Hands-on with the Physical Ghostbusters Premium Pinball

At long last and after a few delays the shiny new Ghostbusters Premium pinball landed at my local comic store today.  It had only been there a few hours when I got to play it, and was still being tuned and tweaked for optimal performance, but seeing the full layout in person and getting to send balls flying every which way over the vibrant, energetic layout was a lot of fun and a little frustrating.  I got to play six games total and have a few initial impressions, but first off here’s the board layout:

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It’s a thing of beauty, and other than the green metal trim from the Limited Edition that’s exactly what I played today.  A quick glance at the layout shows lanes and targets all over the place, and the design makes for a good flow where one shot leads naturally into another.  Everything is nicely accessible from the only two flippers on the board, and there are a good number of events to keep the game from feeling like a long succession of ramps and lanes.  The G-H-O-S-T target near the top-center, for example, activates slimer, who moves back and forth on a mechanical arm.  He takes a lot of abuse, to the point that I hope the table came with a few spare Slimers to counteract the inevitable destruction.  On the plus side, even a ball rolling down the top-center lane and bouncing gently off his butt is enough to register a hit, so it’s not like he needs to be beaten into submission.

There are also a couple of captive ball shots that are fun to chase after, on the far left and mid-right, and while it’s little more than a standard lane, the Ecto Goggles shot in particular is hard to resist.  If you look close you can see the black metal housing with the Ecto Goggles label is a bit wider than you’d expect, and that’s because there’s a tiny screen underneath that’s reflected off the clear glass right above the lane.  The makes a transparent ghost appear to hover in the lane, visible only through the lens, and shooting a ball through it defeats the ghost with a short animation.  Gimmicky?  You bet!  But super-fun, too.

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If you look carefully under the Ecto Goggle sticker you can see a hint of the upside-down Ghostbusters icon peeking out, reflected on the glass below.

There were a few issues with the table design that needed to be ironed out, though.  Some of these issues are simple tuning of the machine and others built into the layout.  The flipper gap, for example, is wide enough to drive a truck through when compared to other tables, and unlike most games I lost my ball down the center far more than the sides because of this.  A common issue that’s been reported with other Ghostbusters owners is the amount of air-time the ball gets, and I gave it a good >clack!< off the glass at least once and sent the ball rolling over the clear plastic above the left captive ball area several times.  An unsolvable inconvenience is the way the purple city above the bumper field and 14 Street elevated track run across the lanes at the top of the board, completely blocking the view of the leftmost lights and making it very difficult to see well enough to earn the bonus multiplier.  The subway track is supposed to drop below the playfield and then shoot back up into the right flipper-feeding lane, but frequently doesn’t have the speed to make it and instead rocks back and forth a bit at the bottom of before getting kicked out of a nearby eject hole.   Finally, this particular board had a problem where the Librarian capture hole on the left ejected straight into the giant gap between the flippers, causing irretrievable loss of ball.  On the plus side, it’s also the hole to shoot for Extra Ball, so if you can get it lit then everything evens out.  That’s a game-breaking issue, but it seems to be one specific to this unit and, with any luck, something that can be adjusted.

Despite this, I had a blast playing through several games in far-too-quick succession.  The machine was brand new a couple hours before I played it, so everything was gleaming, bumpers and flippers had a fantastic kick to them, and the ball practically (and a couple times literally) flew across the table.  As the machine gains wear it will slow down a bit, which is probably for the best, and there are known tweaks to the board to tame the air-time.  Once the opening-day jitters are tamed, Ghostbusters should come into its own as a fantastic design with one of the brightest, most vibrant art packages available.  The world of Ghostbusters shines through on every prop and shot, and the music is of course the perfect, famous theme song.  The games I played were all short, but much like Iron Man, Ghostbusters is a table that rewards experience with more play modes that I’m looking forward to experiencing.  It’s going to take money and practice, but that first game where it all comes together with lights blinking everywhere and the multiball mode activating ramps and targets all over the board always makes it worth it.

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The pinball machine is rarely seen traveling alone. Here we see a herd at rest, ready to dazzle at the drop of a quarter.

  • rbonaime

    Googled that extra ball hole issue specifically because I had it. Seems to be in every version. Extremely frustrating and only gets more so the more times I play it.