Location: Sandown, Isle of Wight, England.
Date: August 2008.

Report by Jon Ashley

On the Friday before the UK Pinball Show I took the day off so I could take my family over to the Isle of Wight for an outing. Living on the South Coast of England has its benefits and those of who know me realise I am always on the lookout for pinball machines to add to the database of “missing in action”. Or should that be “seen in action.”

Anyway, the day started bright and early as we boarded the IOW ferry from Portsmouth, much earlier than anticipated due to the surprisingly quiet port, arriving on the island just after 9am.

Upon arrival we headed for our first stop which was Dinosaur Isle based at Sandown, about a 15 minute drive from Fishbourne. We got there incredibly early and seeing as the attraction didn’t open until 10am, I took advantage of visiting a seafront arcade that was actually open.

I will cut the story short a bit here as the arcade was crammed full of fruit machines and cake walks but alas no pinball machines. Not that I could stand to be in the arcade due to the ear piercing noise coming from one of the many “step on and dance” machines blaring out at 200dB!

Upon leaving that arcade it was off to Sandown pier.

Let’s see if there is fun to be had in here!

For those of you that don’t know the pier or have never visited, as far as I am aware it has always been an Amusement Arcade of some ilk. What’s even more important to note is that it is probably one of the last true remaining mega-arcades due to its sheer size. This arcade is massive. It even has an 18-hole crazy golf club in the middle surrounded by bars and cafes along with its own nightclub!!

A packed summer seafront day at Sandown

At the time of morning I was there, there was only the odd union jack shorts clad holiday maker, beer belly and all putting two pence pieces into the cakewalks. I started my hike and soon to my amazement nestling between some old (and very loud) video games were two pinball machines – Johnny Mnemonic and South Park.

Daytona was so loud it drowned everything else out

I immediately went over to them and decided the best way to see what condition they were in was to play them, starting with JM. The first thing you will notice is that the positioning was poor – overhead lights and the sun coming up, blazing through a window right into my eyes!

Nice overhead lighting…not!

Sadly, that couldn’t distract me from the game – although it was a waste of 50p. The game was in an appalling state, barely playable due to the atrocious condition of the flippers for which the power was incredibly weak. The playfield was so dirty you could barely make out some of the artwork and when I got to the mini-playfield with the hand, guess what? Yep, they didn’t work! Pretty pointless. My game was over in about 4 minutes flat.

All appears well with JM

Well not quite all well, dirty, dirty, dirty.

Dirt covered targets were everywhere

So could South Park save the day? Well, it pretty much ruined it.

As you can see from my photo the first thing you’ll notice is the challenge of a flipper stuck in one position and not responding to the button.

Is that flipper supposed to be like that?

I popped my 50p in and started the game. Sadly, this game was quite frankly worn out. I don’t think I have ever experienced a pinball in such bad condition – Kenny didn’t move, 2 pop bumpers were dead, the left flipper did not work at all and the right one so weak it could hardly flip the ball past the middle area of the playfield.
So you won’t be surprised that the 3 balls I had went straight down the middle after feebly trying to flip them with a total playtime of about 1 minute.

All looks reasonable on the playfield from a distance

Oh my God, they haven’t cleaned Kenny! Is that elephant pink or grey?

I think I stood there in amazement for 5 minutes in utter bewilderment that such a machine, and not a bad one from Sega, could end up in such a state.

So I thought, I know, I’m going to make the owner an offer to take them away. I knew I couldn’t, but I wanted to know the response. After finding the right man and explaining the condition of the machines, the response was “a grand each mate.”  So without laughing out loud, I left.

Dirty, unmaintained and not feeling too good…

What a shame to let two machines get into such a state. I think the issue here is pinball machines will continue to get a bad name from these poorly maintained ones as they both take people's money for little game play and also it just proves to me that modern day arcade owners have absolutely no idea what the word maintenance means  – see my other report on Hayling Island for more proof!

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