Location: Musée Mécanique, Shed A, Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California, 94133, USA.

One of the main features pinball players enjoy is the physical and mechanical nature of the game - the way you can control physical objects through your interaction with them. Press the start button and wonderful things begin to happen.

So imagine being able to do this with a whole range of such devices, from the newest pinball games to player pianos by way of animated dioramas. This is the promise offered by the Musée Mécanique.

Based in the heart of the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco since 2002, the museum is ideally placed to draw on the large number of tourists wandering the streets in search of entertainment. Those who venture inside will find an amazing collection of mechanical devices waiting to be brought to life.

The museum is housed in a single, large and brightly-lit room which allows visitors to see the high quality of the cabinetry on the older machines and to get a clear look at some of the inner workings on display. Entry to the museum is free but each machine is coin-operated, usually taking a single quarter but occasionally two coins for the larger or newer units. Change machines are provided.

The range of different devices on display is impressive and the large number crammed into the room gives the opportunity to track the development of each genre as they became more mechanically complex and, usually, physically larger.

But the museum is not all about older and purely mechanical devices, as there are several video games in the mix and a number of pinball machines to add diversity to the collection.

Right at the front of the collection is this single-player 1967 Gottlieb Sing Along, the oldest pinball machine in the museum. Although not pristine, it is in a nice condition and the gameplay is interesting enough, making this a good example of machines from the era. It is priced at 50c a game.

By contrast, the newest pinball at the time of this visit was a shiny new Pirates Of The Caribbean by Stern.

With such a range of old and rare machines to enjoy all around you, it's easy to feel guilty playing such a modern machine as this but what the heck.

The tilt was a little sensitive but the machine played very nicely otherwise and it too was priced at 50c a game or 5 games for $2.

The third pinball machine was towards the rear of the room on the left hand side and was a William's Indiana Jones.

Indy was the first game with the DCS sound system and the volume setting was high enough to appreciate most of the improvements. Once again the machine was well maintained and clean, with even the cabinet managing to sidestep the usual sun fade. It included a custom pricing card with a wood effect finish.

Over on the opposite side of the room was the fourth and final pinball machine - The Addams Family. It seems sensible to have this classic as part of a collection showing the progress of amusement machines over the years.

As with the other pinball machines, this was nice and clean without even any visible ball tracks near the flippers.

So either these games are regularly cleaned, they are never played, or our trip just happened to co-incide with the cleaning schedule. We'll assume the former.

If you're reading Pinball News then you're probably already interested in one particular mechanical coin-op machine, so to have such a wide range of well-maintained mechanical amusements in one place is a dream.

The museum is definitely worthy of our support. You won't often get the opportunity to see how coin-operated devices have developed over the years by actually operating or playing them, so for any pinball fans who don't scoff at the chance to play an electro-mechanical machine, a visit to the Musée Mécanique is a must. It has enough variety to keep the whole family entertained and is well located for anyone visiting the Fisherman's Wharf area in San Francisco.

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