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.)