The Final Flurry Of Pinball Launches For 2020

2020 has been a huge year for pinball, with a host of new launches. Our personaly highlight has to be the Guns N’ Roses pinball machine, but we have waxed lyrical about that quite some bit in that post. As 2020 wound into its final stages, something I think we can all be excited for, three new games emerged, ready to take our money in 2021.

Stern Pinball – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin wasn’t a complete shock when it was launched. In fact, the rumours were kicked off by Pinball Heaven way back in October, before being officially announced the Led Zeppelin pinball for sale in December.

Led Zeppelin Pinball Machines from Left to Right, Pro, Premium and LE. Image courtesy of Pinball Heaven.

With the launch of Guns N’ Roses, it is hard to not let it cast a shadow over the very latest from Stern Pinball. On the surface, both machines are music pins. So it is easy to draw similarities and be disappointed in the offering from Stern. One thing I have seen posted is the lack of assets of the Led Zeppelin pinball machine compared to Guns N’ Roses. Which, sure, there is. Guns N’ Roses was developed in tandem with Slash of Guns N’ Roses, there was nothing off the table. To try and compare the two, at this stage. Is probably unfair. So from that point of view, let’s let the similarities between the machines end, Led Zeppelin step out from the shadow of Guns N’ Roses, and let’s look at it as its own machine.

Is Led Zeppelin a theme anyone cares about?

Generally, people will agree that themes sell games. Let’s look at the last 5 previous Stern Pinball launches and see where we would place Led Zeppelin.

  • Avengers Infinity Quest, coming off the back of the recent Marvel box office smash and the end of the infinity saga. Whilst it wasn’t based off the movie, there is not really a hotter franchise in existence right now. Incredibly relevant.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Excuse the pun, but this licence really is evergreen. The TMNT have been reinvented so many times and span so many generations. Basing it off of the 90’s TV show was a stroke of genius.
  • Stranger Things. Stranger Things is a big licence and incredibly relevant. Coming off of the line during the end of Season 3, culturally it managed to take a franchise which is hot right now and couple it with 80’s nostalgia. Something the show has been excellent at delivering. Theme wise, this seemed to work well.
  • Elvira House of Horrors. Sold as another super premium pinball machine, in the same space as Batman ’66. For pinball fans, this was a solid choice. It completed the trilogy of Elvira and the Party Monsters and Scared Stiff. Elvira is still a cultural phenomenon and perfect for pinheads with money too, which is where these super premiums are pitched.
  • Jurassic Park. JP is still culturally huge and made complete sense to not only take the opportunity to send a nod to the Data East version of this pinball machine, but also have a great licence. Again, a solid choice.

So where does Led Zeppelin fit in all of this? Well, in my opinion, it doesn’t really. Stern have had some odd choices really when it comes to Spike 2 and music pins aren’t out of the ordinary to be subjects of a “huh” moment. I am suprised in all of their Spike 2 music pins. Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin – with Iron Maiden and their take on Legacy of the Beast and the super theme The Beatles being the most acceptable. Add that to Munsters and every now and again you do look at Stern licencing choice and think… huh>?!?!?

Okay, but how does the Led Zeppelin Pinball Machine play?

Well, in all honesty, I haven’t played it, so I don’t know. Of course you get a feeling when a new game is launched though, so I will comment on the feeling. Rather than the fact. For me, I have to say, I am not blown away by Led Zeppelin. The Pro games from Stern are getting more and more stripped back. Another game missing a wireform, as well as this time missing the up down toy, the pro seems to as bare as any game ever made by Stern. It really is quite open and not a lot going on. The Premium and LE have this up and down toy which seems a bit odd, as it has a spinner and a magnet. Steve Ritchie is the king of flow, and the rumours were he wasn’t held back on what he could do or put into the game. Rumour also has it, that this game was in production for a long time. If those two points are true, this is somewhat of a disappointment.

Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland Pinball Machine

We have spent a lot of time talking about deeproot (notice the lack of capital D, that is intentional apparently.). From them intiially stating that they won’t be doing international orders at launch through to initial information coming out about RAZA. The journey to get RAZA in a position to order has been long, from a company that has promised so much along the way. Well that time is here and the RAZA pinball machine is available to order now. The official UK distributor is Pinball Heaven, with Pinball Bazaar offering pre-orders and stock holding two in their partnership with Pinball Heaven. The latter of the two is the only one that at the point of writing has the pre-order page live.

Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland Xtra Edition – Image Courtesy of Pinball Bazaar
Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland Arcade Edition – Image Courtesy of Pinball Bazaar

Is RAZA a theme anyone cares about?

If Led Zeppelin is a theme that isn’t as relevant as it should be, RAZA, like Oktoberfest in recent times and Houdini before it, treads a different path. Pinball machines today are full of licences and themes from big franchises and there have been rumblings between pinball fans of how good it would be to have an original theme amongst their lineup once more. In truth, Houdini and Oktoberfest, probably didn’t sell all that well. There certainly doesn’t seem to be too many of them in the UK. The same could be said of TNA. Is RAZA going to be any different? deeproot are yet to land any games, so one would imagine that original orders will be somewhat subdued. However, with RAZA, you can only place an order up until 31st December, after which, you will only be able to get one through distributor stock, so time is ticking.

Okay, but how does the Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland Pinball Machine play?

Again, we have not played it, so it is hard to truly say. It is a JPOP game, so there are ramps and psychadelic lighting galore in this game. It is the first outing for Steve Bowden on code and the code looks a little lumpy. deeproot haven’t truly delivered a gameplay video of working through the modes, but it feels certainly a bit like Oktoberfest. Where there are lots of little modes, if not a linear progression path. With the addition of the pinbar, it is going to be of great interest to see how this games pans out. One thing is for sure, if this game becomes more and more sought after as we expect it to be. Getting a hold of one may prove tricky.

Alien Pinball Machine From Pinball Brothers

Rising from the flames like a pheonix is the return of Alien Pinball from the Pinball Brothers. This game has its roots deeply tied to UK soil, in its previous guise from Heighway pinball. Pinball Brothers were involed in this venture, but have since formed a new company. There is a whole host of information on the Super Awesome Pinball Podcast or a rundown of that interview on TWIP.

Screengrab of the Pinball Brothers Website

There is no official UK distributor for Alien Pinball as of yet on the Pinball Brothers website. In the UK there are mixed reviews on whether people should buy the game, given the chequered history of the game, especially involving people within the UK pinball community. The game is being manufatured by Pedretti in Italy, which should give pinball fans some hope that this game will see the dark of space, or light of day once more.

Okay, but how does the Alien Pinball Machine play?

Having played the game, I thin that Alien plays incredible, and I don’t like widebody games. Part of the mystique of such games are that it is rare. So this may change peoples opinions on the game, once it, should it, become mainstream. What is more than that, there have been some changes to the game, including the updated Xenomorph motor for the ball lock and the lack of display in the centre of the playfield. Will that affect the game, we imagine so, but we also hope for more code updates on the game. The question is, will this be enough to lure people to buy a game from an unknown source?

That’s 20202 – What Are Your Thoughts?

So that is the latest pinball machine launches of 2020, of these three games, what is your view and which one of the three would you most likely purchase?

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