Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pinball Showcase: Ripley's Believe It or Not!

"Just Hanging around Mon!" -- Shrunken Head

I was talking to someone the other day who loves pinball (has owned games, and maintains games on location) and yet she told me that she'd never had the chance to play "Ripley's Believe it or Not" before. That made me sad, as it's one of my favorites from Stern Pinball. That gave me the idea to do this showcase (which we'll do for a random game every now and then) here on Pinball Aficionado. This is not a review, just a showcase, taking a look at a game you may or may not know about, so that if you ever come across one in the wild, you might be more inclined to play it.

With that, let's look at our first showcase ever: 

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Ripley's was designed by Pat Lawlor and his design team, and released in Spring of 2004 by Stern Pinball

The Stern 2004 sales flyer front (thanks to IPDB and Stern for this image).

The Stern 2004 sales flyer back (thanks to IPDB and Stern for this image).
The game is chock full of material (talk about a loaded playfield)! 

Ball view of the Playfield...

It features not 1, not 2, not 3, but 6 POPBUMPERS, two playfield magnets, multiple diverters, 6 standup targets, 3 flippers, a shrunken head toy, a secret temple device with it's own built in dot display, two ramp systems with  5 ball paths to three separate exits, 2 spinners, 3 scoops, including one with an old school vari-target and up-kicker! Phew! That's a mouthful. 

The Vari-Target and the upkicker with its wireform...

The Shrunken Head...
Ball Return with one of the exits at the bottom...
If you look at the layout, it's similar to other games designed by Pat Lawlor (I guess it's true, there's only so many ways a ball can get to its destination lol). Many have compared the layout to his Twighlight Zone game from 1993 (that game also had some similar scoop, ramp, flipper, and pop bumper placement).

A shot of the Secret Temple (with its screens) in the back, and three of the pop bumpers in front...

Artwork on the game was by John Youssi, Lawlor's main artist guy on most of his collaborations. The artwork evokes an almost 1930's adventure theme, with exotic and mysterious locations and items featured in a dazzling array of comedic colors. Interestingly, the game's look was pulled from the Ripley's source material and not the television program that was popular during that time period with Dean Cain and Kelly Packard; I for one am happy with that decision, as the original source is more iconic and not as fleeting as a reality TV show. By the way, could this mean, in some roundabout way, Kelly Packard was technically screwed over by them twice? (For those that are unaware, she was going to be featured on Golden Cue in 1999 but the game got a re-theme and she was dropped) Eeesh, oh well, regardless glad they went with the hand drawn artwork for Believe it or Not!

Whoa, stuff looks pretty big from down here....

Ripley's has some very funny sound effects and quotes thanks to the efforts of Chris Granner, sound guy extraordinaire. The shrunken head comments on your play, the idol makes farting noises, game has planes, boulders of doom, even slot machine sound effects. Did I mention the fire walker screams when he burns alive (wha?!?!), tons of fun for everyone I say ;)

Rules were done by both Lawlor and Louis Koziarz, and it's mode based, meaning you need to complete all 7 continents (modes) on Robert Ripley's quest to reach the secret 8th continent of Atlantis (final wizard mode). It's a classic Lawlor mode setup, with the added feature of the secret temple toy. This toy employs a great tic tac toe system where certain ramp shots light a 3 by 3 grid and completing tic tac toe unlocks certain awards that can really help you along. Game also includes the Believe it or Not feature, a neat twist, where a novice player can side step certain requirements and get later game goals faster, and more easily.

Coming out right after the release of both "The Simpsons Pinball Party" and "Lord of the Rings" (two of the most beloved and produced machines in modern Stern history) people expected lightning to strike thrice and yet Ripley's had the unfortunate experience of falling short of those two giants in the eyes of many pinheads and pinball aficionados at the time. This was because the rules, while deep, were not as complex as those two previous games, and the ball movement wasn't as "flowey". This lack of flow was not helped due to a purposely weak right upper flipper (as originally intended by Pat Lawlor). Though its strength was improved upon with a code update, by then it was too late, and as a result of the weak flipper and lack of flow, the game got a bad rap in those first crucial months, and sales flopped. The game would be closed out by Stern, and distributors were left with many unsold units in their warehouses. 

Years later, thanks to a resurgence in pinball, and a chance inclusion of this game on The Pinball Arcade app for console and smart phone, it has been rediscovered, and people who had bashed it 10 years ago, and had not played it as it's somewhat uncommon, are realizing how solid of a game it really is, and so prices for the title have been up.

RBION on the Iphone...

As this is not a review, I'm not going to grade the game, just want to say that it is a solid game and if you ever see one, be sure and try it out, chances are you won't be disappointed!


Ripley's Believe it or Not began as a newspaper feature in 1919 and evolved into comics, radio programs, books, television shows, and 32 "odditorium" museums all over the world! 

Original Ripley's Believe it or Not comics from the 1970's...

Ripley's is one of Keith Elwin's favorite games, if you don't know, he is currently considered one of the best, if not the best, pinball player in the world. He loves it so much, here he is doing an hour long tutorial on how to master the game and get the highest score possible for PAPA (The Professional and Amateur Pinball Association):

In 2004, "Hand's on History" a TV show from the History channel visited Stern Pinball headquarters and did a behind the scenes look at the making of this game from start to finish, check it out below!

When Ripley's was included in The Pinball Arcade, the increased exposure of this sleeper gem caused more people to take notice and resulted in a marked increase in aftermarket price (here in FL, prices rose from around $2000 in 2009 for an excellent example, to near 3000 in 2013) here's gameplay footage for Ripley's Believe It or Not on Pinball Arcade:

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