“Oh my, pinball machines are getting more and more expensive, it’s sad this race for profit at the expense of the players”. We know this because everyone keeps saying it (and so do we) all the time.
But then, how do you welcome this “Pin” pinball machine created by Stern Pinball? In two words, it is a “lightened” version of one of the most popular recent pinball machines. A lighter price, a lighter content, here is the principle of this format. Does the equation offer an interesting deal for less fortunate Pinheads? Or is it a big scam that should bring tears of rage to our eyes? Let’s find out.
The second or fourth “Pin” machine from Stern
This “home edition” format (another name for the Pin) is not the first of its kind. Stern first tried his hand at offering Spiderman and Transformers pinball machines that were two-thirds the size of standard machines. They finally settled for reducing the size of the front panel by about 8 inches for their third attempt: Star Wars Home Edition aka Star Wars Pin.
This Jurassic Park pinball inherits this history and dimensions that bring it closer to Star Wars than to Spiderman. Good for us, because if the size of the backglass is a matter of taste and height, the size of the board changes the game completely. So I paraphrase my colleague Paris_Pinball_addict by saying “a playfield can be bigger, but certainly not smaller. Widebody ruuuuuuules!”
Home Edition format for economies of scale
Beyond the relevance of the “Pin” to vary the profile of the clientele, Stern also acts as an informed industrialist with this format: a Pin shares some of its parts with its big brother. This can be slingshots or mechanical elements that are less visible because they are under the playfield. For Jurassic Park in particular, the spinners and targets seem to match. With the machines released in 2019 still on the production lines, Stern is killing two birds with one stone by producing Pro, Premium, Limited Edition and Pin together. At least in part.
In addition, a license such as Star Wars or Jurassic Park is expensive, so running it on multiple editions makes it profitable.
A slimming cure for the price
The whole point of this format is to reduce the face price of pinball. So, is the promise kept? The US price is $4,599. A month before, Godzilla was selling for $6,899 in its Pro version, $8,999 for its Premium version and $10,499 in Limited Edition. My NASA calculator shows me a price reduction of 33% compared to the Pro version and 56% compared to the Limited Edition.
Nothing to complain about, the price is right. Note that the price of the Jurassic Park Pin is the same as that of the Star Wars Pin, even though they are 2 years apart. At the same time, the Pro, Premium and LE have gained at least 15%.
Now, the question: is the Pin playfield giving us our money’s worth ?
Deadflip, from pinfluencer to designer
Before we get into the content of the playfield, let’s note that Jack Danger, aka Deadflip, is credited with the lead design. For those who don’t know him, Jack is basically a youtuber who has made a nice little place for himself: he hosts all the Stern reveals, without any exclusive contract! The proof is that Spooky Pinball also called on him for the first Ultraman and Halloween demo.
It’s a fairy tale for Deadflip, who goes from fan to influencer, and from influencer to designer. Of course, haters will point out that it’s about simplifying the design of an existing pinball machine, which must be a lot easier than starting from scratch. Nevertheless, we at Pinball Mag. are drooling with envy!
The Jurassic Park Pin playfield, more than a stripped down version of the Pro’s
Certainly the theme, the artwork, and the T-Rex’s head make us think of a poor man’s version. But that would be an easy shortcut and would not do justice to this new machine. The fact that the designer has changed proves that the ambition is not only to strip down a board to meet the specifications. The mechanics have been rethought. Let’s take a tour of the playfield.
First of all, the ramps have lost the twisted look that Keith Elwin (the designer of the Pro, Premium and LE) is so fond of. But we gain one that runs along the bottom of the playfield. And it makes the ball jump! You don’t see that on every machine.
Then, the T-Rex head is still present but it doesn’t move anymore like on the Premium and LE versions. It simply releases the balls during multiballs by opening the jaw. And that’s it for the toys. No more little car, no more cabin with ramps.
Two bumpers at the bottom of the board are served by 3 classic lanes, with a light to move with the buttons to double the bonuses. Ultra classic.
The quintessential pinball machine
To sum up the spirit of this board, it is a condensed version of what a pinball machine should be, without adding anything. Two ramps, one of them original. One toy, only one, but which establishes the identity of the machine. If the flow is good, and we have no reason to doubt it, the objective will be fulfilled.
The goal, by the way, will not suit everyone. Many of us will pass by lamenting that this playfield has so little to offer. When you have touched the original machines, when you are looking for a generous machine, the comparison cannot be flattering.
Judging this home edition according to its ambition
From our point of view, a machine should be judged by the purpose of its designers. We have to ask ourselves if this pinball machine will have the family character that Stern claims for it.
And, at this stage, that is to say without having put our hands on it, this pinball does the job. First of all, its theme. What better way to bring a household together than with dinos? And its apparent simplicity.
If the initial Jurassic Park games are almost unanimously appreciated by the community, we have to admit that the game mechanics are not easy to understand. On Deadpool, on Medieval Madness, the objective is obvious. One game is enough to understand what is expected from us. The same cannot be said for JP pinballs of 2019. The beast must be tamed, the code is deep.
What a nice transition with the next topic!
A too light code?
On the previous Pins, we could criticize a simple code, even simplistic: few quests, no or few wizard modes or mini wizard modes. The Star Wars edition machine, so the 3rd Pin, had raised the level of play compared to its predecessors.
It seems that Stern, under the leadership of Jack Danger, wanted to go one step further. Two wizards modes are mentioned for example. Will this be enough? It remains to be seen, but the good news is that the manufacturer will be able to remedy this via an update, if it wishes (that is, if the community pesters him to do so).
On the code as on the playfield, the “minuses” remain coherent with the concept. The non-initiated will not perceive a priori this drawback.
A tiny LCD screen
One point remains incomprehensible to us, especially in comparison with the attention paid to the rest of the machine: the Pin has a ridiculously small LCD screen, which seems cramped between the two speakers.
The cost of an LCD screen is anecdotal in the cost price of a pinball. This choice suggests a poor internal trade-off. That said, the player’s eyes are often on the playfield, so this malus won’t bother everyone.
No Stern insider connected
Not surprisingly, the Stern insider module is not included. This feature allows the player to log in via a QR code, record scores and take on challenges offered by Stern and, later, by operators. Furthermore, the documentation does not even announce optional compatibility.
I write “no surprise” because this module adds to the manufacturing cost, even though its use is not yet installed. Let’s not forget that the feature was announced two months before the release of the Jurassic Park Pin, and that only the Godzilla machines have had it “standard” since then.
It will perhaps be a “must-have” in a few years. For now, it is a gamble on the part of the manufacturer. However, chance has no place on a machine that aims to be a compendium of good practices.
On the other hand, online challenges could have increased the interest of the game at little cost. One could even say that the Stern insider is more relevant on light code than on deep code. Trying out Godzilla or Elvira’s House of Horrors pinballs already takes months with skill! In other words, online challenges are not a necessity. On a Pin on the other hand…
The “unpleasant” surprise?
A few weeks after the commercial launch, Jack Danger posted the photo below.
If you have ever lifted a pinball tray, something should shock you…
It’s MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), like an IKEA shelf! We can assure you that a “classic” playfield is not made of MDF, but of plywood.
It may be a detail for you, but for a Pinhead this difference means a lot: the quality of the plate depends on its longevity, its ability not to warp, and to resist the inevitable screwing and unscrewing of mechanical and electrical elements.
For the time being, we would like to be reassured. A cheaper pinball machine because it has fewer toys is a good deal; a cheaper pinball machine because its obsolescence is planned is not.
Conclusion : a good machine for casuals
Have you noticed that my articles are half as long as Lazarus’? No matter how hard I try, I can’t use that many words, I must have a limiter somewhere in my cortex.
So I make it longer with conclusions. But like my high school essays, I suck at it.
So, how to conclude? Um… This Jurassic Park Pin is well on its way to winning its bet: to offer a cheaper machine, suitable for the whole family. Jack Danger kept the most important things, and got rid of everything else. If the code holds, we have in front of us the model to reproduce for future Pins.
Am I good? Is it enough?