June 26, Little Dipper: An unexpected grand champion score

So last night was the usual trivia night at Little Dipper. I’m only mentioning it because that’s the main reason I was there. The team I was with this time didn’t finish in the top three, and in fact, by the final question we weren’t really in the running to be realistic about it.

During the halfway point intermission I got in what I was hoping to be a quick game or two of Spider-Man. The second of those “quick games” (with a score of  wound up stretching well into the music round, which is just as well as I only knew one of the ten songs.

By the time pictures of the winners were being taken, I was ready to be done with trivia and give my full attention to the silver ball. My first choice of the lineup at Little Dipper at this point in time, all other things being equal, is Creature from the Black Lagoon (the others being Lord of the Rings, Dracula, Monster Bash, and the aforementioned Spider-Man). Unfortunately Creature is right in front of the moon prop used for the pictures, so I decided to play a quick game of Dracula while waiting.

Not surprisingly, I did well at Dracula and kept playing. I would crack the high score list twice with scores just barely good enough to make it. Then, I would bust loose with a first ball that was over 150M at one point (I think 200M+ after bonus). After the earned extra ball I was over 300M and guaranteed grand champion. I would sign off with 413,339,960 for grand champion and a new personal best.

I will concede that until now I did not really consider Dracula one of my favorite games. Despite this, I had a great time playing it even though it was not my first choice. Now that I know how to run up the score on Dracula, that is apt to change. I’m not giving up on getting grand champion on Creature, though; that game is a title I am likely to see in tournaments many times in the future.

June 16 and 20: Turtles arrive at the Canyon, Galaga at Shoeshine Charley’s

Last Friday I was in Beaumont yet again for work. Of course, after work was over it was time for the nearly-obligatory stop by Colorado Canyon. It was a well-timed trip as there was a second pinball machine there joining AIQ. Specifically, that game was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would call Turtles one of my modern favorites (probably not the #1 favorite but still high on the list).

It took little time for me to post a 50.8M+ score. This score would be good for high score #2 (second below grand champion) as well as Donatello champion for the moment. I would put up a 47.7M+ right after it good for the high score #3 slot. In the first game I made it as far as Team Up multiball. This is about as far as I have ever made it in the game. I hope one day to make it to the wizard mode.

Fast forward to the 20th, last night (Tuesday) when I got in a quick game of Galaga at Shoeshine Charlie’s. Yes, it was the high score, but that’s kind of meaningless as the game had just been powered on. (Actually, it was power cycled as it has developed an intermittent RAM fault, but obviously nobody had played it earlier in the evening so it would have been at the default of 20K either way.) Settings are 3 lives, 20K/60K/+60K, and apparently easy difficulty (not sure how to tell the difference but no enemy bugs dropped bombs during the stage 10 entrance). My 135K+ is nowhere near a personal best but pretty good for outdoors with Houston’s latest heat wave (I was sweating by end of game).

June 13 Poison Girl: Wheel is out, the new Elvira is in

So upon my periodic checking of Pinball Map sometime in the days prior, I noticed that there was a change in the lineup at Poison Girl. Wheel of Fortune was moved out, replaced by a new-ish and certainly new-to-the-location Elvira’s House of Horrors (EHOH).

I had a few fairly good runs on Whirlwind, topping out with a 14.7M+. I also got in a couple of games of Iron Maiden, though neither really went anywhere. My scores on EHOH were what I’d call decent for one of the first times really trying to learn the game, though not enough to win a replay. It does seem like a game I’ll eventually get into if I play it enough, though.

June 5: Spiders and the Creature at Little Dipper

The documented highlight of this particular night was a 210.4M+ run on Spider-Man, good for a spot on the high score list as well as many of the category high scores. Of note, the best combo champion is from a following game; the 210.4M+ game only had a double 6-way.

Unfortunately, there are pictures missing due to a technical issue, including a 250M+ run on Creature, during which I came painfully close to hitting a super jackpot and breaking through to the grand champion spot on the high score list. I am omitting the Creature games with lower scores as I don’t see any point in posting them.

June 1: AIQ and cashing in tickets at Colorado Canyon

The beginning of June brought the opportunity of a work-related trip to Port Arthur, after which I swung by Colorado Canyon for an almost-obligatory session on Avengers: Infinity Quest. I should note that most of the games in this arcade are ticket/redemption games. Not surprisingly, I’ve racked up a fair number of tickets over my many visits here in the past couple of years. I finally decided to go ahead and cash in what I could. (To my credit, there were a couple of times between the departure of the Ghostbusters pinball and the arrival of AIQ that I noticed the promised new pinball machine had not yet arrived, and immediately left for home. Despite the distance from home I treat this the same as any arcade visit for which my primary objective is to play pinball.)

The best score for this particular session on AIQ was decent but not superlative: 109.5M+ (it is difficult to read as the picture didn’t come out very well). After this and a few other ticket games, including a 16K on Skee-Ball (equivalent to 160 on “old school” Skee-Ball alleys which score in tens not thousands), I headed over to the redemption counter. I had some 2600+ tickets, enough for a couple of LED neon-style lamps.

All things considered, I’m pretty happy with my haul. Both of these lamps take three AA (R6) batteries, for an apparent nominal operating voltage of 4.5 volts; they could probably be modified to run off of 5 volt USB, possibly with an appropriate series resistor. (I have a Pac-Man ghost light which runs on USB and I was kind of hoping these would be powered the same way.)

May 26-28 Comicpalooza: Pinball, face paint, and Ultimate Werewolf

So even at an event like Comicpalooza, where I spent about 8 hours volunteering (over two days, Friday and Saturday), I still managed to find some time to get a little pinball in, courtesy of Joystix who brought some arcade games to the event (on free play of course). The lineup consisted of Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic Park, Avengers Infinity Quest, and The Mandalorian, all titles which I have played before (unfortunately I didn’t take notes on if these were Pro, Premium, or LE; I think AIQ was at least a Premium).

The Guardians score was perhaps the highlight of my time behind a pair of flipper buttons: 297.0M+ with no player benefit malfunctions. That’s mainly the result of a couple of good Groot Multiball rounds. The AIQ score was perhaps one of my better runs but not a record breaker.

The Asteroids score was an emulated cabinet that was out on the show floor. I post it only because I feel like 4800 was a good score given the highly unusual control layout: a joystick for rotating, then buttons for shooting, thrust, and hyperspace (X was hyperspace, Y was the fire button, and B was thrust if I remember right; it took significant trial and error to figure this out).

Yeah, I even found a gap in the long line of kids at the face painting booth to sneak in. (I am mindful of when the majority of expected guests at a face painting booth are children and avoid taking time that would have otherwise gone to a child. Had I not seen other adult guests get painted I may have passed on the opportunity, or actually, not considered it an opportunity intended to be open to me.) This pinball-inspired design was done by Cassi Moon who was at the show Friday and Sunday.

The weekend ended with a couple of games of Ultimate Werewolf, which I’m mentioning here in passing as it may well become something I play a lot more often. I’m not giving up pinball, whether competitive or casual play, but I do need to broaden my horizons. For those who have never heard of it, Ultimate Werewolf is a published version based on the original Werewolf game by Andrew Plotkin, which was in turn modified and adapted from Mafia by Dimitry Davidoff.

So yeah, the mysterious number 7 and 16 cards against the carpet of one of the rooms of the George R. Brown convention center are what signify the two games of Ultimate Werewolf. The game doesn’t lend itself easily to documentation nor are the games themselves something I would consider blog-worthy narrative. I will say I was a villager both games, and wound up getting eliminated (“killed off”) prior to the end of both games. Once being lynched as a suspected werewolf, the other having my body taken over by someone with a special role (which is a strange way to end my time in a game, I will admit).

All in all it was an enjoyable weekend, and a very different volunteer experience than what I have been used to. I definitely plan to return to Comicpalooza next year, hopefully with more money to buy from the many vendors on the show floor.