can run this app, you NEED to get it.  It's $1.  Just do it.

On my recent travels to Boston, Seattle and Portland, I had friends or family members install this app, which then allowed me to find pinball ANYWHERE.  You can literally hit a button and it will pull up a map with all the pinball machines within a 3 mile radius.  You can also search the database by neighborhood, by machine, or by specific location.  So if you feel like playing a specific game, you can find all of the places it is available in your area and then pick the closest one.

Probably the best part about the app though, is that the database is completely updated by users.  So if you go to a location and a machine is all beaten up, you can leave a comment, like, "The left flipper is broken" and it will be uploaded to the system.  When the next user looks up that machine, they'll see your note.  Or better yet, an operator may see your comment and come fix the machine!  You can also update which machines are available at a location, so the more people use it, the more accurate it is.

If, like me, you don't have a smart phone, you can still access the database via the website.  But I'll tell you, I'm sorely tempted to get a smart phone, just so that I could have this app running when I'm wandering around any of the above cities (many of which I visit every year!)  Either way, check it out and update some listings!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yet Another Quechee Antique Mall pinball find

I've seen old backboxes and electronic mini-pinball machines at the Quechee Antique Mall before, which lead me to believe that there is an old pinball enthusiast, who owns one of the booths.  This suspicion was once again confirmed on my last visit, when I saw this beautiful old bagatelle-type board, from 1890 (!?!)

This summer, a small arcade opened up at one end of the Antique Mall's parking lot.  There were a few old arcade games and that 1991 Data East Star Trek machine.  But it was busted.  Perhaps the same person who is selling these cool pinball items is also trying to set up the arcade?  If they could get it working, I know two gentlemen who would definitely go use the machines!  ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

White River Junction Pinball Update

Oof!  Has it really been two months since my last pinball post?!  I guess I have been crazy busy lately, but luckily good ol' Jon Chad has been serving up some good content while I've been dealing with other stuff.  Fear not though, dear readers, during my absence I have still been playing A LOT of pinball on both coasts. And as ever, I have been snapping some crappy low-res cell phone photos, just for you!

Before I get too far afield, I thought it would be good to update you all on the pinball scene here in White River Junction, Vermont (where Jon and I currently live).  As readers of Drop Target #1 no doubt remember, WRJ was the featured locale for our first "Pinhalls" article.  A lot has changed around here since that zine was printed, so here is an update.

The biggest change is that Jon and I now own our own machines, Jurassic Park and Medieval Madness, respectively.  Here you can see my parents playing a little pinball on a recent visit to "The Junc."  These machines are only available to the students, staff and faculty of The Center for Cartoon Studies, where Jon and I work.  We are still splitting proceeds with the school, and should be announcing the next round of April Fog Memorial Scholarship recipients in a few months.

The other big news is that Forrest B's Pool School has completely shut down, so we no longer have access to our beloved Star Wars: Episode I pin2k machine.  Up at "Lanes and Games" the Last Action Hero machine has been taken away, but the Scared Stiff machine is still going strong.

For months and months the T2 machine in the back room of C&S pizza was all busted up.  All of the G.I. lamps were out, one of the flippers was stuck up, none of the flashers were working - it was a mess.  We had pretty much given up on it ever working again, when one day I randomly went to check on it, only to find that it had been completely fixed up!  Not only was everything working, but all of the high scores had been reset.  This lead to some of the most fun I have ever had on a pinball machine.

Jon and I have gotten pretty good at this point.  We're not world-class players or anything, but we can get a replay after a few warm-up games on most machines.  With the scores reset, it was remarkably easy to crack a replay and get up on the high score board.  And each time you get a high score, the machine gives you a free credit.  The first time I went in to play, I put in one dollar and played for an hour and half.  Finally, my arms were getting sore, and I had stuff to do, so I left the machine with SIX credits on it (!?!)  I told Jon about it, and the next day he had a similar experience.  A few weeks later we went in together and did the same thing again.  One dollar of quarters, an hour plus of gameplay.  It was good times!

We thought we pretty much had the pinball scene in our area figured out, when all of a sudden, our boss Michelle gave us a hot tip: she had spotted "like five pinball machines" at the Pizza Chef in Quechee which is only five miles down the road.  Ecstatic, we immediately checked out the community car and headed up there to check it out.  The trip was a little heartbreaking...  1) because the pizza was the worst I have tasted since I was in 6th grade and had to eat in the cafeteria at "Islander Middle School"  2) There were only THREE machines... and two of them were out of commission.

Here you can see the lineup.  On the left, F-14 Tomcat.  Busted rubber on the left flipper, but otherwise looked to be in good condition.  Shut off.  On the right, Taxi, with an extremely worn-down playfield.  Shut off.  Luckily, the center machine, Black Knight 2000 was working great (except for the magna-save which didn't work, and the flippers were a little weak).  We played for about an hour and had a lot of fun.  The music on that machine is AMAZING!  My favorite part is when the Black Knight says "GIVE ME YOUR MONEY."  Classic.

I guess a few weeks later Jon found a No Good Gofers a few miles away in the other direction.  I have yet to check this out, but it seems like every time we lose a machine, another one is found.  I guess the pinball gods giveth and the pinball gods taketh, eh?

I've got a few more posts lined up from recent trips, so I'll try to post a little more regularly.  Also, don't forget, we're both still guest blogging over on the STERN website!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fresh from the DTZ Mailbag

One of the best things about being part of a passionate community like pinball is that if you show the love, sometimes, the love is shown back.  Every now and then Alec and I will get something cool in the mail from someone who just likes what we're doing.  It genuinely touches our hearts.  One time, we got a SUPER DUPER tiny papercraft pinball machine.  Super cute.  Recently, Alec and I got a DVD in the mail from all-around good guy Dave Marston.  It was issue 7 of a video zine (!?!).  I had never heard of a video zine, but it made sense.  Little did I know that I was in for a treat.

The movie was split into two sections; snowboarding and pinball.  Snowboarding, sure, cool, but PINBALL!  YEAH!  The pinball section was a half-hour long and was comprised of music videos made with footage that the creators took of their own personal outings and tournaments they attended.  The videos sort of sum up the various events without showing every single flip and every single drain.  It was pretty cool.

One of the music videos started with these three guys placing their hands on a fish statue.  They all shake as if overcome with the pinball spirit.  Next thing you know, these guys are setting up a Fish Tales machine in the middle of the woods and plugging it into a generator.  Get it!?  Gone fishing!?  HA HA!

Pinballers will recognize a lot of the players featured.  Keith Elwin, Rick Stetta, Lyman Sheets, Josh Sharp, etc etc.  Again, though, this video zine is ALL music videos, so non of them talk.  The only exception to this is a short flipper skills instructional segment, which was well-done.

This video zine is clearly far on the peripheral of pinball-dom, because I couldn't find a SINGLE screencap on the internet.  I did find their website!  Give it a whirl.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Links Links Links

The internet NEVER fails to provide me with a seemingly endless supply of pinball content.  Since I draw ALL THE TIME, I am always looking for different things to listen to.  It helps pass the time when you're inking a ba-zillion little transistors, leaves, or whatnot.  Here's some of the stuff that I've been TOTALLY digging lately.  I'll preface this by saying that I am not claiming that these links are 100% NEW, just that they've crossed my doorstep.

1) Spooky Pinball Podcast: I don't know how I didn't get into this sooner.  While the show is not 100% pinball, it is still super enjoyable to listen to.  Often, that percentage of stuff that ISN'T pinball is still stuff that I'm into.  One of the first episodes I listened to had a section on a Godzilla convention.  I.  LOVE.  GODZILLA.  And I love this show.  I'll be sad when I've exhausted all the episodes.

2) New Episodes of the Silverball Podcast: I might have talked about this show before, but I love it.  Rob Craig and Steve Rothchild have made a really well-produced show with some really great segments.  Recently, a couple of new episodes have been released after a pretty lengthy hiatus.  Pingods be praised!

3) PAPA video archive:  The good people at the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association gave the wider pinball community what was maybe the BEST X-mas gift EVER: an archive and listing of not only the awesome tutorial videos that they make, but also regular gameplay footage and tournament footage.  It's an amazing resource!

4) This Photo:
Someone on the internet was talking about our zine and wanted to post a picture showing off all three issues.  First of all, that's just heart-warming.  Secondly, this person took the photo of the zines ON a pinball machine; Lord of the Rings, with the glass off!  This makes my glamor shot from Tuesday look like chump change!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pinball Trip and Glamor Shots

Recently, Alec and I went to Pinball Wizard Arcade in Pelham, NH.  I know that both of us have mentioned this SEVERAL times, but that arcade is INCREDIBLE.  If you live in New England, you NEED to go there. 

The arcade was pretty hopping.  Alec and I put in a good 7 hours of pinball; playing away until our arms were sore.  The game that we put the most time on was the Stern Tron machine.  By the end of the night, we had both nailed down most of the shots, and figured out how to handle the basics (getting the different multiballs / skillshots / etc.)  In one of our last games of the night, Alec totally put Tron through it's paces and got a replay on the first ball!  Here's some pics from the trip:

This Super Mario Mushroom World game was AWESOME.  First, it's half the size of a normal pinball machine (which is why I'm leaning over the machine.  I'm not a giant)  Second, the music is great.  Third, this game can be set up to give out tickets.  That's just cool.

Believe it, or not, this was my favorite machine of the trip: Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball.  Does this game have modes: no.  Does this game have a multiball: no.  Does this game have a right outlane: no.  I don't know what to say, the game was just fun to play.  The right orbit shot leads to a set of lanes which funnel down to a little lower playfield (a la Black Hole, except no extra glass).  Everytime I made that right orbit, I was on cloud nine.  Mark Walters, who writes for McSweeney's, actually mentioned this machine in one of his articles (this one).  He had serious complaints about this machine, and they're all totally justified.

I put some serious time on The Champion Pub as well.  What a game!


Alec gets the #1 High Score on our old friend, Star Wars Episode 1.  It was really surreal to put some time on this machine, it's been a long time. 

This is the aforementioned glamor shot.  I'm sorry internet.  I'm sorry.