American Pinball is back with a new unlicensed pinball game, 18 months after the very questionable Legends of Valhalla game. But let’s forget the bitter taste that this last production left us, and let’s look at this new table with the candor of the newborn Pinhead.
The manufacturer has taken risks, he has allowed himself some madness! The effort deserves to be praised. Does this audacity bear fruit? Can American Pinball make it to the top in this all-out brawl at the Texas Pinball Festival in late March 2023? Let’s analyze this unusual machine.
The jury’s encouragement for communication
Until now, the manufacturer has not distinguished itself by the quality of its commercial launches. This time, it has released several teasers:
- The first video announces the collaboration of several personalities on the voices and character of the Galactic Tank Force. It was a failure, because these people are either complete strangers or 3rd rate celebrities.
- A second video confirmed the theme that those in the know were anticipating
- A third video unveiled the pinball machine, with Dennis Nordman lending himself to the exercise of parody.
- The final trailer confirmed the completely crazy theme.
Did you notice it? “Namdron”, the name of the galaxy announced in the trailer, is the name of the designer Nordman in reverse 🙂
With its offbeat videos and its game that is even more offbeat, American Pinball defines its image, its personality. The company fully assumes its universe. When you are a small player, it is important to have a strong identity to exist, and from this point of view this communication plan is sometimes clumsy but successful. The objective is reached: we (media and players) talk more about them in this busy period than if they had played it safe with only artworks published on This Week in Pinball.
Besides, the machine itself lends itself to an unconventional communication.
A crazy scenario
As for the scenario, you have to expect a lot of nonsense. Some missions are “ice cream missions”, which at first sight has no relation with a story in space.
The protagonists who were introduced to us in one of the teasers play cartoonish roles in kitschy settings. The acting, the callouts, the disguises and props of the scenes are all voluntarily outrageous. And honestly the B-movie effect of the 90’s is very well done. In our podcast, we had mentioned the similarity with the cinematics of some video games from the turn of the 2000s like Command & Conquer: Red Alert, or interactive stories released on Mega CD. Here, American Pinball applies a voluntary effect, where before it was the result of budget constraints and uninspired directors.
If you like fun, you should enjoy the universe that Galactic Tank Force proposes. However, we have to admit that the bet is risky, because putting more than $10,000 in a big joke, even if it is successful, will not be to everyone’s taste. Once again, American Pinball takes it upon itself to be selective in its clientele.
A tank-shaped pinball machine
It’s been a long time since the “cabinet” of a pinball machine has been the subject of innovation. Some may remember the “Whoa Nelly! Big Juicy Mellons” game that rested on a watermelon crate instead of the usual four metal legs. But apart from that, the last 10 years have not shown any boldness on the subject.
Galactic Tank Force is a departure from the norm: the pinball machine, in its Signature and Limited versions, takes the shape of a tank resembling the models of the First World War. Two panels on the sides represent the tracks. The front panel, when folded onto the body, follows the shape of the turret. A light illuminates at the end of the gun.
The Deluxe and Classic versions are conventional, but the artwork of the body and the pediment are particularly accomplished and flashy.
Being a big kid, I find the concept particularly cool. This is not the opinion of everyone, not even in our team, because the object has a much more marked toy design than a classic pinball machine. It is obviously a departure from the established canons of the 90’s, and plays less on the nostalgia chord. One could argue that the 80’s and 90’s were precisely the decades of all the trials, and respect Galactic Tank Force respects its legacy. But the collective imagination does not bother with historical reality, and some will be insensitive to this attempt.
One question is bothering me: the resemblance with a tank works with the front panel folded. But except when moving, a pinball machine is never in this position. On a classic machine, it is even a manipulation that is carried out with the utmost care. Does this mean that American Pinball has planned a more flexible system, so that its pinball can be folded up when not in use? Fingers crossed, otherwise this is a big design mistake.
This is the downside of innovation: if the idea is good but poorly executed, it’s an industrial disaster. So we also hope that the tracks will be strong enough to support the pinball drunks.
Galactic Tank Force includes Scorbit
Let’s make a small detour by an important announcement: American Pinball is including Scorbit in its pinball for the first time. It is a connected solution that allows you to record your scores online, share them and organize tournaments. As Jersey Jack Pinball terminates its contract with Scorbit, we can see that the industry is still looking for the right formula to connect their machines to the Internet.
Only Stern Pinball has a clear strategy with its Stern Insider Connected. But it’s easier to make up your mind when you have more than half of the sector on your own. It is then not necessary to make unnatural alliances, such as sharing a primary supplier with direct competitors.
A rich and confused playfield
What a bag of knots at the bottom of the playfield !!! In one corner the tangle of ramps makes it difficult to understand the expected flow of the ball. This may be a deliberate move, but it puzzles me. This feeling of clutter is reinforced by a mixture of metal and plastic for the same trajectory.
It’s rare that the ramps are not all the same material, but even more so that they mix two. Will this be an issue in game? Probably not, but it seems unattractive to me. On closer inspection, the pinball machine only offers 3 ramp inputs and 2 outputs, so the overall flow will probably be more conventional than a first impression would suggest.
A toy like the Attack From Mars one ?
It’s impossible to miss the red tank in the middle of the board, which will probably blink a lot. On the other hand, the interaction could be summarized by the 5 fixed targets placed underneath, indicated by missiles that suggest a fight between our tank and the machine. If we are right, the mechanism is not a big deal.
On second thought, I’m more intrigued by the gray flying saucer right behind that floats back and forth and is reached via an attached target. It’s more original than a fixed toy, isn’t it?
If you think about it a bit more, this planet surrounded by rings in the background could have aroused even more curiosity. But it does not contribute to the gameplay.
Here are two final features:
- a 3rd button on the right side controls a diverter, reminding the lockbar button on Stern’s Ninja Turtles pinball machine.
- A big central pin between the two beaters lifts up and prevents you from losing the ball. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this mechanism.
If the idea of toys is nice, the first images let us fear a raw use of 3D printing. So don’t expect high quality finishes.
A legendary pinball machine? Maybe not, but a nice experience!
The first images and footage of the playfield urge us to be cautious, so we’ll avoid shouting genius. But in many ways, the risk-taking and the offbeat communication have been designed to appeal to adults who have kept their childlike souls. From this point of view, this pinball machine has my full approval.
This assessment is so subjective that I’m only committing myself on this preview. Half of the editorial staff considers the proposed object grotesque and undoubtedly fragile. You have been warned. For this pinball machine even more than for other more conventional machines, we urge you to see more before ordering.