It's happening! Time for Pinfest! This year's show promised to be the biggest and best yet, with more machines on display (104, to be precise) than any year before! The show gets better and better each year, and this is a huge achievement for such a small and dedicated pinball crew from the Newcastle Pinball Association (NPA). Compared to the absolute insanity of larger shows such as Pinball Expo (400 games, including other coin-op games!) which is happening as I write this, the NPA team do a fantastic job at organising a relatively large show with limited resources. I'm always happy to be a part of it.
What did we bring this year? We decided to carry on the tradition we started last year for Pinfest 2022, by bringing another Gottlieb game, and a game that hasn't been contributed to Pinfest before. The only other game I have that fits that description is... Tee'd Off (Gottlieb, 1993). Now, those of you that have attended a number of Pinfests before may remember a Tee'd Off from a previous year. There was actually one Tee'd Off at Pinfest in 2015, however that machine was a raffle prize and was not technically a "contributed" machine on the show floor. Anyway, it was a smooth trip with the machine in the back of the ute on Friday afternoon. Fiona and I got to Club Macquarie around 3:00 pm which gave us plenty of time to get things set up.
Once set-up was done, we spent a bit of time play testing Tee'd Off and it seemed to be behaving itself. So, I had a look around to see if anyone needed help. I didn't have to look far, because the Wipe Out (Gottlieb, 1993) next to me was having a few issues! The skit lift gate on the left side of the playfield was not opening when it should. This mechanism is a diverter, which opens to direct balls to the ski lift. It uses a System 3 flipper mechanism to do this, which moves a diverter instead of a standard flipper.
The problem here turned out to be a poor connection on the high-voltage end-of-stroke (EOS) switch. EOS switches on System 3 flippers are normally closed, with the flipper crank opening the switch and cutting high voltage to the flipper coils. The EOS switch on this mechanism was actually missing the switch contact tab on one of the leaves, which meant that the switch always appeared open. This made the game think the gate was already engaged and open, so it didn't supply full voltage to the gate. Replacement of this switch was the best course of action but unfortunately I did not have a spare. To get it up and running for the weekend, a bit of adjustment to the switch leaves got them into a position where they worked as intended. Wipe Out had no other issues over the weekend, so I'd call that temporary repair a success!
After a few hours of helping set up, chatting to mates, and playing a few games, it was time for dinner and then to bed! Before heading to bed I took note of the game's bookkeeping audits so I could see how many plays it got over the weekend - more on that later. Saturday rolled around and Tee'd Off behaved itself very well for the entire day. That's all I could ask of it! I did notice that the flippers had become a little sluggish by the end of the day due to the amount of play. This is pretty typical of games at Pinfest, as most coil assemblies will lose a little power as they heat up and as the voltage supply to the premises struggles to keep up. However, they were still able to make all of the shots on the playfield. Not quite as snappy as from a cold boot, but good enough. In any case, they got a good chance to recovery on Saturday night.
Otherwise Fiona and I spent some time enacting a few little fixes here and there. I helped my buddy Steve out with his Scared Stiff (Bally, 1996) which was having a few issues with the ball tilts and ball ejects from the up-kickers. Luckily we got those sorted out quite quickly.
Saturday night was the main event as far as I was concerned; getting to play all of the machines late into the night after the public is kicked out! There were some standouts this year. Alien (Pinball Brothers, 2021) was a game I had read a lot about but never played before. While it was a punishing game which I couldn't get a decent ball on for some reason, it played really well and looked fantastic. The alien at the top of the playfield which eats balls after grabbing them with a magnet is a really cool toy! And, of course, Fiona and I got plenty of games in on Grant's head-to-head Battle Pinny. This year, there was also an A.G. Football (Alvin G., 1992) to play as well. There are not many other places on the planet where you will have multiple head-to-head pinball games to play!
Saturday came and went, and before we knew it we were up on Sunday morning to do it all again. I spent some time trying to fix some issues on Hook (Data East, 1992) which was showing some strange switch behaviour. The slam tilt switch would randomly register during a game, causing the game to end. In switch test, I realised that most of the playfield switches were registering incorrectly as coin door switches (such as the slam tilt). After some digging around, I realised that the game behaved normally if the switches were activated with the playfield in the raised position. The issue only presented itself when the playfield was brought down and came into contact with the lockdown bar, which is grounded. This sounds a lot like an issue documented on Pinwiki where a loose screw can come into contact with a ball trough switch lug, causing weird switch matrix problems. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case here. However, putting some insulators between the playfield support hooks and the lockdown bar to prevent contact (and therefore prevent grounding) fixed the issue for the remainder of the day so it could continue to be played.
Sunday went quickly (it always does) and before I knew it we were getting ready to pack up again after a hectic weekend! I took another look at all of the bookkeeping audits on Tee'd Off, which appear below.
335 plays is a lot for a weekend! It's interesting to note that while ball times were short and games were generally low scoring, there were still a hell of lot of gopher wheels spins and almost exactly the same number of holes in one. It's no wonder I kept hearing the game say "hole in one!" all weekend!
There was something else special about this Pinfest as well. There were more representatives from pinball manufacturers than there ever had been before! This included Gary Stern (Stern Pinball), Jack Guarnieri (Jersey Jack), the Haggis Pinball crew, the Homepin team, as well as David Hankin of Hankin pinball fame. We couldn't resist the opportunity to grab a few selfies with Gary and Jack; it might be a long time before they will next be in Australia! It was also great to play Venom (Stern, 2023) and The Godfather (Jersey Jack, 2023) for the first time. Both awesome games!
And that was it for another Pinfest year! Once we got Tee'd Off home and set up again, I found a couple of little issues that must have cropped up at Pinfest which I didn't quite realise. A screw had come loose from one of the ramp mounting tabs, making the ramp a little loose but not affecting the travel of the ball. Due to the amount of play, a bit of the red paint which had been touched up around the gopher wheel had chipped away. Not a big surprise for a high-traffic area near a playfield edge, but it will need to be touched up again later.
And now we are already looking forward to Pinfest next year. While all of our other games have been contributed to Pinfest previously, I'm going to bring a game that we haven't brought before. That leaves a couple of options, and 11 months to make a final decision. See you all next year!
Many thanks to David Hamilton for some of the great photos taken over the course of the weekend. Check them all out on the Newcastle Pinball Association Facebook page.
Here you will find logs of our pinball and arcade machine restorations, repairs, discussion about general pinball and arcade topics, as well as recounts of our random pinball adventures.
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