Story dated October 23, 2003

It looks as if Churchill's Vacation America game is to finally start production under the brand of the Chicago Gaming Company Inc.

Almost a year after it was first shown, the game should be available for purchase before Christmas 2003.

After playing several games on the new machine it is apparant where the cost savings required for a home game have been made.

The most obvious change from a commercial game is the display. Made from two rows of ten 7-segment displays, only the most basic information is conveyed to the player. You get the ball number, score, extra ball and game over, and that's it. Everything else is shown either by the playfield lamps or on the map around the display.

The object is to travel across the country, starting on the east coast and ending up in Hollywood, much like Red & Ted's Roadshow. The map is a bit more interesting than in the Williams game, as each city has a red and green lamp behind it, indicating those cities completed and those coming up next. Each city has a small icon associated with it depicting why the city is famous.

The cities are not all real cities, some are natural geographical features, other more man-made. The full list is: New York, Philadelphia, Cape Canaveral, Everglades, Myrtle Beach, Washington DC, Niagra Falls, Fort Knox, Detroit, Indianapolis, Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Hot Springs, San Antonio, Roswell, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Estes Park, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite and Hollywood.

Looking at the playfield, it's a single layer game with no ramps.

There are two capture saucers on the right hand side, one at the top, the other half way up. The lock balls for a three ball multiball.

Balls are launched into three rollover lanes at the top, spelling M-A-P. There are no modes in the game apart from multiball, but an extra ball is available at the captive ball on the left and there is a tricky small loop directly above the flippers which can easily lead to a centre drain if you're not careful.

One unusual feature is to be found in the inlanes and outlanes and top rollovers. Rather than use rollover switches, the game uses infra-red LEDs to bounce light off the passing ball and into a receiver to detect it.

These should prove more reliable than microswitches, although they obviously cost more.

In fact there are no rollover switches in the game. The standup targets are standard but these rarely require maintenance, so the game is designed to need a minimum of maintenance.

The game play is not overly complex, but it is sufficiently difficult to complete the map to give the game some longer term appeal. For regular players used to deep rules and lots of playfield toys the game seems over simplified, especially the lack of display animations or information, but for those who long for a simpler game requiring almost nothing more than an occasional clean the game is entirely appropriate.

Talking of cleaning, there are a few differences once you open up the front door.

Yes, it's quite empty in there. Apart from the flippers, there are only seven solenoids in the game, two for the slingshots, three for the jet bumpers and two for the saucer kickouts. As noted before, the cabling is kept to a minimum through the use of large printed circuit boards (PCBs) for the lamp, switch and solenoid signals. The solenoids are mounted off the PCBs to make sure the vibrations don't damage the circuits.

The ribbon cables at the rear go up into the backbox, but this is not intended to be opened by the user. It is secured by four screws.

Finally, the lockdown bar works a bit differently. It is held down by two big spring clips inside the front door. The playfield also uses these clips to hold it down and stop it shaking, which it probably needs given the relative lack of hardware to weigh it down.

They work well enough and they shouldn't need to be operated too frequently - mainly to clean the playfield.

So that's the latest on Vacation America. But Churchill could have more work on their books if the game does well. There is talk of Gene Cunningham, owner or Illinois Pin Ball, wanting them to build an updated version of an old EM game. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it could be a playing card based game and would still use score reels.

There no timescale for this project at present and we must not forget the Pool Player game he intended to make when he started up Illinois Pin Ball. Nothing ever came of that apart from a few samples, so don't hold your breath over this EM remake.


Back to the news index

Back to the front page

© Pinball News 2003