MEDIEVAL MADNESS
REMAKE


Welcome to the Pinball News In-Depth Review of Chicago Gaming Company's Medieval Madness Remake.

The last time we did an In-Depth Review of a remake was for Retro Pinball's King of Diamonds. Produced a little over eighteen years after the original, this remake of Medieval Madness hardly compares to the forty-five years between the two Gottlieb machines. Nevertheless, it's fascinating to see how technology has advanced in the intervening period, and how faithful a reproduction Chicago Gaming Company have created.

The intention to build a new version of Medieval Madness was announced at Pinball Expo in 2013.

Matt Christiano unveils the remake of Medieval Madness
Matt Christiano unveils the remake of Medieval Madness

The purchase price was five dollars short of $8,000 - a not inconsiderable sum, but well below the price at which original Medieval Madness games were changing hands at the time. There would be 1,000 Limited Edition models produced, with delivery expected in spring 2014.

The original order form
The original order form

Those 1,000 LEs sold out in just a few hours, and so a Standard Edition was introduced at the same price but minus a couple of bells and whistles. It was also announced that Stern Pinball would be assembling the games, first at their Melrose Park factory, and then at their new Elk Grove Village facility.

Jump forward to January 2016 and the first LE machines began to arrive in Europe. It is one of those that we will be reviewing here.

For this review we're going to assume a familiarity with the original game design, the playfield features, and the overall art package and just look at how this remake differs. All the pictures here are of the new remake, and as with our Game of Thrones review we'll use the Click to expand symbol below most of the pictures to denote when you can click on them to see higher-resolution versions.

The remake translite image
The remake translite image Click to expand

The artwork on the remake is almost identical to the original, with the exception of the Williams logo which has been removed from the translite and cabinet sides, and some new licensing information at the bottom-left of the translite.

The new licensing information
The new licensing information

The new cabinet artwork without the Williams logo at the bottom
The new cabinet artwork without the Williams logo at the bottom Click to expand

The backbox side art is the same on both sides and unchanged from the original game.

The unchanged backbox side art
The unchanged backbox side art Click to expand

The new game uses LEDs instead of incandescent lamps throughout, including in the start button, launch button and coin slots. The start button is especially bright.

The cabinet front
The cabinet front Click to expand

Although this is a game destined for Europe it still comes with an American coin door with the coin slots and cut-outs for a dollar bill acceptor.

So far, so similar, but when the remake was ordered the buyer could choose one of three different trim colours for their game. Originally just gold and silver were available, but a black finish was added later.

Initial samples of the gold coating turned out more caramel-coloured than gold, but this production version had an attractive metallic matte finish to the lock bar, side rails, legs and leg bolts.

The Limited Edition model with the gold trim package
The Limited Edition model with the gold trim package Click to expand

The apron comes with custom instruction and information cards pre-installed either side of the Limited Edition numbered decal.

Custom apron cards
Custom apron cards and numbered decal Click to expand

On the playfield, the use of LEDs is the most noticeable change.

The LED lit playfield
The LED lit playfield Click to expand

The playfield is now much more brightly illuminated than before, with a purer white light which manages to maintain some of the warm feel of incandescents without straying into the cold look of cheaper cool white LEDs.

The inserts are all suitably bright and evenly lit, with their colour coming from the insert plastic rather than a coloured LED beneath. There are even some impressive fading effects as the LEDs flash on and off to mimic the characteristics of real lamps.

Playfield inserts are all lit with white LEDs
Playfield inserts are all lit with white LEDs Click to expand

Those inserts are our only point of contention with the whole playfield. While all the artwork is bright and colourful, the printing on the inserts is less convincing.

The printing on the inserts
The printing on the inserts Click to expand

The black lettering appears washed out, as though it needs a second pass of black ink, or a white blocking layer is missing. You can see the difference by comparing the yellow inserts with the blue ones leading up to the Merlin saucer, which do have that white layer.

The printing on the blue inserts
The printing on the blue inserts Click to expand

That issue aside, the black line layer appears to be well-aligned with the colour layers - which themselves were free of registration issues - while the clearcoat over the playfield produces an attractive glossy finish.

The three wireforms, the flasher holder and the inlane ball guides are all finished in a gold colour to complement the rest of the playfield's colour scheme.

One of the polished gold wireforms
One of the polished gold wireforms Click to expand

As a package, the playfield is an impressively accurate reproduction of the original game, while being new and free from the effects of eighteen years of play means it looks quite wonderful.

The dragon over the right ramp
The dragon over the right ramp Click to expand

So while the playfield is as true to the original as possible, there are major differences under the plywood, as well as inside the backbox.

Under the playfield
Under the playfield Click to expand

In line with modern pinball manufacturing methods, the mass of wiring usually found under a 1990s pinball has been replaced with bespoke PCBs and localised driver boards.

There is one main PCB onto which most of the insert LEDS are mounted. All the LEDs beneath the playfield are white surface mount devices, with the few not covered by the main PCB on satellite boards which plug into the main PCB.

The main under-playfield PCB
The main under-playfield PCB Click to expand

Satellite LED boards
Satellite LED boards Click to expand

The main PCB only deals with LED outputs and switch inputs. The driving of the high power solenoids is carried out by three identical eight-way driver boards which plug into the main PCB to get their low power and control data.

One of the three driver boards
One of the three driver boards Click to expand

Each board can drive four high-power and four low-power 50V solenoids. One 4A fuse is used per pair of high-power solenoids, with a third to cover all four low-power coils. Yellow LEDs show the health of the 50V fuses and the availability of the 12V from the main PCB.

Although there are eight F3710Z MOSFETs on each board, the high-power outputs from devices 6 and 8 are not used in this game and the output header pins are missing from the PCBs.

Looking down a little further we come to the cabinet interior which is painted with semi-gloss black.

Inside the cabinet
Inside the cabinet Click to expand

Sitting centre-stage is the game's shaker motor which is nicely integrated into the game's rules and produces an effective vibration when the castles are destroyed and at other suitable moments during gameplay.

The shaker motor
The shaker motor Click to expand

Rather than use a transformer, this remake uses a switching power supply to reduce the mains voltage down to the +/-12V needed by the control system.

The switching power supply
The switching power supply Click to expand

Switching power supplies frequently suffer from overheating, so this one is built into a perforated metal case to allow the heat to escape while protecting the components from stray screws, nuts and other small parts which could fall from the playfield. There's nothing to keep the dust or small metallic particles off it however, and no air flow within the cabinet to aid with cooling when operated in a hot environment.

The 50V needed by the solenoids comes from a separate power supply built into the power switch box.

The power switch box
The power switch box Click to expand

This one is covered by a clear, removable plastic window which allows you to at least visually check the state of the four fuses inside.

The rest of the cabinet is more conventional, with familiar dual opto boards used for the flipper controls, microswitches for the start and launch buttons, and a classic tilt mechanism.

The flipper and start buttons
The flipper and start buttons Click to expand

The tilt mechanism
The tilt mechanism Click to expand

As we saw before, the coin door is a standard US two-slot model with bill acceptor blanking plates but no coin mechs provided as standard. The menu buttons are in the standard Williams configuration with back, down, up and enter buttons from left to right.

The coin door
The coin door Click to expand

If the cabinet contents are unconventional, they are nothing compared to the changes found inside the backbox.

With the driver boards and power supplies under the playfield or in the cabinet, there's not much left to go behind the translite.

Inside the backbox
Inside the backbox Click to expand

This controller board is about the size of a DVD case and it runs the whole show, from the rules, switch detection and solenoid triggers, to the display, sound and lighting effects.

The controller board
The controller board Click to expand

At the heart is a Beaglebone Black single-board computer which plugs into the main controller board to provide the pinball-specific inputs and outputs. The Beaglebone Black excels at inputs and outputs, having two 48-way headers packed full of them, along with USB, Ethernet and HDMI interfaces.

Connections to the playfield, coin door and cabinet
Connections to the playfield, coin door and cabinet

The main PCB beneath the playfield passes data to and from the controller board using a blue Ethernet cable.

The connection from the controller board
The connection from the controller board Click to expand

The controller board provides amplification for the audio signal from the Beaglebone Black so it can drive backbox speakers, while the Beaglebone's own micro-HDMI port is used to drive the display.

The speaker panel
The speaker panel Click to expand

The display is a full-colour widescreen LCD panel which is slightly larger than necessary for the display window but manages not to extend beyond the dimensions of the speaker panel.

An adaptor makes the HDMI signal suitable for a DVI connection, while a small converter board turns the DVI signal to something suitable for the LCD panel to display.

The display convertor board
The display convertor board Click to expand

The white ribbon cable leads to a control panel mounted in the backbox which adjusts the display's own settings independently of the pinball's menu system.

The display's controls
The display's controls Click to expand

At the time of writing only a user-selectable single colour can be shown on the display, but Chicago Gaming have announced a future upgrade to full-colour with an increased dot resolution.

There do appear to be some signal timing issues which can result in 'tearing' or flicker on some animations, but these are not fatal flaws and can hopefully be fixed in a future software update.

The only other item in the backbox is the game's knocker, which is a real, physical knocker in the top left corner.

The knocker mechanism
The knocker mechanism

With the solenoid drivers under the playfield, a long cable is needed from the knocker to one of these boards. There is a plug and socket half way along the cable which had become tangled and then disconnected during shipping, resulting in the knocker not working. A quick disentanglement and reconnection gave us our 'thwack' back.

Lighting for the game's translite is provided in a similar way to the original, with a large white light tray mounted on the back of the backbox glass.

Lighting for the game's translite
Lighting for the game's translite Click to expand

The original light tray had multiple holes in it for the many lamp holders which needed to be mounted. The remake uses LED strips inside the tray which only need one power feed, so the other cables are for the flasher LEDs which highlight certain areas of the translite during specific lighting effects.

Finally, we return to the playfield to wrap up this In-Depth Review.

Although the Medieval Madness Remake project was announced by Planetary Pinball Supply and deposits were taken by them, the project was run by Chicago Gaming Company under licence from Williams Electronic Games, as stated on the translite. Consequently, Chicago Gaming Company are the ones who worked with Stern Pinball to get the games manufactured and are the ones providing technical support to owners.

The support sticker on the bottom apron
The support sticker on the bottom apron Click to expand

There is also a hologram sticker from PPS to assure owners this is an officially licensed Bally/Williams product, just in case you had any doubt.

The hologram license decal
The hologram license decal Click to expand

Chicago Gaming Company have done an excellent job of recreating one of the all-time classics, keeping the look and feel of the original while bringing the underlying technology up-to-date, allowing for future enhancements such as re-rendered high-resolution display animations or networked gaming.

And that brings us to the end of this In-Depth Review of the Medieval Madness Remake. We hope you enjoyed it.

Dragon detail
Dragon detail Click to expand

Many thanks to John Gilbody for allowing us to use his machine for this article.

We'll be back with out next In-Depth Review soon, right here at Pinball News.


And really finally...

What do you think of the remake of Medieval Madness? Do you think it has been successful? Have you played one, and what did you think? Would you buy one over an original?

Let us know using the form below and we'll share your thoughts with other readers.

Your screen name:(Will be shown with your comment)

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What do you think about the Medieval Madness Remake?

Your comments:

Rvdv:

Excellent remake
But like the original better

JB Wiz:

I played my friend's MMR in Florida, as well as one in Pinball Expo 2015 and an original in TPF 2015. I noted no differences in the excellent play of both the orginal and the remake. Except one: The free game knocker in the remake is the loudest I have heard from any pinball machine ever. And I consider that a good thing.

JID:

Excellent pinball although it is difficult for me to buy one will cost a lot to get to get $ 8,000 in less than one year

DmZ:

Great designs never get old: I'm always glad to see these fabulous pinball machines from the 90's are alive and well. Even as a remake, as long as it respects everything from the original game.

So, I'm fine to see remakes like this, but I would be even happier to see some truly exciting and ambitious new designs on modern machines...

Anyway, thanks for this excellent review, and greetings from France !

PinScott:

Love the game! Well made and I am looking forward to the video upgrade. I very happy that PPS /CGC/Stern built this machine.

Cavey:

I would buy the remake over an original any day of the week. The remake has also redefined the crazy prices people were asking for Originals. The MM remake is awesome & priced very well. I say buy one & never look back !

xTheBlackKnightx:

If Chevy made a new Corvette 1967 Stingray (without the Chevy logo HINT HINT) and used new types of parts, an electronic ignition, and improved computer controlled fuel injected engine would it be an ORIGINAL Corvette Stingray? Would you pay the same amount of money for it?

Education in this hobby seems to have take a down turn. The good news is the remake allowed collectors to own a "copy" of the original, which is wonderful for the hobby if you just own pinball machines to play exclusively. There are many types of "collectors" out there. Some collect, some play, some restore, some do all three. I exclude people who believe NIB machines are "investments". MMR Fanboys need not apply here.

As far as "devaluing" original machines, the price is already stabilizing and continues to rise in value. Granted the last 10 years has caused the game to TRIPLE in price.

FINAL NOTE: Many pre-order deposits have already been returned. The same people are buying original machines. Why? 3+ years of waiting, production problems, and quality control issues. Comparing both an original and remake is not apples to apples.

Patrickfx:

Excellent review!

I'm surprise a good remake like this at only this price.

DV:

I sold my original to purchase the remake. By far and away the remake is the better choice. PPS & Chicago Gaming have done a fantastic job.



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