The World’s Hardest Pinball Machine.

Posted: February 12th, 2008 by ORBIT


Tiffany’s Diner is located in a small, blue-collar suburb of Saint Louis named Maplewood. My Grandmother used to live down the street from Tiffany’s back when it was called Morgan’s. It’s a classic 50’s diner, not some modern throwback, and the only 24-hour restaurant within a huge radius. It is, and always has been, employed by an army of trash-talking no-bullshit-taking kick-your-face-in Grandma’s.

This dialogue is typical of a trip to Tiffany’s:

Grandma: Sit your ass down and get your order ready before I kick-the-bucket and take you with me. And don’t you goddamn dare order the special.

Customer: Where should I sit?

Grandma: You think I give a shit where you sit? Don’t make me jump over this bar and beat you with a spatula. I may look old but I’ll still knock some teeth out before you get a hold of me.

Customer: Okay, sorry. I’ll have a slinger with a hamburger patty.

Grandma: You’ll get whatever I goddamn give you. Don’t think I won’t rip this ticket up. Keep your goddamn mouth shut while you wait, too, I’m sick of hearing every asshole in this city run their stupid jabberjaw.

Customer: Okay, sorry.

This goes on all day and night. People keep coming back for more abuse to their egos and large intestines. The only thing 50000meaner than the service at Tiffany’s Diner is the pinball machine in the corner: a 1980 Bally Viking. Legend has it that the owners bought this solid state machine new and it hasn’t moved since. I’m not sure if it is an epoxy job or just softening linoleum, but Viking is glued to the floor. In the twelve or so years that I’ve been playing Viking I have never managed to slide it even a meager centimeter.

What makes this game the most ruthless pin alive is the tilt sensor. It cannot be bumped, shaken, swayed or prodded in any way, shape or form without the flippers going flatline, the lights going out, the ball draining and the speakers playing a monotone noise like a dialtone. It has always had the same high score: 787,000 without initials; no doubt the work of some unknown ripper who faded into the night. The replay is 270,000, a feat which I have accomplished less than five times in over a thousand games. That same statistic applies to extra balls, too.

Viking is also one of the only machines I’ve played where it is common to play an entire game without hitting the metal ball with a flipper. When you plunge the ball it bounces around some bumpers at the top before it falls into a saucer. On the wrong day, at the wrong time, this saucer will kick the ball out, it will fall through a spinner and b-line straight down the toilet every single time. Try to save it with a slap save and a nudge: Tilt. Playing Viking on a day like this is maddening.


Viking’s saving grace is its discounted rate. For 50 cents Viking will offer you not 2, but 3 credits, thus making it the world’s cheapest pinball machine. It has a beautiful backglass full of crazy fighting Norseman, beer, weapons and busty wenches. And it has some really difficult shots, like a lane above the left flipper with four drop targets and bullseye at the end of it, and another playfield target worth fifty-thousand only when a random siren is going off.

Maplewood is somewhat of a haven for pinball, there is a perfect Shadow at the Laundromat next to a nice Roadshow. The bowling alley has a really loose and fun World Cup Soccer, and another Laundromat has Harlem Globetrotters and Addam’s Family. The pool hall has a nice No Good Gophers, too. But somehow, when I visit home, I always find myself back at Tiffany’s diner, taking a one load of bullshit from some geriatric hooker working a flattop grill, and another, bigger load of bullshit from Viking.

Herb “Orbit” Belrose

til’ death!

Categories: CFF

Comments: 5 comments


5 Responses to 'The World’s Hardest Pinball Machine.'

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  1. AUTOFIRE   13 Feb 08 at 3:39 am

    there is nothin good bout no good gophers unless you want to throw quarters into the trash!

  2. Ryan Gratzer   19 Feb 08 at 9:39 pm

    That looks pretty similar to my Paragon (late 1978, Bally – which, by the way, I vaguely remember Russ asking me about on sunday, but I was very tossed: yeah, it’s solid-state, widebody… I think that’s what you were asking). I remember there being a couple-month period where one of the saucers magically realigned itself so that 90% of the time it would shoot the ball straight down into the right outlane. It was so frustrating that I eventually took some masking tape and put up a barrier on that entire drain. It was the only thing I could do to regain my sanity.

  3. bjhanifin   20 Feb 08 at 10:43 am

    There is a place like that in downtown San Diego called Dick’s Last Resort. The idea of trash-talking help is entertaining… but it isn’t for everyone and it isn’t for me.

  4. kwanzaa   11 Apr 10 at 3:04 am

    Hi Herb,

    I was happy as a kid in a candy store when I came across this post. You see, I’ve recently inheritered this game from a friend. I guess the settings were sensitive on the machine you played. It’s a fun game, yes, but other than owning this game ( pun intended) it didn’t take long for for to really own it. The first replay is at a meager 280,000. The second is at 520,000. Within about 10 hours of playing the game ( over 4 days), my top five score consist of two games over 3 million and three games in the mid to high 2 million range. My version seems to tilt more easily if you bumped or moved the game side to side. Otherwise, it can take a good amount of consistent bumping straight and with pretty good force. So either your game was setup to tilt easily (very possible considering where you where) or I’m just simply a pinball wizard. Heck, maybe both are true.

    :) Great game and thanks for the post. I can’t find much of anything about this game or value and I’m not sure why. It is a challenging great game that only lacked foresight that’s understandable from 1979. It restarts counting from 0 when you pass 999,999.-

    Cheers from Toronto, Ontario.

  5. Scott   26 May 14 at 7:48 am

    I played this game from 1982 1981 when I lived in Florida and I don’t know what the problem is but on one quarter I could turn the machine over three times on any given day I don’t know maybe I was lucky but it was one of my favorite games ever hell I always left games on it when I walked away everybody was lined up behind me waiting for me to give my games away.


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