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Review: Andy Thorn on ??/??/2000
||1986 was a good year for pinball. Building on the success of games like Space Shuttle and Comet,
High Speed had taken the amusement world by storm, sending the message that after the lean video
game years, pinball was back! However, this was no time for resting on laurels, as a few dogs
might see this renaissance come juddering to a halt. So at the tail end of 1986 Williams'
release of Pinbot was possibly more important than might at first be thought - so was it
Pinbot sports a conventional flipper arrangement,
with return and out lanes on either side. Above the
left slingshot lies a bank of three drop targets,
above which is the ramp entrance. Knock down one drop
target and you have a timed period to get the rest to
advance the planet value. Feature lights in the centre
of the playfield map the solar system from Pluto to
the Sun. Each lit planet scores a 20k bonus, while
reaching a pre-selected planet, usually Jupiter, scores
Special, as does reaching the Sun. If the three targets
are not made in time they will reset. With all three
standing, a light strobes between them, hitting the
lit target first raises the ramp for a timed period.
Shooting under the ramp scores the energy value,
this is raised by the jet bumpers.
A ramp shot brings the ball around the top of the playfield to the transparent mini-playfield,
which is situated above the jet bumpers. The ball travels bagatelle style through the mini-post
maze that makes up the mini-playfield. The path of the ball through this part of the machine can
only be influenced by nudging. The ball can drop through a hole into the bumper area, enter the
main playfield, drop into the right return lane or proceed to the plunger lane. (Here it will
benefit from the vortex multiplier.) The ramp also increases the solar value (Jackpot) as well
as the bonus multiplier, up to 5X.
At the top of the main playfield is Pinbot's visor, in front of which is a bank of five spot
targets. Between the two exits from the bumper area, almost at 90 degrees to the flippers, are
another five targets. These correspond with a 5x5 grid of lamps that make up the chest panel of
Pinbot. Making all these 25 lights or hitting the flashing line first, causes the visor to rise
and the top target bank drops flush with the playfield. This reveals two eject holes, Pinbot's
eyes. Locking a ball in each eye causes the game to announce, 'Now I see you' and multiball
begins. The idea is to relock one eye and then make the ramp shot to collect the solar value,
which can be anything from 100k to 5M. This sequence can be repeated any number of times but
the solar value will reset to 100k once collected.
Other features of note on the playfield include a spot target above the right slingshot that
advances the planet value when lit. In the top left corner is a saucer which scores from 25k
through to lighting extra ball. The extra ball can be gained by making the lit return or
outlane, and the lit lane may be rotated via the flipper lane change. Finally, located between.
the flippers is a mini-post which, of course, bounces the ball back into play half as often as
you think it should!
In conclusion, I think Pinbot is a great
game. It has powerful looks, even today
the light bar atop the backbox draws
attention. The raising visor was unique
at the time, even if we are now blase
about features like T-Rex eating the
balls, or whatever. Williams have seen
fit to make two sequels; The Machine,
Bride of Pinbot and Jackbot (Backglass
pictured right). The former was inspired
by the success of the original, features
mini-playfield, enclosed bumpers and
benefits from a few more body parts. The
latter, released in 1995, uses exactly
the same playfield as Pinbot, features
dot matrix display and has significant
changes to the artwork and rules.
Jackbot also utilises the 'Casino Run'
feature which has the ability to either
significantly benefit your score or take
away without warning what you thought
you had earned. Which is good when it's
the former option....!
Whatever, these two siblings highlight the quality and innovation of Barry Oursler's original
design and there are still many original Pinbot games around - if you are keen on an
alpha-numeric game it is defintely rated it as a good machine to own.