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Top 5 Early 80’s Pinball Machines

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Firepower Pinball Machine with LED's
Firepower Pinball Machine with LED's

The late 70’s and early 80’s is when pinball first changed from the EM style to digital electronics.  Along with this came some of the best pinball machines ever made, ones that are still lots of fun to this day.  I’ve played a ton of these games, so I’ve made a list of my top 5 pinball machines from the 80’s.

#1 Eight Ball Deluxe

This is probably the most famous game of the group.  Produced in large quantities, this game was a mainstay in arcades and bars for years.  Based upon pool, it has an easy to learn ruleset but is difficult to master.  One of the things people really loved about it on location is the amount of free games and extra balls you could earn from it in different ways.

The basic ruleset is that you want to knock down the drop targets on the right and then hit the 8 ball target for big points.  You can find the complete ruleset here:

Eight Ball Deluxe Rulesheet

Prices on this game is $1500 to $2500 usually for the original version, the limited edition that came with the smaller head is less desirable and is generally a lot less expensive (even though it’s the same game).

Like all the early Bally games, it has great artwork.  It is also one of the first games to feature speech.

 

#2 Fathom

Probably the best looking game of the early 80’s, it features a fantastic backglass and playfield of an ocean dive.  I restored one of these about 5 years ago, it was a great game.  I actually regret selling it quite a bit now, but not much I can do about that now.  It’s also one of the most expensive games of that era, Fathom will cost you at a minimum $3000 and probably closer to $4k for just an average example.

Fathom like Firepower features a 3 ball multiball.  I think Fathom’s is better though, because it doubles and triples the playfield depending on how many balls are remaining.  It also has a 1, 2, 3 target bank up front that if you hit them in order and then hit the standup target to the right, you can earn an extra ball.  Fathom is like a lot of the Bally games of that era, it’s very bonus heavy.  The best strategy is to try and get all of the blue and green multipliers to 5x and then get that bonus elevated for major points.

There isn’t a rulesheet online for Fathom unfortunately, but there is a good tutorial video:

#3  Firepower

Firepower is one least attractive early games but also one of the best playing games.  Featuring a three ball multiball, it’s a pretty hard and fun game to have at home.  I owned one for about a year, I really liked it other than the fact that the electronics on it were a little flaky at times.

The basic ruleset is that you need to complete the bank of targets 1 through 6 to light 2 of the 3 lock locations.  From there, you need to lock a ball in both of those places to start the Firepower multiball, which is a pretty cool sequence.  Depending on which of the locks lights up, it can be pretty difficult to start the multiball.  The lock in the back of the game in particular needs strong flippers to reach.

The rulesheet for Firepower is below:

Firepower Rulesheet

The one good thing about Firepower is that it’s cheaper than a lot of other 80’s games.  They made a ton of them and the general unattractiveness of the game compared to other games has kept the price at a reasonable $1000 to $1500 range for the most part.  Sometimes you can even find them cheap broken since the electronics weren’t the greatest.

#4 Black Knight

The first multilevel game ever created, the Black Knight was a huge hit when it was released in 1980.  I owned this game for about a year as well.  I liked it a lot but not as much as Firepower or Fathom, mainly because the music was kind of annoying and most of the game revolved around getting the ball to the upper playfield (there is updated code that addresses this issue now).

One of the cool things the game features is a magna save, which is an extra button on the side that you press to save the ball from the outlane.  It works pretty good most of the time, although occasionally it contributes to your demise.

Rulesheet for the Black Knight can be found here:

Black Knight Rulesheet

 

#5 Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon is one tough game.  It was basically Bally’s answer for Black Knight, their first two level playfield.  Unlike other games of the era though, Flash Gordon doesn’t have any multiball, it’s just the toughest single ball game of that era according to many players.

It has a similar ruleset to most of the other Bally games of the era.  The main focus is you try and hit targets to get double or triple scoring for 15 seconds, although honestly keeping the ball alive that long would be a feat most of the time, lol.  It has the same bonus features of the other Bally games, that’s one of the things I really like about games of that era.

Honorable Mention

There are a ton games that could go below.  Some ones that I can think of off the top of my head are:

Paragon:  Probably the best art package of any game of that era.  The backglass is just stunning.

Black Hole:  Featuring an upside down playfield underneath, it was something totally mind blowing compared to everything else at the time.

Stargazer:  Fantastic Art, good playing game, and very rare.  It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to play one except for maybe at a show.

Centaur:  A lot of people have this game as their favorite.  It might have the biggest multiball of the era at 5, but I’m not sure 100% sure.  I really like the game, but the art is only so-so for me (although a lot of people love it).

Hopefully this list of top 80’s pinball machines has helped you discover some games you haven’t heard of or pointed you towards some games to aspire to.  I’m looking to add a Flash Gordon here at some point myself, might take a while though.

 

Converting your Foosball Table from Three Goalies to One

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Tornado Foosball converted from three goalies to one
Tornado Foosball converted from three goalies to one

If you’ve ever played Foosball 20 to 30 years ago, you would remember that almost all Foosball tables back then on location had only 1 goalie.  That was part of the fun, getting a ball to roll into the corner and then trying to stop it when it rolled at an angle towards your goal.  Sadly, none of the major manufacturers make tables with only one goalie anymore, they all have three, following Tornado who I believe started the trend a while back to save money (players were cheaper than building the angle ramps).

The Three Goalie to One Conversion Kit

There is a solution now for those that want to go back to the good old days, at least for those of us with Shelti or Tornado Foosball tables (I can’t confirm that the kit works on all brands).  I bought the kit to be install on my Tornado Cyclone II, but it should fit any model.

Goalie conversion kit
Goalie conversion kit

 

The kit is fairly easy to install, probably took me 40 minutes total to install it.  The install process is this:

  1. Remove all the players from one goal rod.  There should be three of them.
  2. Slide the rod out and put all items that are required (rubber stoppers, goalie, then another rubber stopper) on the rod, then slide it back into the hole.
  3. Start attaching the player and stoppers back to the rod.  Make sure that the player is facing the right way.
  4. Repeat for the other side.
  5. Bring out the 4 corner pieces
  6. Place each one in a different corner.  You can use the double sided tape on each one to secure it to the table.  I found mine didn’t move even when not secured, so I haven’t used the tape for now.

That’s it.  Pretty easy overall.

three goalie converted to one
three goalie converted to one

The next question is, how does it play?  MUCH better.  🙂  At least to me.  I’m sure current tournament players would hate it.  For me though, it just feels right.  It’s supposed to emulating soccer and soccer doesn’t have three goalies, lol.

The kit is available here through my Amazon Affiliate link:

One Man Foosball Conversion Kit

If you’re interested in Foosball, I have other Foosball articles you might like:

Foosball Sound System

Tornado Foosball Guide

Xbox Game Pass now includes new releases

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Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass Now Includes New Releases

If you’re an Xbox owner, chances are you heard about Xbox Game Pass when it came out last year.  For most people it wasn’t that big of a deal.  It included some good titles like Halo 5 but a lot of the titles that were included were the games that were in the bargain bin at this point or were older 360 games enabled through backwards compatibility.

Due to this, I never game the Xbox Game Pass much of a thought.  I usually buy most of the new releases, and by the time they would make it something like game pass I’d be long done playing them.  The price at $10 a month is fine, I just couldn’t see how it would be saving me any money.

New Releases Now Included With Xbox Game Pass

Enter the announcement this week from Microsoft, the tables have turned a little.  Rather than putting games into the service after they’d been out for a while, they’re now going to put all first party releases into the service when they’re released.  That’s a game changer for a lot of people.  This means that Microsoft’s big upcoming game, Sea of Thieves, will be available from the service when it’s released March 20th, 2018.  Not only that, but every upcoming Forza, Halo, and Gears game will also be available from the service.  If Microsoft releases two major games a year that you’d normally buy, then right off the bat you’ll be breaking even by doing the subscription, plus you’ll now get all these additional games that you normally wouldn’t.

In addition, there’s a wildcard here that makes it even better, Xbox Game Sharing.  If you have a friend or second home xbox that you’re already sharing games with, this will work with that as well.  So when Sea of Thieves comes out, you’ll be able to get it on two different Xbox’s if you’re using game sharing in tandem with the game pass.  I do game sharing at home, and this will be huge for me.

Will I be buying this service?  I think the answer is probably ‘yes’.  I have a data limit on my internet which makes downloading full games rather difficult, but the money I’d save is just too good to pass up.  There’s definitely no harm in trying it for a year if you know you’re going to buy two of the games anyways, the worst you could do is break even.

 

Paragon Cineplex Popcorn Machine Review

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Paragon Cineplex Popcorn Machine
Paragon Cineplex Popcorn Machine

One thing that’s gotten more popular the past 15 years or so is the emergence of personal home theaters.  With those theaters has come projectors, theater seating, and of course, popcorn machines.  I got into home theater back in 2003, building a dedicated home theater complete with home theater chairs and projector.  Unfortunately at that time, I couldn’t afford a popcorn machine, spent most of my money just finishing the basement.

Fast forward about 10 years, I finally had enough money to buy a popcorn machine.  I did a bunch of research on them, finally figured out that the machine had to have two key features:

  • warming tray
  • old maid drawer

In all the reviews I read, they all mentioned that those things were two of the biggest nice features to have.  That narrowed down the field quite a bit.

I also had to decide what size of a kettle to get, 4, 6, or 8 oz.  It was pretty obvious from reading that the 8 oz was going to be way too much for home use unless you used smaller packs in it.  That left 4 oz and 6 oz sizes.  I went back and forth and finally decided on the 4 oz.  Most people said that 4 oz made popcorn for 4 people, which seemed about right for my typical use case.

Next was to figure out what manufacturer to buy from.  Back then, there was a company producing a fairly cheap machine at less than $200 I believe and then there were the Paragon Popcorn Machines that were slightly more expensive.  Almost everyone said to go with the more expensive machine because it will last forever and parts are readily available should you need them.  They were 100% correct, I would have totally regretted getting a cheaper model.  I’ll probably have this machine for decades, so saving $100 on something like that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I had the choice of copper, red, or yellow colored.  While red and yellow might go good in some basements, in mine the copper looked a lot more classy overall, so I went with that.  Amazon sells it now as well, you can see it through my affiliate link below:

Paragon Cineplex Popcorn Machine

Unboxing and Setup

The Cineplex was a breeze to setup.  Mainly just putting in the light bulb, removing all the packing material, and then it’s ready to use.  It’s mostly already put together for you.

What isn’t specified though is exactly how you make the popcorn.  I thought that was an interesting omission, maybe they’ve corrected it by now.  I had to go look up the ratios and everything before I could actually use it.

Paragon Cineplex with kettle tipped
Paragon Cineplex with kettle tipped

Operation

Once you figure out how to make the popcorn, it’s actually very easy to do.  It’s basically:

  • turn on the power
  • turn on the kettle
  • wait for the kettle to warm up
  • put in the cooking oil, popcorn, and seasoning in that order
  • put the lid back on the kettle
  • wait for the popcorn to come out
  • when it’s done popping, turn off the kettle
  • Dump out the kettle into the bottom of the machine
  • scoop and eat

What isn’t quite so easy is the mess it makes over time.  Admittedly, I’m not a very good cleaner after I make it, and you don’t really have to be.  But after a while, you get a lot of oil on the windows that you’ll have to really work at to get off.  Just a note for those thinking about, you don’t really have be super clean about it, but eventually you’ll have to clean it good.

Paragon Cineplex with Light on
Paragon Cineplex with Light on

The popcorn from the machine is fantastic, just like the theater.  It definitely is a step up from microwave popcorn, a big hit at parties (especially for the smell it produces, everyone loves that smell).

Long Term Use

So unlike a normal review, I’ve had this machine for years.  Due to that, I can attest to the build quality of it.  I’ve never had one issue with it over these past years, even the light bulb is still going.  Cleaning is the only drawback to the thing, if you’ve got the space and love popcorn, it’s hard to go wrong.

I originally bought all the individual supplies separately but I’ve been thinking about doing the packs instead.  Easier to store, less mess, probably tastes better ( but also less healthy too unfortunately).  When I try those out I’ll update this review with those results.  I’m thinking about trying out several different kinds to see what I like best.

Conclusion

If you’ve got the space and plan on using it long term, it’s hard to go wrong with the Paragon Cineplex Popcorn Machine.  It’s reliable, makes great popcorn, is affordable, and looks great in your home.  There really aren’t any major drawbacks to it other than the cleaning.  Hopefully this review helps in your search.  I’ve also put together a popcorn machine guide based upon my experiences.

Popcorn Machine Guide

Pinside Forum

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Some of you reading this website are probably members of the pinside forum, the biggest and best pinball forum on the Internet currently.  If you’re not, this article is to educate you on it while giving some tips and pointers to help you along the way.

The Main Pinside Forum

This is where the large majority of people will spend most of their time.  Basically, people post topics about games, manufacturers, mods, and other things at a very high rate, making it pretty hard to keep up with it sometimes.  If you’re into pinball and want something to read 24 hours a day, there’s enough there to keep you occupied for years.  The main forum is located here:

Pinside Forum

Where the forum really comes in handy is when you need one of four things:

  • Buying a pinball game
  • Selling a pinball game
  • Fixing a pinball machine
  • Modding a pinball machine

Buying and Selling a Game

When buying a game, you used to find most games through forum topics that people started.  Now though, all games for sale must go through the marketplace.  They may still have a forum topic assigned to them if the seller chooses, but it’s better to just search the marketplace to begin with.  The marketplace can be found here:

Pinside Marketplace

Besides just looking for games to buy, you can also sell your game on the marketplace.  The marketplace is a great place to list your game.  However, you should know that it is not a free listing unlike Mr. Pinball or Craigslist.  You will find far more buyers on Pinside though then those other two places.  When listing a game, the most important things are to have good pictures, a good description, and a fair price.  You do all those things, and you’ll likely have a buyer fairly quickly as long as your location isn’t in the middle of nowhere.

When selling a game, you can choose whether or not to add a forum topic along with your marketplace listing.  Generally this a good idea UNLESS you’re asking a well above average price.  In that case, you’re going to get raked over the coals by the price police (basically users who point out to new users that their asking price is ridiculous).  You can still do it in that case, just need to have some thick skin.

If you go into the main page for each game, there is a marketplace archive which details what every game sold for in the past few years.  That really helps when determining valuation.

Modding a Pinball Machine

Ten years ago, modding a pinball machine was limited to Addams Family and Twilight Zone mainly.  Today though, modding has kind of gone a little out of control.  There are hundreds of threads related to modding every single pinball machine out there it seems.  The best place to look if you want to mod your machine is in the individual game threads.  Every game has a huge ‘official’ thread that details mods, repairs, rule explanations, etc.

A lot of the mods are now in the marketplace.  If you find the mod in the official thread and want to buy it, going to the marketplace for that game is a good idea.

Some of the general mods like Color DMD, Pinstadium lights, Pinsound, etc have their own dedicated threads.  Reading these threads can help you determine if that mod will work on your machine and how much work it will be to install it.  Some mods are really easy to install, some are rather difficult.

Tips and Tricks to the Forum

When you register, you can add your games to your ‘collection’ in your profile.  I would recommend doing this as sometimes it can lead to trades and other helpful things.

If you read the forum a lot, you’ll notice that some posters post 50x more than other posters, and are often in every single thread stirring the pot.  I’d recommend either putting those users on ‘ignore’ or not engaging in conversation with them if you can avoid it.  They’ll just make your online experience less enjoyable for the most part.

The Top 100 list of best games is a good starting point when looking at games.  However, very rarely does anyone’s personal top games match that list, it’s all about what you’re into.  The list is also heavily weighted towards art, so you have games that play not so great but are beautiful (like Tales of the Arabian Nights) right around the tenth spot.

Hopefully this information helps new users out.