Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Introducing... Beat The Clock

Dust doesn't get much chance to settle around here.  Top Score is officially on loan at a friend's place, and will get sold some time in August or September.
It was one of my favourite EM games, but I got an offer I couldn't refuse:  to borrow a 1985 Beat The Clock.
Yes, my first Solid State machine!!!!  I couldn't say no.

This game has a dynamite layout, and pretty much every goodie you'd want from a game in the first half of the 80s.
(If you can keep it a secret, I think many of the later 80s solid state games aren't as fun.  With the advent of multiball and ramps, EVERY game tried to shoehorn those things in, often with a sacrifice to design and flow.)

This game has some really great basic features:    A 6-bank drop target bank that protects 5 standups.  A wacky reversed left outlane.  A bonus collect hole in the upper left.  A channel to the top, protected by a single drop on the right.  An upper flipper.  4 rollovers and collect hole at the top.  And  standups in the upper right which are actually a strategic addition to the game.

There was only 500 of these made, and a lot of people just aren't in to this game, which might be a head-scratcher on the playfield glances alone.  But it is a timed game, and what that means is essentially it is a 1-ball game, except you have a long Ball-Saver that can freeze and extend.
I think many people are turned off by this aspect, but it forces you to rethink how you normally play pinball.   Not only are you going for points, building bonus and collecting, but you are also strategizing your risky play against the clock, trying to find ways to stop it, build it, prevent it from starting again.
Personally, I think it adds a lot of depth to the gameplay and forces you to constantly tweak your strategy and respond quickly.

First thing to do with a new arrival?  Get cleaning with the Novus 2 and then 1, then wax all of the main areas up as best possible.

the results of my initial clean, displayed in rag-form...
Then I played a number of more games with a pen and paper by my side and started taking notes of everything that was going wrong and/or needs to be looked in to.
I also put down some custom low-tack plastic sheets in the areas with wear to make sure the game doesn't get any new damage while with me.
I replaced the bottom flipper rubbers, since they were getting stale, but will eventually get new rubbers for the entire game.

I was warned by the last player that the collect hole was occasionally having a hard time detecting a ball in it, and thus not rewarding bonus and kicking it out.  This severely hampers game play, as you have to lift up the machine, or take the glass off, to get things moving again.

This collect hole is a huge part of the game, and it needs to be 100$

The collect hole from beneath

I didn't really need to remove the kicker mech, as I later found out, but it did allow me to give the switch a good cleaning and adjusting.
I reassembled it and realize I could have adjust it around the solenoid and bracket, but hey, live and learn.
Oh, and:  PROBLEM SOLVED!  I made the tip of the switch more prevalent, and reduced the gapping on the other half of the switch.  It was also a bit crooked, so I tried to bend them to be more parallel to each other.

These are hard-to-fit standups, but if you can nail them all they stop the clock.  The right flipper also rotates which ones are lit.
In my tests I found that some of these standups, when hit hard, would trigger a pop bumper or the right slingshot.  Definitely need to look in to that.  (At least from a playfield standpoint, I don't touch boards)
Also, most of the snaps on the pop bumpers are busted, so not much to hold the plastics on top.  I found one screw, so will take that in to a hardware store and see if I can buy replacements and secure all pop bumper parts.

with this rag-tag- band of drops, how can we go wrong?
The drop bank needs a lot of love, but let's take another moment to appreciate how cool it is to have a bank of standups offset behind the drops for extra scoring features!
I might replace all of the drops, but my immediate area of concern is the standups in the rear.  I noticed that sometimes when the ball ejects in to the shooter lane, the clock has started and some points are on the board.  Even if just first plunge.
What is supposed to happen is that, like the gun fire at the start of a race, the clock starts when you go through the gates at the top after your skill shot.  That sometimes is the case, and I feel it is very important to the race aesthetic of this game.
About 50%+ of the time, the ball goes in to the shooter lane and you hear a noise and get points, and the clock also starts.  I matched that noise up with what happens when you hit a standup, so most likely eject solenoid firing is tripping a switch over on the other side of the playfield.

Plastic just before the left flipper
Notice how the clear plastic tapers in the same manner as the top of the left flipper?  That allows balls to just sit there.
Ideally, and this is how it is on the right flipper, you want that plastic to come up to and hug the flipper's curves, creating a seamless path for the ball to roll.
I will have to look in to replacing that, or having a custom one fabricated.  It will greatly improve the gameplay.

More stuff:

Grounding is an issue on this machine.  I noticed a familiar tingle when touching another machine and also the key in the coin door slot, or some of the trim.  This is not something I will be doing, but I imagine the owner of the game knows how to fix the issue.

Many lights are out in this game.  Poking under the playfield, everything is bracketed like the old #44 bulbs, but all 555s.  THAT IS WEIRD.   It is super difficult to access any of the bulbs, but I am determined to at least get all of the sockets lighting again.  The difficulty of access probably means I am too annoyed to install full LEDs.
The left pop bumper's light socket is loose and will need re-securing.  The right flipper doesn't rotate the lights reliably, and probably needs a switch adjusted
Outhole is sometimes not registering until you press flipper buttons. 

find screws to affix all pop bumper plastics
diagnose why the S-T-O-P standups can trigger pop bumper or right sling solenoids.
replace the drop targets
find why standups behind the drops can be trigger by shooter lane eject.
Get grounding fixed:  get tingle when touching another cabinet.
Loose light socket in left pop bumper
Right flipper not doing a great job rotating the lights, check switches.
outhole switch sometimes not registering until you press flipper buttons
Many lights out
Fix/replace/adjust plastic to the left of the left flipper.
All new rubbers.

fixed bonus collect hole switch so ball doesn't get stuck.
clean + wax


this generic action art is the legacy of old Atari game box design, no doubt.

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