Impressions of Ironman pinball

Since news is pretty slow today, I think I’ll share my thoughts on Stern’s new Ironman pinball, which I had the chance to play for the first time this afternoon.Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me so no videos on that for now.

I stopped by my local distributor today to pick up a part for one of my games and after watching my friend play some Doctor Who pinball, I was browsing their other pins when I noticed that they had just received Ironman. The cabinet itself looks really good, the artwork stands-out as you would expect to see on a Stern machine and the playfield is colorful too. I never have played Austin Power pinball which this is based on so I can’t comment on any differences between the two but I did enjoy Ironman the couple of times I played through.

The game itself is setup to offer easy play at start-up, i.e. the ball goes up the side towards the back and hits some bumpers before it gets to your flippers. Stern has been sticking to this method for a while now, so no surprises there. They do have a few toys on the playfield which is good – after ’24’ and ‘NBA’ lacking anything substantial, I was getting a little worried. Big Buck Hunter at least had a few things and where they are continuing that with Ironman, my hopes remain a little higher. I still wish that they would go with LED bulbs instead of the incandescent ones for reliability and electricity costs sake but I also wish they’d dump those dot matrix displays in favor of LCDs too and I still have doubts that either will occur anytime soon. But they did bring back a favorite effect of mine – the playfield magnet. With two magnets, one below the Whiplash targets and another below the IronMonger target which rises from below the playfield when you hit the right targets, they combine together to make for some interesting effects. The magnets will occasionally pull on the ball which can send it flying in an unexpected direction and to me it makes the game more exciting. Hit the right targets though and they will grab and hold the ball in place for a short period of time so you can watch something on the screen above. (I continue the review after the break)

The IronMonger target itself is pretty cool and I think that players will spend most of their time trying to bring that up so they can bash it with the pinballs. Once it’s up, you have to hit it several times to activate the multiball, which isn’t anything that substantial – I only unlocked a three ball multiball which is fun but I am still spoiled by the 8-ball multiball mayhem from Indiana Jones. From what I saw of the dot-matrix screen effects, they included a number of quick scenes from the first movie and at a very high frame rate on top of that. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen dot matrix effects this smooth on a Stern before or I just never paid that much attention to their more recent games. Still, it seems like the games are screaming to get an update in that department. For what they have though, the 3D effects pulled off on the screen are pretty cool to watch, when you can peel your eyes off of the palyfield.

It didn’t look like they had a lot of Ironman 2 footage in there yet – there were some very brief clips of Whiplash and War Machine but that’s all I caught. Black Widow is in the artwork but in this software version I didn’t unlock anything that had her in it. I think that because this is an early build of the software that it was missing some sounds – when you hit some targets placed on the right and left sides of the playfield towards the center it didn’t make any noise when you hit them. I imagine that will be fixed soon but I don’t see why that wouldn’t be included in the first palce. They also didn’t have the Black Sabbath Ironman song playing, which is too bad but understandable from a licensing perspective. That and who knows if ASCAP would then start hassling operators for playing that song in public on a pinball machine without getting their holy permission first and paying up for it.

There are two ramps on the playfield and they did something different with the part where the ball drops onto the playfield by adding a bumper at the end of the ramp. All it does is cause the ball to bounce back for a second before falling through but at least something was done to make the ramps a little more interesting. They also go behind the backdrop for a second although that doesn’t really add anything to the effect. The ramp on the right is a pain to hit correctly, most of the time the ball would get up most of the way and then fall back down so timing is everything.

There is a skill shot although I think that in the case of this game that term should be used loosely. All you have to do is make sure that the lane up top that the ball first falls through is lit up and you get it. Nothing really difficult about that but I think it comes down to the layout that is used. It’s really too bad as it wasn’t long ago I discovered a secret skill shot on Shrek pinball that is fairly difficult to hit as you have to use the third flipper to do it but that makes it all the more satisfying to get when you can manage the shot. Ironman has only two flippers which is fine although it almost felt like it should have a third over on the left.

One thing on the playfield that caught me by surprise was the War Machine kick-back. They had something just like this on Big Buck Hunter (I’m sure it’s on a bunch of older pins too but I admit that I haven’t played very many) but the strength is much higher, requiring you to act quickly once it launches the ball at you. I think I like it better that way however as the more intense the play, the more fun it is for me.

Overall both my friend and I enjoyed the game from what little we played of it. I would love to play it with the sound cranked up as pinball machines are always better that way. I also hope that they decide to update the software a bit when the new movie is released, to include more scenes and soundbites from that film than what I saw. All of the targets and modes worked from what I could tell, so no worries on that front.  With updated software to fill in the blanks, I think that this game will do great. If I was in a position to do so, I would certainly consider one for my arcade to round-out my pin selection.

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