Location: Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
Date: December 2008

Report by: Andy Davies

Pinball and the Sea-side arcade are alive and well in Bournemouth

Bournemouth Pier

Work took me down to the south coast resort of Bournemouth on a very cold, wet and windy weekend in December.

I’ve always liked the resort, long sandy beaches, good entertainment, excellent shopping and a rather nice amusement arcade located at the head of the pier, that in the past always had a few tables.

Well it did last time I was there some 4 years ago

Despite the storm the night before, the seafront was busy with surfers making their way into the cold grey sea next to the pier.  I though, made my way into the warmth of the arcade and was greeted with a rather strange sight.

Well over half of the floor space was given over to video games, air hockey and pushers.  In fact the entire rear of the arcade there wasn’t a fruit machine to be seen.  The video games ranged from a classic MAME type of cabinet with retro games installed, to the latest driving and flying games.  I must admit to putting a pound in the 737 simulator amongst others. Inside the arcade

It was refreshing to see a modern arcade with a retro feel.  There wasn’t a dominance of fruit machines, in fact far from it.  Just a few banks of machines back to back and a smallish B3 section. 

The other pleasant surprise was the amount of staff working there.  Considering this was a very wet and windy day in December, I counted at least 5 members of staff, none of whom dressed like a night-club bouncer either!  They were technicians and mechanics, fixing machines, cleaning machines and generally keeping things ticking over.

However I was there for pinball and I wasn’t disappointed!  Three Sterns stood side-by-side against the wall, towards the rear of the arcade. 

The three Sterns Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings were all waiting for my money.  A quick once-over saw all of the machines were in very good order.  All bulbs worked, all had ‘real’ high scores (a tip I always use - tables with factory high scores often means they don’t work correctly and players can’t achieve a high score), and all were £1 per credit or 3 for £2. 

So it was Spider-Man which was the first to get the pound coins from my pocket.

Stern's Spider-Man

A new table for me so after a warm up credit, I found the table to play very well. 

It was a fast paced table but with a good layout.  There were plenty of features and I liked the magnet on the playfield and the other toys. 

There were also a number of decent multi-balls to keep the player interested in the game.  Overall a very well thought out table that was in full working order.

The only slight criticism would be the loudness of the adjacent videos that often drowned out the table.

Pirates of the Caribbean was the next table, another new one for me and it played well apart from one issue.

Every time the ball popped out from the ship, in went down the centre drain. Giving the table a light shake every time the ball was just about to be released from ship helped but I was getting a few looks from the staff.

A good fun table with lots of shots was only slightly spoilt by this.  

The difficulty level seemed harder than Spider-Man, although the table didn’t play as fast.

Stern's Pirates Of The Caribbean

Ster's Lord Of The Rings

The third and final table was the Lord of the Rings that was there the last time I visited. It still played as good as it did 4 years ago. 

I know this table has a good following, however I thought it was the weakest of the three in terms of layout. 

Again just like the other two tables it was fast but it didn’t feel like there was as much to do on the table as the other two.  It might be my fault by not watching the films?  However that shouldn’t affect the game play. 

After a good morning's session I was beginning to like these Stern tables.  Almost considering that Spider-Man could make it into my own personal top 10.  However I don’t understand the ‘video’ played in the dot matrix at certain points of the game.  I’d much rather have clear, clean animated graphics that some poor 5 second clip in different shades of orange.

With all tables in full working order, it’s hats off to the staff of the arcade for keeping not only the pin tables in tip top condition but the rest of the arcade too.  It’s a huge difference between this arcade and the one in Hayling Island that I visited earlier on this year.

Bournemouth is still a good place to find three of the newest tables around and well worth a visit if you’re a flipper fan.

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