Admin note regarding site layout

You may have noticed the weather widget has changed. The one that I used to have quit working properly upon trying to make a change required with newer versions of WordPress. I may change weather widgets yet again, or possibly get rid of the weather widget entirely if it becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

November 17: Dropping in at Einstein’s

Once again I found  myself with some spare time and spare change in the Katy area, so it was time for another quick drop-in at Einstein’s. I only played two separate machines: Stars and Hoops.

I had some really good runs on Stars, lighting special in three different games but unable to cash in any of the three times. Even though the chance for winning a replay is next to nil (only by matching, since the game is set for novelty mode), Stars is still one of my top choices for an exciting game of pinball.

Incidentally, Hoops has since been taken back out of Einstein’s. I’ll miss it, but hopefully it’s for the better in the end.

Houston Arcade Expo 2023 and Great Heights Brewing Company

Another year, another Houston Arcade Expo. This year I would be attending strictly as a guest, not as a vendor.

My arrival time was just prior to 6 pm (I took my first score picture at 5:56 pm). Since I was not vending this year, I took the opportunity to spend some time in the seminar room. At 9 pm I joined karaoke hosted by Robert Layne. For my song, I chose Never Ending Story as made famous by Limahl, singing what I hoped was a decent rendition. (Unfortunately the Echo Image version wasn’t in the catalog; I did look.) I have no pictures or video from this portion of the evening, perhaps for the better.

I would go back out on the floor after listening to a few more songs after mine. Late in the evening (as in close to midnight), I would finally get to play the new Labyrinth pinball. This is the debut release of a new pinball manufacturer called Barrels of Fun, which is headquartered right here in Houston. I had heard various things about this game,  Knowing literally nothing about strategy for the game, I calmly walk up and run up a score of 12.6M+. That wasn’t enough to make the high score list, though I did make the board for orbits champ. Rounding out the evening’s achievements would be 1.48M+ on Space Station, 1.79M+ on High Speed (which was playing rather brutally, I might add), 9.28M+ on Earthshaker, 1.33M+ on Dialed In, 1.63M+ on Flight 2000, and 4.82M+ on Bonebusters.

I hung out until close to 3 am, possibly against my better judgment. I had considered leaving around 1:15-1:30 am. However, the offer of free food at around 2 am for those still sticking around was too good to pass up.

Saturday’s action wouldn’t include quite as many standout scores. The first one that appears to be a really good score at first glance is the 3.2M+ on Big Guns. However, this was a machine which was not working properly. Specifically, the game would kick out locked balls instead of keeping them locked. This malfunction allowed for balls much longer and scores much higher than the game was designed for. Especially if you did what I did, and kept the new ball in the plunger lane until the original one drained.

I had at least one standout high score for Saturday: the 278,440 on Bank Shot. This is the reason for the intermediate score of 194,340 right before it. Bank Shot can only display scores up to 199,990. (It  does not indicate a second rollover of the five-digit counter.)

Besides that it was pretty ho-hum. I had many  respectable casual play scores, but not a whole lot that would be that good in a tournament. I didn’t make it down to the seminar room for anything on Saturday, as I arrived too late to see the Harp Twins concert (due to a conflict with work).

Sunday perhaps had the best scores of them all, despite my spending all of about an hour and change on the floor before the end of the show at 2 pm. First up was The Harp Twins, since I missed their shows during the previous two days.

After that, time for some more pinball. The biggest achievement by far would come from my stop over at Wormhole Pinball’s booth. They had two pinball games on display. One was Bally’s KISS which I didn’t play. The other was Cosmic Princess, a rare Stern title from 1979. This game was actually made by an Australian company called Leisure & Allied Industries under license from Stern. It uses the same game ROMs as another Stern game called Magic (but not the same playfield layout).

So, like I did on Saturday, I played a couple rounds trying to get into it. And then, a breakthrough: special was lit on the right inlane and the #3 lane on top, with the game set on novelty settings  (special scores 100,000 points). I would hit at least three specials, signing off with a grand total of 929,310. Almost immediately after that, I would put up a 15.0M+ on Funhouse. (To me, Rudy’s scream on hitting the million plus trap door is one of the most satisfying sounds in all of pinball, and I was glad I got to hear it at least once this weekend.)

After the conclusion of Houston Arcade Expo, I decided to make a brief stopover at a location I had been meaning to check out: Great Heights Brewing Company at 938 Wakefield Drive (between Golf Drive and Alba Road). This is a small brewery/icehouse with two machines, Rush and Elvira’s House of Horrors. I played one game on each, just to familiarize myself with any issues. The pricing is a bit steep at $1.50 for a single play, but there is  a discount for buying multiple games at a time with a credit or debit card.

(Note: Some pictures were edited to obscure/redact contact information and other impertinent data.)

October 30: Fresh (White) Water at Little Dipper

So I finally made it back down to Little Dipper for trivia for the first time in quite a while. Of course I took the opportunity to play some pinball, including the most recent arrival (at the time), White Water. Rounding out the games I played were Creature and Spider-Man, the latter of which had a (since repaired) dead upper flipper.

Trivia had an unfortunately low turnout, so for the first time I played solo against a team and one other solo player. (This was likely due to a lot of other Halloween events competing against it.) Despite this I stayed surprisingly competitive despite coming in third of three teams.

October 27-28: Halloween Pub Crawl

Another pub crawl, another set of pictures.

I debated even showing up for this as I had other social opportunities in front of me. Looking back on it, the term “sunk cost fallacy” comes to mind. I bought my ticket for this crawl way back in April. Obviously, I could not have any idea what the coming months had in store for me both personally and professionally. I had lightly considered letting someone else have my ticket in the weeks before, but in the end chose to show up sans costume. (This somewhat echoes the experience of the Foam Glow fun run/walk from July, but the tickets for that event may not have been transferable due to requiring a waiver to participate.)

That said the nights weren’t a total flop, I did make a bit of conversation with a few people and I got some much-needed relationship/dating advice. Most of the vibe of the previous crawls just wasn’t there for me for whatever reason; I didn’t even take a selfie, which is kind of rare for me. The reasons were specific to me and my state of mind, though; I still encourage everyone to try at least one bar/pub crawl for themselves and form their own opinion about whether or not it’s something worth doing. As Meat Loaf famously sang, two out of three ain’t bad.

So given all that, this post is going to be surprisingly light on details and stories. It’s pretty much an excuse to post pictures. This time around, it’s more high scores (for the night, anyway) on the games at FAO. These include a rare pic from Pac-Man Battle Royale which I just happened to snap in time. As a bonus, there’s a not-so-random picture of the decor at Playground.

At this point I still plan to return for my second year of the onesie bar crawl. It’s only apropos that I type this on this season’s first night of honest-to-goodness onesie/kigurumi weather here in Houston. (We went from near-summer weather to what’s basically winter weather in the span of a couple of days. It’s nuts.)

October 2: A quick detour through Humble/Atascocita

Monday, October 2, brought a business-related trip out northeast of Houston. The area of Humble or Atascocita was not on the most direct route there and back, but on the way back I found myself hungry and in the mood for pinball, and at least one location that had both was in that area. My first stop was Mojo’s Sports Grille, which had an AC/DC per Pinball Map. I get there only to find out it’s “not working” and turned off for this reason. Unfortunately, the bartender doesn’t know details on what’s wrong with it. I leave with a relatively full stomach but with the pinball urge still unsatisfied. Hopefully this location will get a working pinball machine soon, whether this AC/DC or something else.

So my travels then take me to Center Court Pizza and Brew just up the road (West Lake Houston Parkway, to be specific). I find a Star Wars in great condition, though the volume is turned down to an essentially inaudible level, but at 50 cents per play the price can’t be beat. I play a pretty solid handful of games and eventually post a nice solid 283M+. While this isn’t enough to make the high score board by any means, it’s on the lower end of what I’d consider a pretty good game for me.

While Center Court and Mojo’s are both a considerable distance from me, I endeavor to make a return trip at least once every three months or so to support location pinball in the area.