Last weekend I officially kicked off my Summer with a visit to my favorite local pinball arcade. After a night of pinball with an interlude to catch a summer popcorn flick I was looking forward to the next few months of long nights where I can come and play games late into the evenings. With that I decided to take down some notes on my personal top 5 pinball tables. Should you ever come across any of these tables in your travels you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to give any of them a whirl. This is by no means a “Best of all time” list, these tables are what I consider my personal favorites, so if you disagree or feel some other classic table should be rated let us know why you like that particular table in the comments.
This is likely the most personal of my choices as Frankenstein was the first table I was ever able to learn and get particularly good at. Frankenstein represents both my first free game as well as my first time getting my name on a board, so it holds particular value to me. An odd choice for a table as it isn’t based on the Frankenstein mythos but rather the 1994 film starring Kenneth Branagh and Robert DeNiro. The table does get major props from me by allowing the player to forgo the film’s soundtrack in place of Edgar Winters “Frankenstein” which should make this a must play on anyone’s list for that alone.
Black Knight 2000 is the most throwback table design I’m putting on my list. Personally I prefer tables with lots of ramps and missions or objectives, which this table is somewhat lacking in. However, what the table lacks in objectives it certainly makes up in style. A sequel to the revered classic Black Knight, BK2K replaces the stale sound effects of the first table with one of the most amazing rock performances I’ve ever seen in a video game. The game was programmed by Ed Boon (Yes, THAT Ed Boon) and was the first arcade table to have a dynamic music system in place. Based on your performance during the game the music would cue different beats, activate certain modes and a chorus will herald your actions, pleading you on with the lines “You can do it! You can do it!” The theme song itself is a classic and I don’t see how anyone couldn’t accept the challenge of this Black Knight after hearing the taunts he slings your way, take a listen for yourself:
This is a table that I had to grow to love, but once I did it has easily become one of my favorites. I’ve had a rocky past with Star Trek TNG, as I was always a fan of the original series and didn’t like the changes the show made in its transition. However, after a few rounds on this machine I was quickly in love. The table is based around a singular main shot straight up the middle, if you can hit the center shot regularly you can pretty much own this table. This does make your runs on the table “feast or famine” from time to time as if you can’t hit that center shot you’re likely not going to be finishing any missions. My personal favorite missions are the combat and training missions where you have to fire the ball from a launcher into the center drain for huge points. Bonus to the table for giving you 10 million points every time you hit the bumpers to interrupt Data and tell him to shut up.
2. The Addams Family
The Addams Family is probably the most famous of all the tables I’ve listed. It is regarded as one of the greatest pinball tables of all time, but due to its licensing has seen very little love in the digital pinball age. This is a table that I personally had to grow to love as well because my initial experiences with it were extremely poor. Addams Family is one of the few newer style pinball tables I’ve seen that has no ball save whatsoever. Most tables give you a short time window from the start of the game where your ball will be saved if it drains immediately. Addams family doesn’t have this and it has a tendency to drain very quickly down the left hand lane if you don’t go for the skill shots ever time. This can lead to some games where you lose a ball in a matter of seconds, sometimes even 2 or 3. However, once you get the hang of the table you’ll be racking up points in no time. I enjoy how easy the missions can be and the layout makes most shots very simple to make. Earning extra balls and multi-ball runs are probably easiest on this table than any others on my list which makes the game itself feel very rewarding. The audio for the game is also top-notch as hearing the great Raul Julia hamming it up as Gomez Addams while you play is certainly worth the price of admission alone.
1. Doctor Who
My personal favorite pinball table of all time is without a doubt Doctor Who. I have come to learn this table and love it and can consistently do well on it. This is both the most complex and the most simple table on my list. That may be confusing but when you look at the layout you’ll see it’s extremely similar to PinBot. The center field is practically empty with only the Time Expander made prominent. The only real lane is the left hand lane which feeds back into the Tardis on the right hand side. At any given time there is really only one or two shots you can make, personally I always try to complete the video mode first as this gives you massive points AND an extra ball, then I will try to complete the Time Expander mission mode. What makes the game complex is the fact that 7 doctors are represented in the game and each one alters the gameplay of the table in some way. For example the first doctor makes getting the video mode started easier, while the 4th doctor will unlock unlimited millions on the left hand bumpers. The 7th doctor probably has the strongest ability in the game as he makes Multi-ball (the main mission of the game) easier so you only have to hit the Time Expander a couple of times to begin killing Daleks. These doctors powers do stack, something I didn’t notice in my first few rounds, so it’s a good idea to get a rotation down (I always go with the first doctor, then the 7th doctor to start). During the main mission you will be tasked with hitting 3 Dalek targets in the center field, each time they die they give the most satisfying scream you’ll want to continue killing them over and over. I would love to see an updated version of this table incorporating the rest of the Doctors, but unless Stern Pinball gets around to it I doubt we’ll ever see one.