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Review: Peter Heath on ??/09/1986
||From Pinball Player Volume 10 #7
At first glance William's latest offering, 'Grand Lizard', gives an
impression of a return to the halcyon days of multi-level games like Black
Knight and Solar Fire.
The playfield is split into two halves horizontally with two flippers in
conventional format in each half. However, closer examination reveals the
playfield to be on one plane, with the now ubiquitous ramps forming the only
entry into the world of raised levels.
The plunger shot entry onto the playfield is via a raised steel frame ramp a
la Zaccaria. Luckily, all resemblance to Zaccaria machines disappears as
soon as the ball enters the playfield.
The upper portion of the playfield could loosely be described as a drop
target zone. For my money, this is where the action is - and where the big
points lie. There are 2 banks of drop targets, one with 4 targets and one
with three. The bank of four form a 'stop and score' feature, the exact
mechanics of which escaped me. It seemed to function as a standard timing
feature whereby you get so long to complete the bank once you have hit one
of the targets. Success brought some good point scoring. There are five
lights in front of the drop targets which flash one at a time in sequence,
valued from 20,000 to 100,000 in 20,000 increments. Once again the precise
significance of these lights was lost to me, as however successful I was at
dropping the bank of targets in the allocated time, the lights continued to
flash in the same manner.
This highlighted what is to me a major fault in pinball manufacturers'
philosophy at the moment. The instruction cards do not give nearly enough
detail concerning the features of the games. With pinball costing 30p for a
three ball game in central London, I certainly want to know what the
respective features score, how they link together and what is best to go for
- before starting a game. Finding out as you go along can be expensive! So
come on Williams, you make the best, most feature-laden games by a long shot.
Don't be shy, let us pinballers in on your devious intricacies before we
nd of moan, back to the review. Continuing with the top half of the
playfield, the bank of three drop targets are set at almost ninety degrees
to the left hand side of the flippers. These targets control the value of a
run-around loop which goes behind the back and can be entered from either
side. The value starts at 10,000 and knocking down all three targets
increases the value at each stage by 10,000, up to 40,000, then extra ball
and then special.
The final feature of this half of the playfield is a short narrow dead end
tunnel with a spot target at the far end. When activated this releases any
captive balls for multiball play (more on this feature further on).
Although crowded, the upper playfield area is not too small and does reward
aimed shots, whilst poor shots miss out on the important targets. Between
the top two flippers lies a spinner flag. The other entry point to the
lower playfield is via a runthrough lane on the right hand side.
Return of Magna-save!
Naturally, there are a number of features on this half of the deck.
Firstly, there are two banks of spot targets (three in each bank) which
spell l-i-z-a-r-d. They server two purposes: the completion of all six acts
as a bonus multiplier from twice bonus to five times and very interestingly,
ten times bonus (this last increase being extremely difficult to achieve!).
The second purpose is that these spot targets add the 'magna save' units.
Yes, more raves from the 'Black Knight's' grave! This feature is bid an
enthusiastic welcome. The l-i-z bank operate for the left hand side and the
a-r-d for the right. Magna save units are only added when the hit target is
unlit. Hitting a target lights it and it stays lit until all six have been
hit, whereupon they reset. A maximum of three units can be accrued for each
Certain POA sources had suggested that the magna save discs have been moved
in away from the exit lanes, reducing the effectiveness of the feature but I
didn't find this happening and managed to rescue the pinball from certain
oblivion on a number of occasions on the machine I was testing.
Grand Lizard's multiball feature is, perhaps, disappointing. It's a return
to the rather mundane capture lane, again reminiscent of 'Black Knight',
whereby three balls are locked in and then release automatically, with the
option of releasing any ball via the tunnel target at the top of the
Final features of this lower play deck are the spinner flagshot through the
centre to the upper deck, the re-entry lane up the right hand side and a
single spot target set just above the right hand outlane. All these
features are activated by the ramp.
A horseshoe-shaped affair, the ramp has entry points at each side of the top
of the lower playfield. The two curves of the ramp meet in the centre at
the very top of the playfield above the bank of four drop targets. The ball
is ejected via the lizard's tongue! And the head of the lizard adorns the
central portion of the ramp.
The two sides of the ramp are labelled 'A' and 'B'. Going up the ramp when
the entry light is flashing lights the appropriate letter. Again, I could
not fathom out what made the light flash in the first place, unless it was
just a random time feature.
However, I did figure out that getting both 'A' and 'B' does the following:
lights the spinner for additional points; lights the right hand re-entry
lane for bonus multiplier; lights the outlanes for 50,000 and it also lights
the spot target for extra ball.
Achieving 'A' and 'B' again spots the target for special. What else it does
is beyond me!
Aside from the poor instructions, I think that Grand Lizard is a great game
to play, with lots of shots all around the playfield and plenty of features
to keep the mind and flipper fingers exercised. I found the playfield
design more interesting than 'High Speed', the inevitable comparison. On
the minus side the ramp feature doesn't seem to fit so neatly into the
scheme of the game. Many features and high scores can be achieved without
recourse to the ramp, which also takes up a lot of valuable playfield space.
Ramps should be the mainstay of the game to be worthy of their prominence.
After High Speed's intricate channels I found this one rather
Still, this game is the second best machine I have played this year (yes, I
do think High Speed is better). My only real disappointment is at the lack
of any decent opposition to Williams domination - is it good for the