BBE:WS

Pingame Journal

All About Southern Illinois

Last updated on: 1/14/2015 12:44 PM 
Created on: 3/21/2014 2:18 PM 

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It is mid September and once again the Chicago Pinball Mafia road crew hit the Interstate to the Super Summer Show Sendoff (now there is some alliteration!) The real name of the show is the Heartland Supershow and this time we brought a few members with us to help make the trip a party. I have been attending the show now for all four years that it has been running and must compliment the organizers who have brought it a long way from that first effort.

Four years ago the Southern Illinois Pinball Players Association put on the first show, which was to be a one day, everything a show can offer scale of event. The day would start with a flee market, then the free play area would open and a tournament would take place. At the end of the day there would be an auction so you could take home the game you have been enjoying. The organizers quickly learned to take the baby-steps approach. Sadly, they also stopped filling the hall with festive balloons.

The show then moved one city over, to its current home in Herrin, Illinois. Designed to be a show to cater to the Southern Illinois, St. Louis and Kentucky pinball crowd, the show has since focused on what it does best, a free play area jam packed with games from all eras. It didn't matter if your taste was for the old EMs, or if you are a more modern pinball junkie, or if you wanted to try out a game you have most likely never heard of before, this show offers plenty of each.

Building upon that success, the show last year added a charity auction. In contrast to the charity auction held at Pinball Expo, this auction is tastefully done and the offerings encourage real bids from people who don't mind helping the local charities. Growing still, the show then ramped up to the next level this year by adding seminars. While you won't find John Tredeau showing off game designs he was happy never were made, you will find local pinball enthusiasts spreading the word of pinball.

Each year, when we arrive, we are greeted by the friendliest staff you will find at a pinball show. That is immediately followed by coming face to face with the latest title offered by Stern Pinball. This year, no surprise, was Batman (the Dark Knight.) It appeared to us that for many show attendees, this is their first glimpse of the game and a chance to experience in all its glory, the coffee can! Wait, I mean the Joker Reveal! If that experience was just way to fresh, the next game in the line is the classic Stern title, Lord of the Rings. Terry of Pinball Life (the show's official vendor) replaced all the feature lamps with his LED bulbs. If this trend continues I need to start bringing sun glasses to pinball shows. I'll put this in print that pin point lighting in up to 64 locations 2 to 3 feet from your eyes, not a good idea! Pinball is about soft ambient light, the kind that calls you to a corner in a dark bar inviting people to "play me" in a warm and inviting way. I'm not alone; it appears Brian Bannon feels the same way.

Brian Bannon is a pinball enthusiast who has on many occasions brought games from his collection to share at Pinball Expo. This year, he brought some real nice, freshly restored examples for the Supershow. Each game used warm, inviting incandescent light. Show attendees were blown away by the condition of his Stern Cheetah, including many members of CPM who would just not walk away from it. The game looked beautiful. The game is also wide, very wide. Freshly cleaned, rebuilt everything and you were playing a smooth game that felt fresh off the assembly line.

Of the seven CPM members that were present (yes we are up to seven on this trip) I was the only one who broke away from the group consensus and found Brian's Galaxy to be a far better playing game. Stern Galaxy, a nice 80s space themed game, hasn't impressed me at previous shows. I'm not sure if the same amount of work went into Galaxy as Cheetah but it is the winner between the two. What I found lacking is Galaxy doesn't have the staple of sling shots above the flippers, but the way this game plays that would have made the game extremely fast. For starters, trying to hit the saucer off the plunge, which looks like a sure shot, proved elusive. Hitting the spinner shot sent the spinner rotating at speeds that made the shot satisfying and reminded the player of days when spinners were out of control crazy fun. Add in fresh star post and bouncy white rubbers and you have an old school Stern game that can rival its modern counterparts.

I mentioned this show always provides a game never seen before. For me, that title is Warlock. At first glance, you might say that this playfield is just Blackout. It is different in just a few ways but in very interesting ways. Continuing with my love of spinners from Galaxy, Warlock provides multiple spinners. It also provides an upper left orbit shot that while basic, again feels satisfying to hit and awards a progressive score award. Warlock also goes one step up on Blackout by reclaiming space in the shooter lane for a shot. It is a nice design touch and a reminder of cool tricks designers worked on to optimize playfield use. As an update, this game made an appearance at Pinball Expo 2008, 2 weeks after the Supershow.

While a show like this is a great way to relive the past, does pinball have a future? I wonder if this show provides a hint of hope that the answer to that question is yes. In talking with show organizers, for the two day stretch of the show they reached maximum attendance. That doesn't mean the floor was filled with people, which would mean long waits for games. Instead, that number means how many people can come and go and at the same time prevent over crowding so there are always some machines open for play. When you are talking about 100 games on free play, over a 2 day period, you are talking about a decent number of people attending. The other interesting observation is that in reviewing the pictures I took for this article, there is no shortage of children playing the games. I'm not talking about plunging the ball and then just randomly hitting the flippers, these kids are actually playing.

I had an opportunity to go head to head with one child on Revenge from Mars. My opponent was Levi who is exposed to pinball through his father's at home parts business, Pinball Life. We have been jumping at every chance to play this particular RFM every time it was open. When we both went for it at the same time, we went head to head, and he won with a score 7 times my own. While this particular youth knows pinball, many of the children in attendance crowded around the game used in the "how to play pinball" seminar. Here, kids ages 6 to 14 were taught by Derek Fugate, up close and personal, the art of aiming, drop catching and ball passing.

If you wanted to experience everything Gottleib, this show is perfect for you. CPM member Yancy, made it to the show for the first time. As with all our first times attending the show, he enjoyed checking out "Lights, Camera, Action!" RazerX, who also has been to every show, instead found himself enjoying "Hollywood Heat". However, the game that drew the most attention from the crowd was the head to head pinball machine, A.G. Football. If you are not familiar with this title, one person stands at one end of the playfield and plays the blue team while a second person stands at the opposite end and plays the red team. For single player games there are switches on top of the flippers that tell the controller when to flip.

In addition to the unusual there are always some classic staples to enjoy. Not only did I find time to get re-acquainted with Swords of Fury but I also had a chance to revisit a totally Radical game. I admit as a kid I wished I could have been a cool skater, but in Radical it is all about the unique playfield that keeps me coming back. This rare game, and one slowly creeping up the "B" list, offers crazy, curved shots, drop targets that must be dropped to hit shots, and rules that require you to hit every shot. Plus, I am always drawn to the games with vivid colors. While hogging this title, I had a chance to try and repair a switch problem with the game, the switch won.

Now if all this hasn't been enough pinball experiences, I also had a chance to play my first game on a Direct Ink playfield. On hand was a restored Sorcerer (not the rare dark version) and as someone not intimately familiar with the game, I didn't find any obvious issues. The artwork was well detailed and the clear coat made the game play on the fast side, in turn making it a furiously playing game. The speed I am not use to as I have only played worn or mylared playfields in the past. The ability to restore these older games and keep parts of our history alive and moving forward is an art I hope continues to be perfected. I jumped into the hobby right before the innovation of the DMD game. As I attend more of these shows I find myself wandering back in time and appreciating the games I didn't have a chance to play before starting my addiction.

If you are not enjoying these older game experiences I am having and want to stick to the DMD games, don't worry as those are well represented. I had my time on Corvette, Theatre of Magic and White Water. I remember last year when I was hogging the Theatre of Magic for most of the weekend contemplating purchasing it. In an interesting switch in personal tastes though, no DMD game came close to making the list for Game of the Show.

Speaking of which, I was in on the conversation with the show organizers to decide on the winner of the Game of the Show award. I could say Radical but while that game interests me it didn't blow me away. Warlock is a great contender for this award. If it had the same level of quality in art as Blackout does this would be a hands down winner. I told the organizers that the game that wins it is that Stern Galaxy. Yes the organizers were scratching their head in the same manner you most likely are after reading that. When you make a game play that good, where the most basic shots are fun to hit, and yet you struggle to put up a good score, so you keep coming back for more, then you made a great accomplishment for the hobby. When I restore games I will always sacrifice a bit of something if it means that the game is playing properly. The most important details are when the ball meets and leaves the flippers that make a game a good player. In the end, I don't know what game they picked but it doesn't matter. Wolffy said it is Galaxy and that is what appears in Pingame Journal so there you go!

The conclusion of this show also concludes our road trips for pinball in 2008. While it is too soon to know what shows are on our schedule for 2009 I do know that I am making plans to return to the Supershow. If you would like to read more about the show, or even take up the organizer's offer to hear your suggestions, visit their website.

Supershow Website

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