austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

My life has been such a whirlwind since I saw you

The thing drawing us from Massachusetts back to New Hampshire was the Pinball Wizard Arcade. This is what it sounds like, although the location is tucked inside a strip mall so I didn't see it at first. I was surprised to learn it didn't have a pay-one-price admission; I had imagined something akin to the Silverball Museum. What they have instead is just an arcade. You go in, change money for tokens, and play games with the tokens. The Pinball Wizard Arcade is, in many ways, what the Brighton Arcade had wanted to be. It's got a vast room --- this clearly used to be an anchor store, something the size of a sporting goods place --- with row after row of pinball machines going back to the 70s, and past that, video games going back to the 80s. Yes, there's a Pac-Man eating a bunch of dots on the wall, as decor. Also yes, there's an REO Speedwagon CD among the redemption prizes at the counter.

They've got a lot of machines, some of them true novelties. The most interesting was America's Most Haunted. This is one of the exceedingly few boutique pinball machine projects not to have collapsed in a fiasco of bad money management and fraudulent licensing. The theme is a Scooby-esque set of adventurers poking around haunted houses, abandoned hospitals, that sort of thing, looking to catch ghosts. It feels surprisingly smooth and professional for what's essentially a hobby creation. I obviously have no idea how well the game wears, since we played maybe four rounds of it total, but it was quite nice.

They also had Hercules, the double-sized pinball machine we'd seen at Canobie Lake Park and that Cedar Point has two of. The game, at Cedar Point, is invariably slow and disappointing, with many people wandering off before they get their three balls. Canobie Lake Park's was turned off. Pinball Wizard Arcade's Hercules, though, is in good shape, everything as snappy and responsive as the machine could be. And with that difference the game is ... well, fun is overstating it. But much more enjoyable, with the feel of a mid-70s game only really quite large, and slow. The slowness is still its problem --- one kid playing did abandon his game after two balls --- but I stuck it out and felt fairly satisfied.

Among video games they had Joust 2 and Wacko, both machines that the Brighton Arcade always had but never had working. Joust 2 expands on the Joust premise by sometimes the ostriches can turn into horses and I don't know what you do with that because I can't play video games. They also had Q*Bert Cubes, in which hopping on the cube causes it to rotate on the x- or y-axis depending on which direction you come from. So you have to do a bunch of SO(3) rotations to get the correct color on top of the whole pyramid. Again, I was awful at this.

Wacko I had wanted to see because of its premise: you're an alien in a flying saucer, trying to collect pairs of animals. Two dinosaurs, two gorillas, that sort of thing. The catch is, you have to shoot pairs in succession. If you shoot a dinosaur and a gorilla, they get mixed up: one that's a dinosaur head on a gorilla body, one that's a gorilla head on a dinosaur body. If you happen to scramble the monsters enough that you have, say, two dinosaur-head-gorilla-body creatures, that counts as a pair. Otherwise you have to unscramble them and catch them in order. I wasn't good at this either, because again, video game. But it's a fun thing and I'm surprised it hasn't been adapted into a video game app because it's basically exactly the right scope and whimsy for a time-filler game like that.

They had Mappy, an early 80s video game in which you play a constable mouse foiling burglar cats by jumping on trampolines to get up to their level, then opening doors to stun them with the power of music. Again, 80s video game. Also, that's what you do. I send Mappy to his immediate death when I hop onto a trampoline, it breaks, and I fall through to the subbasement.

Among the pinball machines I was not terrible at were Bad Cats, a late 80s thing with a huge heaping pile of cartoon cat-and-mouse mayhem and mild sexism. Harlem Globetrotters On Tour, so you know exactly when this machine was made. Paragon, which we'd seen at the Michigan Pinball Expo and not since. I passed up the chance to play Popeye Saves The Earth, because they'd just gotten it in at the Brighton Arcade. The Brighton Arcade has since sold off their Popeye along with most everything else. And I came just short of rolling the score on the 1979 Flash, which is the only thing that makes a fantastic game feel disappointing. I had a similar above-my-level game of Scorpion, that did register as the highest score on the table. It was also a suspiciously even 700,000 points, so nobody will believe me even though I took a picture.

Enough bragging. The arcade also had a bunch of machines I'd only ever seen in Pinball Arcade, such as The Champion Pub (which was in the Brighton Arcade for a couple minutes, never working well) and Party Zone and Who Dunnit. I never got what was so fun about Who Dunnit in the arcade version; playing the real thing, though, I started to see what the game was going for.

Among the modern games they had which we didn't play was Wheel Of Fortune, a 2007 game which mightily baffled the players at the Harvest Festival Pinball Tournament I wrote about on Monday. If I'd had a little more experience on that ... well, that probably wouldn't have helped. Wheel is a weird game.

We closed out the arcade. Of course we would; how could we not? We could easily have spent a whole day there.

Trivia: The tenth month of the Babylonian calendar, Ziz, was dubbed Tebetu in the Semitic calendar and Peritios in the Seleucid calendar. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Roads To Infinity: The Mathematics Of Truth And Proof, John Stillwell.

PS: How Gibbs derived the Phase Rule, reblogging a bit of thermodynamics stuff.

Tags: new england parks tour, pinball
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