Home Blog

Pinside Top 100

0

It’s a question that comes up all the time, what are the top pinball machines of all time? A while back Pinside came up with their top 100 list, and that’s become the go to place for ratings, taking the crown from ipdb.org‘s Top 300 list. Part of that probably stems from the fact that ipdb requires user registration to see the lists while Pinside lists are available for everyone to see.

Is the list accurate?

Well, that kind of depends on what kind of player you are. If you are a player who likes theme, art, and toys above everything else, the list could be pretty accurate for you. If you’re a person who likes deep rulesets more than anything else, then the list probably isn’t very accurate in that manor. The list is somewhat weighted towards art/theme/toys more than rules, and the rankings reflect that for the most part. For instance, Tales of the Arabian Nights is, by most accounts, not a very good game for home use. It’s beautiful to look at it and is very cool, but after you play it a few times you start to realize that it doesn’t shoot the best and the rules aren’t very good overall unfortunately.

It also usually puts newer games above older games for the most part except for some of the all time greats. There are very few games from the 80’s on the list, and every time a new game comes out usually a game from the 90’s/early 00’s gets pushed out, making the list very heavy with recent games.

The other problem is that people have gone out of their way to ‘rig’ the rankings with false really low scores and high scores. I think the developers of Pinside were notified of the issue but to my knowledge nothing was ever done about it (other than the ability to flag a review). It was suggested that the top 10% and bottom 10% be dropped to make the reviews more accurate and I would tend to agree with that sentiment in order to filter out stuff outside the mean.

Should I trust their rankings with buying decisions?

I would say no, the best thing to do is to play the game first. If that isn’t possible, the next best thing to do is actually read the user reviews. Typically if a game has a glaring flaw, you’ll see it mentioned over and over again in the user reviews. Like in the Tales of the Arabian Nights reviews you’d probably see tons of references to poor rules. If the flaw is something you really care about, it’s probably going to be one of those games you’d better off just playing at a friends house and not owning.

How to Clean a Pinball Machine

0
PInball machines to clean
PInball machines to clean

Cleaning a pinball machine looks like it might be tough at first, but is actually pretty easy once you get over the intimidation factor. In fact most people are terrified of even removing the glass. When I started, I remember being very intimidated the first time I removed the glass, I thought I might drop it, it might break in my hands, etc. It was easy though, and once I did that one time it’s been a piece of cake ever since. The video below shows how to do it:

Cleaning the pinball playfield

Once the glass is off, the next step is to get some paper towels or other rag to clean with. Along with the rag, you’re going to want some Novus 2. Novus 2 is the preferred cleaner for cleaning pinball playfields. If your paint is particularly fragile you may have to use something else, but I’ve found it to work well on everything. You can buy it directly through Amazon through my affiliate link below:

Novus 2 Pinball Cleaner

It works really well, in fact you’ll probably be using it for other things around the house as well. I’ve used it to get scratches out of all kinds of plastic, it’s a miracle worker on those things. My wife always asks me if I can use my ‘pinball stuff’ to clean things for her, lol.

Once you’ve got the cleaner and rags, you can dab a little bit on the playfield or rag and start cleaning. You should see the rag start to turn black in color and the playfield become instantly more shiny. Continue this process from the flippers all the way up the playfield, cleaning plastics, ramps, targets, rubbers, etc, it works on everything. You have to be a little careful not to use too much and spread it into places that don’t clean easy like Star Posts. Star posts get cleaner in their ribs that’s very difficult to get out then unfortunately.

How long should you clean? Until no more black stuff gets on your rag. On older playfields which don’t have clearcoat you don’t want to scrub too long or you might start to get into the paint. Older playfields also tend to flake so you want to be careful with your rag as well. Some people use 90% rubbing alcohol and magic erasers to clean their older playfield, they say it gets dirt out of the hairline cracks. I’ve honestly never had much luck with it, but maybe I just wasn’t do it right (or the playfield I was doing it on was too far gone).

Waxing

I used to be a big fan of waxing but in the past few years I’ve kind of gotten away from it. I found that it tended to make a big mess (white stuff on star posts is super annoying) and was a little counterproductive overall (basically the extra protection is a little overkill in home use). Most people wax with a carnuaba wax. One of the most popular brands is this one through my Amazon affiliate link:

P21s Carnuaba Wax

You can try it out and see what you think. Maybe I’ve just gotten lazy, lol. Waxing does allow for some faster gameplay and wicked spins on the ball.

Cleaning Pinball Metal Pieces

Sometimes after a long period of time, some of your pinball metal pieces will get really dirt, rusted, or scratched. There are a few ways to fix this. The best thing I’ve found to polish smaller pieces is to use a tumbler and some Flitz metal polish. What’s a tumbler? Well I didn’t know either at first, but mainly they use it to polish gun shells so they can be reused. That used to be a huge thing but I don’t think it’s as popular anymore. In any case, basically it just shakes like your buzzing cell phone for hours and hours and hours with some crushed shells in it + metal polish. This creates kind of a polishing machine which makes metal look chrome like or brand new after a while. When I was restoring games to look like new, I would put almost all the pieces through one.

The one I’d recommend is below, along with the metal polish and crushed walnut shells:

Hopefully that helps you find the stuff to do that. It works on household stuff too, I’ve used it to fix things I’ve accidentally let get rusty or corroded. It works wonders, just needs a little time. I will worn you that it doesn’t work as well with things that have lots of little holes because the shells might get stuck in the holes.

Wrapup

Hopefully this helps you out when cleaning your pinball machine. It can be pretty hard the first time, but after that you’ll be twice as fast. Doing it yourself will save you a lot of money from hiring it out plus you’ll be able to do it a lot more often. Usually you have to clean a game every few hundred plays at home if you want it to still play good. After that and the game starts getting a lot slower playing.

Fender Squier Mini vs Ibanez Mikro vs Peavey Iron Man Guitar Showdown, The Best Electric Guitars for Kids

0
Best three mini guitars
Squier Mini, Ibanez Mikro, and Peavey Rockmaster pictured from left to right.

If you’re searching for a guitar for child just starting out, regular guitars are just too big. They’re too heavy, the necks are too thick, and most importantly, they’re TOO LONG.

That’s where the 3/4 size guitars come in. They resolve all the problems that kids have with the normal sized guitars while still sounding great. My sons have played all three of these a bunch, and through watching them and using them myself, I can finally put together an extensive review here. This review covers about a 3 year use case, so it’s definitely not like I picked them up yesterday and am now writing a review, we’ve had these things for a while. We were using them almost exclusively with Rocksmith 2014, if you haven’t heard of that I recommend you check it out as it’s an awesome way to learn.


Fender Squier Mini

This is definitely the most popular choice of the three mainly because its brand is so much stronger than the other two. If you see a 3/4 size guitar at a store, it’s likely to be this one. One of the good things about it is that it comes in a variety of colors, from pink to blue to black. We’ve got a the red one, it’s really nice looking in person.

Fender Squier Mini 3/4 Guitar
Fender Squier Mini 3/4 Guitar

This was the first of the three that we bought. My son became interested in Rocksmith about 3 or 4 years ago and I bought this guitar for him to start with. He played this thing for over 100 hours without any issues, and in fact still looks brand new. It worked really well with the game as well, registering tones very well.


Probably the biggest downside of the guitar is that it doesn’t sound particularly good when compared to a full size guitar. The rest of the construction is on par with a full size guitar of similar price.

Ibanez Mikro

The Ibanez Mikro is kind of like the darkhorse of the 3/4 electric guitar scene. Not nearly as popular as Fender, the Ibanez Mikro makes up for that with a higher build quality and better sound overall.

Ibanez Mikro 3/4 Guitar
Ibanez Mikro 3/4 Guitar

I got the Ibanez about 2 years ago when looking into getting a 3/4 Bass (check out the Ibanez Mikro Bass if you’re interested in that at all, it’s a good mini bass). Based upon the reviews I had read, they said it was a higher quality version of the mini Squier. After my son and I have used it over the past couple years, I think I would agree with that sentiment.


In general, it’s a better sounding guitar with more frets too (24 vs 21). The design is slightly more edgier as well, looking more grown up than the mini Squier which looks kind of like a toy sometimes with the bright colors. Honestly though, both of them are very close in performance, I don’t think you could go wrong with either of them. I can’t say the same for the Peavy though.

Peavey Rockmaster, Iron Man Edition

The Peavey Rockmaster is series of guitars themed for kids, with guitars featuring Iron Man and Captain America. That in itself gives them a huge appeal for kids wanting to play, my youngest loved that his guitar had Iron Man on it. The actual quality of the guitar though left a lot to be desired.

Peavey Rockmaster Guitar, Iron Man edition
Peavey Rockmaster Guitar, Iron Man edition

When I first got the guitar, out of the box it was a mess. All the strings were broke or unusable, and the neck was bowed so badly that it was unplayable. It took some severe truss rod neck adjustment in order to get it playable.


After I got it adjusted and added new strings, it became somewhat playable. It’s not the worst guitar, but it’s well below the Squier or Mikro in terms of quality. However, my son will not part with it, to him he’d rather have Iron Man on his guitar than play one that’s of better quality. He’s only 9 though, and I think as he gets older he may change his mind.

Probably the best way to describe the difference is that the Peavey Rockmaster feels like a toy while the Squier Mini and Ibanez Mikro feel like real guitars. I wish the quality was better so I could give it a good recommendation, but I would steer clear of it if at all possible. It’s just not on the same level as the other two.

Best Mini Guitar for Kids

Out of the three, the Ibanez Mikro is the one I’d recommend the most for kids. It’s just a better quality instrument than the other two, and since their prices are so similar you might as well go for the better one.

Second place would go to the Fender Squier Mini Stratocaster. It’s the most popular version and isn’t a bad choice by any means. It comes in a lot more styles and colors than the Ibanez, so if your son or daughter likes the look of it more than the Ibanez, it’s not a bad choice to go with it instead.

In a distant third place I’d put the Peavey Rockmaster. It’s just not a good enough guitar compared to the other two to recommend. I probably would have returned it if I wouldn’t have gotten it for my son as a gift. He just loves it too much in spite of the flaws.

Hopefully this article has helped you decide which mini guitar to start your child on. I know I had a lot of questions when I started out, wish there would have been an article like this to give it to me straight (which is why I wrote this). If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Pinball Rubber, Tips, Tricks, and the Best Brands

0
White Pinball Rubber
White Pinball Rubber

Pinball Rubber

The one thing that every pinball machine needs every few years is new rubber. Much like the rubber on your tires, once it gets 5 years old it starts to deteriorate to the point where it likes to fall apart. On top of that, you have white rubber, black rubber, and now silicon rings which play like rubber but are something totally different. I’m going to run down all the different types, what I recommend and where to buy everything.

White Rubber

White is the original rubber that was used on all pinball machines. Super bouncy, it bounces better than all other colors. Bet you didn’t know that different colors bounce at different levels? Usually, the lighter the color, the more it bounces. So white is typically the bounciest, while black has less bounce and offers more control.

The problem with white is dirt. While black hides all the dirt, white can get dirty pretty quickly, making your new rubber look like it’s old. A quick wipe down fixes that, but it’s still additional time. On the flip side though, white rubber produces far less dirt than black rubber, meaning the playfield stays way cleaner with white rubber. So basically, either way you’re going to be cleaning something more often.

The one place white rubber is typically never used is the flippers themselves (except for on 40 year old or older games). On newer games the rubber gets too dirty and bounces too much to make it a good choice.

I typically put white rubber on all of my games when I replace all the rubbers. I find they last longer than black most of the time, and keeps the game cleaner. For the flippers, I usually match the color to what would look good on the game (red, yellow, orange, purple, etc). Some of those colors like orange though are really bouncy and make the game very hard.

Black Rubber

Black is the standard which all new games are shipped with. Because it hides dirt so well, operators prefer it so it makes their games look newer longer. It offers a pretty good mix of durability with looks and playability.

As far as aesthetics go, some games look better with white and some look better with black. I think most of the newer Stern games look better with black while some of the older titles look much better with white. The color scheme makes a big difference with which one looks best.

Generally, black is the most common rubber on modern games. I used to prefer black for a long time until I did white on a Star Trek: The Next Generation machine. The white on it played better so I switched from black on all future games.

Silicone Pinball Rubber

Silicone pinball rubber rings are the newest innovation to the pinball hobby. Unlike regular rubber, Silicone pinball rings have a lot of advantages over the traditional rings. Those advantages are:

  • Longer lasting in home use (typically don’t dry out like rubber)
  • Less dirt

They also have some disadvantages, mainly:

  • More expensive
  • Can change gameplay

I’m still on the fence whether I like them or not. On the flippers, they can cause some unnatural grip and bounce that’s hard to get used to. There are two major players in the Silicone space, Titan Pinball and Perfect Play. Titan is generally thought of as the leader in the non-rubber category.

Green Superbands
Green Superbands

Superbands

Superbands are made from polyurethane and are very similar to the silicon rings, so the descriptions above still work for them. They are less popular than Titan’s rings mainly because they change gameplay more than Titan’s. They’re also more expensive than Titan’s but they do last longer to make up for that. I had some Superbands on the flippers of Creature of the Black Lagoon and I definitely did not like the feel, so your mileage may vary.

Rubber Wrapup

I think if I were to a game in new rubber that I was planning on keeping for a long time, I’d probably go with Titan Pinball silicon rings. The overall look is better and the additional cost is minimal. I’m probably going to have to do some of my older games here in a year or two, and that’s probably the direction I’ll go.

What I would suggest is getting flipper rubber from all the different brands and then trying them out. That way you can see exactly what you personally like better before investing a bunch of money.

Super Kixx Pro Released

0

In 1984, ICE first tried to go beyond Hockey and Chexx to make a soccer game, Kixx soccer.  It was a mild success, but not enough to continue it.  Fast forward 35 years, ICE has decided to finally bring a new version of Kixx to sell.

New Features (Kixx vs Super Kixx Pro)

Compared to the old version, the most obvious upgrades are to the sights and sounds on the new color screen.  Most of the surrounding plastics on the fields have gotten an upgrade as well.  Gone also is the turf from the earlier games, it’s now replaced by a flat green surface similar to the hockey games.  I think this is a big improvement in speeding up the game.

Also new are the dual LCD screens, one in each corner of the the field.  Instead of the overhead scoreboard, ICE put them in the corners.

To launch the ball, ICE added an elevator mechanism to bring the ball up to the field.

You can also order each game now with your favorite teams right off the bat.  Unfortunately, the game is also pretty expensive at over $4000.  But if you like soccer more than hockey, it could be a really good option.  You just have to decide whether you want this for $4k+ or a regular Foosball table for under $1k.  I think that’s part of the reason it hasn’t came back before now, Foosball is more popular and probably hurts sales since it’s cheaper and in the same sport.

I’m hoping to play one of these eventually on location but I’m guessing it’s going to be pretty hard.  I don’t expect to see very many of these around, as Super Chexx games are pretty hard to find on location as well.