Does pinball seem fun to you at first glance, but you’re hesitant because you’re not sure exactly how it works? How do the pros make it look effortless to make high scores on the leaderboard while you’re struggling to make the ball go exactly where you want it?
Well, look no further, because I’ll be throwing out all the slang and jargon to give you the most basic guide on what you’ll need to know to start your pinball playing journey.
Table of Contents
Understanding How They Work
Just like what Sharpe mentions in the video, mechanical pinball machines can seem particularly daunting toward potential new players, especially with all their ramps, sounds, and flashing lights. Fast from the get-go and without an easily accessible manual to actually tell you the tips and tricks, this actually causes a lot of newbies to shy away from trying their hand at pinball after the first few tries, especially in social settings like arcades and bars.
But despite the chaos that is presented on a pinball machine’s playfield, there is actually an order to the chaos rather than just being ‘pure, randomised luck’. Just like any other kind of sport or game, you can teach yourself how to control the game’s pacing.
Similar to your own arms and legs, you should think of the pinball machine’s flippers as an extension of yourself. Rather than spamming the flippers to make sure that the ball doesn’t fall into the gutter, use the flippers to ‘capture’ the ball. This will enable you to slow down the game’s pace while allowing you to make more precise shots for where you would like the ball to go on the playfield.
Once you’ve mastered how to use the flippers (or at least gotten a hang of them), you can then move on to the next step.
Mastering The Playfield
Every game comes with a set of rules, and pinball is no different. But what makes it different from other sports or arcade games is the fact that these rules are usually specifically tied to the theme of the pinball machines themselves. As such, all pinball games are distinct and unique from one another due to these different rule sets.
Therefore, while it might be impossible to truly ‘master’ the pinball machine, learning the fundamental and most basic parts of the playfield is a great way to figure out most, if not all, pinball machines intuitively.
These are the side bumps just right above the flippers. As the edges are usually covered or made with an elastic material, they give the ball an extra bounce when it comes in contact with them.
Usually one of the first things you’ll notice when playing, target banks are placed around the centre of the playfield and are usually ‘word’ targets on most modern pinball machines that are activated when your ball rolls over them. These targets are usually a way to earn extra points or trigger certain modes on the pinball machine that would not activate in any other situation.
Like a trapdoor or secret access room, hitting your ball into a chute will usually take it and ‘transport’ it to a different area of the playfield. For more experienced players, you can use the chute to access different or difficult-to-reach areas of the playfield that cannot be accessed by normal means to score more points.
Hate em’ or love em’, hitting jet bumpers can help you score points will giving the ball more velocity as it bumps between them for a faster and potentially more chaotic gameplay experience.
No pinball machine would be complete without ramps. They’re also a good way to earn some big points while directing the ball back to your flippers so that you can control your shots better.
While this isn’t an active feature on the physical playfield, all pinball machines have different modes or objectives that are aligned with the machine’s theme. Whether they are general or secret modes, triggering and completing them can usually give you a big point boost. And if you’re skilled (or lucky!) enough, you should always try to trigger the multiball mode for maximum points!
Tips & Tricks To Sharpen Your Skills
Once you’ve mastered all of the above, it’s time to learn what separates newbies from pros. For this, there is no better way other than learning from the best.
An active and experienced pinball player even to this day, Thomson highlights the top 5 skills you’ll need to become the master of the ball.
As all playing guides go, these pointers are just the basics that you will need to master to be on the way to becoming the next pro pinball player. Even if it might seem difficult at first glance, we assure you that once you’ve gotten the hang of them, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for a beloved game that has been around for decades.
If you like this article and are interested in learning more about how to play pinball, you can check out this full playlist by Home Leisure Direct or take a look at the rest of our pinball articles right here!
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