Indiana Jones, the pinball adventure

Dear reader friends, this article could prove to be a little bit irritating;
so let’s put our feet in the soup and let’s dot the i’s and cross the t’s, if you don’t mind: at the risk of annoying a few (which I apologise for in
advance…), when we casually talk among pinheads about the “Indiana Jones pinball machine”, we are of course referring to the REAL Indiana Jones pinball machine; and by that we mean, of course: Indiana Jones, the Pinball Adventure.

Why this focus as an appetizer, you may ask? It’s simple, there is indeed
another “Indiana Jones pinball machine”, made by Stern in 2008 for the
release of the 4th opus “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal
Skull”. It must be admitted that this pinball machine is as uninspired as the film, even if we have to concede some qualities to it, but this is not the purpose of this article. Besides, we do hope to review this Stern Indiana Jones someday soon because it is nevertheless worth the diversion, if only because it is – again – about good ol’ Indy !

So today we’re going to talk about one of the most famous (and adored)
pinball machines in the history of pinball, all times combined.

A pinball machine that bring the myth to life

Without a doubt, Indiana Jones the Pinball Adventure has it all.
Starting with its license: what better, I ask you, than the Indiana Jones
theme to gather and excite the crowds? My answer, if I ever needed one for the needs of a debate that already will prove to be sterile (but you don’t get to do it again…): Star Wars.

Zoom playfield Indiana Jones
The Airplanes of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie

Probably the only theme that would be even more popular and unifying than Indy. You don’t agree? Never mind !

The truth is that no Star Wars pinball machine has so far been able to transcribe the myth to its true core values. You touch the myth, you try to get close to it, but in fact it’s failed and if these games hadn’t had the Star Wars licence, they would have been most irrelevant.

You still don’t agree? It still doesn’t matter!

The truth is, we can debate this thing forever, but the fact is that this Williams Indiana Jones is a rare bird…because rare are the pinball machines which have so perfectly made the myth come alive, and I would dare say even more: extremely rare are the pinball machines that make us live the myth.

Because indeed, in this pin, YOU are Indiana Jones! (author’s note: hence the associated name ” the Pinball Adventure “, a bit like a new movie in which this time the player is the hero).

A very beautiful machine

It all looks very fine and dandy and for anyone who has never played Indy, the first encounter with this machine is often memorable: to begin with it’s a widebody, therefore necessarily spectacular even for the well-informed eye because placed next to a “standard body”, the other one imposes!

Then the “look & feel”: there’s no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful pinball machines ever produced; the combination of orange and brown colours, typical of the Indy universe, is really of the best effect, and this, combined with the two big masterful ramps as Mark Ritchie has the secret, as well as the mini-playfield (the “Path of Adventure”), make the game excessively attractive for both the beginner and the seasoned player.

Playfield et backglass du flipper Indiana Jones, Williams
The widebody

At first glance, then, this is a “beautiful” pinball machine.

But what about the game itself: is it licensed? More importantly, does it live up to the myth?

This is where the debate can really get going, after all.

Because if Indiana Jones is an “excellent” pinball machine, no one will say otherwise, he is not the “best” pinball machine, far from it, and I’ll explain it to you right now.

A well-designed playfield, however without much risk taking

Let’s begin with the design of the playfield itself.

Mark Ritchie (Taxi, Dinner, Fish Tales) may be very good, but he is not the greatest designer in history. He doesn’t have the creative genius of Pat Lawlor, nor does he have the sense of flow of his brother Steve Richie.

I would argue, however, that I prefer Mark’s games to Steve’s. I just find them more striking, and more fun – but that’s a purely personal opinion.

Let’s get back to the point.

Mark Ritchie’s trademark is the two big ramps that intersect. If they don’t really “intersect” in Indiana Jones, you can immediately recognise the imprint and the assumed cousinhood: these ramps are massive and very steep! (author’s note: better have well adjusted flippers otherwise you’ll be at a loss to make the ball go up the ramps).

In short, if the design is quite coherent and functional (left and right orbits, a scoop on the left, two ramps, a centre right corridor towards a stand up target and a central bank target which hides the lock hole), it has no real risk taking, let’s be honest.

When you consider that Indy literally came out right after Twilight Zone, the difference in terms of playfield design is really obvious: 10 alley-shots for TZ versus “only” 7 for Indy while both pinball machines are the same size.

A commercial launch eclipsed by that of Twilight Zone

A little anecdote about the development of Indy: at the time, it did not benefit from the same means of promotion as Twilight Zone. The reason for this is that TZ came out three months earlier (April 1993 vs. August 1993). Clearly, TZ had the favour of Midway’s management since Pat Lawlor’s team was at the helm, building on the historic success previously achieved on The Addams Family.

Pat Lawlor was given carte blanche and unlimited (!) budget to produce Twilight Zone. Result: the release of Indiana Jones was a little more “confidential” (relatively speaking, of course); Now, if TZ was the success that we all know with 15 235 copies sold, Indiana Jones and its 12 716 machines produced was a great success too. Players, in bars and arcades, were more easily attracted to Indy than to TZ because the game was less complex, more accessible and the theme, obviously, more meaningful.

Indy, a complete adventure where there’s fun… lot’s of it.

You shouldn’t see Indiana Jones as “just” a pinball machine : in fact it’s more than that (like TZ after all), it’s a whole universe that has been recreated under the glass. But where TZ first put the emphasis on the number of shots and toys, Indy really capitalized on the game modes and the license with:

  • A soundtrack obviously known by everyone and just great (note: this is the first DCS pinball machine, and it deserves it);
  • Callouts specially made in the studio by John Rhys-Davies, the actor who plays Sallah in the films The Lost Ark and The Last Crusade
  • 12 sensational game modes (4 for each of the first three films)
  • Treasure hunts – here you have jackpots to collect, but also to bring back to the museum if your mission is fulfilled (the super jackpots)
Zoom playfield Indiana Jones 2
The secondary characters around Indy and his lasso, including Sallah. The actor did the pinball machine voices.

In short, you have fun, you’re in it, you forget about everything else, and after a few games you can see that the addiction is working at full speed.

Difficult to let go of Indy to play another pinball machine afterwards…

The pinball adventure: perhaps not the all time greatest pinball machine, but an incomparable atmosphere

It took me some time to come to this raw and honest conclusion that I share with you today: if it is not the best pinball machine in the world in terms of pure play, the atmosphere and the ambiance make up for it in a global way, that we have hardly done better …

And for my part, except for Twilight Zone which is resolutely out of the ordinary, Indiana Jones is also unique in its own style. I certainly didn’t “see” it as such immediately, but with the experience I’ve gained over the years and the number of machines I’ve been able to play, I can say it today with all my heart: yes, Indiana Jones is a fantastic pinball machine.

The idol of the Incas and the mini-playfield

Come on, let’s continue our little tour of the playfield while we’re at it.

L'idole des Incas, flipper Indiana Jones
The idole of the Incas, that locks balls.

As said above, while the implementation of shots is relatively standard, the excitement of making them is omnipresent because the music and the call-outs will get you going in the right way. Also, the slingshots are particularly lively on Indy, which has the effect of making the ball waltz around (more than usual). You have to use a lot of small “nudges” to orient it on the flippers and be able to aim properly afterwards.

The other particularity of Indy are the two major “toys” of the game: the “Idole of the Incas” on the right side of the board which is used to lock the three balls and spit them out during the multiball sequences, and the “Path of Adventure” (aka the mini-playfield) which you shake from left to right in order to orientate the ball, avoid the traps, and incidentally score some big points and win a very precious extraball.

“Precious”, would that be one of the words that characterizes this Indy? Maybe it is, if you think about it… Already, it has all these precious treasures that you have to go fetch and bring back to the museum!

Jackpots, treasures galore and wizard mode

Haut du playfied Indiana Jones Williams et backglass
Top left, the mini-playfield.

Let’s start with the three jackpots that are :

  • The Arch of Alliance (a reference to the Adventurers of the Lost Ark)
  • The Stones of Sankara (reference to the “Cursed Temple”)
  • The Grail (reference to “The Last Crusade”)

Each one brings big points and can be doubled, even tripled, if you manage to put balls in the central hole (behind the target-bank) before going to collect the jackpot with the right ramp.

Once these three jackpots have been recovered, it will be time to take them back to the museum! And that’s what three “super jackpots” are about, in addition to the “normal” jackpots which, as you might have guessed, allow you to score even more.

At this stage I sincerely hope that you are not too tired by these exciting journeys as much as they are overwhelming because we are not going to stop in such a good way, I’m telling you !

Indy’s quest is far from over because you will also have to go and look for lost treasures, through the drop-down target and the captive-ball at the bottom right of the playfield.

In a two-ball multiball where everything stops as soon as one of the two balls is lost, you will try to collect the six treasures that are :

  • the Idol of the Incas
  • the Diamond of Shanghai
  • the Cross of Coronado
  • the Headpiece of the Staff of Ra
  • the Remains of Nurhachi
  • the Fish of Tayles (a private joke from Mark Ritchie refering to his Fish Tales pin)

For every treasure won, big points, and of course it goes up crescendo…
A delight, and always this epic music that surrounds you and makes you realise that the world needs Indiana Jones, that the world needs you !

It needs you so much that your mission, if you accept it Dr Jones, will be to go through the 12 game modes to reach the 6-ball “Eternal Life” wizard mode, and try to complete ALL the shots and switches on the board for 1,000,000 pts. No small matter…

If there is going to be just one pinball machine in the gameroom…

So yes, it’s exciting, it’s a real adventure, it’s beautiful that we can’t take it anymore and the challenge is there because the game is far from being easy. In short, you can’t get tired of it (author’s note: I didn’t even mention the three very well done “video modes”…).

And yet, if Indiana Jones the Pinball Adventure is consistently voted one of the all-time favourite pinball machines (its collector’s rating is at its highest and does not go down, ever) tournament players will prefer more “direct” machines in terms of ball flow (like Attack From Mars). This is not a surprise in fact because the tournament player often doesn’t care much about toys and mini-playfields and prefers a simple target at the bottom of the board as long as it brings 1 000 000 pts.

At Pinball Mag. we love “pinball” in all that it is and all that it represents, because it is a whole that must be considered if we want to make a reasoned and reasonable judgment of it. We shouldn’t stop at flow or scoring (which is rather balanced on Indy actually, between choosing to play modes or being stubborn on multiballs) to qualify as good or not good this or that machine.

And so the final word will be: legendary pinball machine? Yes, without a doubt. “Best” pinball machine ever? No, but it could almost “at least” claim this title; it just lacks a bit of originality in the shots, which it makes up for quite nevertheless by a formidably well-exploited licence (can you hear me Stern?).

On the other hand, if you were to have only one pinball machine in your gameroom and keep it forever, well it would be quite justified and reasonable to consider Indiana Jones, the Pinball adventure because it is to the pinball world what the “Lombardi » is to the NFL: a priceless trophy to play for, that you can’t help admiring, and that you keep coveting until you get to put your hands on it.

Flipper Indiana Jones Williams


Manufacturer: Williams (Midway Manufacturing Company)
Date of production: August 1993
Type : widebody
Processor: Williams WPC (DCS)
Abbreviation: IJ
Units produced: 12,716
Introductory price: N/C

TOYS / particularities:
Rotating idol that locks the balls and returns them to the playfield during multiball sequences.

Mini-playfield “path of adventure

Flippers (2), Pop Bumpers (3), Slingshots (2), Standup targets (7), Kick-out holes (2), Ramps (2), 3-bank drop-targets (1), Captive ball (1), Autoplunger in the shape of a revolver, Three video modes.

4 multiball modes: Regular multiball 3-ball, Quick multiball (2-ball), “Well of Souls” multiball (6-ball), “Eternal Life” wizard mode (6-ball).

Paris based pinhead / Pinball collector & contributor / Addict to everything pinball

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