In the top 10 best pinball machines ever produced, Indiana Jones is 4th. Please note: we are talking about the Williams pinball game released in 1993, not the much less memorable Stern Pinball in 2008. Clearly, this game deserves the success that history has given it, and we’re going to break down the reasons why.
Indiana Jones Pinball Adventure: Mark Ritchie’s masterpiece
In the Ritchie family, I’d like the little brother! And it’s not easy to build your own reputation when you’re in the shadow of Steve Ritchie, 8 years older and one of the two stars at Williams at the time, in competition with designer Pat Lawlor.
And yet, at the time of working on Indiana Jones, Mark Ritchie had more than a dozen machines to his credit, two of which are still references today: Diner (1990) and Fish Tales (1992).
He is sufficiently crowned with his past successes to be entrusted with the most beautiful license of his career: Indiana Jones! And the whole historical trilogy at that!
At his side, Brian Eddie signs the code and the animations of the DMD, particularly successful. Moreover, the pinball machine benefits for the first time from the DCS (Digital Compression System), a sound system developed by Williams Electronics which allows to restore the soundtracks of the film, reworked but clearly recognizable. Moreover, John Rhys-Davies, the actor who plays Sallah, is credited on several call-outs.
Finally, this game is part of the SuperPin line, i.e. the few widebody pinball machines released by Bally-Williams in the 90s.
Honestly, Williams didn’t make fun of Mark Ritchie when you see the means at his disposal. And with more than 12,000 units sold, the manufacturer got his money’s worth. This figure ranks the game among the best sellers, but without breaking the bank either.
A generous playfield
The first thing you see is not the most interesting: 2 planes are chasing each other over the board, in reference to the aerial combat of the 3rd opus Indiana Jones and the last crusade. But as their vocation is purely decorative, we will pass quickly.
On the right side of the board, a South American inspired idol turns on itself to block the marbles in the hollows of its base, and give them back during a multiball. Honestly, its resemblance to the chachapoya fertility idol that Indy steals from Raiders of the Lost Ark is slight. No matter, the toy and the Inca temple style mechanism’s decoration is in the atmosphere, if not exact.
And finally, a mini board overhangs the playing field on the top left. The ball has to go down the slope of this upper playfield by avoiding the holes. By pressing the buttons on the beaters, the player tilts the board to the right or left to influence the trajectory. A little nudge is required to succeed in the challenge.
As for the rest, among the major elements:
- Two ramps that drive the air combat animation
- 3 bumpers
- A nice loop that crosses the board
- 9 targets, including 3 falling ones that hide the hole for locking the balls in the idol
- A captive ball
In addition to the playfield, the butt of a revolver replaces the ball launcher. Pulling the trigger launches the ball.
Video modes are a big part of the game
The 90’s saw the widespread use of video modes. These are mini-games that the DMD screens of the time made possible. You interact with the buttons of the drummers.
Here, not one, not two, but three video modes have been integrated for your greatest pleasure! They are also an essential step in the scenario.
The scenario invites you to live twelve adventures of the archaeologist, which are the highlights of the three original films. They are activated by aiming at the scoop (understand: the hole) located in the center of the board on the left. The missions are launched randomly, and as soon as they are completed, the next one is available. Here are the details:
- Get he Idol: aim 4 times at the falling targets in the middle of the board and then aim at the hidden scoop behind.
- Streets of Cairo : Marion is in one of the baskets, represented by one of the ramps or loops of the board that you have to aim at. Then, the bad guy must be killed by aiming at the scoop that starts the missions or pull the trigger of the launcher.
- Well of Souls: triggers a 6 ball mission where the center hole will kill the snakes.
- Raven Bar (video mode): aim at the bad guys with the buttons, the shot is automatic
- Monkey Brains: aim at the ramps and loops
- Steal the Stones: on the mini board, move the ball over the lit inserts.
- Escape in the Mine Card (video mode) : avoid the dead ends to escape with the cart
- Survive the Rope Bridge: aiming at the railings makes Indy move on the bridge, the animation is shown on the screen, but you don’t really have to watch it.
- Castle Grunwald: hit the captive marble to free Dr. Jones (the hero’s father)
- Tank Chase: loops allow the adventurer on horseback to catch up with the tank
- The 3 Challenges: Complete 3 courses on the upper playfield
- Choose Wisely: A game of chess with the 3 cups, only one of which is the Holy Grail. Point to the cup of your choice and validate with the gun.
The Wizard Mode “Eternal Life” is a multiball with 6 balls. I’ll skip the side missions, the whole thing gives a deep game for its time.
a pinball machine that we are looking for
A rich gameplay, an equally rich board, an iconic license well served, a pinball game released during the golden age of pinball… Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure checks all the boxes and its rating is at its highest. Clearly, well maintained, it holds its own alongside newer, flashier machines.
Moreover, its theme and popularity make it one of the most modded pinballs: figurines, lightshow, decorations of all kinds… There is plenty to do!
Mark Ritchie signed his masterpiece, and still a reference today.