Southern Illinois Super Show
Last updated on: 8/5/2011 5:07 PM
Created on: 3/21/2014 2:18 PM
In September of 2005 I, along with two other members of the Chicago Pinball Mafia, traveled down to Southern Illinois for the first ever Pinball Show. The staff's hard work making sure there were playable games on free play, games available to buy, and a tournament that allows everyone to get in on the pinball action made this event a great show. This year, for the second annual Southern Illinois Pinball Players Association (SIPPA) Super Show, the event expanded to a two-day event, which made this a "must return" event for the CPM Road Crew.
The CPM Road Crew consists of myself, RazerX and Craig C. Due to Craig's new born; he had to sit this one out. Fellow Chicago Pinball Mafia personality Terry (of Pinball Life fame) participated as a vendor last year and was more than happy to join us for the return trip this year. Now before I get into the specifics of the show and the games we played, let me take a second to introduce you to the personalities you will be reading about for the rest of this article.
The show, taking place in Herrin, Illinois, is a six-hour drive from the North West side of Chicago. I hit the road just before sun rise to meet Terry and RazerX at the meet point. My drive is uneventful because, well I honestly am never awake before 8 am. RazerX picked up Terry and before meeting with me, stopped for Dunkin Donuts to get coffee. Rob waited in the car while Terry went inside but chose to move one parking spot over to avoid being the guy hogging the handicapped spot. Well Rob took a moment to call me to make sure we were all still on time. While talking to me another black SUV pulled into the handicapped spot. So when Terry left the store, guess which car he jumped into. Life's lesion here: always keep your car doors locked. Otherwise, a man might jump in and try to sell you pinball parts at reasonable prices. On second though, that probably is not going to be a big deal for anyone reading this magazine.
The time is now going on Noon and the debate amongst ourselves is between driving to check into the hotel, or see if we can get into a show ahead of time. Rob intentionally requested late check in and figured the hotel would be rather upset if we showed up early. The decision was to jump off the highway and head over to the Herrin Civic Center. Coming from Chicago it is always interesting to see these tiny little towns where you go from farm, to residential, to downtown all on the same block. But where else can you find great little automotive dealer with the sign "just drive it on [the lot] and we will sell it!"
When we arrived we were expecting the typical Expo style of "Get the hell out we are not open!" Instead we were greeting with a big thanks for coming out to support the show. I think most of that was Terry's contribution as a vendor last year, come to think of it that had to be the only reason. RazerX and I normally show up and break things.
The host for the Super Show is Rob Craig. Rob has a vast collection, which includes those Gottleib games you hardly ever see. In addition to sharing his collection with others Rob creates the "Life After Death" DVD series featuring pinball restoration. Before Rob excused himself to finish final preparations for the show, he told us he should have brought his CPM Christmas video DVD for us to sign. If I had a dime for every time we were asked that, I would have an extra dime.
With that, it is time to start playing the games. One Gottleib game that got out attention last year is titled "Lights, Camera, Action!" In a hobby populated with examples of Stargate and Rescue 9-11, Lights, Camera, Action is a welcome change. The theme is set around movie production and the rules have you complete different scenes to advance. Of course, it is a Gottlieb afterall so there has to be some odd aspects included. For example, you also need to collect the different actors in the movie which are conviently named Ace, King, Queen, etc so hands of poker can be included into the rule set. The playfield has a good layout with some cool tricks. The first trick is that the upper left area of the playfield rotates (similar to the face of Bride of Pinbot) and changes the playfield shot from a loop to the upper left flipper to a ramp to the upper playfield. The second playfield trick takes place at all three saucers. There are no feeds for the ball exit, instead the ball is ejected up and over a ball guide, drop target bank or stand up targets. The game has an additional playfield illumination trick. Mounted to the top of the back box are two giant flood lamps, one blue and the other red. During scenes when the movie is actually filming this lights turn on and provide a truly unique experience. Oh and if you like back box animation, the gunfight scene takes place here.
The second rare Gottleib that you never see is TX-Sector. Earlier this year in Akron, Ohio I had a chance to play Robowar for the first time. TX-Sector and Robowar have a bit in common with the speech and general feel of the shots. While TX-Sector's translight isn't all that exciting the rules proved to be challenging. The gimmick to this game is teleportation where the ball is locked on one side of the playfield, a chase lamp sequence is performed and the ball ejects from the other side of the playfield. After my first game I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how the game did that and was disappointed to learn that the cool technology is simply just excellent use of staged balls. Now RazerX and I spent numerous games trying to figure out what the rules are. After all that, we still don't know.
Sadly, a number of Gottleib games that appeared during the first show did not make the return trip. Included in this line up are blockbusters Barb Wire and the ever sought after Water World. But while these games weren't here we were treated to two Spring Break machines. Why were there two? Well the game is just that good, at least according to Terry who we always had to pry away from the game. Now the game is not going to ever win the best art contest but it does have a crazy playfield layout in which shots over lay each other in semi-circular fashion. Plus I must admit that one of the main play tunes the game has is a bit catchy.
Now I have an observation that no one has been able to prove wrong. So I stand by my observation that a defacto standard. That standard states, "No pinball show is to take place unless the 1980's Stern game, Meteor, is present." This show featured not one, but two Meteor machines and they were both in the same row! I tell you, Meteor is everywhere! I even found one in RazerX's storage facility so if the Pinball Mafia ever puts on a show, we will meet the Meteor quota.
Now what fun would a pinball show be if there was not a way to compete for a prize? This year show organizer's used their late night on Friday to host the "Showdown at Sundown" tournament. Four different games representing different eras of game play are set up and contestants must play on each game per entry. The Pinball Mafia was given an opportunity to try their luck on these games before the tournament started. The first game contestants would face is a wood rail conveniently named Tournament. While I have played EMs before and I have played games with gobble holes, this is the first I played where a perfect score is 999. In fact, your best scoring opportunity is to build up your bonus and the hit the gobble hole at the right time. I found it completely out of my character to set up a strategy that includes intentionally ending my ball to score big.
The other game I want to note that was set up for the tournament was Rob Craig's own Black Hole. Last year this was one of the many free play games and it is the meanest playing Black Hole I have ever come across. At first I was a bit disappointed that they only way we would be playing this game again was to enter the tournament but that went away after a few plays. Black Hole returned even meaner and was ready to kick player's butts and take names. The great thing about the show organizer being a giant Gottleib fan is that you get a chance to appreciate the game from a fan's point of view. I have played Black Hole's before and have always had a take it or leave it attitude when my game was over. However to have the game set up with every little detail addressed gives an experience completely different than most. This is just another example of why collector's who are considering owning Gottleib games should seriously consider checking out this show. Now if you got into pinball a little earlier than I did, don't worry this show would not have disappointed. An entire section of the show floor was dedicated to EM games. Yes if you are one of those people who rather trade in the synthesized sounds for the click of the coils and ringing of the chimes then you would have enjoyed this little trip through time. If you attend the show on Friday night you would have had plenty of opportunities to play. Most of the families show up on Saturday but your Friday night crowd is dominated by the near by Carbondale College Students who tend to stick with the games from their youth, the DMDs.
I had a chance to play some games that counted the bonuses using balls in the back box, a football themed game that scored both a pinball and football score, and a game whose rules were so unclear the instruction card read "extra ball is occasionally lit." But even with all that I would have to say that two EM games stood out in my mind. The first would be High Hand. When you look at the playfield you would think the objective is simple, hit all 16-drop targets in 5 balls. Now try that. RazerX had the same though I did however that task is found not to be too easy. He came close with 14 and 15 of the drop targets down but most of the time it was 7 or 8. Yet it was one of those games where you know you can do it and you just want to keep playing until you do. When it was dinnertime I had to pry RazerX off of this machine, only to discover I still couldn't go eat until we pried Terry off of Spring Break.
But the EM that was so popular that it even got a nomination as the game of the show was Ranchos. This is a two player EM which had one of the best feeling playfields of the bunch. Many EM games have these crazy shots where they only way the ball is going to hit them is by accident, but not on Ranchos. The shots geometrically feel like an early solid state machine with a very easy to understand, yet tough to collect rule set. For a two player head-to-head match it is great. It all starts with the ball selecting either the green or yellow roll overs at the top of the playfield. Collecting the proper roll over lights the corresponding yellow or green shots on the playfield. Since the green is behind a spinner with increasing point value, this is the big money shot that you are going for. Three drop targets are spread across the playfield and if you can collect each one twice you will earn the extra ball. But while all this feels like a great players machine, when using the flipper buttons you will feel one thing that is a bit different. The cabinet of this game is all metal.
While I have had a chance to discover a bunch on interesting games so far, I have yet to even cover the main area of the exhibit hall. This is where all the "showcase" games can be found. One of those showcase games was none other than Data East's Robocop. This pinball game is truly the future of pinball, so it claimed. I never had a chance to play a Robocop before so off course we all had to compete to truly enjoy the experience. What experience, you might ask? Well we know when Pinball 2000 arrived the people who created that "pinball of the future" were publicly available to talk about their work. The designers of Robocop were so excited about their effort that the playfield credits read, "designed by pinball design team #27". See, in the future pinball won't be designed by people, but by anonymous teams. What didn't help this game much in my "experience" is the amount of time that has past sense I have seen any of the Robocop movies so I was clueless as to what I was trying to shoot for or accomplish.
Ok so that is a bad example of a show case game, let' instead move down the isle to Corvette. In my opinion this game has one of the best looking cabinets but to truly enjoy playing this game I am convinced you need to be both a fan of fast cars and enjoy the cheese factor from games such as Creature From the Black Lagoon. If you can not appreciate those two factors this probably is not a game for you. Other DMD favorites could also be found in this area including Twilight Zone, Judge Dredd, White Water and No Fear. If those machines are not the latest for you, then you might have enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates was played for the entire time the show was open, which is a great sign for Stern continuing the tradition of pinball manufacturing.
Even with the modern games this show provided the chance for me to become familiar with a game I didn't like when it first hit location. I mentioned No Fear was there, which at the 2004 Pinball At The Zoo show made me realize my negative opinion of the game from when I first played it was no longer the case. At this show, it would be an immaculate example of Who Dunnit which Terry found. You look at Who Dunnit and just have to think about what that design meeting was like: "I want a subway, taxi, elevator, sewer, roulette wheel, phone and a slot machine but to tie it all together let's add in some elements of the game Clue." You know you are never going to get a design meeting like that at Stern today as they focus on licensed themes. Now prior to this show I would have said that is a good thing. But this particular Who Dunnit played fast and smooth. It was clean so not only was the colors of the playfield art bright but the flasher effects in the dimly lit area of the hall were just over the top. RazerX, Terry and myself went ahead to play a 3 player game on this. RazerX got nearly 800 Million on ball 1, I matched that with an awesome multiball, it was Terry's turn to match that effort. It doesn't matter that in the end I won the game, with Stern producing only 2 or 3 titles a year to be able to go back and revisit these games that I missed or didn't properly enjoy just makes these shows so much more satisfying. It is an opportunity for me to play the game again for the first time. This game was in great shape with a cabinet that showed no signs of abuse. It was so good in appearance it could pass for Home Use Only.
Most of the games that were present for free play games but if you enjoyed playing pinball at this show there were some for sale and ready for you to take home. One of the local distributors provided a row of games for sale and various owners had their personal machines up for grabs, including the Who Dunnit I described above. I was bitten by the game-buying bug and ended up bringing home a No Fear as a souvenir of the show. I got the impression that due to the show being in its infancy still not many people buy games to take home. Terry grabbed a cart and RazerX helped wheel it out to the parking lot. I was amazed at how many people followed us outside to watch the game be loaded up in the SUV. I remember one young boy's surprise "Dad, he bought a game!"
If you like to bring stuff home but don't feel like buying a full game there are plenty of other things to buy. T-Shirts with the shows logo are available at the front desk, I found some translites around the hall you could pick up and if you are looking for something to watch the Life After Death DVDs are available.
For those of you who enjoy socializing with other pinball enthusiasts or the group of friends you are with (such as ourselves) the new location at the Herrin Civic Center is very accommodating. For those who just need a soda or light snack between games the snack bar is located in the main exhibit hall. For those looking for more or looking for some place to go after the show closes there are many restaurants and bars located in walking distance. While many of the hotels are located in Marion, Illinois, we found the selection in Herrin just surpasses Marion in both quality and quantity. If you are in the younger crowd, Carbondale is a short drive and is rumored to have some great places to hang out.
Do not expect to see this show featured on any DVDs anytime soon; the fees of free transportation, meals and accommodations are too costly for this show. Rob Craig is however planning on slowly increasing the size of the show and is working on several possible new additions for next year. While the overall size of the show is still too small to make it worth while from flying in from the coast, if you are local to the area or in a reasonable driving range I would strongly recommend attending in 2007.
Finally, a Chicago Pinball Mafia tradition after every show is to nominate a "Game of the Show". Mainly, since we do this on the ride back to Chicago, is a great will to kill some time on the road with heated arguments. RazerX, after owning over twenty solid state machine at a time, is discovering a new respect for EM games. His hands down game of the show is the metal cabinet beast that is Ranchos. No Fear was a game of the show for me a few years ago so I can't reuse it, despite the fact that it was in the SUV with us. Keeping true to my interest in DMD games I would nominate "Who Dunnit?" especially since it was able to change my opinion of the game from years past. Terry was all over the place enjoying Corvette and contemplating buying the "Who Dunnit?" but in the end it was Spring Break that hooked him in all weekend. It is appropriate that we divided up between an EM, Gottleib and DMD pin as that is a perfect example of the variety of game selection and play you can expect from this show.
For more information about the Super Show and for pictures of the show featured in this article visit the show's official website.Supershow Official Website
More Journal EntriesThrowdown! Brian Bannon Retracing History NBA: Pinball Happens I Now Know Better Supershow 2008 PW Convention 2007 Supershow 2006