|THE ROLLING STONES|
Hello and welcome to the second part of our exclusive in-depth review of Stern's new The Rolling Stones game.
In the first part we looked at the exterior build, the playfield layout and showed you how the game is put together. Now we examine the rules in depth and give our opinions on the various elements which go to make up The Rolling Stones.
We first got to see The Rolling Stones at a trade show in London in mid-January 2011 and completed part one of this review soon after. Although it was playable, we have deliberately waited before writing this second part to give the software a chance to develop before passing judgment on the game
So the version of the game code we are looking at here is 1.03. Changes have been made after this, but only to improve various aspects and fix any bugs which may have been found. The fundamentals remain the same.
There was some surprise when The Rolling Stones was confirmed as Stern's next game. Although a music-theme had been expected, bands such as AC/DC or Metallica were thought most likely.
However, The Rolling Stones should come as no surprise. A universally known brand, they hold the record for the highest grossing total concert sales at $1.7bn as well as the highest grossing single tour (A Bigger Bang at over $600m). With an album catalogue stretching back to the mid-'60s and the four main band members all well-known names, it made sense for Stern to licence The Rolling Stones for a pinball now, just as it did for Bally back in 1980.
While not everyone might describe themselves as a fan of their music, few will actually dislike it and most people will recognise it. When the Stones tour circus arrives in town, it's big news in almost all media outlets. So, the Stones brand gives off a powerful and positive vibe. You might not love them, but you have to admire them.
With some themes, it's clear what your part in the game will be. If you're Peter Parker, Indiana Jones, Jake Sully or Tony Stark, you do what the protagonist does in the related movie - fight the baddies, team up with your buddy, get the girl, or whatever else they might do.
With The Rolling Stones, you role is less well defined.
You're not playing one of the band members, you're not the "5th Stone" and you're not a concert promoter or tour manager getting the band together to play certain events or tour the world. You seem to just play the role of a fan, collecting albums and trying to interact with the band during one of their concerts.
Let's see how that works.
The Rolling Stones is a four ball game, and to get the first ball rolling we hit the start button.
The announcer says (with a pronounced English accent) "Ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones". Lights pan across the stage on the DMD. The band's all here. The flashers go wild, the playfield lights up, and Keith Richards' opening riff from Start Me Up rings out. The concert has begun.
As you will see, the display uses the regular 67/33 split to give a near-constant view of the scores on the left while the display effects take place on the right side of the screen. The specific machine used for this review had an LED dot matrix display fitted, so some grid effects are noticeable which won't be seen on a high voltage gas discharge display.
Our score is zero, the ball is sitting in the shooter lane and we have to decide how hard to plunge.
At the top rollover lanes, one of the four lanes is flashing for a skill shot and this is the obvious feature to go for.
It is always the Ronnie lane lit at the start of each ball, but this can be changed with the flipper buttons in the usual way.
Plunge the ball up to the rollovers and get the ball to roll through the flashing lane for a skill shot award of 250K.
This value increases by 25K each subsequent time you collect it in the same game, and the band member shown reflects the lane the ball passed through.
Their name is also read out if there's no clashing sound effect.
As usual, there are no bonus points for getting the ball through the flashing lane without using the flipper buttons to steer it - a nice feature found on some games which we'd like to see re-introduced to add more skill to the skill shot.
Instead of opting for the top rollovers, you can try instead to get the ball into the lock lane's top entrance to register a shot to that lane. If you manage to do this, you get a super skill shot worth double the regular skill shot instead.
Or if the mood takes you, you can plunge weakly and get the ball to roll down the right orbit back to the flippers. There's no obvious reason to make that shot and miss out on the skill shot opportunities, unless you're nervous about the ball exiting the pop bumpers and draining down the left outlane without you getting a chance to flip it - something which has been known to happen.
But assuming you're made of stronger stuff and let the ball through the top rollover lanes, you'll find yourself in the area of the playfield belonging to drummer Charlie Watts.
Yes, each band member has their own part of the playfield. Keith has the Rock Star targets, Ronnie has the lock lane, Mick roams across the front of the stage and Charlie has the pop bumpers.
So each hit on a pop bumper represents a hit on one of Charlie's drums, as shown on the display.
Each hit on a pop bumper scores an increasing amount. The display shows values from 3K - 6K but in reality, the score increases by a value which starts at 3K and increases by 1K per pop bumper hit up to a maximum of 20K.
If there's a long gap between pop hits, the value will reset to 3K, as it will if the ball leaves the pops area.
The ball does quite regularly make its way back into the top rollover lanes from the pop bumpers, and the lane it goes through is usually pretty random, so everything works up there as you'd hope.
But what do you get for completing all four top rollover lanes? Is it the usual bonus multiplier increase? Well, no, it's not. Completing all four rollover lane inserts scores 10K points and flashes all the green multiplier inserts in front of the six major shots.
As with earlier Stern games, once the multiplier inserts are flashing, the next major shot you make is given a multiplier which doubles all scores made on that shot - including jackpots and super jackpots - for the remainder of the ball. The insert lights up solid to indicate the shot's value is multiplied and you earn another 20K.
The next time the top rollover lanes are completed, only the unlit multiplier inserts flash. One of these shots can then be given a 2X multiplier, until all six shots have their values doubled.
The second multiplied shot scores an immediate 40K, the third 60K, the fourth 80K, while the fifth and sixth both earn you 100K points for lighting them.
There is a similar display for multiplying the lock lane, but it is usually rapidly overwritten by the Play Records mode display associated with that shot, so you don't get to see it.
Completing the top rollovers after that starts a roaming 3X multiplier, which moves left to right and back again across all six major shots, flashing one of the green inserts for a second or two before moving on. If you shoot a shot while it is flashing, the value earned is tripled instead of merely doubled.
The timing is tight for the 3X multiplier, so you'll probably need to cradle the ball to have a good shot at getting it.
As you'll appreciate, doubling or tripling the shot values can make an appreciable difference to your scores, especially during some of the modes where you need to shoot the same shot - or pair of shots - over and over. Right orbit shots often lead to the top rollovers and it's generally a safe shot, so building up these multipliers early is a useful strategy.
When the ball leaves the pops, it (hopefully) rolls down to the flippers and we get fully involved in the game for the first time. Where do we shoot? What's the most fun to play? Where are the points?
Our choices are shown on the feature ladder above the flippers.
As we noted in part one, this is a sample game and there have been a few changes to the artwork before production models rolled off the line, but the principles of the gameplay are the same.
Although it may look as though there are six main features and a seventh wizard mode, in actual fact all seven round inserts are individual features which need to be lit (or made to flash) in order to get to an eighth mode - Encore - which is the wizard mode. Encore doesn't have its own insert, but there are enough lighting and display cues to let you know when it's available, and where.
So the first of the features on the ladder is World Tour.
This is one of the easier features to start, as all you have to do is make the left or right orbit shots. Each shot counts down the number of orbit shots needed to start World Tour. You need 4 shots for the first World Tour.
The plane animation - and accompanying sound effect - is played for shots to the left orbit which has a plane in the artwork. The sharp-eyed amongst you will note it's a rather different type of aircraft to the one shown in the animation.
The right orbit shot features a more earth-bound means of transport.
So the dot matrix animations for right orbit shots show the truck as well.
You might notice that this animation crosses the score area boundary line, briefly driving in front of the scores on the left.
So both orbit shots count down the number of shots remaining.
Yes indeed, it's a different animation of the truck this time.
Finally we get down to the last shot and World Tour mode begins.
Starting World Tour is enough to light the first insert on the feature ladder.
World Tour is a hurry-up mode where you shoot the orbits to visit cities around the world and collect the current countdown value.
The countdown value starts at 750K the first time you play World Tour (increasing by 250K each subsequent time) and counts down in 1,150 chunks until it reaches 400K. It takes around 20 seconds to do this, during which you shoot as many orbits as you can to collect the current value.
Shoot an orbit straight away and you get 750K as you visit Moscow.
If either orbit shot is multiplied, then these values can be doubled or even tripled if you time it right.
Loop the orbit as the value starts counting down and the next award is for Paris.
The sixteen cities included on the World Tour are:
Pretty soon the minimum value is reached as the time runs out.
There are a couple of seconds of grace period where one or two more 400K awards can be collected, after which the mode's total score is displayed.
Something you might have seen in the sequence above are the two numbers in the top corners of the countdown display. This isn't the time remaining, it's the number of countdown awards you need to collect to complete the World Tour feature. It starts at 7 awards and counts down as you collect the awards.
The number holds over from ball to ball, so it's not as hard as it may look. Plus there is another helper which can make the target even easier to reach in the form of the VIP mystery award, but more on that later.
When you do collect the 7th award, World Tour has been finished and the insert on the feature grid starts flashing. The display also shows it as the first of the seven features you need to complete.
Completing World Tour doesn't prevent you playing the remainder of the mode until the time runs out, but the number of shots remaining disappears from the display.
At the top of this review we wrote about how the ball rolls from the top rollover lanes into the pop bumpers which is Charlie Watts' respective area. Well, every hit on those self-same pop bumpers also counts down towards the start of Fast Scoring (or to give it its full name, 'Charlie Fast Scoring'.
The number of bumper hits needed to qualify the first Fast Scoring mode is 35 on default settings and each bumper hit reduces that by one.
When the number needed reaches zero Fast Scoring is ready to be started and the number of hits needed disappears from the display, replaced by the total number of points earned from the pop bumpers in this visit.
Contrary to how it sounds, Charlie Fast Scoring doesn't require you do a drug deal at record speed. Instead it's a frenzy style mode started by shooting the ball through the pop bumper lane, between the left orbit and the left ramp.
There's no dedicated insert, but when Fast Scoring is available, the flasher behind the plastic image of Charlie flashes feverously and the red arrow insert also flashes. One shot into this lane and Fast Scoring begins. You also get 100K points for your trouble.
Fast Scoring is a timed mode which lasts for 25 seconds on default settings, during which all switches score. They're worth 10K points the first time you play it, increasing by 5K every time you start Fast Scoring in the same game.
Starting Fast Scoring once is sufficient to light its associated insert on the feature ladder.
Because you start Fast Scoring by shooting the ball into the pop bumpers, you usually start with a good number of switch hits to start you on your way.
As with World Tour, apart from the regular scoring opportunities you might get from from shooting things like the spinner and getting the ball back in the pop bumpers, there is another greater task to complete.
You also have to collect 100 switch hits to finish Fast Scoring, but they don't all have to be during this one session.
If you don't manage all 100 in the time allowed, you get the mode's total displayed.
Then just start Fast Scoring again and pick up where you left off, as long as it's during the same game.
Once those remaining switch hits have been made, Fast Scoring has been completed and the insert on the feature ladder flashes.
Over on the left side of the playfield are the three V-I-P standup targets.
Hitting one of the targets lights its respective V-I-P insert and scores 75K. If the target's insert is already lit it lights the adjacent insert, making them fairly easy to complete.
When you do complete them, you get an instant award of 250K, which increases by 25K each time you light all the V-I-P inserts. You also get a pseudo-random award from the following options:
The V-I-P award is pseudo-random because the 'More mode time' and 'Add-a-ball' are context sensitive.
If you're playing one of the timed modes such as World Tour, Fast Scoring or any of the record modes, the next V-I-P award will almost certainly extend the time available to complete it.
This will only work the first time you complete V-I-P during one of these types of mode. Thereafter, it might work, but you're more likely to get one of the awards in the right-hand column above.
Similarly, the 'Add-a-ball' award is usually given the first time you complete V-I-P during one of the multiball features. But more on those later.
The V-I-P mystery award also appears to be the only way to light the extra ball and the special on the right ramp.
Once lit, a simple shot to the right ramp collects the extra ball and earns you another 50K.
But getting back to the feature grid, and the next insert to light is Rock Star.
This is the first of our multiball modes and it revolves around the three orange star stand-up targets at the entrance to the ramps.
Your target is to spell out R-O-C-K-S-T-A-R and hitting one of the lit standups blows up one of the stars and adds a letter.
Initially all three targets are lit, but as soon as you hit one it turns off, leaving you just two lit targets. Hitting another of the lit targets adds another letter and turns that one off too, but it re-lights the first target. So basically, the last target you hit is turned off and the other two are lit.
In later rounds, only one target is lit at a time - the last two you hit are turned off - and hitting an unlit target does nothing.
Help is at hand though, thanks to the two square standup targets just to the left of the left ramp, which make up the Rock Star area.
Hitting either of these two targets will re-light an unlit target and give you 30K to boot.
When you manage to spell R-O-C-K-S-T-A-R, multiball is ready to start by shooting those two Rock Star standups.
The flasher under the Rock Star insert kicks off and a single shot to either target is enough to start a two ball multiball. You also pick up a juicy quarter-of-a-million points as the track Flip The Switch kicks in.
If you think this introduction looks familiar, you might have played NBA recently. Yes indeed, a few of the NBA All Star animations turn up in modified form in Rock Star multiball. Still, at least they recycled one of the better parts of that game.
Starting Rock Star multiball is enough to light the Rock Star insert on the feature ladder.
Rock Star Multiball begins with a round where you have three jackpots to collect at the three orange star standup targets.
But before we get to that, there's something more pressing to take care of.
You see those two '20' numbers in the bottom corners of the display effects area? Based on earlier evidence you might think they mean you need 20 jackpots to complete Rock Star and flash the insert on the ladder, right? Wrong.
Those two numbers are a timer which counts down, and during this period you can shoot the two Rock Star standup targets to add another ball.
You can do this twice to put all of the game's four balls into play, but once those twenty seconds have gone, you can't shoot the Rock Star targets to add balls any more.
Whether you have two, three or all four balls in play, it's the flashing orange star standups you need to score regular jackpots of 500K.
Each target becomes unlit once you hit it and collect the jackpot. You need to get all three to move on to the next stage of Rock Star multiball where the big red arrows inserts on all the majors shots flash to award double jackpots.
With regular jackpots worth 500K, no prizes for guessing how much a double jackpot scores you.
There are six to be collected - one on each of the major shots, which is pretty much everything except the Rock Star targets and the side target banks. This is made slightly harder by the Mick Jagger moving target which has a tendency to park itself in front of one of these shots. If you shoot Mick, he simply shakes a little but doesn't budge, which can be slightly annoying.
At this point, any shot multipliers you've got running begin to pay off, as they double those scores to 2 million each. Not too shabby.
Multiplied or not, pick up all six of those double jackpots and you're ready for the big payoff which is the super jackpot.
Reasonably enough, this is collected at the Rock Star targets. But there's a catch, because Mick has other ideas.
With big points available and just one shot to make, Mick dances about right in front of the very targets you need to hit. Never mind the Mars Bar incident, it's stuff like this which could really put you off the guy.
Anyway, if you manage to time the shot right and hit one of the Rock Star targets, you get a meaty super jackpot value equal to the sum of all the jackpots and double jackpots you've scored so far, including all the multiplied ones.
That means the multiplied double jackpots are scored twice, one for the double jackpot and again for the super jackpot, so they're really worth lighting.
Apart from the big points, collecting the super jackpot completes Rock Star multiball and makes the Rock Star insert on the feature ladder flash. You might not realise yet why you want this but trust us, you want it.
With the super jackpot collected, it's back to the start of Rock Star multiball which means hitting the three orange star standup targets for 500K each - there no increase in values the second time through.
Rock Star multiball continues in this fashion until you are down to one ball or fewer.
Incidentally, it is possible to collect the mystery award of add-a-ball during Rock Star multiball even if you missed out on getting all four balls in play during the initial 20 seconds. However, there doesn't appear to be any check to see whether all four balls are already out, so you might get it awarded when there are no more balls to put into play, which wastes it.
During Rock Star multiball you cannot start the other multiball mode - Album Multiball - or any of the game's other modes, though any of the various other features which were already running - such as Fast Scoring, World Tour or Licks - continue to run until their timers expire.
There are four Records modes and they are all started by shooting the lock lane. Each one has to be qualified with some initial shots to the lock lane, then started with one more shot.
On default settings, the first Records mode just needs one lock lane shot to light it and this can even be collected from the super skill shot, since that rolls through the lock lane.
We've called it the 'lock lane' in this review as it's the nearest thing to locking the ball the game ever does. In truth, it only ever holds the ball for a few seconds while the 'play records' or mode start animations take place, before releasing it back into play (and hopefully not straight between the flippers). It never locks the ball like the Jake shot in Avatar does by turning it into a captive ball, although the same hardware is used so it could have done.
With Play Records qualified and the insert lit on the playfield, one more shot into the lane starts the first Records mode.
There are four Records modes, all named after Stones tracks which play during their respective mode. They are:
All of them are timed modes with the clock being set at 45 seconds on factory settings, though this can be adjusted for each mode through the settings menu. Although the Records modes continue through multiball modes, they cannot be started during a multiball.
All four modes are very similar in that they light one or more record inserts on the six major shots and you have to shoot the lit shots to score points. The only variations are in which shots are lit, how they change during the mode, and how many points they score.
So let's start with the first of these four; It's Only Rock 'N Roll.
It's Only Rock 'N Roll is actually the dullest of the four Records modes, lighting just one shot - the left orbit - where you score 100K, increasing by 100K per shot.
You have 45 seconds to rack up as many left orbit shots as you can.
But there is the bigger picture to think about, and that is more about lighting the insert on the feature ladder and then finishing the mode and getting the insert to flash.
At the start of each game, you have 25 records to collect from the Records modes. If you're good, you can collect them from just one mode, or you can play as many different modes as you need. Each lit record shot scores points and collects one record.
There's one slight exception to this. If you shoot an orbit and the ball doesn't make it all the way up to the top, it can roll over the orbit switch on the way up and then again on the way down, and this can sometimes credit you with two shots. This is due to the fact there's only one switch on each orbit, so the game can't sense which direction the ball is moving. Which is good news for us players.
So you need to collect 25 records, but fortunately you don't need all 25 to light the insert on the feature ladder. In fact you need just 10. Once the number of records remaining reaches 15, the insert lights.
We'll see what happens when you collect all 25 records in a moment, but before that, let's look at the other Records modes.
Happy starts with just the pop bumper lane lit for 200K. Of course, if you happen to have a shot multiplier on the pops lane it could be worth 400K or even 600K if the 3X roaming shot has landed on the lane.
Once you've collected that, the lit shot changes to the lock lane for 225K.
Hitting those two shots lights all six record shots for scores starting at 250K and increasing by 25K for each one you shoot.
All six shots remain lit for increasing points for the duration of the Records mode.
The third Records mode is Love Is Strong and it gets you to alternate between the left and right sides of the playfield with one, two and then three lit shots.
The first lit shot is the left orbit which scores 200K.
Then the right side equivalent - the right orbit - is lit for 250K.
There are two shots lit on the left - the left orbit and the pop bumper lane. Hit either of those for 300K. Then it's the right orbit and lock lane which are worth 350K.
Then we have three shots lit on the left - the orbit, the pop bumper lane and the ramp. Shooting any one of these moves the action back to the right with the orbit, lock lane and ramp lit for 400K.
These three lit shots then alternate between the left and right sides for the rest of the mode, increasing in value by 50K each time until the time runs out.
The fourth Records mode is called Mixed Emotions and this one is all about timing.
Two adjacent records are lit and they roam left and right across the playfield. Starting with the left orbit and bumper lane, you can see the sequence below.
The lit records then reverse the sequence to move back to the left.
Shooting either of the lit records earns you 100K points, increasing by 25K for each subsequent shot.
This continues for the duration of the timer.
Clearly none of these Records modes score all that much by themselves, so they are usually best combined with a multiball to earn some worthwhile points.
Also, collecting your first V-I-P mystery award during a Records mode is quite likely to add around 40 seconds more to your timer which can make the value of the shots rather more respectable by the end.
So those are the four Records modes. They're interesting enough, but the main aim has always been to collect those 25 records we needed at the start.
Once we get them, Records Multiball is qualified as soon as the current Records mode ends.
The flasher behind Ronnie Wood starts up and the inserts leading up to the lock lane start strobing to tell you to shoot it. So let's shoot it.
Hang Fire is the name shown on the display for Records Multiball which is the mini-wizard mode you get for playing all four Records modes. Which is a little odd, since the track playing in the background is 'Shattered', not 'Hang Fire', and 'Shattered' seems more appropriate for the display effects which follow.
As it starts playing, the three balls in the trough are launched into play to give a four-ball multiball with all record shots - except the lock lane - lit for jackpots which start at 350K.
By this stage you'll probably have a good few shot multipliers lit, so those are the ones to go for.
Record Multiball works much like Total Annihilation in Attack From Mars, in that all jackpot shot scores are also added to a super jackpot pot which can be collected at any time by making the relevant shot.
In the case of Record Multiball, that shot is the lock lane. At the start of multiball the pot is empty so the lock lane is not lit, but as soon as you make one jackpot, the lane lights up so you can collect the super jackpot.
As before, if you have a multiplier in effect on any jackpot shots, those multiplied values are added to the super jackpot pot, and of course the pot itself can be multiplied if the lock lane has a multiplier on it.
If you are able to use the 3x roaming multiplier judiciously, a base 350K jackpot + 350K super jackpot can be boosted to a 1.05M jackpot + 3.15M super jackpot. Not bad at all, and with four balls in play and all the major shots lit, you're quite likely to get some 3X jackpots if you've got the roaming multiplier running. If you have, it's worth building up the pot before going for that important timed shot to collect it at 3X. If you don't have it running, you can collect the super jackpot any time it's lit.
Collecting at least one super jackpot is important though, as that is the action which completes Records and gets its inserts flashing on the feature ladder.
The base jackpot value of 350K increases by 12.5K with each successive jackpot collected up to a maximum of 500K, and Record Multiball continues until you only have one ball left in play.
Licks (or Live Licks as the commentator says it) is begun by spelling out the words R-O-L-L-I-N-G and S-T-O-N-E-S by shooting the two ramps, very much like you'd spell out G-U-N-S 'n R-O-S-E-S on the Data East game of the same name.
At the start of the game, you are already given the first few letters of each word, leaving just the I-N-G and E-S needed to complete the words.
If you play Licks again in the same game though, you need to start from the beginning as you can see below.
The process for adding letters has become harder in the production version of software. In the prototype version, any left ramp shot would add a letter to R-O-L-L-I-N-G and any right ramp added a letter to S-T-O-N-E-S.
Now, the default settings requires you to combo the ramps to add letters.
So to add a letter to R-O-L-L-I-N-G you need to shoot the right ramp first, which lights the left ramp for a letter.
Similarly, to spell out S-T-O-N-E-S you need to shoot the left ramp first to light the right lamp for a letter.
To make things easier at the start, the first time you build up Licks you get two letters for each ramp combo - one added to each word - but later on it gets harder with only one letter at a time as shown above.
Each time you add a letter you also score a points value which starts at 50K for the first letter, 100K for the second and then increases by 50K for each pair of letters up to 400K for the final letter. In the first round of Licks where you get free letters added, the scoring still begins at 50K and only gets up as far as 200K before both words are completed.
When all the letters have been collected, the next ramp shot will start Licks mode.
Licks is a timed mode where you get an initial 25 seconds to score as many Licks awards as you can.
When Licks begins, the big red arrow inserts on the six major shots all flash. Shooting one of them scores 200K. You can keep shooting any of the six shots to score Licks awards which increase by 50K each time.
You can shoot the same shot over and over with the exception of the left ramp, which is too easy to keep looping and so only relights when a different shot is made.
25 seconds seems like a long time but you can extend that further with a timely completion of the VIP targets to add 25 more seconds.
But as with the other features, while the points are nice, we want to light or flash that feature ladder insert. So how do we do that?
Simply starting Licks is enough to light the ladder insert.
When Licks begins, above the timer is a counter which shows the number of Licks awards needed to light the Licks insert. It starts at 10 and counts down every time you shoot one of the red arrowed shots.
After making ten Licks shots, the mode has been completed and the feature ladder insert flashes.
Licks then continues until the timer expires when play returns to normal.
Our penultimate feature is the rightmost one on the feature ladder, matching the position of the targets which start it.
Starting the Combos mode is the sole purpose of the three standup targets on the right side of the playfield.
Each target has a corresponding guitar insert and like the V-I-P targets on the opposite side, the aim is to light all three and start Combos. Hitting an unlit target scores 75K while completing them earns you 250K.
Combos isn't a timed mode and once started, it seems to keep running until you at least complete the first stage and light the progress ladder insert.
When Combos starts, the red arrow inserts on the left and right orbits and the left and right ramps light up. Shooting one of these four causes the other three to flash. These are your combo shots. In addition, the two previously unlit lanes - the pop bumper lane and the lock lane also light solidly for combo shots.
Shooting one of the lit or flashing shots scores a combo worth 250K, which is doubled in value you shoot one of the flashing shots.
Your aim then is to keep the combo shots coming and string together 5 consecutive combo shots. Each sequential shot is worth 25K more than the previous, though if you take more than about 5 seconds, the flashing shots return to their solid status and you have to start building your combo sequence again.
Since the ramps, loops and the lock lane all progress towards their own features, there is sometime a clash of priorities and the display stops showing you your Combo progress, preferring instead to show your World Tour, Licks or Play Records shot count. This can make it difficult to keep track of how many combo shots you have linked together.
The total number of combo shots is shown at the bottom of the display, but this is for a high score entry and doesn't help you progress through the mode.
What you want to see is this...
...which starts this...
...and also does this;
But to get that insert to flash and complete Combos you still have a little work to do as we go into Super Combos.
Super Combos allows you to use the one shot denied you in Licks - looping the left ramp over and over. When Super Combos begins, the flasher next to the left ramp goes wild, inviting you to shoot the ramp. If you start another mode such as Licks or World Tour, the flasher goes out until the mode finishes when it starts up again.
When you do shoot the left ramp, you get an immediate 500K Super Combo award.
When you collect the first Super Combo, a countdown timer starts during which you have to shoot the ramp 4 more times to collect a total of 5 Super Combos.
The time runs out very quickly so you really can't afford to miss. Each successive Super Combo is worth 50K more than the one before, making the fifth one worth 700K.
When the fifth Super Combo is collected you don't get any special fanfare but you do flash the Combos insert on the feature ladder.
If you fail to get all 5 Super Combos before the time runs out, you have to complete the three guitar standups to start Combos again, get another 5-way combo and then have another go at Super Combos.
Album Multiball is the most visible of the game's features, since it requires you to shoot the game's main (some might say 'only') toy - the moving Mick Jagger.
We've said it before, but it's worth repeating that the review game we used was a sample machine and the artwork and some naming has changed since it was produced. Album Multiball was called Stones Multiball on this model's playfield art, although it has updated software which shows the new name on the display.
When the game begins, Mick moves haphazardly across the playfield, jumping between his six pre-defined positions which match up with the six white triangular inserts with quaver artwork on them. These inserts line up with the six major shots in the game.
To qualify Album Multiball, all six of these inserts need to be solidly lit.
Each time you hit Mick, he advances the state of the insert in front of him. If it is unlit, he makes it flash. If it is flashing, he makes it solid. If it's solid, he shouldn't really be jumping to that position because he does jack.
So basically Mick moves between the unlit or flashing arrow positions so you can light all six inserts solidly by hitting him with the ball. You get 20K for the first lit note and an extra 5K for each subsequent one.
Depending on how the machine is set up, it might be possible to register a hit if you make one of the orbit shots and Mick him from the back. That's certainly the safest option because hitting him from the front is almost an open invitation for the ball to drain, so you need to be on your guard if you shoot him straight on.
With five inserts lit you might expect Mick to park himself next to the only remaining insert, but no.
Although it's not marked out, there is another position for Mick to stop and it's one we've seen before during Rock Star Multiball - in front of the Rock Star targets. And it's this position which he alternates with the last remaining insert, making the last note a bit harder than it might otherwise be.
When you light that sixth note insert solidly, Album Multiball starts straight away while you receive a 250K boost to your points.
Starting Album Multiball is all you need to do to light the Album insert on the feature ladder.
At this point, all the inserts on the ladder are lit, but you're in Album Multiball so nothing will happen until the current mode ends. Plus, we have merely lit the Album Multiball insert. It's not flashing yet.
Album Multiball is a two ball mode, although as with Rock Star and Records Multiball, another ball is probably available by completing the V-I-P targets.
As the dot matrix display flicks through assorted Stones album covers, our task is to collect a mix of six jackpots and six double jackpots.
First, the single jackpots.
Shoot Mick in each of his six positions and you will relight the note insert and earn yourself a jackpot for each of them. If you've already lit the note insert, you can't collect another jackpot in that position - try a different one.
Each jackpot shows a different album on the display. The software contains album art for just about all the Stones' albums in the small size you see above and six of them in the jackpot animation size below.
When you hit Mick in an unlit position, two things happen. Firstly you get the jackpot award of 150K, but you also light the red arrow on the shot behind him for a double jackpot.
Shot multipliers still apply, so these values can be doubled or tripled.
To complete this section you need to shoot Mick in all six positions to collect the six regular jackpots, and then make the six major shots to collect all the double jackpots. You can mix and match the single and double jackpots, but you have to collect the single jackpot on a shot before it becomes lit for a double.
When you have all the single and double jackpots, we move on to the next stage where you have to shoot one of the orange Rock Star standup targets to score a super jackpot. The target in question is the one at the entrance of the left ramp.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, Mick has other ideas and just as he did with the Rock Star super jackpot, he plants himself right in front of the target, blocking your shot.
This time you can do something about it though. Hit Mick with the ball and he very briefly moves out of the way to reveal the target before resuming his guard. The length of time he moves aside is too brief to make a second shot with the same ball, so you're going to have to use one ball to move him and another to hit the target.
Of course, you could always just blast away and hope a collision ricochets onto the standup. Good job this is still multiball.
If you manage to hit the target one way or another, you get a super jackpot which is worth the sum of the six jackpots and double jackpots you just collected (including any shot multipliers).
But that's not the end. Oh no, there's more to come as you face the task of hitting Mick another twenty (yes, twenty) times to finish the mode.
Because the Mick target is quite a risky one, the game auto-launches another ball into play to help you. Every hit on Mick results in a jackpot score of 250K and one fewer hit to complete Album Multiball.
Hitting a moving target 20 times in a row is something of a test of endurance, but if you make it all the way through, you will have added another 5M to your score, got the Album Multiball insert on the feature ladder to flash and found yourself back at the start of Album Multiball, scoring those six single and six double jackpots.
The second time around, the base jackpots have risen from 150K to 250K (with double and super rising accordingly) and the 20 shots at the end have also risen by 100K to 350K each.
If you drain and don't get all the way through Album Multiball, the number of shots remaining from those 20 at the end is remembered, so you don't quite have to do it all again.
So now we reach that part of the review where we've completed all the tasks we've been set and it's time to find out how the game is going to reward us. Yes, it's the wizard mode.
It's at this point that we give those who prefer to find out these things for themselves a chance to jump past the next section and re-join us immediately after it.
The Rolling Stone's wizard mode, Encore, is split into two sections and which parts you get to play depends on how well you've done so far.
The first section is just plain 'Encore' and this is what you play if you don't have all the feature ladder inserts flashing. However, if you do have them all flashing, you still get to play Encore but when you've completed it you go into Encore Multiball.
If you had none or only some of the inserts flashing, when you finish Encore the lit and flashing inserts stay as they were. Your only option then is to get them all flashing by playing the features again. If you manage to get them all flashing, you skip Encore (since you've already played it) and go straight into Encore Multiball.
When you've finished playing Encore Multiball, the feature inserts all go out and you're effectively back at the start of the game (except you have a rather better score).
So that's how the logic works. Let's take a look at the two modes themselves.
When all the feature inserts are lit or flashing, the inserts leading up to the lock lane strobe and the flasher does its stuff to tell you to shoot into the lock. If your last insert is lit during a multiball mode, you need to finish the multiball first.
Shooting the lock lane traps the ball and starts Encore.
The record and the arrow inserts on the six major shots now flash as do the six white note inserts in front of Mick.
Your job is to light all 18 of them solidly by shooting each shot twice - once for the record and once for the arrow - and shooting Mick six times.
Mick doesn't do his usual dance during Encore so lighting his note inserts is a little different. Rather than moving between his usual six positions, he moves rapidly from the far right to the far left, and back again. Hitting him at any point lights another note insert, starting with the far left one and working over to the right.
When the ball is released, each shot to any of the six lanes or hitting Mick lights an insert and gives an award which begins at 500K and increases by 50K with each shot.
Shot multipliers are also in effect here and the points from each shot also go into a super jackpot pot which can be collected when all 18 shots have been made. The 18th shot is worth 1.35M if no multipliers are in effect, and collecting it lights the lock lane for the super jackpot which has a minimum value of 16.65M.
It's also worth noting how none of the other modes and features can be started during Encore. With all those shots to the orbits and ramps you might think you'd start Licks, World Tour or Fast Scoring but they're unavailable when Encore is running. The Combos guitar standups on the right advance the combos value but they don't start Combos mode.
One feature which is available is the V-I-P mystery award, which is perhaps more useful when we get to Encore Multiball, or maybe not as we shall see. Another is the shot multiplier which is lit from the top rollovers. If you don't have all the shots multiplied, now would be a good time to rectify that.
So Encore super jackpot is lit at the lock lane but Mick's not going to give up all those points without a fight. Thus, he stands in front of the lock lane to block your shot.
As with the Album Multiball super jackpot, you have to hit him once to move him out of the way and then make the required shot. But because we're only in single ball play and not in a multiball, you're going to have to use the same ball to do both. Consequently he moves out of the way for a longer time than he does in Album Multiball. It's still not long, but it's at least possible to hit Mick and then shoot the lock lane.
When you manage it, you collect all those points (and really wish you had lit the shot multiplier on the lock lane).
Collecting the super jackpot ends Encore as Tom, the commentator tells us, "Super jackpot. You jammy beggar!" Err.... right.
If you didn't have all the feature inserts flashing, you're back to regular play and have to get those features not yet flashing to flash before you can get any further through the wizard mode.
If you did have them all flashing, well....
The three balls in the trough are auto-launched onto the playfield and Encore Multiball is under way.
The rules are basically the same as for regular Encore, but this time you've got four balls to play with.
The scoring is the same, starting at 500K and increasing by 50K with each successful shot, and the super jackpot builds in the same way.
We hinted before how the V-I-P mystery award might not be as much help as you'd hope. That's because with all four balls in play, you can still be awarded...
...which wastes the award. So you need to wait until you've drained at least one ball to collect this.
When you've made all six shots twice and hit Mick six times, the Encore super jackpot is lit at the lock lane and once again Mick is standing guard to stop you collecting it. Hitting him to move him out the way and then shooting the lock lane is somewhat easier in multiball.
But there's a slight twist at this point because the rules change so only Mick scores the Encore Multiball awards. The six major shots now score nothing, so your only option is to keep bashing Mick. The awards keep increasing by 50K but the super jackpot is now only six shots away and scores are lower as a consequence.
This helps keep the scoring under more control, but it does make the game a little dull with effectively just one target to shoot for.
It stays this way until you're down to just one ball and multiball ends.
So that's it for the wizard mode.
As we said at the top of this review, it's not the top rollover lanes which build the end-of-ball bonus multiplier. In fact it's the bottom R-O-C-K rollovers in the inlanes and outlanes which do that particular job for us.
Rolling over one of these switches lights its insert and scores 2.5K for an inlane and 100K if you're unfortunate enough to get an outlane. Completing all four to spell R-O-C-K scores you 10K and increases the bonus multiplier by 1X.
There is no display to show you the letters being completed, just this one when you light all four.
The bonus multiplier can be increased by the R-O-C-K lanes or the V-I-P mystery award up to a maximum of 25X, after which it just stays at 25X. There are no bonus points for attempting to increase it further.
But increasing the bonus multiplier is only any use once you get to the end-of-ball bonus, so...
End-of-ball bonuses come in all forms, from the long, complicated type where all the mode scores are added to the simplest where there's just a value and a multiplier.
The Rolling Stones opts for the simplistic end of the scale with just a points value based on... well, who knows what exactly? But it's probably a minimum value which is boosted by each switch hit.
When the game ends, there is the usual high score system but there is also a combo champion and a super combo champion based on the total number of combos and super combos scored during a game.
When you play Combos mode, the total is shown at the bottom of the display and it's this which is used for the high score table.
The Super Combos weren't tracked in the same way in this version but that's been improved in the updated code now available, so you can see the number of Super Combos scored during the game as well as at the end.
The final part of the rules section brings us to the match sequence which is a rather nicely animated lips and tongue which gives the changing match number a 'lick' to lock in the current number.
And that concludes this section on the game's rules.
Now we come to that part of our in-depth review where we examine the key elements of The Rolling Stones and give our thoughts about each of them.
There are a lot of familiar rules in The Rolling Stones but they are spiced up by throwing in one or two surprises.
The rules follow the format of 'play everything to get one wizard mode, win everything to get another' used on Iron Man amongst others, but because the game is generally pretty tough, the lit feature inserts stay lit between balls. Even so, getting all those inserts to flash with just 3 balls is a difficult task and out of reach for all but the elite players. There are plenty of rules in the game, but the hardware is seemingly designed to stop you reaching many of them by draining your ball as quickly as possible - sometimes without even flipping.
For many players, probably the biggest shock when first playing the game is the way Mick Jagger is moving across the playfield for so much of the time. The fact he has no 'out-of-the-way' home position like the buck does in Big Buck Hunter Pro seems like something of a mistake. The software solutions to keep him on the move usually work pretty well, but they're essentially solutions to a hardware problem and there are still times he just stands in front of the very shot you need and even hitting him doesn't get him to budge.
But having Mick out front does draw your attention to him as the most accessible and obvious thing to shoot. It's not clear exactly what your motivation for bashing the lead singer of the band is - especially if you're a true fan of the group - but it's the closest you get to interacting with any of the members, so let's just go with it.
Some of the game's best rules centre on Rock Star Multiball and its ability to add more balls if you can shoot the correct targets in the first 20 seconds. Having Mick block the key super jackpot shot is also a good feature which increases the mode's difficulty without being overused.
Probably the weakest mode is Combos which is poorly explained on the display and badly signposted while it is being played. It's also not particularly in keeping with the theme of the game, whereas all the other mode names are.
Overall, the rules have more than enough depth for the intended short ball times and seem competently designed. However, after seeing very similar rules in most recent Stern game, they're starting to look just a little too familiar and lacking that spark of imagination needed to make them stand out.
Surprisingly for a game based on one of the greatest live bands, there are no video clips of the Stones in action from any of their concerts. All imagery of the group's members are stills, which means all animations are created in-house.
Often that's no bad thing since the team at Stern have designed some impressive sequences in the past, but here is loses all of the dynamism and charisma of seeing the Stone perform.
In the prototype ROMs there was a bobble-head Mick dancing across the stage which reacted when you hit him. It was probably too irreverent to make it into the final release but it did at least inject just a touch of humour into what is otherwise a pretty dry game.
As for the display effect which did make it into the game, probably the best sequence is the opening where all four band members are shown. This shows how well-crafted images can really show off the display's multiple levels of orange or red. We said when the 12 different levels were announced how it would be good for skin tones and so it proves.
Elsewhere, there's not a whole lot to get excited about and some of the animations - such as the Rock Star intro, the Rock Star jackpot and the Play Records intro - feel very similar to those used before in previous games such as NBA and Elvis.
So there's not a huge amount to get excited about in the display effects for The Rolling Stones, although there have been some slight improvements in recent updates to add more information where it's obviously lacking.
The Rolling Stones (the group) are known for their huge tours and stage shows along with their private antics, but at the end of the day it's really all about the music. And The Rolling Stones (the game) doesn't disappoint in this respect.
There's music, music and more music - thirteen tracks in this 'Pro' model and fourteen in the 'LE' version, which is some achievement. They're not just short clips either. Most seem to have either the full song or a good representation of it made using loops.
Each mode and multiball has its own song, while there are different songs used as the backing track for each ball, with Start Me Up leading off the set list for every game. There didn't appear to be any non-Stones music apart from a few spot effects when certain features are started or completed, and even those could have been taken from Stones tracks.
Which means you probably already know all the music in the game, and you may already have realised that generally pinball tracks are somewhat devoid of lyrics, so the potential for clashing with the commentary is there. Fortunately however, the commentator comes across more like a DJ, so talking over Mick's vocals doesn't seem too unnatural.
Talking of the commentator, Tom Bennett is the man with the mic, and he's the CEO of BravadoUSA; the US branch of the licensing company who manage The Rolling Stones' intellectual property, along with that of many other bands and artists.
Perhaps it's the lack of video on the display which has made so much memory available to store his clips, but Tom gets to say a lot during the game. Some of the phrases raise a laugh with their rather hackneyed English stylings - such as "Lovely jubbly", "You lucky beggars" (possibly a reference to the album 'Beggars Banquet'?) and "substantial points", but clearly Tom has recorded a lot of samples for the game.
Not only does he have all the regular call outs needed in any game, he also reads every World Tour city name as they are displayed (all sixteen of them) and most of the twenty album titles are they are collected during Album Multiball. It's also fun to count how many different ways he can say the words "Double Jackpot".
When dealing with just about any licensed game, the artwork has to be painstakingly checked to make sure it complies with the style guide and that all relevant parties are happy with the resulting images. No doubt that process was just as rigorous with The Rolling Stones, and we have seen various changes made to the playfield artwork already in the first part of this review.
So the talent, their management and their appointed brand managers have to be happy with the resulting artwork. That can lead to great results as we've seen with games like Avatar and The Lord of the Rings, but can also give us some rather strange outcomes, such as the Austin Powers 'feathery' backglass and World Poker Tour's just downright poor translite.
Some people have commented that they don't like to composition of the four band members on The Rolling Stones - neither on the translite or on the cabinet side. However, it's probably fair to say nearly all those people then go on to say it doesn't look anywhere near as bad as they expected in real life, with some even grudgingly admitting the quite like it.
The cabinet printing produces some lovely vivid colours and - silly brushed metal font apart - does show the dynamism and energy of the band in concert.
The same is true of the translite, where the confines of the available space make the compositing of the four musicians somewhat trickier.
We mentioned in part one how the blue background carefully integrates elements from the band's album covers, and it's nice to see a backglass image which merits close inspection.
On the playfield the same blue background continues the motif where it is broken up by the variously-coloured inserts.
The main shots are clearly indicated, thanks to the white note inserts picking them out in a better way than the bullets in Big Buck Hunter Pro did, but the use of the album covers seems a little detached from the rest of the rules. You'd think the arc of cover art above the feature ladder should light up and be involved in a mode somehow, but it turns out they are purely decorative, as are the album covers attached to each shot.
Those red arrow and green drumstick inserts are bright and clear, but the record inserts are somewhat harder to discern and quite easily overlooked. Some bright coloured LEDs beneath them should help though, assuming they are better aligned to the record artwork than the inserts in our sample game.
Overall playfield illumination is generally pretty good on The Rolling Stones, especially for a game with such a dark background colour. The game features the familiar use of mainly incandescent lamps for lighting, with just the pop bumpers using cold white LEDs.
Our illumination map shows a dark area around the Rock Star targets which matches our opinion of it as an area which is difficult to pick out clearly during play.
The area around the flippers also looks poorly illuminated, but when the ball is in this area it picks up more light than the dark artwork alone suggests is available.
The most impressive lighting effects are at the start of the game - equating to the start of a Stones concert - where the playfield dims and just flashers are used to give you a brief light show.
There are no equivalent dramatic lighting changes during the game, so everything looks broadly similar throughout with just a few spot effects to draw your attention to an area when it is lit for an award or to start a feature.
It would have been good if the Play Records feature, for example, switched off the GI and other inserts to emphasise the lit records and point out the shots you needed to make while it has the ball trapped in the lock lane.
The Rolling Stones is a simple 9-shot fan layout - the six major shots, the Rock Star targets, the left bank and the right bank - with only a couple of twists.
One of the interesting features is the pop bumper lane which is mostly hidden and unusual in being a major shot in the game's rules. Exit lanes from the bumpers are usually not sensed or used to collect features, but in this case is it both.
Generally speaking, features you can't see make them difficult to shoot and annoy the player when they can't see where the ball went. Both the pop bumper lane and the Rock Star targets fall into this definition. There's a lot of plastic covering this area and it's not immediately clear why it's been used to hide these shots in one of the darker areas of the playfield.
The other major new feature is, of course, the moving Mick target.
As you saw in part one, it's quite a hefty mechanism under the playfield to not only move Mick but also sense where he is and strengthen the playfield around the groove.
It certainly seems to have eaten up all the game's budget, because there are no other toys on the playfield with the possible exception of the lock, and even that's just a variation on an up-post.
Being able to enter the lock lane from the top is a new idea, as it using it for the super skill shot. We like both of these but ultimately The Rolling Stones feels even barer than earlier games, and this reduces the perceived value of both the machine itself and the game you pay to play on it.
We're told on the one hand that change is a-coming and there'll be more toys and mechanisms appearing on the playfield, but on the other hand that this may only be on the Limited Edition (LE) version of games.
Whatever happens, we need to see something more soon.
One look at The Rolling Stones and it's like going to a Stones concert and finding the stadium half-empty. You wonder where everyone went.
While the moving Mick target is quite an impressive device, that's only appreciable if you look under the playfield. From the top, it's a standup on a stick. And a rather cheap-looking and annoying one at that. From that point of view, it's a badly designed toy. Ideally you want something which is really incredibly simple to build but looks complex and impressive to the player. Moving Mick is the other way round.
But what about the music, you say. Yes, that is actually very well done, and the speech is pretty good too. Credit where it's due. Kicking off with more than a dozen classic rock 'n roll tunes is a good place to start, and you'd have to work hard to mess it up from that point.
Thankfully Stern didn't do that and any Stones fan is going to be very happy with the way the tracks are integrated into the game. It's a nice looking game too and would look great in the den amongst other Stones memorabilia.
Rules-wise, it's a familiar formula with just one or two variations to make better use of the hardware. Using Mick to foil your shots is clever, but skews the game's narrative to the point he's fighting you instead of being part of the band you're playing along with. None of the rules are especially deep, but they're deep enough and there are seven different tasks to complete which is a real challenge.
The only thing really seeming out of place is the way the game is designed to prevent you enjoying it by draining the ball as fast as possible. Stern have been moving in this direction for several models, but The Rolling Stones seems to have taken this ball time reduction too far.The display effects also let the game down a little, with recycled effects and over use of standard text frames without decoration or animating backgrounds.
So overall it's an OK game with great music (if you're a fan) and a somewhat bare playfield. The 'LE' version might add more polish with magnets and better character toys, but really they should have been in the 'Pro' model too.
Finally, we come to that part of the review where we give our ratings to the individual elements of the game and come up with a total for the game as a whole.
While nearly everything else in this review is objective and factual, these rating are entirely subjective and describe our feelings about the game, how it plays and how much fun we had playing it.
Each element is scored out of a maximum of 10 points. If a game gets a 10, then it’s the best we’ve ever seen in that category. Consequently, it’s pretty rare to see a 10. Scoring an 8 means that element is 80% as good as the best example we've ever seen. You get the idea.
This review is a little different as we've waited for a stable production version of the software before writing it. Sometimes we review an earlier version and try to avoid taking Stern to task over elements we're sure will be fixed in an upcoming version. Because the first version we saw was missing quite a lot, we waited. So this version, while not the newest, it the version most machines in the initial batch were shipped with.
Editor's Ratings for The Rolling Stones
Don’t get upset if our ratings don’t match your own – it’s quite unlikely you’ll think exactly the same way we do. You should, however, be able to see why we rated them as we did if you’ve read right through this review and noted our comments along the way.
Finally, a big “thank you” to the good folks at Electrocoin for their help and hospitality in the making of this review.
With that, we end this in-depth review of The Rolling Stones. Thank you for reading it. We hope you enjoyed it and we'll be back soon with our in-depth review of Stern's Tron game.
Share your comments with other readers by sending us your thoughts with the message box below:
© Pinball News 2011