May 31st, 2014

krazy koati

This one's a monument to change

So, two-player Joust, as a pinball: it's a short table for a single player, so things move very vast, considering, but it's a pretty good layout. If you hit the wrong spots, your ball goes to your opponent, which I didn't get the hang of using strategically, and you might end up with two balls at once if your opponent sent a ball to you. And the balls are relaunched without your explicit control as best I can figure. This makes for exciting play. I was a little ahead of bunny_hugger when the regular play ended, but then there was another bonus round lasting maybe twenty seconds or so, and she creamed me on that, finishing with something like twice my score.

Similarly on Big Bang Bar, which has a lot of wonderful science fiction themed stuff, after a game getting the hang of things, bunny_hugger went on to what sure seems like a really good game, finishing at something like fifty million (to my ten million), and while not getting on the high score table still definitely doing this stuff right. (The game exists in a 14-machine prototype run and a later remake, weirdly enough. Which one the Ann Arbor Pinball Museum has, I don't know.) Over on Still Crazy, which never did get out of prototype, she wasn't getting the hang of the vertical game, but I had some good moves and got one (one!) ball all the way up through the four levels of ball maze.

Baby Pac-Man we came to understand maybe why it flopped, besides being a thing that was in video arcades in 1983. Part of it is a Pac-Man maze, one that starts without any power pellets. It's also got a fairly small monitor and a maze that's quite difficult to run. But you can drop through two tunnels to start playing pinball, and on that field earn power pellets, fruits, and other stuff to power up. The pinball field is extremely short, but also very near flat and so slow-moving. (It also launches the ball from between the flippers, and automatically, rather than calling on you to plunge the ball, which is rare but not unheard-of.)

It's also a perfectly symmetric playfield, as far as targets go, which is a rarity (usually at least the plunger lane forces the two sides to be a little different), although the left targets (I believe) are for power pellets and the right ones for fruits and other bonuses. (The differences in art are interesting, though, as for example look at that Pac-Child on the right on the skateboard and just under the owl that's there because of the reasons.) I was better on that and probably could have kept that going indefinitely. The core problem is likely the video game play: the first maze is just punishingly hard. It's no surprise that I couldn't get past it, as I'm terrible at video games, but bunny_hugger couldn't either and she's competent at this genre. It seems to us the first level at least needs to be simpler so that players get some feeling of triumph before going on to the harder challenges. There's still a good amount of charm in the game, though, and tweaked a little it would probably have been as successful as video-pinball hybrids can be.

The museum also had another video-pinball arcade hybrid, Granny and the Gators, but it wasn't working when we visited. Maybe next time. There was also a saloon shoot-out mechanical game, with a life-sized robot to shoot against, which we didn't try, though many people did.

Trivia: The original Panama City was founded in 1519, six years after Balboa reached the Pacific, by Pedro Arias de Ávila, governor of the Castilla del Oro (as the isthmus was known), who had Balboa beheaded on a trumped-up charge of treason. Source: The Path Between The Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, David McCullough.

Currently Reading: Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, Matthew Algeo. It's a very interesting topic, although it must be said he fumbled the origin of baseball, presenting the rounders/Alexander Cartwright origin story. This is probably a matter of not realizing there was stuff to look up: until about two decades ago it was the generally accepted origin of baseball (the Doubleday thing has always been bunk and known to be such since it was whipped up in a weird convergence of nationalism and theosophy), but the understanding of early baseball history has just been revolutionized lately.

Edited to add: bunny_hugger has pictures of nearly all these games. Among them: