State-of-the-art pinball machine takes players to Oz

2013-01-21T22:00:00Z 2013-01-22T02:29:03Z State-of-the-art pinball machine takes players to OzJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

GRIFFITH | A rainbow contains all the colors of the visible light spectrum.

If you want to gander at all the colors imaginable, you'd have to go somewhere over the rainbow, to the land of Oz.

"If I had to point out what impresses me most about this, it's the RGB-LED lighting," Jesse Trueblood said about one of the features that graces "The Wizard of Oz" pinball machine.

It's part of what afflicts players with "sensory overload" according to Jack Guarnieri, owner of Jersey Jack Pinball, Inc., the East Coast-based company that created the machine.

"The technology can change both the playfield inset colors and illumination during the game," said Guarnieri, a longtime pinball guru — or wizard — within the industry.

When asked about the number of colors the game is capable of producing and projecting, Trueblood and Guarnieri talk of seven figures and beyond. When you suspect them of exaggerating, they do their best to explain the science behind RGB-LED's nearly infinite palette, which also can give you sensory overload.

In addition to all the colors one might associate with rainbows, kelly-green witches, ruby slippers, etc., the game has a 26-inch HD LCD display featuring animation, clips from the movie, scoring and illustrated goals.

The game's multilevel platform consists of a tornado-spun house, a melting witch, a winged monkey that can snare and spirit away an active silver ball, a foreboding castle, living forest bumpers, tigers and lions and bears (oh my!), and a crystal ball.

"That was one of the first things I wanted to get in the game for sure," Guarnieri said of the game's crystal ball, which also plays movie clips and animation, mostly visible through the player's vantage.

The game also has a resounding seven-speaker digital audio system, which allows Bert Lahr to whimper, "I was afraid that was going to happen" whenever a player is victimized by an immediate drainage.

At the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo held in Orlando last November, the machine — for which more than two million dollars went into developing — earned a 2012 Brass Ring award for "Best New Product."

Trueblood, an electrician from Lowell who owns PinCades in Griffith, has one of eight prototypes as well as two of the 1,000 Emerald Green limited edition machines.

"Though we are not an arcade," Trueblood said of his business that buys, sells, trades and repairs pinball machines, video games and electronic dart boards, "people are more than welcome to come in here and play (the prototype)."

Even the montage artwork on the machine's cabinet is state-of-the-art, having been digitally printed by patent pending Clearcoat technology. As for the inside, when Trueblood opened the machine to perform maintenance, you got the feeling that if the computerized circuitry of NORAD's infrastructure was half as sophisticated we all could sleep better at night.

PinCades sometimes plays host to Northwest Indiana Pinball League action. Trueblood is a member of the league.

"We plan to hold a state (pinball) tournament here," Trueblood said, "and this will be one of the games."

The game's production process was a long (yellow-brick) road, spanning 18 months. But the game's release couldn't have come at a better time. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the classic film, and a ballyhooed prequel "Oz" is due to come out later this year.

"Believe it or not, all that is coincidental," said Guarnieri, who had to get the blessing from Warner Brothers for the use of the movie's name, story and characters. "Sometimes it's just divine good luck. Just like our next machine, 'The Hobbit,' which is due to come out in 2014, the same time for the third and final part of the movie series."

Regardless of Hollywood-enhanced marketing, Guarnieri believes pinball will be surefire entertainment for years to come.

"Pinball is never going away," he said. "Like video games, there's skill involved, but in pinball there is more randomness. That, with the physical interaction with the game, makes it so much fun to play."

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