You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! Well maybe your wallet won’t be able to handle it, because this game is legit, believe the hype.
Firstly I will disclose my previous exposure to Iron Maiden the band, was limited too seeing Eddie t-shirts at concerts and listening to “number of the beast” on an old Tony Hawk video game. So yeah not quite a fanboy Does this negatively impact on enjoying the game, not at all, does it negatively impact on wanting to own the game, for me yes and in quite a significant way. You see this is not an Iron Maiden pin, it’s an Eddie pin. The music is secondary in this game, in fact you barley notice the difference when the background song changes during modes. It feels much more like a video game reimagined into a pinball, which it is. Everything is focused on Eddie which is great for casual playing as it is very cool and approachable, but I think I would need a deeper connection to the character and his mythos to want to own it my home. However that is about the only negative I have to say about the game and even then it’s more of an observation.
Yesterday afternoon was able to get a few games in on the game at Coolangatta with Peter and Paul , then dropped in to Surfers Timezone and spent around two hours on the pin. I think it’s the first time I have gone to Timezone and only played one game the whole time, which is a testament to the addictive nature of the pin.
During the second session I was able to put up decent scores of around 300 - 400 million. These games where long completing all five main modes, all power objectives, both main multiballs in a single game. So well I have probably just scratched the surface my understanding of the rules and depth, I think I have seen enough of the overall game to provide a fairly detailed review.
I’ll start with the art, which Zombi Yetti knocked out of the park. Per the usual disclaimer the photos don’t do it justice, need to see it in person, etc...... The resolution of the printing and detail is really impressive, I would say it surpasses Ghost Busters which is Jeremy’s other Stern art package. My only negative is there are a hell of a lot of inserts on the playfield which do obscure the art somewhat. Its a shame because man is the playfield pretty, WTF ? I know a playfield packed with multiple version of a decomposing corpse being described as pretty! But it is , the colour, depth and detail on the playfield art is really world class. I can’t see the LE and Premium version being anything but a step up from what’s on the pro, I think all buyers across the three levels will be very happy with this aspect of the game.
Sticking with visuals I’ll address the LCD graphics. Stern was obviously given a lot of assets from the Legacy of beast mobile game from which to work with. For the most part I think this is a positive outcome. Yes the resolution is perhaps not as high def as one would hope, but there is plenty of variety in the display and the visuals do seem to tie into the modes well. My only feedback would be that the graphics do seem disjointed where I think Stern has done work in house on some and where it would appear they have be lifted directly from the game asserts. The graphics are not as static as say Aerosmith but not as cohesive or well implemented as Batman 66. JJP is still the industry leader when it comes to display, however I think for location pinball Sterns approach with a more action/scene based display that tends to mimic traditional dmd cutscenes works well. There is a lot of information available on the screen at any given time mostly due to the power pyramid progression being shown at all times, which I will discuss further under rules. It might take a while for players to get use to reading the screen quickly to see their overall progression and current objectives. Overall It’s not a high point of the game but the display works well and should not deter potential owners or players.
Moving onto the playfield itself and Keith’s debut as a pinball designer and here is where things start getting interesting. Firstly our just say that Stern has done a really nice job with the helping transform Keith’s original Archer layout into Iron Maiden. The back board is a real standout with the 3D effect of multiple layers of plastics creating depth to the Egyptian scene. I have also found Stern does a great job with the back board a feature often lacking in WMS/Bally games, and this is perhaps their best effort so far. The other plastics in the game are rather flat and well the art is excellent, I feel a tastefully sculpted Eddie figurine would be a great mod for the pro. It’s clear that Stern needed to leave some opportunities to bling up the premium and L.E models, and this is fair enough. However the pro does keep all the metal ramps and the vast majority of the features found in higher level models, which helps deliver a premium look.
The lack of “traditional toys” across all models is a point worth noting and is apparent when stepping up to the game for the first time. Here I think it’s worth considering that Keith’s background is as a pinball player and operator, rather then a mechanical engineer like a designer such as John Borg. As such one would not expect a focus on complex engineered mechanics that interact with the ball , with the focus being playability and interesting shot geometry. That being said there are still moments where the game does interesting interactions with the ball. One that comes to mind is the multiball start for trooper. The first two locks are virtual, the last lock the up post stops the ball and then the additional two balls are fed into the trough and auto plunged onto the playfield through the inner left loop where another up post directs them to the first captured ball. It’s a simple but highly effective pit of pinball design turning a game with virtual locks into a staged three ball multiball release. These little touches really help players forget about the lack of toys.
Ultimately though if your ideal pinball involves a more stop and flow style with interesting sculpts and mechanical toys, you may find the play offered by Maiden a little bland. However I would still urge you to give the table a chance because you will be missing out on a great pinball experience, toys or no toys.
For now we come to shot geometry and here is where Maiden has delivered a truly unique pinball experience and where all the hype is coming from. The word that keep coming to mind when playing Maiden is FRESH, it’s just like nothing else I have played in all my time with pinball. There are just so many shots and paths for the ball to flow. It not a fan layout but it has unbelievable flow, it’s not a stop , start game, but the ball does so many interesting things. It’s just an unbelievably good game, and a joy to shoot plain and simple. I struggle to think of a game to compare the Maiden layout to, if pushed I do see a few elements of Twilight Zone in the layout with the position of the upper right and upper left mini flipper. Also the inner loop has a Lawlor feel to it, think Whirlwind or Funhouse, but much shorter and tighter. However unlike Twilight Zone where the mini flipper has only one true shot the piano, here you can shoot the inner loop, jackpot shot or drops. In fact the drops are perfectly placed, they can be hit from the lower left upper left and backhanded by the lower right flipper, genius. Often the upper flippers are used for single ramp shot. Here the upper right flipper has two loops to aim for a crucial large standup (extra ball shot) plus the pop nest. All this means that you will need to use all four flippers constantly in the game, which really adds to the depth of the play and creates a game with much more left to right flow then any I have played before.
The great layout does not just begin and end with the introduction of four flippers there are some other key design elements that are truly interesting and exciting. The left ramp through the pops well not a first in pinball, Congo anyone, for most players it will be the first time they have attempted such as shot. I will say this is a much more accessible shot then Borgs orbit through the pops on Kiss and Aerosmith and even average players should be able to find the shot on the flipper with a little practice. The first time a pop bumper hit send the ball up the left ramp, it will bring a smile to your face guaranteed.
The pop bumper nest at the lower left is also a really unique and interesting placement. The addition of a spinner and three large stand ups, make this a crucial area of focus in the game play, and well it is placed close to the flippers and outlanes you never experience cheap drains form this area which again is genius.
The two loops is that last true innovative part of the game and they are enhanced by the clever use of two up posts hidden in the back of the loops that act as diverters as well as stages for the beginning of trooper multiball and mode starts. I’ll leave it to players to discover for themselves the joy of combining these loops and the way the diverters play with the flow, again it’s just a great pinball experience.
The final piece of the playfield to discuss is the jump ramp to the pharaoh target shot. This is fun shot but does quite have the impact of say the ring shot In LOTR. It a nice shot that requires a clean hit to make it up the ramp and into the target, I found it is more enjoyable in certain modes such as Aces high where it becomes a key jackpot shot rather then when needed to be hit in normal play or when starting the mode. A magnet to grab the ball would of been a great addition even if it was just a premium/Le feature. Also the use of a target does not makes sense in the Egyptian setting. This is probably the only time that the “Archer Theme” which the game was originally designed around sneakers through. A key target shot in a game about guns and spies makes a lot more sense then in a game about underworld demons, but hey now we just not picking.
I’m going to play the game some more tonight before finishing this review tomorrow to discuss the rules in depth for you guys. At the moment I have seen a lot of the game rules and what is there is truly great. however I feel my understanding of the rules is more breadth then depth at the moment, so a couple more hours will help give a more balanced reflection on this component.