When they’re gone, they’re still here! I won’t go through all the new models and associated manufacturers that have flooded the market this year, but 2023 is definitely a year that breaks the established codes right to the end…
At the editors’ desk, we’re thrilled every time, and the same inevitable questions come up: “Is it a new player?”, “What’s the theme?”, “Is it a license?”, “How much does it cost?
And while unfortunately not all of this year’s new players left us with a crazy impression in previews, it looks like Barrels of Fun is setting the bar very high with its first model: Jim Hensons – Labyrinth.
Let’s take a look at what we know about this model so far.
Barrels of Fun: who are they?
What exactly is Barrels of Fun?
The young company is based in Houston, Texas, and if the name doesn’t tell us much, the members who make it up are no strangers to the scene.
The director (and game designer) is none other than David van Es, who worked for 7 years at
Spooky Pinball as Game Designer on machines such as Total Nuclear Annihilation, Rick & Morty, Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle and, more recently, Ultraman. The co-founder is Brian Savage, a former Hasbro employee who worked on GI Joe & Transformers figures. And that’s just the beginning!
The rest of the teams involved in the project include members of Spooky Pinball, Multimorphic, American Pinball and the creator of the “Continued” version of Cactus Canyon. Quite an impressive line-up…
Suffice it to say that with a line-up like this, it already smells good before you even see a single piece of table!
As for the communications strategy and the clarity of the message, there’s nothing to say here either. Clean teasing, a clear video, a clear website and a reveal at the Chicago Pinball Expo. Excellent timing and marketing approach!
Labyrinth, what’s this again?
We’re getting used to licensing more or less well-known films to launch a first model of pinball machine (Spinal Tap, The Big Lebowski), but we didn’t see this one coming!
The movie Labyrinth was released in 1986, directed by Jim Henson (none other than the Muppet Show’s puppeteer) with George Lucas as executive producer.
The film has the luxury of starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, and tells a fantasy story that resembles a strange mix of Alice in Wonderland, Willow and The NeverEnding Story.
The film wasn’t a big hit when it was released here, and it’s not a masterpiece either. But it’s got a pretty nice art direction and a universe that, even if it looks awfully kitschy in 2023, is rich enough to imagine building a gameplay around it.
This world full of goblins, ruins and bewitching music would make a pretty pinball machine!
Labyrinth pinball machine: “Mama, what a blast!”
Well, it is! Let’s face it, this Labyrinth pinball machine is a visual slap in the face! Once you’ve got over the shock of Bowie’s face on the translite, you can’t help but be dazzled by the rest.
The box features fine, detailed artwork that almost reminds us of Dungeons & Dragons bestiary books. The playfield is drawn with a depth effect and a pencil stroke that comes close to a map design from a real-time strategy game à la DOTA or Heroes of the Storm. The animated back panel adds even more immersion. Clearly a thing of beauty!
The “world under glass” is not to be outdone, as the playfield is furnished with ramps, toys and other elements whose fine detail and layout instantly immerse you in the world of the film. The few animated goblins popping out all over the place inevitably remind us of the toys in our old Bally/Williams games of the time, such as Scared Stiff or Medieval Madness, and we can’t help but enjoy watching this little world bustle around under the glass as the ball races through this imaginary world.
The finish is exemplary, and the pinball machine comes with a whole host of options from other manufacturers, which here are directly available in the one and only version:
- A painted armor kit
- Speaker panel
- An apron cover
For those with a sweet tooth, you can even sublimate the machine with :
- an animated topper that matches the one of the Black Knight Sword of Rage game,
- a backglass that’s clearly prettier than the original translite (and more in keeping with the machine’s artistic direction)
- a custom rod shooter which, on the other hand, is the ugliest and least ergonomic ever created!
Labyrinth pinball machine : Shut up and take my money !
Once you’ve seen all this, you can’t help but want to give this new player a chance, given the quality of the production, and even if the gameplay is (at the time of writing) still unknown, you’d be tempted to call your banker,.
Yes, but this one stings a bit, folks!
For this Labyrinth pinball, limited to 1,100 units worldwide, you’ll need to spend around $10,600 in the US (around €14,000 in European Union) to acquire the beast.
Add to that (because you’re purists, you scoundrels) :
- Topper : $950/1 300€
- Shooter Rod : $116/160€
- Backglass : $289/380€
And you’ve got one less kidney, but a really pretty and original model! And don’t they say “when you love, you don’t count”? Ha… We just lost your banker…
How can you not be hyped? No matter how many times we tell you that it’s all nonsense, that there are too many manufacturers, that the pinball bubble is bound to burst and that only the strongest will survive, blah, blah, blah… But it’s when you see this kind of achievement that you’re glad to see new players coming into the business in spite of everything.
This Labyrinth pinball machine is appealing, looks promising and reminds us that a license isn’t everything, but that adapting it into a quality machine that’s appealing from the very first glance does the rest!
For this first draft, we can only encourage Barrels of Fun, and we look forward to the feedback of the first players, and why not, lay our hands on it in the future!