FRIENDS DON’T LIE!
Nothing predestined the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, to experience such supernatural events, let alone a bunch of teenagers taking on challenges like political plots, secret scientific experiments and horrific encounters.
Stranger Things is the hit atmospheric series from the Netflix channel. Each new season is awaited like the messiah. So when Stern announces the release of its pinball machine on this theme, we have every right to expect it with the same fervor.
However, this pinball machine has gone a bit unnoticed. At least the community didn’t dwell on it even though two major innovations are present. Even worse, it was heavily criticized even though no one had played it…
What went wrong? The pinball itself? The communication around the premium and LE? The timing of the release? So many mysteries that we will try to unravel. Let’s dive into the fantastic universe of this paranormal pinball machine.
To know: For the atmosphere, the Duffer brothers, creators of the series, were inspired by the fantasy and science fiction films of the 1980s, with Lovecraft, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter or Stephen King as influences, among others…
December 2019: the pinball world is abuzz when Stern releases videos of the pro and premium models of its new pinball machine the Netflix Stranger Things two days before Christmas. The big guns are out to promote this game and the Duffer brothers, creators of the series, even go through the communication exercise of the traditional presentation trailer.
With the little music of the introduction credits in the background, the presentation video of the pro model doesn’t reveal much and remains quite mysterious. So far, nothing shocking because, for the time being, we are perfectly in the atmosphere of the series. On the other hand, no one missed the video of the premium model. Indeed, Stern reveals what seems to be the use of a video-projector incorporated (but where?) in the pinball machine. If this is the case, it would be a first in a pinball machine!
However, very little information is available on this subject. Even the professionals of the sector are not more informed than that. Rumors are flying and the community is getting excited on the forums. We think that Stern didn’t do a good job of teaching us about this innovation, so we talked about it for the first few days and then… Nothing!
Well, not quite! As the community didn’t have much information (and rightly so) about this famous video projector and as the theme doesn’t necessarily speak to the forty-somethings and more (wrongly so, but they are the ones who mainly buy today!), most of the (old) pinheads went crazy about this pinball machine by speculating about the visual rendering and the low interest that the successful series was generating. Basically, players shunned a pinball machine that no one had played…
And yet! The visuals are beautiful, very beautiful! The artwork is purple, pink and blue. And we love it! Stern, and other manufacturers, are really making more effort on the aesthetic aspect of their pinball machines, not hesitating to call upon real artists from outside the pinball world. Here, it’s Bob Stevlic who does it. He specializes in realistic illustrations, which is a good thing when it comes to representing the characters in the series.
The playfield is quite simple: on the left the missions are related to the first season, on the right to those of the second and in the middle everything related to the demogorgon. The gameplay is close to an Attack From Mars table: everything is concentrated at the top of the board with eight shooting possibilities. Two ramps go down the whole board to serve the inlanes. The pace is rather “calm” (except for the multiball) and is conducive to an atmospheric game that perfectly fits the theme of the series.
Eleven’s powers applied to the balls
The atmosphere! The atmosphere is the strong point of this pinball machine. First of all, because it’s the very principle of the series and the pinball machine is very faithful to it. But also the flow and the gadgets invite you to a unique game experience with total immersion. It’s a pinball game that you’ll enjoy playing alone, plunged in the dark until the end of the night.
In this respect, let’s note for example, on the Premium and LE models, a rather original multiball lock that works on a well known pinball trick: an electromagnet. The balls go through a ramp that raises them (three in total) to centralize them on the back panel of the pinball machine. Thus they are released at the time of the multiball that restores the game speed. A direct reference to the series and Eleven’s telekinetic powers, fans will love it!
“Our friend has superpowers, and she squeezed your tiny bladder with her mind.”
Another delight, Stern reserved a surprise for the pinheads of this pinball machine… and a big one, a real easter egg as we like them! The worst thing is that nobody noticed it, even though it is inserted in all the models of the production series. It was there, in front of our eyes, for months and nobody saw anything: a tray sensitive to U.V. rays thanks to an invisible ink incorporated, a real first!
There is a “hitch”: you will have to pay about 500$ more and install a U.V. kit yourself! This is understandable for the pro and premium versions, but it is much less acceptable for those who have spent the price of an LE!
However, it is well worth the investment! Your board takes on a whole new dimension during the “upside down” phases that are randomly triggered. A real plus that completes the immersion in the universe of the series. After all that, if you have some money left, you can also get the alternative dice-shaped twenty ball launcher, also phosphorescent. Once equipped with all this and if you own a LE version, you will simply have one of the most beautiful machines available on the market today. All that remains is to wait for the topper which is now available.
The Video Projector of the Stranger Things Pinball Machine
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the major innovation in this pinball machine, and not the least, is the video projector. Yes, it is a mini video projector incorporated into the pinball machine’s apron. It’s a technical tour de force, never seen before in a pinball machine!
This may be the beginning of a new era in the world of pinball, at least we sincerely hope so. Indeed, the simple fact of adding a video-projector in a pinball machine simply opens the way to a new visual perspective: video mapping. As a result, it opens up endless possibilities for play and programming!
For those who don’t know what video mapping is, here’s a quick explanation: it’s a light (or video) projection that, with the help of software, allows you to project several images onto volumes in order to create illusions. In our case, you can calibrate the images using a menu accessible in the settings door. Even if on the Stranger Things table, the animations and visual composition remain basic, they may be subject to further updates or evolutions.
In any case, it has the merit to exist, to be a first and to add a primordial point to your flipper: a total immersive atmosphere in the cult series of Netflix.
In short, if you can afford it, forget about the pro version of this pinball machine and go straight to a premium or LE. You will not only get a visual slap in the face but also a completely different game.
“We can’t stop those Demo-dogs on our own.”
The Stranger Things game is not particularly generous in terms of interactive toys (since there are only two of them, which actually form a single objective), but it is once again original. When you meet certain conditions, the toy activates: the drive-in screen lowers to become a ramp, revealing a massive demogorgon with its mouth wide open. Your objective will be to shoot inside the mouth, using the ramp of course. A small nod to the series during the final confrontation scene between the children and the demogorgon when Lucas uses his slingshot.
From our point of view, this pinball is a real success. We literally dive into the universe of the fantastic series of Netflix. There is a good coherence between the theme and the gameplay which makes it a fun but immersive pinball. Its simple and efficient playfield is a big part of it and reminds us of an Attack From Mars game. If you are a fan of the series, if you like pinball machines with an easy grip and if you are looking for technical innovation, the Stranger Things machine is made for you!
But don’t get me wrong! It’s a pinball machine that’s easy to understand and handle, but hard to master.
TECHNICAL DATA SHEET
Manufacturer: Stern Pinball
Production date: December 2019
Processor: Stern Spike 2 System
Abbreviation: NST (Pro, Prem, LE)
Units produced: N/C
3D elements: demogorgon, drive-in screen
Gadgets: electro-magnetic capture of the balls at the bottom of the box, retractable screen for demogorgon shoot, UV kit (optional) for upside down phase, video projector (premium and LE)
TECHNICAL AND ARTISTIC TEAM :
Design : Brian Eddy
Art : Bob Stevlic
Mechanics: Robert Blakeman
Music: Ken Hale
Software: Lonnie D. Ropp, Mike Vinikour