7 Awful Excuses for Pinball Machine Art

If you grew up in the arcades like I did, then you are sure to have played a lot of pinball.  The games were always fun (even when the game was a cheating whore sometimes) and you always felt a deeper connection to a pinball game than you would a standard arcade cabinet.  This is partly due to that the fact they are louder than all the other games and there are lots of bright lights flashing constantly luring you in when not giving you epileptic seizures.  Basically they are the slot machines of the arcade and the only pay out is putting your name on the high score list once you’ve plunked in enough quarters.  For most of us that is the jackpot, seeing your three initials flashing every few minutes for all to see.  “Who is this ‘Grand Champion’ FUK?” people ask, and I snicker.  The main connection with the game though is the fact that you are actually controlling a physical object, a shiny metal orb, instead of just pixels with most other games.  The ball responds different every time and no two games are ever the same.

But the main reason you would select a game to play was on how awesome it looked.  It’s like how when you were a kid at the video store and you had to select a game based on the box art.  The box art on pinball games (called a backglass or translite) is the area customarily above or part of the score display.  It is usually bright, vivid, and covered in badass artwork that draws you and your fistful of quarters to the machine.  Usually, that is.   Sometimes the art is an abortion of awful.  I have selected a small portion of some of the shittiest pinball art I have come across.  These are all presented in no particular order and with the disclaimer that shitty artwork doesn’t always mean it is a shitty game.  You have to play them to seperate the gold from the turds.

1. The Shadow, Bally (1994)

Featuring Corky Baldwin

I remember this movie, It was about a millionaire playboy  who fights crime on the side.  Sound familiar?  Too bad the Shadow predates Batman by approx. 9 years.  Anyway, the movie was pretty good when I was a kid and though it seems fairly hackneyed by today’s standards, it still holds up well if you take it for what it is.  So Midway (under Bally) puts out this pinball machine to compliment the movie which was very common in the ’90s.  There is only one problem; the movie stars the best actor in the world,  Alec Baldwin, not his secret retarded half-brother.  That looks nothing like Alec Baldwin, it looks more like someone put a hung over stunt double in a suit and told him to look suave but instead he flashes a duckface.  The artist wasn’t even close on this one.  And is that chick on the left supposed to be part peacock?  Is that her power?  Whatever.  Fuck this game.

2. Hot Fire Birds, Lowen (1985)

Steven King's next novel.

Well holy shit.  Where do I start with this piece of fuck?  It seems that you are a pair of poorly designed spaceships that are attacking a giant human/owl hybrid.  But I’m not sure if the goal is to kill the cosmic birdman or maybe that he is supposed to be you and you’re inside the ships.  Who the hell knows?  In any case, it looks like this Chewbacca-owl (Owlbacca!) is striking a mid-80s rap pose above a cloudy toilet filled with shit.  Which makes sense since the game is from Germany, and you know how the Germans love their shit.

3. Future Spa, Bally (1979)

Run run as fast as you can, you'll never rape me I'm th..AHHHHH NOOOO!

Ah, Future Spa.  Where after washing yourself in a giant woman’s nipple waterfall, you will summarily be chased down and assaulted by a moustachioed man with an enormous package in a red jumpsuit.  I suppose that’s what you get for having such perky nipples.  For men, you can spend your days wearing 3D glasses preacher-curling a lightsaber.  Feel the burn!  The art work on this one is pretty good actually, it’s just very weird.  And that guy with the moustache creeps me out, I hope I never see him again.

4. Bagatelle, OMT (1995)

Wow a max score of 9,999! How exciting!

Since there was only one of these machines ever made I am not going to bash it too hard, but seriously look at it.  What a horrible backglass.  This thing is all over the place with diamonds and billiards balls and an exciting use of almost 6 different colours!  But the main thing that makes my penis boil is the spelling mistake.  “BALL IM PLAY?”  What the hell?  I get that the creator isn’t english, but at least have someone proofread that shit for you.  In all fairness, it’s not that bad.  There are definitely worse. But it’s from 1995, and I expected more from the creator, Henk de Jager.  He must have painted this one while high on rollercoaster.

5. Dual-Pool, Gottlieb (1993)

Are you sure you've played pool before?

This one isn’t as bad as it is strange.  You’ve got Cyndi Lauper playing pool with David Caruso (sans sunglasses) while Hugh Hefner and Scarlett Johansson wait for their turn.  I get that it’s called Dual-Pool but why the fuck are they playing at the same time?  That’s not how you play pool.  The artwork isn’t too bad and reminds me of hotel lobby.  There is a pinball machine in the background too; it’s called Bank-A-Ball.  Which is precisely what I would try to do if I ever met Scarlett Johansson.

6. Algar, Williams (1980)

The Cowardly Lion strikes back!

OK.  Apparently Algar is some sort of half-human, half-lion, half-fish monster.  And he sounds delicious.  Actually he is the inferior brother to Gorgar who is basically the devil.  So the lord of all darkness has a mutant brother who  lives in a fucked up fortress of solitude.  I would lock myself away too if I had the torso of a trout, the head of an effeminate lion and the arms & legs of Ronald McDonald.  I think this is what CS Lewis thought Jesus looked like.

7. Skateball, Bally (1980)

"How about a game about skateboarding pedophiles?"

This game is obviously about 2 people.  First is the story of a young, sexy surfer girl who gets molested on a beach by a young, sexy surfer guy that has every intention of luring her on his sailboat and turning her into the next Natalie Wood.  The next story is of a young, sexy 40-year-old named John Smith.  He spends most of his afternoons skating around the beach looking for young, sexy children to impress with his gnarly skateboarding skills and bushy moustache.  If the kids like his skills (or moustache), he offers to teach them and will give them a free skateboard if they will just hop in his van for a quick second.   Hmmm there’s just something so familiar about this guy…HOLY SHIT!  It’s the rapist from Future Spa!

"No one escapes The Rape Master!"

Silver Ball Rollin’
Lights Flashin’ & Score Climbin’
Pinball Gets Me Hard.
 —NPX

All photos are from ipdb.org

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