Before I get into the meat of this post, I have to thank The Flipper Room in Concord! California is having a very tough time with COVID-19, and the Bay Area is still under heavy restrictions. When I gave up the rental on Medieval Madness, I was expecting to have to go without pinball for a long time.
Luckily The Flipper Room has an amazing solution for pinheads who don’t own pinballs! They allow social bubbles to reserve the arcade (they are primarily an art and framing shop) so they can safely play their 25+ machines! It is free to reserve a time slot, so all you have to pay is coin drop, and they clean the machines between reservations. An awesome solution for pandemic pinball!
I always want to play a new machine before I watch any videos or streams. I need to get an idea of what the shots and rules are like and how the machine plays before seeing how other people play the game. Without having an idea of what the machine is like, I find other people’s rules explanations difficult to follow and frequently counter to my general play style. So during the pandemic I have had to avoid an awful lot of pinball content because I haven’t played any of 2020’s new games!
So last week I took a Wednesday trip to play a couple of the newer machines that I haven’t played this year. Avengers Infinity Quest was the top of my list, but I also wanted to play Rick and Morty and Elvira’s House of Horrors. TMNT was also on my list, but it was out for rent last week.
I chose Wednesday morning because I figured it would be the best chance to get as much time without anyone else reserving the arcade. And oh how lucky I was! I got in six straight hours of pinball! And almost all of it on Infinity Quest!
So of course I started my morning on Infinity Quest. I am a huge Marvell Cinematic Universe fan. I have also loved Keith Elwin’s Iron Maiden and Jurassic Park. So the priority was definitely Infinity Quest!
Going into it, all I knew about the machine was that during the Hulk mode, you want to hit the Hulk spinner once to increase the shot value, and then hit the flashing shots. Oh and the drop targets fill out a bingo matrix. I heard those on a Loser Kid Pinball Podcast (episode #49) with Keith. That’s it. Nothing else.
So I fed the machine and started exploring.
Spin the disc and it lights the right ramp. Hit the ramp to start a mode. Chose a mode with the promise of different powers based on what stone you manage to collect. Complete a mode to collect a stone. Qualify portal locks seemingly at random. Smack the capture ball to get Thor multiball. Realize the Iron lanes don’t move with the flippers, then realize they move with disc spins. Stack Thor and Ironman multiballs with modes and even portal multiballs. Seemingly random add-a-balls and extra balls. Gamma Ray screaming at you. Soul Gem flip count (wizard?) mode (that is whacky for a perpetual drop catcher). An amazingly confusing Black Order multiball that restarts if you have the Soul gem!
Absolute rules chaos! And it was amazing!
Everything on the machine flows. All the shots are fun. I kept feeding the machine and getting more and more familiar with the rules. And the game got more and more fun. Then I checked my phone and three hours had passed!
So I grudgingly left Infinity Quest to play the other two “new” games.
I walked up to Rick and Morty and was immediately surprised at the pale washed out colors. And strangely that first impression didn’t really draw me in. I played three games and found it to be clunky, fast, and brutal. I played two games of Elvira and found the video clips and the layout to be kind of boring. So twenty minutes later I was back playing Infinity Quest!
Now I am not saying that Rick and Morty and Elvira’s House of Horrors are bad games, but they weren’t immediately fun enough for me to spend my limited pandemic pinball time (and money) on. If either showed up at the Pacific Pinball Museum, I would play them on free play until I figured out the rules and then decide if I liked them. But with Infinity Quest sitting right there, neither stood a chance.
So I finished out my time on Infinity Quest. The next person with a reservation showed up at 4pm, so I spent a solid five and a half hours playing Avengers. I got a good handle on the rules, but knew that there are a lot of details I was missing. I got to the point where I could consistently get the first replay and sometimes the second (reflexed) replay before having to feed the machine again. I didn’t quite get the grand champion, but I did get the number one high score. Not bad for my first day on a new machine.
Now some of you might find that what I have already described is a bit obsessive. Five and a half hours playing one game when there are 25+ pins sitting there. But that’s not all!
I then proceeded to spend the next few days thinking about and researching Infinity Quest. Now that I knew and loved the basics of the game, lets get into the details! I watched most of the Dead Flip rules exploration and part of the Raymond Davidson 1.8 billion YouTube videos, but neither of them had the details that I was looking for. So I dove into the Tilt Forum rulesheet.
I figured out that the biggest thing that I had missed is that the stone powers only apply to the shot that you place them on. So I started thinking about strategies of where I would place the gems. Should I put the Reality gem on Hulk just to be able to multiply the Gamma Ray? Should I Time gem Black Widow so I can easily add time to things? Can you say speculative obsession!
Then toss into the mix that I started dreaming about the game! Not actually dreaming about the rules or even the art, but dreaming ball trajectories and flipper catching motions! Crazy!
So by the end of the weekend, I realized I just had to go out and play again with the new rules knowledge. Otherwise my brain wouldn’t be able to relax. Going to The Flipper Room two weeks in a row was never in my plans, but I email The Flipper Room and reserve time on Wednesday. Plans be damned!
When I got there, Mike is unloading TMNT fresh from its rental. I headed straight to Infinity Quest to start trying out new strategies, knowing that I would at least have to try TMNT. I played a couple games (or maybe a couple of hours), and then tried a game of TMNT. Meh!
So back to Infinity Quest for the remainder of five hours! I had some success. I felt the details help a little. I felt like I averaged slightly better games. But over all, utilizing the rules minutiae didn’t make a huge difference to my success. I did beat my previous high score, but didn’t manage to get the billion and change needed to get the GC.
And thankfully playing with full knowledge has gotten rid of the obsession! I still would love to play more and increase my knowledge and scores. I love the theme, the layout, and the rules. But I don’t have to play right now!
I also found out a little bit about my pinball self. I found out that art on a machine can turn me off (like Rick and Morty mentioned above), but otherwise I don’t tend to pay much attention to it. After that first six hour day of playing, I couldn’t tell you what Infinity Quest looked like. I didn’t take in the backglass or the playfield. I was so focused on the shots, rules, and gameplay that the art didn’t make an impression.
Infinity Quest is a great game for me, but it might not be as friendly for novice players. It has fairly complicated rules that require player decisions (good for me), but having to make mode decisions that are then associated with powers is very complicated for a novice player. And just having it start a mode after a set amount of time doesn’t help, because that may make a person feel helpless or a lack of control. Thor multiball is simple to get into, but the captive ball isn’t in a central spot that screams “hit me”. And the rules that dictate when super modes, portal locks, and the Gamma Ray occur are kind of esoteric, so they might feel random for less experienced players. Someone who owns the machine will have a chance to learn the details over time, but location play especially could be difficult.