Tuesday, March 18, 2014

introducing... Monopoly!


Gone are Street Fighter 2 and Rocky + Bullwinkle,  traded for Stern's 2001 Monopoly.
I'll review the trade in the next post.

Monopoly:  packed to the gills with playfield features.  It looks like Pat Lawlor got drunk, became Tetsuo The Iron Man, and vomited a pinball paradise.
It looks dense, but it's full of great shots, has some nice flow, and is a really balanced game.
Someone once said that it was a bit of a No Good Gofers knockoff, but that's what turned me on to it in the first place.  NGG?  Oh yes, hello!  OK so there are only a handful of similarities, but it's still pretty great.
The ramp are smooth and pretty easy to hit. 
It has a spinner on the orbit. 
A bash target (the bank) that opens and closes, blocking the left ramp.
A mid-playfield drop target blocking a path. 
A third flipper that can hit the Electric Company hole, a ramp, the drop target, or bash the bank door.
A standup target for awards.
6 pop bumpers!
A variable post in the upper left corner that can redirect orbit shots to the upper pops!
An INTENSE short track railroad ramp right up at the front.
A bonus award hole (chance/community chest).

a few generic things that I love on pinball machines:
- a third flipper
- bash targets that aren't static (and that clear ramp passageways!)
- mid-playfield drop targets that block features
- stackable modes
- ramps shots that are regularly achievable (grimacing at you, Rocky + Bullwinkle)
- pops that entice usage as part of gameplay strategy
- varied skill shots

on the softest plunge, ball will fall back through the notch in to the Water Works hole
Let's start with the skill shot.  From first plunge this game has some great features going on for it.
1) short plunge, time with the spinning mini flipper, to have the ball get in to the Water Works hole. (Skill Shot)
2) plunge a bit too hard and it falls off the metal lane and can roll down to the upper flipper
3) plunge a bit harder and the ball enters the Roll + Collect hole.
4) plunge a bit harder and the ball gets to the Electric Company Pops
5) a full plunge sends the ball through the full orbit and towards the Water Works pops.  (if the post is down.  Not sure yet what controls it)
There you have it, 5 fricking choices just on the plunge! 

The Bank Door is a fun bash feature.  It has a row of optos in front to register the hits, and it blocks the big center ramp shot when closed.  When open, the door somehow manages to barely effect gameplay.  Good design there.
It is used to start Cash Grab, a very lucrative mode.  I have the game on the default "Moderate" (medium) settings, but I wanted to make Cash Grab a bit harder.  Normally when you hit the bank door you get a letter and then the door opens.  You have to close it again to get the next letter, done by shooting up the center ramp.  That was a bit easy, so on the hard setting you have to hit the Free Parking (upper left) ramp via the upper right flipper.
I am also turning off the "award bank letter with new ball" so that the game doesn't help prod us along to Cash Grab.  When I first played this game, getting that was a bit too easy.

The Monopoly board is well incorporated in to the game.  You "buy" a property block by rolling and collecting it, via the straight-up-the-middle shot that goes to a side-right hole.
There are other things to do that award movement around the board, but those don't collect property.  (collecting each property also starts a mode or awards a specific bonus)
Make it around the board to light the locks for the main multiball.  The first multiball is a bit too easy to get, but subsequent ones require lighting lock for each ball, which seems more fair.
The jackpot on the main multiball is hit from the upper right flipper, and that somewhat hard shot becomes damn frenetically hard with 3 balls flailing about.  I like that challenge:  no easy jackpots.  Then, the relight is the railroad ramp.  Good luck controlling the return.  :)

Like The Simpsons Pinball Party would later, there is a DMD on the playfield that can act as a mode timer.  It also tallies the hits to the pops, and X # of hits starts certain modes or bonuses.

When we set it up I put my digital level on and it was 7.9/8.0 degrees.  The manual calls for 6.5 degrees, but nuts to that, I left it with the severe incline and I love how fast it plays.
Only downside is that really hard shots to the railroad ramp returns the ball with such spin and velocity that it hits the left flipper and then JUMPS IT.  I am going to try and put some mylar there (there is playfield wear there anyways) and see if that helps.
If it keeps happening, that will just be part of the risk/reward dynamic.  A hard shot from the right flipper to the railroad ramp will just require precision striking with the left flipper to avoid the jumps. 

The railroad ramp has its own multiball, the railroads are essential to collecting all the property, and railroads also advance you to the next one, so it can be a lucrative way to move around the board.

And we haven't started with the modes yet.  All this to say, there is not much wasted on Monopoly.  Even if the spinning mini-flipper is a bit of a head scratcher.
I want to know more about the spinner and what the scoring is like, especially with the standup awards tied in.  But I am sure there is something.

Many reviews I read were slagging this game and I don't understand why.  Lots of people seemed to dislike the audio in it, but it all seems pretty well integrated in to the theme.
I only wish someone had a ROM editor so I could splice in my own sound cues.  It'd be a blast to mod it to have Mr. Monopoly critique the tyranny of capitalist excesses.

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