Location: Southend is in southeast England, on the Thames Estuary about 20 miles east of London on the A127.
Thirty-six months ago we did our first review of Southend's arcades and were knocked out by the result - 26 pinball games across 7 locations.
So, two years on from that we returned to see how the situation has changed. The result was not good. The previous report had to be split into two in order to cover all the games available. This time we have no such problem.
Now, three years after our first report we have revisited all the arcades we looked at before and discovered what's changed.
With so many other arcades to see, we moved along in search of more pins.
Left to right: Stern Lord of the Rings, Stern The Simpsons Pinball Party, Stern Playboy, Bally Attack From Mars and a William's Monster Bash.
The Playboy worked without any problems. It has a strange mix of lingerie and nude pictures so probably not entirely suitable for children. It was the only game of the four with reasonable outlane settings. The other three were set to maximum width.
The Monster Bash looked fine but had a steep angle of pitch and the weak flippers made the Frankenstein ramp impossible and the others difficult - a real wrist-wrecker.
The Attack from Mars has now been removed and replace with an Elvis game. It's priced quite steeply at £1 per game or £2 for three. You'd expect to get a couple of free games for that.
The Simpsons Pinball Party was getting plenty of play, though the scores achieved were fairly pitiful, often in the low millions of points. We didn't play it ourselves (as we have one back at the Pinball News office) so can't comment on whether this was due to the set up or players' abilities.
It is joined by the existing Bally Addams Family and Data East Star Wars.
With nothing of note to play here we went in search of more pins.
Two years ago the Fantasia had a Star Wars Trilogy.
There was one other place to visit - a family entertainment centre called the Kursaal.
It didn't have a pin last time and there are none this time around too. But there is a game of interest to pinball fans. It's a William's Ticket Tac Toe - a redemption game awarding tickets if you use the pinball flippers to knock oversized balls into a grid of holes to make a line.
Ticket-Tac-Toe was designed by pinball design veteran Steve Kordek.
There's some encouragement from the fact that two locations have brought back pinball into their mix of amusements but even with that, Southend is not the pinball oasis it once was. The town appears to have taken a turn for the worse too. There are a lot more derelict shops at the far end of the seafront beyond the Kursaal centre so perhaps money is tight. Even so, it was good to see a couple of Stern pinball games among the selection.
© Pinball News 2004