Grand Lizard Pinball

Grand Lizard Pinball

Last week I got to remove another machine from my Pinball Bucket List, Grand Lizard Pinball. This was a game had some vague memories of playing as a kid, but could not nail down what I liked about it. It became very apparent when I started playing it. Grand Lizard Pinball, while a simpler machine, has some evocative sound and lighting design that I just find irresistible.

The theme of Grand Lizard Pinball is Heavy Metal-esque. Muscled warriors fighting mace wielding mandrills and rescuing scantily clad damsels. The whole time a boss battle with the titular Grand Lizard looms large.

Gameplay is easy to control. It has two levels of play, Magna-Save and a variable sized multi-ball. I like this style of multi-ball because you can “control” the number of balls locked away through skill.

But as I mentioned, the real star of the show is the sound and lighting. Grand Lizard is a crazy combo of driving drum beat and constant chatter that when turned up to full volume can rule an arcade. That combined with some dramatic lighting schemes, including some complete darkness on the playfield, makes an oddly compelling combination. One that just had me pumping quarter after quarter into this machine.

According to programmer Ed Suchocki, “Bill Parod was the sound designer on this game. The background drum music was the first time that Williams games used digitized audio samples for music. After Bill worked on Grand Lizard, he improved his technique of digitized music samples on the High Speed pinball game.”

After spending about 10 dollars on the game, I took some photos. They don’t really capture the majesty of the game, but hopefully the video I post after the photos will shine some light on this wonderful machine.

Enjoy some photos of Grand Lizard Pinball


Watch Grand Lizard Pinball in action

Are you in Seattle?


The Seattle area has a lot of great retro arcades and the city itself is home to a couple that focus solely on pinball. So knocking out my bucket list has really been a simple “wait and see” game. Grand Lizard Pinball appeared at Flip, Flip, Ding, Ding. Which is a two-story arcade in the Georgetown neighborhood catering to the 21+ crowd. While they focus mostly on pinball machines, they do have a couple of retro arcade machines available. So if you are in the area why not check them out and make sure to try Grand Lizard while you are there. Line starts behind me.

“Is this going to be a pinball table, Sir, or another bughunt?”

Hot on the heels of the announcement just a few days ago of the upcoming Alien Day on the 26th of this month is Zen Studios commercial for their pretty awesome set of three digital tables inspired by the Alien film universe.

Aliens Pinball 1 - Zen Studios

This commercial is for the table based on James Cameron’s 1986 film and the press release gives us some insight on what we can expect:
“Join Ellen Ripley as she confronts her nightmares and help the Colonial Marines rid LV-426 of its Alien infestation in Aliens Pinball
Watch out for the merciless Alien stalking you on the Alien: Isolation pinball table
Defeat Xenomorphs and rise in Yautja society on the Alien vs. Predator table
Original iconic voiceovers and sound effects from films and videogames set in the ALIENS Universe
Leaderboards, score tracking, exciting social features, and more!
The Aliens vs. Pinball pack will be released on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PSN, Steam, Windows 10, Mac, iOS, Android and Amazon on April 26th.”

[Via] Zen Studios

The other two tables in the pack are based off 2004’s Aliens vs. Predator…

All images courtesy of Zen Studio.

All images courtesy of Zen Studio.

Alien vs Predator - Zen Studios

…and the third is from Sega’s Alien: Isolation from 2014!

Alien Isolation - Zen Studios

I am quite excited about these tables from Zen Studios but I know which one I’m most eager to play…

I’m Having Pinball Dreams

If you enjoy modern videogames, you’ve probably heard of DICE – they’re responsible for much of the Battlefield series and Mirror’s Edge amongst others. If you were playing games back in 1992 you might know them for their Commodore Amiga titles, including the spectacular debut Pinball Dreams.

If I’m being honest, I would say that I’m not a fan of computerised simulations of pinball tables. They can be fun, but all too often the experience is limited by the fact you don’t have the physical table and tactile controls to truly enjoy the game. That said, three pinball games have stayed with me through the decades – Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Illusions. All DICE titles that I still play to this day.

Pinball Dreams was the first pinball game that really felt like pinball to me. I’d played variants on earlier computers but ‘Dreams was jaw dropping at the time and each of the four tables was truly a joy to play. More importantly for me, and the real reason that I played so often, was the music. The various themes demanded to be heard at the loudest volume my parents would tolerate! The presentation of the whole game was second-to-none, from the moment you first saw the Digital Illusions logo timed to the beat of a song, you knew you were about to play something special. The following longplay video on Youtube is definitely worth having a skip-through to see what I mean – it has a flare to it that shines brightly, and you can see a few of the demoscene sensibilities that imbue the game with a little more character than most.

Of the four tables, I played Ignition the most, solely because that table had the best music. Truth be told, I’d sometimes load up the game and let the music play out without me doing anything else. That’s something I still do today, though Youtube has replaced my need to load up the actual game!

This advert at the time tried to sell the game on it being a true multi-table Pinball simulator – yes, 32 colours, 50 FPS, upto 8 players – Fun, fast and furious, just like the real thing!

Pinball Dreams Advert

True fans know that this wasn’t the games only appeal though, and once you’d had enough of dreaming, you could move on to the fantasies…

You can take a look at the MS-DOS version of Pinball Dreams over at the Internet Archive. You can also find a superb HD update if you have an iOS device and a willingness to spend money.

Spotlighting the Pinball Wizard Arcade

Whether Gary Vincent (President of the American Classic Arcade Museum at Funspot, in Laconia, New Hampshire) knew it at the time or not, the establishment of the ACAM in 1999 would eventually lead to a wave of retro arcades within the following 16 years. Other major retro-arcades that have opened in the following years include the Galloping Ghost in Brookfield, Illinois, the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, and YESTERcades in Red Bank, New Jersey (not to mention the countless barcades that have popped up in countless cities). Another place worth adding to this checklist is The Pinball Wizard Arcade, located in the sleepy, charming town of Pelham, NH.

Pinball Wizard Entrance -  Second Hand Nostalgist

As the name implies, Pinball Wizard Arcade has an emphasis on pins dating from the 1970s up through the present day. All the major manufacturers of pinball machines are represented here: Williams, Gottlieb, Stern, Bally and others have their games for play here. You’ll find everything from pop culture tie-ins (KISS, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Superman) to legendary staples of pinball’s ‘70s heyday (Gorgar, Xenon, Atlantis) to titles from pinball’s mid ‘80s-late ‘90s renaissance era (FunHouse, High Speed, Who Dunnit). They’ve even got the unique video/pinball hybrid Baby Pac-Man and Hercules, a mammoth of a pinball machine that uses cue balls in place of silver balls!

Late 70s Pinball -  Second Hand Nostalgist
More Williams Pins -  Second Hand Nostalgist
1993 Pins - Second Hand Nostalgist
Baby Pac Man -  Second Hand Nostalgist
Hercules -  Second Hand Nostalgist

Fear not, video game fans, as there is a healthy line-up of video coin-ops to play, too. The expected staples are here, but you also get rarities like Black Widow (a neat Atari vector game that operates sort of like Robotron: 2084) and Arabian. Fans of ‘90s fighting games will get their fill too, with several of the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter games, as well as various others. There’s also a rare cabaret version of Pac-Man that’ll interest fellow carriers of Pac-Man Fever.

Gyruss - Zaxxon -  Second Hand Nostalgist
Xevious - BlackWidow -  Second Hand Nostalgist
Pac Man Cabaret -  Second Hand Nostalgist

There are also your standard redemption games, but thankfully, this is one place where you won’t have to wade through an ocean of ticket-spewing games to find one pinball or video game. Pool sharks can also get their cue action on with one of the four pool tables available.
Oh, and did I mention the sweet Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man décor adorning the wall above the restrooms?

Pac-ManMs.Pac-Manwalldecor

Originally opened in the winter of 2011, the Pinball Wizard Arcade has grown to include a party room for birthdays and other occasions and tournaments. Sarah St. John, the owner of the arcade, is usually on the floor checking games or behind the front desk. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to help with any problems.
As a bonus, here’s a very lengthy walkthrough and review from John’s Arcade Game Reviews and Tech, originally uploaded January 2, 2015. A friendly warning: Your lips will drool over the massive amount of games available and also likely have a major nostalgia rush.

John’s Arcade Game Reviews & Tech

So the next time you find yourself in New Hampshire but can’t make it to Funspot, make the trek to the Pinball Wizard Arcade. Be sure to grab some lunch next door from Suppa’s Pizza and Subs while you’re at it.

How About A Tour Of Stern Pinball, Inc.

Jody Dankberg - Iron Man Pinball
Thanks to Ed VanderVeen’s YouTube Channel we can join in as Jody Dankberg, who is the director of marketing and licensing for Stern Pinball takes us on a 21 minute tour of the factory floor.

You’ll get to see the workers at Stern Pinball, Inc. hard at work on the various steps of constructing a fully functioning pinball table. Inspection of the smallest parts, storage, schematics and of course you’ll get to see the inner table workings from the likes of AC/DC and Iron Man tables.