Date: 25th August, 2022

The history of the Magic Girl pinball had always been one of repeated failure.

What began as a heady mix of excitement and wonder turned, over a period of a decade, into a cursed project fated never to reach production.

Yet, what appeared to be an abject and irredeemable flop proved to be an irresistible opportunity to a small team based in the north of the Netherlands.

This is the story of what they achieved.

Magic Girl first came into the public consciousness in July 2011 when former pinball designer, John Popadiuk Jr., announced his company’s intention to build a small run of a high-end, full-featured pinballs.

John had been designing pinball games at Williams during the ’90s with a run of popular titles such as World Cup SoccerTheatre of MagicTales of the Arabian Nights and Cirqus Voltaire. His final title for the company, Star Wars Episode 1, was also the last title for the company, as Williams closed their pinball division during its production run at the end of 1999.

With the pinball business appearing to be limping into oblivion, pinball design jobs were few and far between. After setting up his own company, Zidware, John created a number of pinball design multi-media products, including books and apps.

These turned out to be very niche products and his interest in them soon waned, but greater success came in 2006 when John teamed up with Roger Shiffer – the inventor of the Furby, for those who recall what they were and how popular they briefly became – and his company, Zizzle.

Roger wanted to produce a mass-market, low-price family pinball machine, using a minimum of parts and a simplistic design. The fruit of this union was a pair of three-quarter size licensed titles, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Marvel’s Heroes vs Villains. Both used the same playfield design and mechanisms but each had its individual artwork, sounds and playfield toys.

Zizzle's Pirates of the Caribbean game
Zizzle’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest game
Zizzle's Marvel Heroes vs Villains game
Zizzle’s Marvel Heroes vs Villains game

Although not targeting fans or collectors of arcade pinball machines, the Zizzle titles sold well through retail outlets and went on to spawn another pair of Disney and Marvel games, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Marvel Super Heroes.

Zizzle's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Zizzle’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Zizzle's Marvel Super Heroes
Zizzle’s Marvel Super Heroes

Two more licensed titles were in development when Zizzle shut down production leaving John once again without an outlet for his creativity.

His solution? Design and build his own pinball machine.

Magic Girl was announced by John on 21st July, 2011 and described by him as “a 1990s inspired custom pinball machine full of flipper flash, digital fun, innovative play and magnetic creative wonder!

John didn’t have a manufacturing facility he could utilise, so he planned to build the games in his own design studio on an industrial park in Streamwood, Illinois. Consequently, there would only be 13 Magic Girl machines made and the price of each would be $15,995.

At the time, that figure was more than double the price of most popular new titles, creating an online outcry and pushing the game far beyond the reach of most collectors and operators.

Nevertheless, there were still plenty of buyers with deep pockets willing to pay the asking price and accept the somewhat bizarre terms in order to own one of these prized machines. Enough buyers, in fact, that the number of machines to be built was increased from 13 to 20 just a couple of weeks later.

To purchase one of these curiosities, a buyer needed to pay an immediate $500 deposit and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure they didn’t reveal any details of the designs or mechanisms planned for the game.

Until this point buyers had no idea what they had agreed to purchase other than John’s vague description of, “…gorgeous hand-drawn artwork, updated cabinet design, new innovations in playfield mechanics, modular expandable hardware, special social connectivity ALL created just for this full-size pinball game hand-built by the designer in Chicago.”

One of the Magic Girl prototypes in John's studio
One of the Magic Girl prototypes in John’s studio
Two of the signs on the wall of John's studio
Two of the signs on the wall of John’s studio

It was an ambitious project, but as John said at the time, “Overall making pinball is very hard and this game will be as challenging. As no one else will have me, then I will go this route to keep pinball vibrant and innovative as best I know how.

John promoting his Pinball Inventor design service at the NW Pinball & Arcade Show
John promoting his Pinball Inventor design service at the NW Pinball & Arcade Show

Making pinball is indeed “very hard” and, as deadlines flew past, the pre-order money started to dry up. Although he continued working on prototype designs and testing new ideas in his studio, no definitive design had yet appeared, let alone any schedule to actually manufacture the games.

Magic Girl prototypes
Magic Girl prototypes
More Magic Girl machines
More Magic Girl prototype machines

In what has subsequently become a red flag for a project running out of cash, a second title was then announced, resulting in a temporary easing of the finances as more pre-order money flowed in.  Initially called Ben Heck’s Zombie Adventureland, a falling out between John and Ben led to this second game being rebranded into Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (RAZA) instead.

One of many RAZA prototypes at John's studio
One of many RAZA prototypes at John’s studio

Another long-term project of John’s, a game based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was also launched with another round of pre-orders coming in.

John's initial design for Alice in Wonderland
John’s initial design for Alice in Wonderland

With three titles in development but none close to reaching completion, unrest amongst buyers increased. This heightened further at Pinball Expo in 2014 when RAZA buyers were expecting to see a completed game design revealed, but John turned up instead with just two empty prototype cabinets.

John Popadiuk with the empty RAZA cabinets
John Popadiuk with the empty RAZA cabinets

After another year of experimentation and development, in 2015 John announced the initial funding for all three titles had dried up and he had no means to continue working on the games. Without further help, none of the games would ever be produced.

This looked as though it was the end of the road for Magic Girl, RAZA and Alice in Wonderland.

Magic Girl was the most developed of the three, so a rescue package was attempted to try to salvage that project with the hope of selling enough additional units to eventually fund the completion and build of RAZA and Alice in Wonderland.

However, when the most-developed prototype version of Magic Girl was sent to a potential financier in June 2015 it was clear the game was still a long way from being production-ready. 

The prototype Magic Girl in Seattle in 2015
The prototype Magic Girl in Seattle in 2015

There were playfield mechanisms missing, while the playing surface was a flimsy overlay which didn’t even lie flat.

The prototype Magic Girl in Seattle in 2015
The prototype Magic Girl in Seattle in 2015

With significant design work still required, the proposed deal collapsed and all three titles really did appeared doomed to the dumpster of history – unfinished and uneconomic to complete.

The Magic Girl backbox design
The Magic Girl backbox design

To his credit, with legal action started against him for failure to deliver, John never gave up on getting his game designs built.

In 2016 he struck a deal with a new pinball design and manufacturing company, American Pinball.  In return for designing their launch title based on the illusionist and escapologist Harry Houdini, American Pinball would manufacture a small run of Magic Girl machines.

It was a curious arrangement.  Twenty-five Magic Girl games would be manufactured on the American Pinball production line but released under the Zidware name, with John having his own dedicated area in the American Pinball factory from which to oversee production. 

American Pinball didn’t want to talk about the game at the time – Pinball News visited the factory to see production but we weren’t permitted to publish any pictures then or even talk about the work taking place. Even now the company appears sensitive about discussing the subject.

The Magic Girl production line in the American Pinball factory
The Magic Girl production line in the American Pinball factory

But if the manufacturing arrangement was odd, what was actually shipped to customers was totally bizarre.

The Magic Girl build check-list
The Magic Girl build check-list

With little or no further development work possible before construction began, the game was built according to the incomplete design as it then stood, using whichever parts were available.

As a result, many of the mechanisms on the playfield either didn’t work or were completely missing since they hadn’t been designed yet, while below the surface there were numerous cable connectors left hanging with nothing to plug into.  The game was essentially unplayable – simply a box of lights, albeit a beautiful one.

Probably the most complete parts of the game were the artwork and the software.  Both were almost finished when the games were built, although the software’s operation was hamstrung by the fact that many of the switch inputs and device outputs were absent, making it behave in unexpected ways.  Production testing and QA must have been difficult or non-existent considering how the game could never have worked properly.

Also, because the parts used were largely those already in stock, nearly every machine is unique in its mix of components used and the way they are installed.

Some of the pinball parts in John's studio
Some of the pinball parts in John’s studio
More of the pinball parts in John's studio
More of the pinball parts in John’s studio

However, to the best of our knowledge, twenty-two Magic Girl games were built and boxed, with eighteen of them shipped to excited, if somewhat bemused customers who had at least received something for their money. 

Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland and Alice in Wonderland buyers were left out in the cold, although the story of those games didn’t end there as all three titles would come back as planned future game designs when John joined Deeproot Pinball’s ill-fated design team.

So, the twenty-two rare and beautiful but incomplete and unplayable machines made at American Pinball plus a couple of similar prototype games built at John’s Zidware studio were all that existed after ten years of efforts to design and manufacture Magic Girl.

With Deeproot Pinball’s eventual failure, that appeared to finally be the end of the Magic Girl story.

That was until one of those American Pinball-made machines ended up in the collection of a Dutch pinball fan near Rotterdam. 

One day, pinball restorer and collector, Rogier Voorderhaak, was visiting the collector and discovered Magic Girl for the first time.  He saw how beautiful it looked, heard the history of the game, fell in love with it and immediately contacted his friend Max Rogmans who owns a large, pristine collection housed in his gameroom at the rear of a factory he owns in Wormer, north of Amsterdam.

Max's factory - the home of his extensive collection
Max’s factory – the home of his extensive collection

At the time, Max was just starting his collection and had around a dozen machines. Rogier brought Max to Rotterdam to see the collector and hear the story of Magic Girl.

Max has previously discussed with Rogier what, as a top-end restorer, his next dream-come-true game would be on which to work. Rogier described to Pinball News how he likes to take a game which isn’t working and make it work. Indeed, it seemed the worse the condition of the game, the more he relishes the challenge of bringing it back to life.

Rogier told Max he needed to have one of these Magic Girl machines in his collection, but more than that, he saw the potential to make the game how it was always intended to be. They both liked John’s previous titles and could see how Magic Girl integrated many of the features from those earlier designs.

Fellow friend, Eric Bartels, is the owner of coin-op supply, maintenance and restoration company Pinball Professionals and works out of Max’s building in Wormer, servicing and restoring Max’s machines too.

Rogier and Max asked Eric for his opinion as, Rogier said, “if you ever reach a dead end with a pinball, Eric will be able to find many possible ways to bring it back to life.

Eric said he only had five minutes to decide whether it was an achievable project. “There are the obvious problems but there are also many you can’t see“, he told us. He obviously couldn’t take the collector’s game apart, but still decided nothing was impossible. “The only limitations were your imagination and money.

Rogier, Max and Eric discussed the idea of buying a Magic Girl machine and working together to add the missing mechanisms, getting the existing ones working correctly, connecting everything together correctly and finishing the software to drive them.

It would be a huge project, but they decided it was achievable and would result in the creation of a genuinely unique game.

After contacting Magic Girl owners through Pinside – where the owners list wasn’t entirely up-to-date, with around 35 people listing the game in their collection – Max eventually sourced a game from a collector in the US and had it shipped to the Netherlands. 

Although it wasn’t exactly cheap, many of the original Magic Girl buyers had tired of having this non-playable light show in their homes and were now prepared to sell. In fact, the game Max eventually bought was still essentially ‘new-in-box’.

Rogier, Eric and Max
Rogier, Eric and Max

Max said he knew the amount of work needed to make the game playable, so if they were going to invest all this time, effort and money, why not do more than just one?

Also, they didn’t know if the game they had was typical of the other Magic Girls, or if it had some unique differences. To find out, they bought two more games so they had one each, although these additional games weren’t both new-in-box like the first one.

At this stage the trio had no idea real how the game was intended to work, but they were determined to find out whatever information they could about what John had intended.

With John now working for Deeproot Pinball, the intellectual property rights to Magic Girl had been taken over by the company with the title slated as one of their upcoming games. John, therefore, wasn’t in a position to help the team fill in the blanks on this original iteration of the theme. He also expressed his belief that the machines shipped to customers were far more complete than was clearly the case.

Likewise, the game’s software programmer was now under an agreement not to talk about any details of the game’s code or distribute any assets.  He told the team that there had been a time, a couple of years earlier, when he would have been willing and able to provide assistance and even try to complete the code if anyone had asked and he could have got his hands on a machine. But, by this stage he simply wanted to move on and concentrate on his current projects instead.

However, the team were helped by the fact that most of the rules appeared to be already coded into the game.

This hadn’t previously been appreciated, since many of the switch inputs and output devices were either missing or disconnected. Once they were correctly wired into the game, features started to work and the rules and objectives became a lot clearer.

The software's test menu
The software’s test menu

There were still plenty of mysteries to be solved though. 

Some devices, such as the levitating magic box, the semi-circular ramp or the ‘Magic Flip’ upper playfield could never have worked given they way they had been built. What were the intentions behind them? Was there a plan to implement them in a different way to how the game ended up being built?

The levitating magic box feature, for instance, was supposedly intended to lift the ball off the playfield and hold it inside the device, like a vertical version of the Spirit Ring in Theatre of Magic. But the magnetic coil around the box would never have been powerful enough to reliably raise the ball such a distance without some further assistance.

The Levitate feature
The Levitate feature

Also, the upper playfield utilised magnets to flip the ball, using the same technique as the Powerfield on Twilight Zone. However, the upper playfield had a drain hole positioned directly in front of the magnets in such a way that the required ‘Magic Flip’ shot to the back of the upper playfield could never be intentionally made without the ball draining, and could only be achieved by a very lucky fluke.

The drain hole above the magic flip magnets
The drain hole above the magic flip magnets

Also, the ball was delivered to the upper playfield in the same way every time, making its position reasonably predictable and removing much of the desired randomness. The team made a second hole to feed the upper playfield to vary where the point where ball dropped.

The original single feed to the upper playfield on the left, the new design on the right
The original single feed to the upper playfield on the left, the new design on the right

Meanwhile, a weak shot to the long semi-circular ramp could easily travel only part way round, roll back and then become irretrievably stuck since there was no escape hole to release it.

The semi-circular ramp above the upper playfield
The semi-circular ramp above the upper playfield
No escape from the ramp in the original design
No escape from the ramp in the original design

It was clear some decisions would have to be made about how to implement the non-functional parts of the game and fix the most obvious deficiencies. New mechanisms and assemblies would need to be built, small changes would have to be made to some of the artwork on the playfield plastics, the missing code would need to be written with the existing bugs fixed, and some of the electronics either upgraded or redesigned and built from scratch. 

When problems called for solutions, Max was happy to trust Rogier and Eric to come up with the best way to resolve them. They did set one fundamental rule though – there would be no changes made to the actual playfield itself.  So, everything had to be reversible, with no new posts, holes or inserts added. They said their guiding principle was always, “what would John have intended?

John may have intended to call this the Threatre of Magic post after the post he had to remove from his design for that title
John may have intended to call this the Theatre of Magic post after the post he had to remove from his design for that title…
...but had to change it to The Magic Post instead
…but had to change it to The Magic Post instead for the production game

It was a huge undertaking and the team didn’t have the full set of necessary skills themselves, but they had many good contacts and could call on additional specialist help when it was needed.

So, they had now three machines, and although they all outwardly looked identical they were not all the same.

The colours used in the playfield artwork varied, insert colours differed too, there were diverse standup target colours, while different screws and different numbers of screws were used throughout, with important playfield mechanisms sometimes attached by just a single screw.

The game didn’t include an auto-launcher as John doesn’t like them – only one of his Williams/Bally games had one – but the Magic Girl wizard mode is a six-ball multiball, so adding an auto-launcher was a must.

The game’s switch matrix supports 64 switches, but there are only 40 installed. While most games don’t use the maximum possible number of switches, it was clear from the presence of multiple unused cables under the playfield that quite a few switches were intended but were never simply installed on Magic Girl. The cables were labelled with the supposed location and function of the switches, but the switches themselves were missing.

Some of the many unconnected cables under the playfield
Some of the many unconnected cables under the playfield

In addition, what wiring had been done often proved to be faulty, with some of the switches which were installed registering as multiple switch closures in the matrix.

Some of the MANY switch errors reported by the game's diagnostics
Some of the MANY switch errors reported by the game’s diagnostics

It turned out the one thing that was consistent across all three machines was the way the diodes on several of the switches had been installed backwards, creating electrical short circuits.

So, they fixed those diodes and started adding the missing switches based on the cable loom and switch matrix descriptions. Gradually the game started to come alive and behave in more expected ways.

However, it became clear how, during the game’s development, John would never send a physical playfield to the software programmer – the work had to be done either virtually or over Skype. So, the programmer built his own physical version of the game based on John’s design. Meanwhile, John would secretly change how certain shots and devices worked, meaning the software no longer matched the hardware.

Max said his feeling was that around 90% of the game code was complete. The wizard mode was missing and several playfield features didn’t operate correctly. They hired a programmer to complete the code to their specifications. The programmer wasn’t familiar with pinball specifically, but could still code the missing wizard mode and fix the existing software to work with the new hardware.

From the team’s investigation they discovered that the original idea was to lock balls on ramps using the ‘Hokus Pokus’ magnets, but apparently the magnets became too hot when permanently energised and melted the ramps. So that idea was abandoned, but no alternative lock method was ever installed to replace it. As a result, it wasn’t actually possible to lock balls and start multiball.

To fix this, the team added solenoid-controlled gates under the hand plastics to lock the balls on the ramps, adding switches to sense the balls’ presence and changing the single-colour LEDs under each plastic into RGB LEDs so the colour could indicate when lock is lit. It could also change colour when holding a ball or flash tell the player when the ball is about to be released.

The original magnet ball locks and the new mechanical ball locks under the hand plastics
The original magnet ball locks and the new mechanical ball locks under the hand plastics

There was a ‘Eureka!’ moment when, having added the new mechanical lock mechanisms and the associated ball lock switches, they were able to progress far enough through the game to start multiball – something no Magic Girl owner had ever seen before.

There were still plenty more challenges ahead, and it was the upper-playfield that proved especially problematic.

Not only did the magnets used to flip the ball not work and had that exit hole directly in front of them, the timing of the magnets’ pluses was all wrong to offer any kind of player control.

In addition, the magnets were too close to the edge of the playfield to be able to fling the ball any distance, and even if you managed all that, the exit from the upper playfield was blocked because the playing surface was too long. Eric said, “You’d fix one thing, but that would lead to two new problems, and they would lead to another six problems you’d have to fix“.

He said because it had never worked, nobody was able to test it, but it could never have worked the way it was built. A new upper playfield with new magnet positions and a shorter exit lane was made to correct these issues.

The original upper playfield on the left, the new version on the right
The original upper playfield on the left, the new version on the right

The game’s ball trough used a slow, outdated method of detecting balls which took too long to report back to the controller, resulting in confusion at the CPU about where the balls were in the game. Eric said they had to make new PCBs using the faster optos used in modern Stern machines to get reliable results. Likewise, the optos used on the skill shot 180-degree ramp protruded too far and would get smashed as the ball passed.

The skill shot optos
The skill shot optos

The skill shot optos were also only attached with adhesive tape despite having mounting holes available, so a new opto board was needed here too which could be properly bolted to the skill shot assembly.

The new skill shot opto board
The new skill shot opto board

The list of fixes needed to get the game working grew longer and longer.

The driver board (supposedly made by Rottendog, with the suggestion that John never paid them for the work) was hanging under the playfield on cable ties. Eric said besides mounting it properly, he had to modify it electrically to be able to reliably handle the higher voltage now used in the game.

The uprated driver board
The uprated driver board

The switching power supply originally used was under-powered ([email protected]) for the game and would just shut down if too much was happening on the playfield, so it was upgraded and a capacitor board added to offer more impulse power when needed. Eric said he needed at least 10A-11A, but got a PSU with 15A which limits at 15A if too much current is needed and doesn’t shut down.

The game's 48V power supply
The game’s 48V power supply

Eric said that the thin wires running to the coin door interlock switch carried all the high-power for the playfield’s solenoids. To fix this he added MOSFET control to remotely switch the high power instead.

The Potions spinner didn’t work and it was only designed to give one switch-closure per spin, so Eric designed a new one with multiple closures per spin, with the exact number produced adjustable in the software to make it easier or harder.

The ‘O’ and ‘C’ inlane inserts were hidden under rabbit plastics which prevented the player seeing if they were lit. New plastics were made with transparent dots in the artwork to allow the inserts to be seen through them.

The redesigned artwork alloiwing the inlane insert to shine through
The redesigned artwork allowing the inlane insert to shine through
If you're making new plastics, you may as well make some spares
If you’re making new plastics, you may as well make some spares

The Lion Saw mechanism was mounted differently on each machine – when it was installed at all – and even then it couldn’t turn properly, so they redesigned it so it would fit into every game and spin freely using a motor.

The original Lion Saw
The original Lion Saw
The newly-motorised Lion Saw
The newly-motorised Lion Saw

To get the magic box to be able to grab the ball, they added a small ramp below the magnet which lifted to ball high enough for the magnet to take hold of it.

The small ramp below the magic box
The small ramp below the magic box

There is a spinning disc above the left outlane, but it would only spin in one direction, giving the player no control over it.

The spinning disc above the left outlane
The spinning disc above the left outlane

Fortunately, amongst the many incomplete elements of the game was a second flipper button on the left side of the cabinet. It wasn’t connected to anything, so the disc’s motor was changed to a bi-directional one and a switch added to allow the player to change the disc’s direction of spin so they could attempt to save the ball from the outlane.

An unused flipper button on the left side
An unused flipper button on the left side

When it came to the final Wizard Mode, although it hadn’t been programmed there were some existing video and audio assets in the game which could be used. The team knew the wizard mode was related to extracting the sword Excalibur from a stone, but had to create the mode’s rules based around that idea for their programmer to implement. This mode would then lead to the six-ball multiball finale.

Along with the many re-purposed devices from earlier games, Magic Girl did also contain some interesting new ideas for established mechanisms.

The pop bumpers, for example, didn’t have the familiar plastic ‘spoon’-style leaf switch below the playfield to detect movement of the rod attached to the bumper when it is in contact with the ball. Instead, two opto pairs mounted at 90-degrees to each other were used either side of the rod to detect when it moved. This frictionless method should be more reliable and would also not require any adjustment over the years.

As far as the team are concerned the project is finally done, since everything now works as they believe it was intended to.

The completed game
The completed game

The team can’t even begin to estimate the number of hours spent finishing the game – 1,000? 2,000?
They had to make numerous parts. The original pop bumpers had no lamps installed in them, so they had to add those. Some of the magnets were wound on cardboard formers, so these had to be remade using a plastic former. The general illumination was permanently on, but they added circuitry and code in the software to switch it off at appropriate points in the game.

Now, having done all the work, Eric said he “can’t stand the machine any more.” He said at the beginning there were masses of bugs in the game – “there were only bugs, it was terrible” – but gradually they worked through them until there now are just a couple remaining.

One is, when a ball is locked for multiball, the next ball is auto-launched without the opportunity for a skill shot attempt.

The other relates to what happens if a player fully completes the final wizard mode. The team don’t expect very many players will progress far enough through the game to ever experience that one, but if it does become a problem they will get it fixed.

They keep being asked if some kind of kit will be available to make the other Magic Girl machines complete.

Although Eric said he thought they had enough custom parts to convert around twenty machines, it is patently obvious there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to taking a Magic Girl and transforming it into a fully-playable game. Each machine is different and the huge amount of work needed to address the numerous problems in each game simply can’t be made into a kit.

However, the team do say that if a Magic Girl owner really wanted the work done to their game and could ship the machine to their workshop in Wormer, they would be willing to work their own ‘magic’ on it.

Although they did pledge not to make any non-reversable changes to the game, they couldn’t help include a little reference to themselves in the form of their own initials which now appear in the default high score tables on the display.

Having finished their work the team had planned to unveil a fully-working Magic Girl game at a show in the US, but the Covid pandemic meant they weren’t able to travel to the country. Instead, Eric has placed his game at the Dutch Pinball Museum in Rotterdam since the end of last year.

Rogier said that so far only a small number of people have played a complete Magic Girl – mostly at the Museum – so they haven’t had a great deal of feedback about the game, the rules and how reliable the new parts are.

In the end though he says, “Magic Girl is Magic Girl.” The game is what it is, and while there will always be ways it could be improved, they don’t want to change the nature of the game.

And, said Eric, “It’s a really good game. A tough game, but a good game“.

Huge thanks to Max, Eric and Rogier for their hospitality in Wormer, together with the opportunity to learn about all their work and to finally play the finished game.

Update: A ‘finished’ Magic Girl is scheduled to make an appearance at the 2022 Pinball Expo held in Schaumburg, Illinois on October 19th-22nd.

If you get the opportunity to play it, either at Pinball Expo or elsewhere, you might like to read up on the rules first. So, here they are:

Magic Girl Game Rules:

Multiball Lock – Left/Right Inlane/Outlane
Complete the 4 lanes to light LOCKS. Once completed the left ramp lock will light and balls (3) can be locked for multiball. 1 ball locked should be locked on each ramp and the third ball is sucked up the kings chamber and held in the spirit ring to start. The 3rd ball can also be locked on a ramp to start multiball on early multiball rounds.

Jinx Wheel – Left Outlane
Activated and disabled by the 2 central follower buttons just above the magic letters. The Jinx character will alert you to when the wheel is on and off.

Lion Saw
Complete 3-bank a certain number of times (setting adjustable – default of 5) to start saw and double scoring.

Each set of targets (2 stand and 1 captive ball) needs to be hit within a certain time to lock-in the completion. When 1 target is hit the associated lamp is lit and the others in the bank start to flash for the given time. If the timer expires before all 3 targets are hit all 3 lamps go out and the player needs to start again. End of ball cancels any lamps currently lit. Completed banks are stored across balls.

Starting the saw loads a new background, music and a timer is displayed along with a double scoring message to aid player. Completing 3 bank awards you Copper from the Lion (he is keeping) – 3 pieces (setting adjustable). Collected copper is shown on the lower status panel.

Newton Chamber – Captive Ball
Transfer of energy quick multiball mode. Hit captive ball 5 times to enable 2-ball multiball (complete newton chamber). Lock your ball in the Kings Chamber to start. Another ball is released to shooter lane. Whilst 2 balls in play, hit newton captive ball to score jackpot. Rear Chamber Box targets increase jackpot value. Jackpot value is base 200,000 with 25,000 inc. Captive ball scores base value of 10,000 * number of hits in sequence.

Contributes to Master of Optics completion. Number of chambers completed must be greater or equal to setting ‘Newton Ball Optics Master Level’ for the lamp to light solid orange once any other criteria are met. The lamp will flash orange once the newton captive ball is hit once.

Left Loop – Wizard Lane
Shooting left loop spots W-I-Z-A-R-D letters. Completing W-I-Z-A-R-D starts Wizard Powerup Hurryup. Collect a powerup by shooting the Kings Chamber within the time. Collecting a powerup adds a random selected award from list: Bonus X, 1 Million, Collect Potion, Collect Saw, Increase Spinner Value, Award 50 Pop Hits, Music change during Wizard Powerup Hurryup.

Every odd Wizard Powerup collected awards Jinn Save for 10 seconds (a ball saver). Secret target activates Jinn Save feature directly when hit, resetting any active timers for jinn save at the same time. Secret target scores 10 x wizard base lane value when hit.

In regular multiball, W-I-Z-A-R-D lane scores lit jackpots.

Potion Mixer
Shoot the potion target to light P-O-T-I-O-N letters. Each potion letter collected scores 100K (base value) x number of letters collected. P-O-T-I-O-N letters displayed on screen and lit on playfield in order. Completing P-O-T-I-O-N lights the potion mixer saucer hole for potion collection within a timed countdown. (power target also collects a potion as does main potion target, but award is reduced).

Collecting a potion adds to the multiball jackpot value 2 million for every potion. Collecting 5 potions lights extra ball. Collecting a letter awards a randomly selected ingredient from the ingredient list. (Watch for ringmasters eye!) After collecting 2 or more potions, Arthurs luck bonus value (500,000) will be added to end of ball bonus. Total potions collected are displayed on the upper status panel. Each potion collected during the game will add 5 seconds to the ball save timer in the Excalibur wizard mode.

Contributes to Master of Potions completion. Number of potions collected must be greater or equal to setting ‘Potion Master Level’ for the lamp to light solid. The lamp will start flashing green at game start.

Has a high score award champion for potions collected.

Left Ramp – Swirl Ramp
Left Ramp progresses Thunderbolts and alternates the ball exit path from left to right. Thunderbolt scores 100K (base value). Combo ramp shot lit for 5 secs after a successful ramp shot. Combo scores base value x num of continuous shots. Completing thunderbolts progresses Lite Extra Ball and enable Poof Post. Shots needed are adjustable via settings. For example, Extra Ball Lit At 10 Thunderbolts. Left ramp also acts as multiball lock. Lock lamp in front of ramp entrance will lite Green when lock is ready. Balls will be locked onto each exit ramp for multiball. See multiball rules.

Thunderbolts contribute to Master of Lightning completion. Number of thunderbolts collected completed must be greater or equal to setting ‘Lightning Ramp Master Level’ for the lamp to light solid blue if other criteria are also met. (see Levitate rules)

Owl Target – Captive Ball
Taming an Owl scores 10K, 30K, 50K then 25K advance each time thereafter. Receive a secret message after taming a certain number.

Kings Chamber – Upper Centre
Progresses Magi diamond lamps (4) by shots up the centre to the magic box magnet or rear chamber targets. Once completed starts a hurry up mystic battle timeout. Mystic battle is started when the ball is caught by the box magnet and shoo up to the magna playfield (see mystic battle rules).

Box magnet also acts as lock/start for newton 2 ball multiball, a lock for the 3rd ball in regular multiball progress and a ball hold for when multiball is running and jackpots are lit.

Poof Post – Up Post
Activated by hits to the poof target which is to the left of the magic shoppe scoop. There are only a certain number of poof post saves though available per ball, so use them wisely. Also is used as a ball save protection from certain modes where centre drain shots are more likely. (i.e. end of mystic battle)

Magic Power Lamps
Magic Power runs simultaneously with all the other features of the game. The magic power of the player is increased by every score change during the game. The players magic power is represented by the colour and speed of the flashing M-A-G-I-C lamps in the centre.

Magic Power level is a value that is added to other game score calculations such as jackpots etc.

Levitate Feature – Lightning Flashers
Hit Levitate target 3 times to activate the hurry-up timer countdown. Hit levitate target 4th time to award current hurry-up value, activate magnet and Levitate Ball. Ball will appear to float in and above magnet for a timed period.

Contributes to Master of Lightning completion. Number of levitates completed must be greater or equal to setting ‘Lightning Levitate Master Level’ for the lamp to light solid blue if other criteria are also met. (see ramp/thunderbolt rules). The lamp will start flashing blue once 1 of more levitate targets are hit.

Arthurs Magic Shoppe – Scoop
Shows a list of items and selects one at random. Copper coins collected improve the options presented. (i.e. each random award has a weight. Extra ball being included if you have 30 copper but not if you only have 10, etc.) Score status bar is used to alert player when Magic Shoppe lit. By pressing both flipper buttons when the magic shop list is shown you can use a potion to always get the best item on the list (possible extra feature, not currently included).

Hare/Million Target
Successive hits to the Hare target (RHS of Magic Shoppe Scoop) enable the Hares Magnetic Jet Bumper for playfield havoc. The hare will taunt you during the game… However, whilst the Hare magnet is enabled the Hare target becomes worth 1Mill a shot.

Kings/Queens Bonus X – Top Lanes
Completing lanes advances end of ball bonus multiplier and lights Magic Shoppe for timed period – 20 seconds

Mystic Battle / Power Playfield
Qualified by the kings chamber M-A-G-I targets (see other section) or successive right loop shots that light the word P-O-W-E-R. Once qualified a hurry-up timer countdown starts with the object to lock the ball onto the mystic battle magnet. Locking the ball here will start the battle and shoot the ball up to the air magnet and then release it for battle play on the magna playfield. Battle play is a timed countdown mode. Once on the playfield the battle is won by shooting the ball through the upper centre and into the magic mirror area.

The battle ends when defeated or the time runs out. Each flip on the magna playfield scores 100K plus 10K x no. of power target hits. Defeating the playfield scores 10MIL, 20MIL, 30MIL, 50MIL plus 25K x no. of power target hits progressively for each battle played in sequence.

Contributes to Master of Magnetism completion. Number of battles played must be greater or equal to setting ‘Magnetism Master Level’ for the lamp to light solid white. The lamp will start flashing white once 1 of more box targets are hit.

Has a high score award champion for battles played.

Power Target
The power target increases the mystic battle defeated value and also scores a power payoff after a mystic battle is played. A power payoff scores 10Mil.

Jet Bumpers
Jets score 1,000 per hit & flash central flasher. Super Jets activated after 100 hits (start value). Hits needed to start is stored across the ball. Super Jets score 200K per hit. Next super jets level is 25 + start value.

Right Loop
Successive shots (default 20 – setting adjustable) to the Right Loop starts Super Loops. Also rewards multi-loop shots and advances P-O-W-E-R letters.

Has a high score award champion for super loops collected.

Hare Jet
See Hare/Million Target rules
Tesla Subway
Where Tesla’s Lab is located. Tesla will speak to you as you pass from the skill shot exit to the Magic Shoppe scoop.

Mystery/Coin Target
Hit target 3 times to collect – each target hit scores 500 x hit count. 3rd time scores MYSTERY points value from 100 to 500,000 and awards Copper coins.

Magna Save – Right Outlane
Shoot Magic Shoppe 3 times to lite Magna Save at right outlane. Pressing upper right flipper switch activates magnet. Scores 1Mil if ball saved thru right return lane.

Skill Shot – Shooter Lane
At ball start a randomly selected V-O-L-T-A letter is selected by the game code. V-O-L-T-A lamps then flash upwards in sequence A -> T -> L -> O -> V in white with the chosen letter in magenta.

Launch ball so that as ball goes over skill shot switch the purple lamp is lit. Achieving skill shot awards 250K volts (points), failing skill shot awards 50K volts. Speed of the lamp sequence is tied to the skill shot achievement level, i.e the more times you complete it the faster it gets (per player).

Custom background showing tesla lab with coil. Help message (Charge the Tesla Coil, Shoot correct VOLTA letter) displayed for a few seconds to aid player before returning to main score screen (repeats). Coils arc and sparks fly if skill shot made. Multiple voices and sounds for achieving or failing the shot.
Pressing right flipper button will also instantly bring back main score screen during skill shot mode.

When 2 balls are locked and the 3 lock is lit. the game music will change. The 3rd lock can be either another ramp lock or a lock into the Kings Chamber. Both options will be flashing green.
Once the 3rd ball is locked multiball play will start and jackpots are lit by shooting the Kings Chamber rear targets and collected by shooting the left loop.

Jackpots are collected in order. Bronze, Copper, Silver, Gold, Platinum (Super Jackpot)
Jackpots are raised from additional hits to the chamber 25k per hit. The jackpot value starts at 200k. Each jackpot scores the cumulative value at the time you shoot the left loop (when lit).
Multiball play contributes to Master of Elements completion. The lamp will start flashing red once 1 or more jackpots has been collected. The lamp will light solid red when number of jackpots collected is greater or equal to setting ‘Multiball Elements Master Level’.

Multiball play contributes to Master of Optics completion. Number of multiballs played must be greater or equal to setting ‘Multiball Optics Master Level’ for the lamp to lite solid orange once any other criteria are met.

Has a high score award champion for total jackpots collected.

Extra Ball
Extra ball is collected in the potion saucer when lit

Copper Coins
Add to bonus count value and have their own high score award champion. Collected by various features (see other sections).

Has a high score award champion for total coins collected.

Excalibur – The Wizard Mode
Completing all the ‘Master of’ challenges gives you immortality and starts the final battle at the Magic Shoppe scoop. You can battle to release the sword trapped in the stone by collecting jackpots and have reached the end of your journey, you are King Arthur. The final puzzle of who Magic Girl is, is revealed.

A ‘Master of’ challenge is complete once it becomes solidly lit. When it is in progress/started but not completed it will be flashing. The 5 ‘master of’ challenges are Elements (Red), Potions (Green), Lightning (Blue), Optics (Orange), Magnetism (White). All ‘Master of’ challenges progress is stored across balls independently for each player.

Excalibur is a 6-ball (setting adjustable) multiball mode with jackpot awards. When the mode is ready all playfield lamps will go out and the magic shop lamp and flasher will light. When the mode is running there will be a cross of lamp pulsing which represents the sword you are battling to release from the stone.

If you manage to collect enough jackpots during multiball play then you will complete the game and release the sword form the stone. At this point an announcement will be made and the total for the mode will be displayed. All game play now stops. The flippers will be disabled and all balls will drain.

After a short delay to amaze at your total, regular game play will resume with all progress reset.
Jackpot value is increased by hitting the chamber box targets.

Has a high score award champion for total score during round.

Additional Information To Know
The game contains various different characters, which are featured throughout game play. These are (in no particular order) The Jinx, The Hare, The Wizard, The Scientist and The Girl. Some characters are there to help you, some are there to hinder you. They all have various speech callouts.

Hold the right flipper during an active game for a player specific game status/progress window with scrolling information screens
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  1. Steve

    14th September, 2022 at 4:08pm

    Your article is fascinating. It’s neat and kind of sad that the table ended up being fun to play. It does make you wonder though if it was the design of the table or the second pass done by the team to fix all the non tested components. It got the Williams “let’s make this thing actually work from a crazy idea” treatment.


    • Quentin

      17th October, 2022 at 12:31pm

      Great article. So many talented people! I wish these guys would start making their own games as it seems that they pretty much have already the right contacts and knowledge. We need more European pinball manufacturers! On another note, I am sure there will be at some point some gifted dudes from the vpinball scene that would be crazy enough to work on a recreation so everyone could experience this what seems to be a great game and John will get all the credits he deserves. I am sad for the people who lost money on the way though.


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