Houston Arcade Expo 2021

This post is a bit different. It’s also a bit out of order as there are still updates for most of September and October I will be posting shortly.

So, yes, I did attend Houston Arcade Expo 2021 and yes, I did get in a few rounds of pinball there. However, I spent most of my time there in the vendor area at my face painting table (thus the pictures of my setup). I did have quite a few takers for face painting, but that’s not the focus of this post.

I didn’t really put up a whole lot of particularly high scores during the time I did get to play pinball and video games while it was slow. However, of note, I did put up at least three notable and surprising (to me) high scores. One of these scores was on the Mattel Aquarius version of Astrosmash. The next was one on the Star Wars Mandalorian pinball (made high score #1, the slot just below grand champion) Finally, I put up a surprisingly high score on Atlantis (Bally pinball from the 1980s).

The first two of these scores represent the first time ever I played these specific games. As for Atlantis, I had played it before but, many years ago, not for very long, and not understanding the rules well if at all. A further note on Atlantis: there was an issue with the ball lock not working properly, which I had to work around. (For the curious: locked balls did not stay in the ball lock, the workaround was to not plunge the ball served to continue play, and “pool shark” the next ball into play if there were two or even three balls in the plunger lane. Ugly, but the game was still playable.)

Full list of highest scores (pictures below represent the highest score on each game):

  • Strikes and Spares: 198
  • Tri Zone: 210k+
  • Philina (Gorgar re-theme/new rules): 123k+
  • Dialed In: 63,580 (yuck)
  • Godzilla: 28.8M+
  • Astroblast: 51,380
  • Orbitor 1: 515k+
  • Barb Wire: 391.7M+
  • Vector: 322k+
  • Mandalorian: 147.5M+
  • Skill Ball: 1907
  • Gorgar: 168,000
  • Big House: 904k+
  • Checkpoint: 1.4M+
  • Satan’s Hollow: 18,685
  • Baby Pac-Man: 68,570
  • Fireball home version: 91,250
  • 1970s arcade video game I can’t remember the name of: 1086
  • Stargate (Gottlieb pinball themed from movie/TV series): 142.3M+
  • Starship Troopers: 24.8M+
  • Bad Cats: 1.03M+
  • Flash Gordon: 920k+
  • Super Score: 2919
  • Super Straight: 310,900
  • Space Invaders (Bally pinball): 165,100 (bleh)
  • Time Machine: 1.15M+
  • Genie: 117k+
  • Black Knight 2000: 1.52M+ (game still had my initials as loop champion from 2019!)
  • Fire: 783k+
  • Alien: 14.25M+
  • Fun House: 3.78M+
  • Star Trek (Stern): 6.78M+
  • Atlantis: 5.75M+
  • Ms. Pac-Man: 83,780

In conclusion, I had a great time and I consider it to be an honor to be part of the show. I am already looking forward to next year.

Another “dip” into downtown Houston and a side trip

So, nothing that my previous Monday (August 30) visit to Little Dipper was such a great time, I decided I’d head back down there this past Friday (September 3) and get in a few more rounds of pinball. This time, all of my play was confined to the three newer machines, skipping The Machine: Bride of Pinbot entirely.

I’m noticing a few more minor issues as I get to know these games better, but all three of the newer games are still very enjoyable in their current state, especially once one familiarizes oneself with the quirks of each respective machine.

I was able to get in some quality scores on Spider-Man and Family Guy. I have yet to crack the actual high score list on Spider-Man at this location. However, I did come rather close on this visit.

Moving on to Wednesday night (September 8). I dropped by Darkhorse Tavern to an unfortunately out-of-whack Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man; specifically, one of the bumper caps was partially detached and the table was horribly off-level (leaning to the left if I remember correctly). I played the one credit that someone was generous enough to leave behind. This time I chose not to get a scoreboard shot like I usually do, given the game’s condition.

So with that dissatisfying experience behind me, I thought I would investigate another point on Pinball Map that had not been updated in a while: Pitch 25 on the eastern end of downtown (a.k.a. EaDo) which supposedly had a World Cup Soccer. The machine was still there. As for condition, it was another story…

I counted two stuck balls that had never been removed from the playfield, one of which was stuck in place of one of the GOAL rollover targets and thus acting as an obstacle (!). So, after one game I left, and even that one game was quite unsatisfying. I wasn’t even able to leave feedback for the operator as none of the games had an operator identification sticker on them as they usually do. Whoever owns and operates this pinball, I hope they read machine condition notes on Pinball Map, because that’s where clued pinball players check before they decide where to go play. (Someone has to be the guinea pig, unfortunately, and sometimes that’s me.)

(Yes, I know I’m a bit behind and this is from last month. I will have more current updates shortly.)

September 3 Little Dipper:

September 8:

“Dipping” into a new pinball spot

The Little Dipper on Main Street in downtown Houston had been on my list of pinball places to check out for some time. The last time I was in the area, though, there was a rainstorm blowing through the city. Instead of hanging back to get in a few games of pinball I decided to just go home and return another day. I didn’t realize “another day” would be a few months later, though…

The first order of business was to get in a few rounds of pinball. To my amazement someone left a couple of credits on The Machine: Bride of Pinbot, a Williams classic from 1991. I ran into two main problems: a missing diverter/gate on the spinner lane, and a non-functional right slingshot. The missing diverter/gate leads to much shorter ball times and less satisfying games (though to be fair, the tilt is loose enough to save almost anything if you’re willing to play that rough); the dead slingshot is honestly more help than hindrance given the rather steep playfield pitch.

Next there was just enough time for a few games of Spider-Man. This one played a lot better. It took me a while to get the hang of the upper ramp shot, but I was able to benefit from my prior experience playing this game during league nights. In the end I was able to squeeze five plays out of one paid credit for 50 cents–not too shabby, if I say so myself.

Coinciding with my visit Monday night was the monthly trivia night. I’ve never really tried my hand at bar trivia. I found my way onto a team with a couple of women. One of those women came up with the incredibly wacky team name of “Scam Likely”. And with that, trivia night was on. We got a lot of questions right, and in the end we wound up winning by a point. Both teams still playing at the end–mine and the opposing team–missed a very tough question about state mottos.

Trivia ended at around 9:15 pm. That left  just enough time to get in a few quick games of Family Guy and The Walking Dead. Family Guy played comparatively well but did kind of show its age as there were a couple of burnt out bulbs and the plunger was inconsistent. As for The Walking Dead, I never really liked this game as much compared to other games released around the same time. However, this one played flawlessly and may well be my first choice when I return here to play more pinball.

Highest scores on the night:

  • The Machine: Bride of Pinbot, 1.15M+
  • Spider-Man: 27.13M+
  • The Walking Dead: 28.21M+
  • Family Guy: 20.99M+

Odds and ends from the past month and change

I’ve gotten in the occasional round of pinball and arcade games here and there over the past couple of months, just haven’t had any time to post until today. I will be checking out a new local venue in the next few days and I wanted to get these up before then.

In rough order: July 21 at Darkhorse Tavern (Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man), August 4 at Little Woodrow’s (World’s Largest Pac-Man/Galaga), August 18 and 25 at Speedy’s Fast Track (The Munsters, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, TMNT, Batman, Iron Maiden).

I know I’ve done better on Galaga (actually, I’ve done better on all of these). I’m still out there playing and do not intend to give up pinball any time soon.

A site about one man's quests for record videogame highscores, pinball tournament championships, fame, and stardom.

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