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Review: James Greenhalgh on 14/06/2004

whirlwind
I traded a Getaway with Eddie Mole for my one of these having become addicted to it in Visual Pinball. For those who are wondering, the emulated rendition is very good - it behaves just like my actual table!

Not uncommon for a Pat Lawlor game, this has an interesting playfield layout, there's simply no wasted space on it. The lower part of the table with the slingshots is slightly narrower than on other games, as theres a left ball lock lane. This is fed by the Skyway ramp, a long ramp that starts with a raising entrance top right, and runs across to down the left side. With the diverter off, this sends the ball into the left inlane. The left hand ramp (which can be shot from the third flipper, or the plunger if you're very skilled), leads up across the back, then habitrails the ball down the right side, landing it directly onto one of the spinning discs. Spinning discs? Three of them! These live around the middle of the table and spin in opposite directions. There's an orbit shot which leads the ball through one set of pop bumpers (the game has two sets!), and a pair of scoops on the left hand side below these. Various targets are scattered around the playfield - more on these below. There's a large white fan atop the backbox too :)

This game was made during what I like to call Williams "blue phase" ;) The cabinet is bright blue (like Earthshaker and Funhouse), much of the artwork and plastics is blue, and so is half the backglass (well some of it). The backglass art is very good, semi comical in style - allegedly the man in the van is Pat Lawlor himself. The playfield art is above average, the spinners surrounded by the blowing cloud (as seen on the backglass) are colourful and the compass looks nice, but essentially it's fairly simple. The music is fairly unassuming but lightly catchy, a little hard on the ears with the volume up - game over music is similar to this, but the lights change in time to it. Neat! Multiball music is a different story, quite moody and perfectly suits the game, with the wind noise, darkened lighting and flashers - not to mention the spinners kicking in and the backbox fan creating a nice breeze. Sound effects are great, with good speech and crashing of thunder.

Now the above might make this game sound good but not special, but that's not the case. The gameplay is absolutely brilliant! Unavoidable side drains are infrequent, the ramps are beautifully smooth and easy to hit with virtually no dirty hits where the ball rolls back down. Despite having 6 pop bumpers, they're restricted in scope due to the layout and don't ruin the flow. The spinners (triggered during multiball and ball locking, as well as left ramp hits) add a great angle to the game - when worn they don't do much, but fit a set of NOS spinner discs and you're ready for some unpredictable angles. Essentially the aim of the game is to lock three balls to start multiball.

To activate the locks (two in the left ball lane, one in a saucer under the right ramp), you have to hit the targets that correspond to the flashing compass directions - to find the storm. Each time this happens, the spinners and fan activate, and you have to shoot at the Skyway ramp. The third lock attempt starts with the spinners running and ramp already raised as it enters play. During multiball, the fan and spinners are kept running - one thing to note is that the spinners moving in bursts is normal. If like me, you've only played this in Visual Pinball, you might think it's faulty, but it actually improves things giving the spinners a chance to grip the ball before disrupting it. After multiball, there's a chance to restart with 2 ball by shooting the Cellar scoop within a time limit. In addition to the standard play, there's a set of drop targets to increase the bonus (for a big score hit these in one shot), a seperate target with increasing bonuses, various awards for making the scoops, and a big opportunity to build up Skyway loop bonuses over the course of the game.

This game rocks pure and simple :) While the art is simpler than many, it's extremely clean and hard to mark it down for this because there simply isn't space for elaborate pictures with amount of things on the playfield. The audio is a similar story, I'm not overly fond of the high pitched lead in the main music, but as a whole it suits the game well. It's pinball newbie friendly, but has some tricky bits too for the pros - if you get the chance, grab one!