Story dated May 11, 2005
When a new book comes out with "The Greatest Pinball Machines" in the title you can be sure the list will be controversial and the first thing readers will turn to.
But the full title of "The Pinbotz Guide to the Greatest Pinball Machines of the 80s and 90s" reveals that this is less about the order of the games themselves but more about what you need to know about them.
The book's author is Kevin Strasser, the founder of Pinbotz - a company selling restored games and custom game enhancements. Kevin embarked on the project after a discussion on the rec.games.pinball newsgroup about suitable subjects for a new book. When nobody took up the idea, Kevin decided to do it himself. Working as a pinball restorer, he's seen more than his fair share of these games.
The result is this 64 page full colour softback book detailing the key points to look for in twenty of the most popular games across two decades.
The games are:
For each model there is a description by Kevin about why he likes the game and has ranked it where he has, things to look out for before buying - such as common areas of playfield wear, cabinet fade and mechanical or technical problems - modifications you can make to the game and any tips, tricks or warnings Kevin has to offer.
Even existing owners of these games will recognise many of the problems discussed and if they haven't occurred yet, preventative action can be taken.
Kevin is keen to stress how the list of games isn't a definitive one. He told Pinball News: "Those are just the 20 best out of the games that I have owned at least once at some point in past seven years. For example... I recently bought a really nice Guns N Roses machine. I cannot stop playing this game! It is a truly great game. I could easily see myself featuring that game in the top five, if I were to write the book today."
And why twenty games? Kevin told us: "There were a few games that were included at certain stages of book, but were dropped at the last minute (Johnny Mnemonic and Road Show were a few of them). Having an even number of 20 games just seemed cleaner than a list of 22 or so."
One area he doesn't cover is the likely price. By steering clear of this issue he ensures the book doesn't become dated or offer unrealistic expectations to either the buyer or the seller when prices fluctuate as they inevitably will.
If there's one weak area of the book it's the photographs. The more you read the book, the more photographs you want to see to illustrate the points being made. You want before and after pictures when talking about restoration work.
Take this picture from the Funhouse section as an example:
OK, so there's a plastic missing, but what should it look like?
The quality of several of the photos could also have been improved. The number one thing to remember when photographing the playfield is - take the glass off, number two is - power the game up, and number three is - to quote one of the games in the list - FOCUS!
But in the end you can forgive these oversights because the book is a valuable and positive contribution to the pinball community. Those folks familiar with the games will read through each section nodding sagely and agreeing with the points being made while welcoming the links to modification vendors.
Novice pinball buyers will find much of the information they will need to make an informed and intelligent decision when buying their games - just what the book sets out to achieve.
© Pinball News 2005