In 1978 Atari released Video Pinball to the arcades. It wasn’t there first attempt at trying to recreate the pinball experience on a video screen they did it before with Pin Pong back in 74. If you go back to my earlier post on Pin Pong you’ll see how the technology progressed. With the addition of microprocessors to the game boards they were able to add a lot of bells and whistles that weren’t available just a few yeas earlier.
Quite a few of the elements found on the pinball tables of the time made its way into video pinball. It allowed for up to four players and included such features as drop targets, thumpers, rollovers and a realistic mechanical ball shooter. The cabinet design is going to be a little difficult to explain so definitely check out the video below. It combines a physical cardboard mock-up of a pinball Playfield with LEDs and done in backlight reactive inks that sits on the roof of the game. There is a half silvered or one way mirror that sits on a slant in the middle of the cabinet and underneath that is a 23” black and white monitor. If you caught some of my other write-ups you have seen a version of this effect before. All moving objects like the pinball, flippers and drop targets are displayed on the TV screen. They show through the one way mirror but the playfield on the top of the game light by a blacklight bulb is reflected off it and the two images are combined and this makes it look like the moving objects are sitting on top of the playfield. It’s an effect that still seems to impress people today. Two other features to note is that the ball shooter has an optical sensor that reads how fast the plunger is going and calculates how fast the ball should enter the playfield and that they included a nudge effect. If the ball is about to drain you can try to rescue the ball by pressing down on the control panel which is supposed to simulate shanking the table. This works pretty well if it is heading down one of the outer lanes.
Next I will speak to the rules of the table
Complete lower 5 drop targets once – Extra Ball Rollover is lit
Complete lower 5 drop targets twice – Special rollover is lit
Roll over 5 bonus advance rollovers – Two times bonus is lit (each bonus rollover is worth two)
Hit all three targets behind pop bumpers – that bumper lights up and is worth 100 points
Complete all 4 upper drop targets – bounus advance lights
Special and extra ball can be rewarded in two different ways depending on the settings you choose. Special is either one replay or 80,000 points; the extra ball is either an extra ball or 50,000 points.
Now to see it in action.
I’ll admit that it’s not quite the same as playing pinball on a real table but it still is a great game in my opinion and the 70’s disco graphics are fun. So hopefully you will find one somewhere in our travels and if you do be sure to drop in a quarter and play a game. Atari did have a stand along console and an Atari VCS game called video pinball but I’m not really sure if it was meant to be a port of this arcade game.