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Back to Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball info page

Review: Andy Thorn on ??/??/2000

bugs
Odd one out round: Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit and Peter Rabbit? All sorts of possible answers, the man in the street might pick Peter Rabbit as being a character from a book not a cartoon... but you're looking at THIS web page so YOU know that the correct answer is Bugs Bunny, as he's the only one of these three to have given his name to a pinball machine! 1990 was the year, and the celebration was apparently Bug's 50th birthday - hence the full title of the game, Bugs Bunny's Birthday Ball! You don't often see this game around these days, so as I've recently had one I thought I'd write a quick review to let you know what you're missing! The game was designed by John Trudeau - as he's the creator of such great games as Bride of Pinbot and Creatures from the Black Lagoon you might except something special, but as a cautionary note, he also designed Judge Dredd and The Games (Gottlieb) so he can't claim an uninterrupted list of quality! Anyway, here's a rundown of the game, plus a report card for J. Trudeau from the School of Bally!

It's an attractive game to look at, no doubt about it, with Bugs and other Warner characters (Daffy, Sylvester, Wil. E. Coyote) looming large in the backbox, all gathered around Bug's birthday cake. The candles on the cake have small gaps in the artwork of the flames, so the lights behind them twinkle through to good effect. Bugs was made during the time that Williams tried to differentiate Bally games a bit, so you have the two score displays side by side at the bottom of the backbox and the speakers on a separate panel at the top. This basically means the backglass is bigger than on Williams own games, and looks the better for it.

The cabinet artwork is predominantly white (unusual in a modern game) but with lots of colourful characters, and the same can be said for the playfield. One point of caution if you're buying one is that this was a game before Diamond Plate (and can anyone else explain why, after years of trying to make a playfield that doesn't wear and failing spectacularly, Williams & Data East independently manage finally to come up with one at the same time? Gottlieb don't count as none of their modern games are played enough to see if the playfield wears or not! This is a joke, Gottlieb fans...) and if it isn't mylared it may well have worn. My game is mostly mylared and so is fine, but round the edges of the playfield the paint is worn. It's not that bad, but graining of the paint and the crescents of dirt show up very clearly on white. Or even 'Old English' white, as the unprotected areas have gone a cream colour - whether this is because it's been exposed to the sun too much or just a process of ageing, I'm not sure.

As for the sound and music, it's a victim of it's time really - more specifically, technology has advanced since 1990 and it shows. The sampled cartoon voices are spot on, and though the music (including cartoon classics like Merry Go Round Broke Down) sounds OK, when it's next to a Star Trek Next Generation you realise just how fantastic the DCS sound board is, and Bugs pales in comparison. Still, overall it's pretty good (and much cheaper than a ST: TNG) so you can't really complain!

The playfield looks very...interesting! I'll try to avoid using this word more than a dozen or so times in this review, but it just seems to sum up the game so well! The playfield is split level, on the left hand side the playfield slopes down away from the player with a single flipper at the bottom so you hit the ball back up to yourself, sort of like Haunted House. It differs in that it's not visible through a window, but open so you don't actually 'gain' playing space. Indeed you lose space, as there's plastics between the two playfields so the main flippers are offset to the right to account for this. The flipper on the lower playfield is on the left side of the machine, but is operated by the right button which about 50% of people get wrong first time, and either a good flipper shot (which gives you points) or the kicker by the flipper (which doesn't) sends the ball up the Tweety ramp where it's deposited in the left flipper return lane on the main playfield.

There's a plunger skill target in the top left corner of the playfield, from here the ball will go through one of 3 rollovers (making all 3 advances bonus X, as you might expect) then drops down to the mini playfield. The top centre of the playfield has the Tasmanian Devil ramp, nicely designed so the ball disappears through the back of the playfield, back into view again, back out again and finally back into a whirlpool end which finally drops the ball into the middle of the trio of pop bumpers. This ramp offers you various awards, including lighting extra ball on the outlanes.

What else? Well you have targets to spell LOONEY and TUNES, getting all these targets lights 1 million point targets. Below and to the right of the ramp entrance there's 3 drop targets - hit one and you have a timed period to get the others before they reset, if you manage this you spot a LOONEY or TUNES target. There's 2 outlanes on the left of the playfield (one of which has a kickback) plus a return lane, while on the right there's just a return lane. There's a 'double ended' captive ball which can be hit from either the main or mini playfield, and a spinner lane on the right that takes the ball back up to the 3 rollovers.

Finally, there's a saucer between the LOO and NEY targets. Making the saucer blows out a random number of candles on Bugs' birthday cake - awarding 10K per candle. If, however, ALL the candles are blown out it lights the saucer for a 50 MILLION point shot! If you want the high score, you need to get this shot.

Report Card

Artwork.
Unusual but not unpleasant use of white as the base colour, easy subject matter but pretty well done - good candles! 8/10
Sound. Good for it's time, character's voices a winner. 7/10
Playfield. Interesting ideas, reverse angle of mini playfield innovative, double ended captive ball a nice touch. Not every idea works but nice try. 6/10
Gameplay. Massive points from a random award? 2/10 See Me.

There are two things that let Bugs Bunny down for me. The first is that the presence of the mini playfield means that there's much less width on the main playfield, so you're shooting for a narrow range of targets plus the flippers (which are orange to look like carrots!) are offset to the right which in my view don't help the game either.

The main problem, though, is the 50m award from the candle saucer - specifically the fact that it's random. I consider myself a reasonable player (OK I once got less than a million on a whole game of The Getaway, but aside from that...) but I have never got anywhere near 50 million on this game with all the other features combined. The way to the high score seems to be to keep hitting the saucer and hope it gives you the 50 million, which just seems a really bad idea to me and totally lacks the progressive nature of features that the best games have.

However I have just sold the game, the guy who bought it got it for his 10 year old daughter, and by all accounts she loves it! So my advice is to buy one this instant, as long as you have cartoon loving kids - they won't be disappointed, but I do think that you might be.