CIRCE'S ANIMAL HOUSE:
Date: 16th August, 2012
At a secret location deep in the Welsh countryside, development of Heighway Pinball's Circe's Animal House is well under way.
When we broke the news of their plans to start building pinball machines, the first whitewood playfield was due to be built imminently, with several parts designed and prototypes ready to fit.
To find out what progress there has been since, Pinball News paid a visit to see - and play - that whitewood. Plus we brought back even more exclusive information about the characters who will feature in the game.
To start with, let's take a look at that whitewood, which is expected to see many changes before it gets to production, but provides the first test to make sure the shots work as designed and identify which areas need tweaks to refine the flow.
The insert arrangement you see below will change, and many important playfield parts are missing too, including the monitor, the cocktail shaker, the diverter mechanism and one-way gate on the left inlane. In addition, the whole playfield is housed in a generic blank cabinet.
This version was running a rudimentary operating system which merely allowed the ball to be flipped, a few basic scores to be made, and the ball to be shot into the scoops and ejected through the upkicker. Just enough to be able to make judgments about whether the layout works and is any fun to shoot.
Apart from the in-playfield monitor, the most interesting feature in the lower part of the playfield is the return of the outer lane which feeds the flippers - something we've not seen on games for a while. To make this more interesting, the outer lane can be fed and looped from an inner orbit shot.
The inner orbit is fast, and the lack of a break in the inlane makes it tricky to keep the ball's speed under control. Consequently, this will be one of the major shots in the game with big rewards for combos.
There are several other orbit shots in the game, not all of which were available on this whitewood as they rely on the ball diverter mechanism which wasn't installed.
There are three ways to feed the vertical up-kicker. The first is the scoop positioned below the ramp which is available at all times. The second method is through the pop-up scoop in the centre lane, which was not fitted for this test whitewood. The third is by shooting the cocktail shaker, which will send the ball below the playfield if the diverter is activated.
One playfield feature we have not explored yet is the array of inserts just above the flippers - what we usually call the progress grid.
While these inserts are likely to change shape and layout during the design process, what they represent won't change. And this gives us our first look at the game's rules.
To recap, Circe uses her beauty to entice patrons into her cocktail lounge, where she uses her magical powers to turn them into animals of various kinds, through the cocktails she concocts and serves to the unsuspecting guests.
In Circe's Animal House, the customers are morphed into their bestial form by spelling out the animals' names using the drop targets, ramp shots and orbits to spot letters. There are nine main animals, each corresponding to one of the inserts above.
But what are these animals, and who were they before Circe released the beast inside?
We can now exclusively reveal the artwork which will form the basis for the animations and define the character's attributes.
Each of them transforms into either something approximating their human character, or turns one or more of their human traits on its head to produce the exact opposite.
The first is the ape, who lived as a mild-mannered city gent before tasting Circe's intoxicating potion.
The second character retains much of his appearance and attitude as he changes from a leather clad biker to an equally leather-clad cow.
The next transformation probably needs no introduction.
The next visitor to Circe's Animal House also keeps his main character traits, although perhaps it would have been better if he didn't.
Next we have our first feathered friend, where their human form's punk appearance easily transfers to their new parrot persona.
The sixth animal is someone we have met before in earlier pictures showing the computer rendering of the pop bumpers. That area of the playfield is known as the pig pen, so naturally enough our next guest takes on a decidedly porcine demeanour.
Six down, three to go, and we're all at sea when it comes Circe's next patron.
We return to dry land for our penultimate animal, as our cool cat transforms into an even cooler cat.
Finally, the sleazy bar guy makes a subtle shift to become our big bad wolf.
All nine of these character, and perhaps a secret animal or two, will feature in Heighway Pinball's Circe's Animal House when it is released early next year.
A second whitewood is expected to be shown to the public at this weekend's UK Pinball Party, and of course Pinball News will be there to bring you all the details in our special show report.
© Pinball News 2012