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How to play pinball like a PRO
•Watch and listen to the game. Machines today give the player lots of instructions, yet some beginner players don't realize this and this miss easy hints from the game. So while you are playing, look at and listen to the machine.
o"Look at" mostly means watching the display. Most games from roughly 1990 onward will tell the player what they need to do next. Keep an eye also on the playfield lights: often if you don't know what you are doing, just hitting a target with a flashing light in front of it will do something.
o"Listen to" Pinball machines have had speech since the late 70s, and will verbally tell the the player in certain ways. Start listening to the sounds games make in conjunction with the things they do and you'll start to get the connection. And this isn't trivial: often the sound is meant to tell you something like, "Hey, I'm about to kick the ball at you really hard: be ready!"
•Master the basics of flipping. While there will always be an element of chaos in pinball, in truth, very few balls that come down the playing field are completely out of the player's control. This is the key area which determines a player's skill level: bringing the ball under control. There are many advanced tricks, but for now let's address the basics:
oDon't flip both flippers. Flip only the flipper that you need to. Flipping both will actually sometimes cause the player to "drain" (lose the ball) when they didn't need to.
oAfter you've flipped, drop the flipper back down immediately. Leaving it up leaves a nice big gap for the ball to fall between.
oIn general, don't flip any more than you need to. And as you'll discover, that's way less than you might at first think. Once you've got that down, you'll notice that if you hold the flipper up at the right time, you can bring the ball to a dead stop. Great! You've learned how to "catch" the ball. This is a critical element of good play. Catching the ball lets you both stop and think of what shot you want to try to take next and aim carefully for it. And for all players, it lets you stop and take a quick drink or answer your cell phone if you're careful.
oSome machines have more than two flippers. Before you start, be sure to look over the entire machine to find all of the flippers, so that you're ready when the ball is near any of them. Some machines have more than one plunger. Some have a gun or other type of auto-launch mechanism that, at times, will come into play for reasons other than just getting the ball onto the field.
•Learn the skill shot. Most pinball machines have some sort of skill shot, which is basically a bonus earned by releasing the ball with a particular strength or shooting a specific target, ramp or loop immediately after releasing the ball.
•Get good at aiming. You've now gotten to the point where you can bring the ball to a stop consistently and you're learning about what shots you want to try for. Excellent. Now you need to learn how to hit them consistently. The most important rule for aiming is simply that the closer to the tip the ball is, the more to the opposite side it will go. So, for example, let's say you're holding the ball on the left flipper. You drop the flipper and let the ball roll down. If you flip again quickly, you'll send the ball more to the left. If you let the boll roll down a little more towards the tip of the flipper, the more you'll send the ball to the right
.•Nudge and tilt. Don't be shy: a certain amount of nudging is considered perfectly fair play, and done right, can often save a ball that might have otherwise been lost.
o Even more than aiming, when and how to nudge is an art form. Even among the experts, no two players approach this with the same philosophy. Some are aggressive, some passive, some judicious, and some wild. What is important is simply to remember that machines do have tilt sensors, and if you tilt, not only does your ball end, but in most games you will lose any end-of-ball bonus points that you might have accumulated; in some cases, this bonus can be enormous.
o Most modern games will also warn you that you are playing too hard. Take the warnings seriously. The way that tilt bobs work, sometimes the moment you get the first warning you are already doomed, since the tilt bob will keep bouncing back and forth and hitting its surrounding ring even if you stopped touching the machine entirely. More often, though, you'll get your warnings, which build up over the course of the ball. Two to three tilt warnings is usually the default.
•Enjoy it. Mostly importantly, the object of pinball is ultimately to have fun. Pinball is awfully fun when you're playing well. When you're not, or when the game just isn't being nice to you, it can get highly frustrating. Learn early on when to chalk it up to a spat of bad luck and keep on trucking.