Flash! Flash!

I'm definitely not addicted to pinball. I only play most lunchtimes and some evenings, and I rarely spend more than £20 in a day. I can't quite say what the attraction is, but in the words of one eight year old; "I like pinball, Daddy; it's not like computer games; it's real." Just recently, the arcade's got a new game, Bally's Attack From Mars. I fell on it with glee, having read about it at length in rec.games.pinball; this the favourite pinball game in America at the moment. The first thing I noticed about the machine was the epilepsy warning. "Flashing lights can trigger this illness in some people...watch your children if they play Attack from Mars"... that sort of thing. These Americans, I thought. What will they think of next? They're putting health warnings on pinball machines; what is the world coming to.

Then I started playing. It's a cool game. For one thing, there are excellent quotes all the way through, as the Martians attack different bits of the world. "Sacre Bleu! Ze Martians are attacking Ze Eiffel Tower!" "We've gotta save the Statue of Liberty" "Mamma Mia! The Martians are straightening the Tower of Pisa." "Get your hands off me! All four of them!" "Will you look at the size of that cow?" "Oh no! The Martians have taken our hot dog stand." "Blast the saucer outa the sky." It's not quite so good when the Martians start attacking England. "Oh, I say! Good shot!" "No time for tea! London Bridge is falling down!" On the dot-matrix at the back of the screen appears a picture of Tower Bridge. The first time this happened, I was so shocked I lost my ball. I'd heard before that Americans confused the two; I'd even heard that the chap who bought London Bridge was under the mistaken impression that he'd bought Tower Bridge. Maybe it's true.

Continuing, the game has lots of neat toys; Martians that jiggle up and down, a spaceship that lights up, lots of nice ramps and the wireforms that are known to pinball players as habitrails. It also has four different forms of multiball, including the appropriately named Strobe Multiball. The game went dark. The strobe light came on. The pinballs looked discontinuous. I felt rather sick. Suddenly, the epilepsy warning seemed a bit more reasonable. It's hard to play pinball under a strobe light.

I want to be a pinball machine when I grow up.

-- Alison Scott

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