Less than a year after the release of the Toy Story 4 pinball machine, Jersey Jack Pinball releases its eighth game: The Godfather. With this top-notch movie license, JJP confirms its ability to compete with the leader Stern on iconic themes.
Does the game live up to its franchise? That’s what we’ll see.
- 1 A commercial launch above the fray
- 2 A Godfather license not so easy to adapt
- 3 A delightfully tasteless visual
- 4 Your own story in the Godfather universe
- 5 The set : a condensed generosity
- 6 The trajectories: the great unknown
- 7 Two versions: Collector Edition and Limited Edition
- 8 The Godfather Pinball prices
- 9 A pinball that we are waiting for!
A commercial launch above the fray
March 2023 was a time to benchmark the marketing communications of pinball manufacturers. The good news is that the overall level is rising, with more and more elaborate teasers and clearer and more attractive content being unveiled.
Jersey Jack Pinball is still a step above its competitors, with a scripted reveal video, and a partnership with the Straight Down in The Middle team (Youtubers) that produces a kind of making-off that is particularly polished.
Nevertheless, we regret the communication of the founder Jack Guarnieri who launched a false track on Harry Potter in a rather clumsy way.
A Godfather license not so easy to adapt
Do we really need to present The Godfather trilogy? In the gangster/mafia genre, Francis Ford Coppola signed in 1972 the reference of the genre, still valid 50 years later.
But a good license does not mean an easy adaptation. As Syl Vain said in his review of the Bram Stoker’s Dracula table, “serious” themes are not common in the pinball world. The flashy inserts and playfulness inherent in our machines are better suited to lighter subjects, whether they be music franchises or fictional characters from the comic books, for example.
Tackling a literal drama requires us to think twice about respecting the original work. In this case, the artwork exploits the mob’s taste for glittering gilding. A clever way to integrate the constraints of the medium to the universe of the films.
A delightfully tasteless visual
I risk my life to state this truth: the new rich have shitty tastes, whether it’s the Italian mafia in the middle of the 20th century, the rappers of the 90s, or the Russian neo-capitalists after the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
The artwork for JJP’s pinball machine (especially the Collector’s version) echoes the rococo style found a little more subtly in the films:
- gold on the whole body and the pediment
- lion heads on the front legs (the emblem of the Corleone house)
- a lockbar button framed by two leaping lions
- golden side rails with the mythical sentence “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
The Collector’s Edition topper is rather sober compared to the rest. Sober in its colors, but generous in its interaction. Two gangsters surround a car, all sculpted (no ugly Plexiglas at JJP). The two guys will shoot you with their machine guns, including the sound of two dedicated knockers.
The artwork is a 6 hands creation between Christopher Franchi (cabinet and backglass), Jesper Abels (playfield) and Jean-Paul de Win (typography and playfiled finishing). Those who, like Lazarus, perceive a lack of coherence of the whole will find the explanation in this particular organization. For my part, I don’t have this sense of detail.
The artwork on the board respects the license, but I’m not sure I find it very readable. The indications of progress in the scenario are scattered in several places of the playfield, it does not help to understand at a glance. Keep in mind that the central window indicates your progress in the main story.
In the artist’s defense, the complexity of the rules does not make his job any easier. One could say that this is a trademark of JJP: deep code, intended for an audience that wants rich gameplay if not understandable by the average player.
Let’s talk about the scenario.
Your own story in the Godfather universe
Without it being clearly explained, the pinball game is inspired by the whole trilogy, even if the references seem to be concentrated on opus 1 and 2, which left more of an impression than opus 3.
First surprise: you will be able to play as other Godfathers than the Corleone family. At the beginning of the game, you will have the choice between 5 families, each one giving you specific advantages on some missions, but also a malus (or two). Is the balance right? Are some choices more judicious depending on the player’s style and level? That remains to be seen.
Jersey Jack Pinball has taken the habit of offering us an infographic to explain the rules of the game. This is not a luxury, because, as written above, it usually takes a lot of work to understand what to do in the first few games. Don’t try to read the rules on the reproduction below, it’s just to show you how it looks like.
The main objective is to control New York by completing the 8 missions represented in yellow on the mosaic. Successfully completing two adjacent yellow missions gives you access to the blue mission in between. To trigger the “Honor” mini-wizard mode, you will also need to have triggered the 4 multiballs.
And that’s just the mini-wizard mode! To access the “Kiss the ring” final challenge, you will also have to succeed in all the side quests. Enthusiastic for some, discouraging for others. In any case, like other productions of the manufacturer, the code seems deep like the Mariana Trench.
The set : a condensed generosity
GENEROSITY! This has always been the key word of JJP to distinguish itself from the leader Stern Pinball. Eric Meunier’s last production, Guns ‘N Roses, featured a packed playfield, but without a really impactful toy.
On this Godfather Pinball, the generosity is still there, but it seems to have coalesced around certain elements:
- The gangster who swings his machine gun at you from right and left, overlooking a controllable disc that can be accessed from the front and back;
- The only bumper, positioned in the first half of the board (a bit like on the Godzilla game) and dressed as a kitsch fountain all lit up with LEDs;
- The topper (CE version) with its 2 thugs already mentioned above;
- The laser cut metal skyline as a scenery guide for a ramp accessible via the 3rd drummer.
Not bad, right? And I’m only talking about the interactive elements, because I’m lazy. We will also note the profusion of light shows, at the limit of the excess. But we like leds! And JJP has made it his trademark.
The trajectories: the great unknown
If the payfield has been shown from every angle, we can’t say the same about the gameplay. In the two videos made available, the flow is not emphasized. All we know comes from the interview of Eric Meunier (Designer) and Keith Johnson (Lead Programmer): an immoderate use of diverters has been made, offering 27 different trajectories.
Quantity not being quality and even less pleasure of play, this argument seems to me a little dated. Overkill doesn’t excite the adults that we are. It reminds me of the arguments on the video game commercials of the 1990s and 2000s boasting about the number of polygons, the display distance, the number of colors…
The ramps don’t tell us much more about the flow, and the bottom of the board looks like a plate of Neapolitan spaghetti (spun metaphor ladies and gentlemen!):
- two metal ramp entrances, one of which is served by a 3rd flipper
- a priori other less obvious entries
- two ramp exits at the level of the flippers, the right one being particularly long and straight, with an inverted arrival compared to the usual standards. As if the ball was going to go up in the inlane, even if it is not what we see in the videos.
- a small ramp that serves the large straight ramp
In short, impossible to know if it will do better than its competitor of the moment the Foo Fighters pinball machine. The latter has set the bar very high.
Two versions: Collector Edition and Limited Edition
JJP has stopped producing standard versions for some time now. It’s as if Stern doesn’t make Pro versions anymore. So, both playfields have the same game mechanics, only the decorative accessories change (lions, side rails, topper, statue of liberty, art blades…).
The Collector version is limited to 1,000 copies, the Limited version has only the name. It’s becoming difficult to understand what it means, Jersey Jack Pinball should review the names of its products.
Nevertheless, we notice that Stern is more and more lonely to propose a simplified gameplay on one of its models.
The Godfather Pinball prices
Here are the prices for a Godfather pinball machine:
- Limited Edition: 12,000$
- Collector Edition: 15,000$
A pinball that we are waiting for!
The promise is beautiful, no doubt about it, and highlighted by a communication more and more mastered. Everything will now depend on the quality of the trajectories.
Moreover, Eric Meunier still has to prove his worth on the gameplay. We were indeed disappointed with the Guns ‘N Roses pinball, whose multiballs were more exhausting than fun. Will this pinball game be the one of maturity for the young designer? We hope so.