Even if you’ve played the silver ball since you were a young boy or girl, pinball can seem daunting. I can hear you through your computer screen: “It’s hard enough to just keep the ball in play, how can you expect me to hit specific targets and ramps and stuff? If only there were some kind of pinball guide, geared towards beginners! Then I’ll finally be able to put that jerk Chad in his place!” First of all — yeah, Chad really sucks. Second of all, don’t worry, Replay Lincoln Park is here for you. We’ve created an arcade-bar focused pinball guide for beginners, so that the next time freakin’ Chad bets you a round of cinnamon apple jamo shots that he can beat you on the KISS table, he’ll be the one picking up the tab.
Replay Lincoln Park’s Pinball Guide For Beginners
Okay okay okay, I know. Every pinball table is different. There’s no Buzzfeed-approved “One CRAZY trick to getting a high score on EVERY PINBALL MACHINE! Chad HATES this!” That doesn’t exist. Sorry. But there are a few strategies and techniques that translate to every table, and will help you out no matter what table you’re playing on. For these techniques, we’re cribbing from our own experience as well as PAPA.org, a great resource for players who want to get into the competitive pinball scene.
Master Your Flippers
Since they are your main tool for influencing where the pinball goes, it’s obviously very important to build your flipper technique. Unless you’re in a multiball scenario, you never want to double-flip (use both flippers at the same time). Additionally, PAPA.org‘s pinball guide cautions against machine-gun-flipping, when you hit both flipper buttons in a panic.
Both of these actions put the ball more at risk, since the non-flipping flipper should be used defensively in case the ball takes an unexpected bounce. That way, you can at least try to recover.
Similarly, realize that every time you flip the ball, you are necessarily putting the ball at risk. PAPA.org’s player’s guide recommends that players have a goal in mind for every single flip, whether it’s hitting a specific ramp or target, or whether it’s bringing the ball back under control. Keep in mind, the closer the ball is to the base of the flipper, the closer the ball will go to the center of the table, and vice versa.
Additionally, there are a whole bunch of specific flipper techniques that players can take advantage of to bring their skills to the next level. And PAPA.org has a video pinball guide series explaining them, to boot!
A technique where, in order to control the pinball, the player actively decides not to use the flippers and instead lets the ball rebound gently off of them while they are at rest.
A technique by which a player can pass the ball to the other side of the table. This is done by lightly tapping the flipper when the ball is at its base, causing the ball to bounce off of a post and to the other side.
A control technique. When a ball is out of control, a player can slow it down by releasing the flipper button right as the ball contacts it.
The opposite of a drop catch, a live catch involves engaging the flipper just after the ball touches the flipper in order to bring it under control. This is an advanced technique.
There are many other flipper techniques to learn, but these are some of the more basic ones. Once you’ve mastered these, you should be able to both control the ball and consistently aim at targets.
Know Your Table
Table knowledge is key in competitive pinball, but in an arcade bar setting, you can learn things on the fly if your technique is up to snuff.
It sounds obvious, but in the heat of a particularly stressful round of pinball, it’s easy to lose sight of the LED screens showing your current goals, the artwork on the table pointing you towards bonus ramps, and the lit targets on the board. Try to break the game down in to if-then statements — as in, if I hit this target with the ball, then X happens. This will help you figure out how the table works and allow you to build a consistent scoring strategy.
That said, Chad obviously doesn’t need to do this, since he only plays on the KISS table so he knows it better than the underside of his dumb Adidas snapback. How can you get an edge?
Well, luckily, there’s a free-to-try app out for most major game consoles and phones called The Pinball Arcade. It has painstakingly recreated dozens of classic pinball tables — many of which can also be found at Replay Lincoln Park — so that you can play anytime. And though pinball tables are free to play here, the app also gives you table-specific tips and strategies that may not be obvious from your first play. It comes highly recommended from most pinball enthusiasts as a teaching tool.
But, of course, there’s no substitute for actual practice. Again, our pinball machines are all free to play, so we’d be happy to help you hone your post passing skills next time you visit, if only to help bring Chad down a peg or two.