Happy New Year, pinheads! After the festive season, when everyone gorged themselves on sugar, fat and alcohol, we’re back to the rhythm of new machine releases and news for 2024. Stern Pinball opens the ball with its new baby, long presented as a code name (Stern is quite used to this, we told you about it right here), it’s now the real pinball machine Jaws that’s showing its face.
Yes, at Pinball Mag. we love trendy licenses and nuggets illustrated by Zombie Yeti, but we also love nostalgia and vintage licenses! Dive into this preview with us to see what’s in store!
Shark! A shark! It’s going into the pond! Shark in the estuary!
Musical pinball machines, trendy licenses then vintage licenses… isn’t this the new pattern for Stern releases? The latest James Bond pinball machine, with its retro touch, left us dubious at first, but turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It left aside the design of its artwork, and in particular its playfield, which was far from matching the rest of the firm’s productions, to offer us gameplay that was more than honest, not to say very good.
Stern brings us another layer of nostalgia and boomer movies (yeah, we have to adapt our articles to the young people who read us and who only have Twilight as a cinematic reference…) with this series of films based on Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece: Jaws and its 3 other sequels, the last of which was released in 1987.
In itself, it’s not a bad idea for a whole lot of reasons:
- This series of films is a classic that speaks to (just about) everyone, if only because of the excellent musical ambience.
- These are suspenseful films, bordering on the horrific, and not necessarily the style in which Stern offers the most machinery (that’s more the work of Spooky Pinball).
- Visually, ¾ of the films take place on water, so in terms of artwork and design, this can give something visually appealing and original.
- The old-timers have the dough to afford such machines because, let’s not forget, the market (especially for premium and LE versions) is mostly held by collectors. And Jaws, well… it speaks to them!
- We all want to beat the shit out of that shark to avenge our childhood nightmares, so if there’s a way to slip a steel ball into its snags, we’re all for it!
- Based on the storyline of the first film alone, we can imagine plenty of cool mechanics and toys that could offer varied and fun gameplay.
So, what’s the result?
Oh the Big Blue! What’s it like? – Well, it’s big… and… it’s blue!
First of all, it’s visually pretty. Of course, you’ve got to like blue, but given the license and the omnipresence of water, we wouldn’t have imagined it any other way. And whatever the version (Pro, Premium or LE), the artwork on the box is very well done. While the Pro and LE versions feature translite/backglass artwork based on the original poster design from the first film, the box artwork is in keeping with the game’s objective. The shark tries to get through the cage for the Pro version, and tries to eat all the bathers for the LE.
The premium version is a little different in terms of design, with a more cartoon-like artwork, particularly on the translite. It’s almost reminiscent of the Bally/Williams era, with its bold, almost clichéd lines, but devilishly effective in attracting customers to an arcade!
As far as the playfield is concerned, the exercise is always a little trickier with film licenses, especially vintage ones, as we can quickly fall into the patchwork style of dirty photomontage (typical of what we have on the James Bond game, for example). But then again, this Jaws pinball machine comes off well, since we’re dealing with semi-realistic drawings that aren’t quite faithful enough for us to recognize the actors (Robert Shaw & Richard Dreyfuss in the middle in particular), but cartoony enough to let the rest of the visual elements blend in with the overall artwork, particularly that of the box.
Simply put, it’s pretty, sufficiently realistic and makes you want to strike some big fish!
Note that the LE version logically features a few extra visual elements, such as illuminated speakers, speaker covers featuring the squalid design, side art, a custom launcher and a white armor kit with the beast’s teeth marks on the side. It’s pretty, but it’s almost too much… After all, it’s a matter of taste…
They caught A shark. Not THE shark.
As for the gameplay, Keith Elwin (Jurassic Park, Godzilla…) is at the helm, so let’s just say we’re not expecting an empty playfield with nothing to do on it!
Unfortunately, the pro version pales in comparison with its big sisters, as it has been stripped of a good proportion of the “sexy” gameplay elements, but the game still seems to offer some pretty nice, well-thought-out gameplay mechanics, given the scenarios in the films.
Here are the main features:
- The “chum bucket”, the bloody bucket used to attract the beast, which you have to make move thanks to the kinetics of the ball fixed just below it;
- The great white shark’s fin, which moves around the middle of the playfield, thanks to a moving drop target that you have to shoot;
- of course, the shark you’ll have to fight in the middle, the pinball machine’s “main toy”. On the pro version, the shark is fixed and trapped in the diving cage. On the premium and LE versions, you’ll have to bash the boat before you can make it appear and settle the score;
- A mini playfield representing the Orca (the boat used in the final battle in the film), with the boat’s helm and several ramp departures (Premium and LE versions only);
- A horizontal spinner representing a fishing rod reel on the right of the playfield;
- A mini flipper in addition to the two classic flippers, on the right-hand side of the playfield (plus a complementary flipper on the mini playfield for Premium and LE versions);
- Open outlanes that will put your nudge techniques to the test in the hope of getting a ball that was about to come out back into play;
- A single isolated pop bumper on the right (a bit like in the Godzilla pinball).
- 3 different multiballs
- A video mode where you have to kill sharks without damaging the divers. New: it can be played in 3D mode with the famous red and blue anaglyph glasses! The idea fits perfectly with the retro pinball theme. But will this innovation find its way into games once the discovery effect has worn off?
You’re gonna need a bigger boat
As you know from Stern, each version has its own particularity, and therefore its own price. While the Pro version (as its name suggests) is mainly reserved for use in gaming halls, the other two versions are aimed more at home users, and therefore offer more features, but are obviously more expensive…
For the time being, here are the prices communicated by Stern for these 3 models:
- 6,999 for the Pro version
- 9,699 for the Premium version
- 12,999 for the Limited version, available in 1,000 units only.
In France, we should be in the same ballpark:
- 9,000€ for the Pro version
- 11,640€ for the Premium version
- 16,500€ for the Limited version
Exact delivery dates have yet to be confirmed.
Jaws pinball: do we jump in or not?
Let’s be clear: this Jaws pinball machine IS a good idea! The license is well chosen, its application through the 4 films is judicious and offers more gameplay possibilities, the machine in its 3 versions is beautiful, the toys are well thought out and the machine is visually very successful.
And I’m not even talking about the film scenes shown on screen during the game, the original music by John Williams or the call-outs directed by Richard Dreyfuss himself!
All designed by a big name at Stern. So what could be the problem?
Well, let’s be optimistic, let’s not deny ourselves the pleasure, and let’s bet there won’t be any nasty surprises! This vintage release brings a breath of fresh air to Stern’s pinball landscape, in a field (horror/suspense) where they have little presence. What’s more, the commercial launch is a success, and the machine smells good from the very first videos. So, I don’t know about you, but here at the editorial office, we’ve got one thing on our minds:
Dive into deep water to get our hands on this new toy! See you soon for the full test of this machine!