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Review: Peter Heath on ??/10/1987

From Pinball Player - Volume 11 #8

Williams follow-up to their F-14 touches on a theme which as far as I know, is unique in pinball. The machine is set around the turn of the century and concerns the attempts of horse-drawn fire chariots and their crews to douse fires in the tenement blocks of some American city.

Now back in the summer, I raved about what I thought was another Steve Ritchie masterpiece in F-14 Tomcat. Subsequent reviews in the trade press have all been lukewarm. Now, as I didn't like "Fire" when I played it, I expect that everyone else will be enthralled!


Perhaps the first thing you notice about this game is that the playfield is symmetrical. This must be the first like this in years. Please would someone write in with the name of the last Williams pin with a symmetrical playfield! The artwork is, predictably, full of images of flames, with burning buildings and firemen much in evidence, together with some 3D buildings perched on top where the plastics would normally be. These look remarkably like someone's houses for a model railway.

Save The Firemen!

The game reminded of Comet in the way it played, with a jerky sort of action to it and lots of quick bursts of noise.

Fire starts with a skill plunger shot up a straight dead-end entry lane. A number of rollover switches lie in the path of the ball, with a spot target at the end of the line. The value scored depends on which rollover is last hit by the ball on its way up: 20K, 10K, 30K, 100K, and 5K - the target only scores 1,000 points. This is reminiscent of the entry lane on Bally's "Karate Chief" (alias Black Belt).

Rolling back down the ball is diverted via a one-way gate and enters the playfield about half way up on the right hand side. On the prototype I played, the angle of entry meant that about 40% of the balls came down straight through the flippers, so I was glad I wasn't paying for the privilege of playing the game at Deith Leisure. (Who kindly let me invade their showroom and told me that Williams were still making final adjustment prior to full production).

The Street Plan

Having entered the playfield, your pinball is confronted by the following layout: 2 flippers in conventional position and standard return and outlanes; 2 banks of three spot targets above the outlanes, almost vertically positioned; a run-around ramp above the spot targets (which goes behind the building at the back of the playfield). In the centre of the field are two dead end ramps (similar to Space Shuttle), between the ramps is another bank of three spot targets which flank a very narrow runaround at the top centre of the playfield. In front of this run is a fifth ramp, this is only raised for a limited period after the runaround is made.

At the start of the game, both horseshoe ramps are up. There is a ground level horseshoe lane leading underneath the ramps. Fires break out, indicated by lights in front of the spot targets. Each fire extinguished obtains its assigned value (though how that is determined is unclear). This is multiplied by the ever-decreasing fire value which runs from 10 times to twice and is shown in the centre of the playfield.

Making a set of three targets lowers a ramp for a "second floor shot". By making the lowered ramp, a ball is trapped behind the opposite spot target bank. Locking both pinballs lights the runaround at the top centre - achieving this raises the centre ramp. When you make this ramp, all the locked pinballs are released for three ball multiplay. Then the idea is to put all the fires out - and so reach 1 million points. I found the lack of indication of when the fires were out frustrating. The two dead end lanes when made then light up alternately for extra ball, apart from this they were a redundant feature.

Making the upper horseshoe in the lit direction advances the bonus multiplier and lights the outlanes alternately for 'special'. Anytime you achieve this horseshoe shot, a post raises between the flippers for a short time.

Is It Any Good?

I found the game confusing without a clear gameplan. However, another Williams fan has raved about the game and I did approach it with very high expectations. I rate it on a part with "Pinbot".

Wonder what Steve Ritchie is working on now!