I have never planned on having a pinball machine. Part of the challenge for me is to keep getting free games. I am a location player through and through.
But for the COVID-19 shelter-in-place, the stars aligned for me to have a machine!
It started with TJ Beyer having more time than normal to fix machines. So he posted pictures and progress on the Medieval Madness (MM) that used to be at Hi-Life Pizza in Oakland. A broken drawbridge, gate, targets, etc…
At about the same that TJ was finishing up on his MM repairs, I mentioned to my wife, Suzie, that some people had been renting machines during the shelter-in-place. She thought it was an amazing idea and became slightly obsessed with renting a machine.
She really really wanted me to have a game. And I was just kind of so so on the idea. But then she threw in that maybe if we had a machine she would play. And that seemed a lot more fun.
So now we have the stars aligned. Suzie wants us to rent a game. There is a newly shopped MM, all nice and shiny, sitting around with nothing to do. And I can’t go out and play pinball.
A couple of Facebook messages and texts and a pinball is on its way!!!
And then I’m playing!
And I have been having a blast!!!
Ever since it came out in 1997, I have thought of Medieval Madness as one of my favorite games. It has great flow and shots, some of the best toys ever (the castle and trolls), amazing call-outs, and great rules. The wizard mode, Battle for the Kingdom, is harder to get to than Attack From Mars’ Rule the Universe, and I like the challenge.
The unfortunate thing is that if one of the shots is unmakeable or one switch is out, getting to the wizard mode is impossible. Sadly it is really hard to find a MM with a strong left flipper, so the damsel (right) ramp becomes the deal breaker.
Because of this, I haven’t played much MM since I’ve been back in pinball. And most of those games have been in tournaments. Sadly tournament MM is just castle, castle, castle, castle. Boring!
So for the last few years, I have rarely played MM for fun and have been bored watching castle bashing in tournaments. So when we rented MM, I wondered if I would get bored. Would it hold up as a great game? Are the rules deep enough? Is there enough to challenge me?
The verdict after a month: Medieval Madness is amazing!!!
Battle for the Kingdom is far enough away that you can’t realistically do it in three balls. It isn’t even realistic to do it in five balls. So getting extra balls is huge! And on MM, getting extra balls means hitting everything on the playfield. (Skip past the list if you don’t need to know what “everything” means)
- Defeating two castles lights the extra ball. So hit that castle! (and even that is three different kinds of shots)
- Collecting the Castle multiball super jackpot the first time lights the extra ball. So hit five ramps and the lock shot!
- Completing Royal Madness awards an extra ball. Hit each troll once and the catapult, joust, peasant, and damsel twice each. Shots have a 20 second timer to add pressure. And the lock shot spots the left most shot needed.
- Getting the 10th hurry up lights the extra ball. So going for the super skill shot on the plunge (hold the left flipper button in when plunging and make a major shot quickly) to light the hurry up can be huge!
- Complete F-I-R-E eight times (remember to use the flipper buttons to change the lit inlanes) to qualify the video mode. Start the video mode through Merlin’s magic at the saucer (might have to hit the star stand-up targets to light it). Then defeat enough crows to reach the extra ball!
- After getting the first Castle multiball extra ball, on a different Castle multiball you can light a second extra ball by completing the third stage! So hit five ramps then the lock shot then hit the catapult, both orbits, both ramps, and the lock shot!
Seriously the only things that don’t contribute to an extra ball are the top rollovers and the pop bumpers!
I also love that you can pretty much see your status in the game just by looking at the playfield. The inserts show your locks, castles, shot progress towards completing shots (catapult, joust, peasant, and damsel), multiball madness shields, and blue completions towards the Battle for the Kingdom! All at a glance.
Amazingly the pauses in the game enhance the experience instead of just slowing down gameplay. The call-outs, sound effects, lights, and animations work so well together that instead of being bored I get excited. I frequently move and dance around when the multiball intros happen. And the way the sound builds and ends in a humorous call-out when you save a damsel justifies the pause at the top of the tower. When you do something good in the game, it really lets know know!
I have to thank the pandemic for giving me the opportunity to fall back in love with Medieval Madness! I still may never own a pinball, but renting this masterpiece for a while has been a thrill. I even got to go under the hood of a pinball for the first time!
I want to give a huge shout out to TJ Beyer! He not only is renting me this amazing machine but is the reason I got back into pinball in 2014. I hadn’t played any real pinball in a dozen years because every time I found a machine it was broken. But TJ is an operator that loves pinball! In 2014 I saw a sign for a tournament in Oakland, and they played at one of TJ’s locations. For the first time in years I got to play a working machine, and this meant I could chase wizard modes. I continued to play his machines at different locations around Oakland and got introduced to the Oakland competitive scene. And the rest is history. Thanks TJ!