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Review: John Whyatt on ??/09/1989

From Pinball Player Volume 13 #7

First Impressions

If, like me, your first encounter with Williams' JOKERZ was in the competition at Pinball '89 you could be forgiven for being a little disappointed. Playing under pressure in a competition, watched over by the critical gaze of fellow enthusiasts, is not the best way to develop an appreciation of one of the best pintables produced for a long time.

Since Pinball '89 I have had the opportunity to play JOKERZ both on the continent and more recently closer to home following the installation of a table by a local operator. One's first impression is of a remarkably uncluttered playfield by today's standards, and also of some very eye-catching graphics. On closer inspection you notice three ramps: one at each side and one in the middle of the playfield; which are the key to high scores on this machine. It's worth taking a little time to study and understand the features of the game because for the knowledgeable player high scores are the order of the day. On a three ball game scores well in excess of ten million are attainable.

Let the Game Begin

...booms the electronic voice as you press the start button and propel the ball out of the plunger lane, and up the right hand ramp to the small transparent playfield mounted above the main deck. On this high level playfield are five rollovers which spot the court cards ten thru' Ace. These cards may also be spotted on a next in sequence basis from the kickout at the top left of the main playfield. When the sequence is completed the table bonus (explained later) may be collected. Also each completed sequence lights a bell in the jester's hat at the bottom of the playfield. Lighting five bells lights the top right kickout for a special. The lit bells carry over from ball to ball. Returning briefly to the court card rollovers: with each plunger shot two of the five lanes will flash. Spotting a flashing lane scores the wild card bonus which is initially 100k, and increases by 100k with each successful shot. The ball exits the high level playfield via a central hole and lands on the main deck between three thumper bumpers. These can be lit to score 10k either by spotting the Queen on the high level, or by spotting the centre 'E' rollover on the main playfield above the bumpers. The bumpers remain lit until a period of four seconds passes with no bumper to ball contact.

Table Bonus and Bonus Multiplier

The value of the table bonus (max. 99k) is displayed on a diamond shaped matrix in the centre of the main deck above the flippers. The bonus is built by the three 'B' 'E' 'T' rollovers at the top of the playfield and by the two out-lanes, and two flipper return lanes at the bottom of the playfield. In addition, the table bonus may be multiplied up to 7x by completing B E T. After 7x has been reached each additional completion of B E T scores 100k. As already mentioned the table bonus is collected by spotting the court cards ten thru' Ace, or when the ball goes out of play. In the lower part of the diamond matrix is a flashing x number, eg. 5x. This indicates at what multiplier value the extra ball lanes will light. These lanes are the two outlanes and two flipper return lanes; the lit lane is cycled with the lane change control via the flipper buttons. The lane change operates simultaneously on the extra ball lanes, the B E T rollovers, and the court card rollovers.

Draw Poker

When the top right kickout is lit it will activate the draw poker feature. This consists of an animated display in the backglass showing a poker hand. The machine announces 'Draw Poker', and the cards revolve and the payout depending on the size of the poker hand is either between 10k and 250k, or extra ball (for three Aces) or special (for a full house). The feature may be re-lit by spotting the left flipper return lane. Both the left and right kickouts return the ball to the top of the playfield for re-entry to the B E T lanes.

Left and Right Ramps

On each side of the main playfield are ramps which route the ball back to the high level playfield. The left ramp builds the ramp bonus from 10k - 25k - 50k - 100k - 250k - 500k, whilst the right ramp scores the bonus. As you can see these ramps are valuable; especially on the last ball....

Double Your Score

On the last ball you have a timed period, usually between ten and twenty seconds to make both the left and right ramps. Achieving this doubles your score. If you gain an extra ball from the last ball, but have not already doubled your score, the opportunity is repeated.

Centre Ramp and Jackpot

In the middle of the main deck directly in front of the flippers is a target. Hitting this target raises a short ramp which feeds a U-shaped transparent ramp to the left of the playfield. Shoot one ball up the ramp and it's locked in the kickout off the left side of the playfield. The short ramp drops down flush with the playing surface and another ball emerges in the plunger lane. Hit the target and raise the ramp again, lock the second ball and you activate JOKERZ WILD. Now you can go for the jackpot: the value is displayed on the backglass (max 4M). Both the locked balls are kicked into play and the ramp stays raised. To score the jackpot value you must keep both balls in play and shoot the centre ramp four times. During multi-ball play a target in the entry lane to the top left kickout awards double scores.

One Million Points

Around the playfield are three banks of three drop targets; the Jokerz. Knocking down all nine drop targets flashes each bank to score one million points. Knock down any bank of three targets whilst flashing to collect, but you'll have to be quick - you've got about five seconds to do it!

Last Chance

If all else fails and you haven't got a replay by the end of the game don't despair. With JOKERZ there are five chances at the lucky number as the machine gives the impression of turning over five cards in the score display.

To Sum Up

To my mind this machine is one of the best turned out by any manufacturer for a long time. On the face of it the game appears simple and the playfield looks straight forward, but hidden in JOKERZ is a very challenging game with the potential for very big rewards in terms of high scores. If you're lucky enough to have a table in your area play a few games and I think you'll soon be hooked.