When in Rome, Do as the Tourists Do

Last year I took a vacation to the capital of our nation’s granite and Dunkin Donuts industries: New Hampshire. My trip had three reasons: two overt, and one covert.

The first? To be the first in my immediate family to visit our niece. Oh, yeah, my brother was there too, but his role gets larger later. (Okay, second in my immediate family, as I believe my Northernly sister made a visit earlier.)

The second? To pick-up/adopt the indecisive Spider/Scrappy/Mr. Kitty. As the proud parent of my niece, my brother had to make the tough transition from Crazy Cat Lady Man to Dad. A wise choice even if he doesn’t agree with me about giving Spider the freedom to eschew gender roles and take the name she was born to rock: Drooley Mr. Kitty.

Its nondescript outside masks its jaw-shatteringly awesome insides

And the last, secret, reason? To visit the Pinball Wizard Arcade; the mecca of pinball for all the geeks who don’t want to make the drive to FunSpot.

Inside? Rows and rows of beautifully functional pinball machines. No bad flippers here. And even if there are, with a going rate of 100 tokens for $20, you won’t care if you’re not as awesome at Buck Rogers as you remember.

I used to play Cirqus Voltaire religiously growing up. Sadly, I’m no better at it now than I was back then.

If there was one machine I desperately wanted to play, it was this one: Bad Cats. Whereas I would occasionally play Cirqus Voltaire, at least one play on Bad Cats was a given. Funny, considering how hated the game is by pinball insiders. Python Anghelo, the artist who worked on the classics: High Speed, Pin*Bot(!), Big Guns, and Taxi(!!), says of his Bad Cats experience: “[it is] one of my ‘yes boy, kiss-ass’… one of my worst experiences.”[1]

Doesn’t matter though. Hell, Michelangelo allegedly wasn’t 100% happy with the Sistine Chapel. And Lou Reed still stands behind “Metal Machine Music.”

When that short-skirted housewife leans over and slaps the cat with her broom, it is a religious experience.

The Pinball Wizard’s Arcade isn’t just pinball though. There’s also a remarkable amount of video games you’ll remember seeing in your childhood arcade, but never playing.

I think every arcade had a S.T.U.N. Runner; played by the dumber kids who didn’t realize paying 50 cents for one shot on a machine rocking souped up vector graphics just doesn’t cut it when the same amount will buy you two trips to Bad Cats-land.

Sadly, they didn’t have the immortal A.P.B. set-up as the sit-down unit. “Officer Bob” still rules though.

I believe this was one of the original Budweiser machines, made before controversy reared its ugly head under the guise of: advertising beer to minors. Hence a “Root” added to the (Beer) “Tapper” title.

Then came the weirdo machines: such as Steve Meyer’s Wacko. As you can see, the game’s cabinet was “inspired,” sporting askew angles usually reserved for slasher films.

The game continued with the theme, playing as a cross between the traditional Match Game and a third-person shooter. The monsters came in pairs, and you had to shoot a monster’s pair before moving onto a different beast. Otherwise the monsters would mutate into hybrids; the top-half of one, and the bottom of the other. At which point you’d have to shoot them wrong again to reunite the proper halves and kill ’em off.

You can almost hear him cursing at the screen!

All while being handicapped to only four axises from which to shoot while moving via trackball! Much harder then any game named “Wacko” deserves to be.

Then there’s Night Stocker. Billed as the “first game to combine the shooting with the driving,” the result is a mess. Ever wish you could dodge landmines/blobs while shooting a gun? Here you can!

Naturally it was this mad scientist concoction of a game that I showed any semblance of skill on…

They even had the infamous Baby Pac-Man! The game that was one of the coffin nails in the relationship between Namco and Bally-Midway. As you can see, it’s a hybrid, with the player playing a traditional Pac-Man level before the action changes to the mini-pinball board above the controller. Not a great idea.

Not that Baby Pac-Man’s failure would do anything to dissuade Williams from creating Banzai Run; another hybrid pinball game. Luckily, I managed to do whatever steps you need to do to actually play on the backglass. Naturally, I lost 3.5 seconds later, but hey, an achievement is an achievement, no matter how small.

(Time Machine, the machine on the right, is another childhood memory that I failed to live up too.)

Truth be told, Craggle and I were up all night the night before playing the Williams Collection on Xbox. So the machines on there were our real targets. Gorgar, the first talking pinball machine, was also our first stop:

Pin*Bot’s so awesome I had to take two photos. Seriously, we were prepared to spend hundreds of dollars to make sure we opened Pin*Bot’s visor.

The favorite, ultimately, was Williams’ powerhouse machine, Taxi.

Ever wish you could cram Marilyn Monroe, Dracula, and Pin*Bot into a tiny taxi cab? Of course, and here you can! Just save some room for Gorbie!


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