How Does Pinball Scoring Work?


How Does Pinball Scoring Work?

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The bizarre scoring of pinball may seem to have no reason or rationality, but there’s a very calculated method to the madness. There’s much more skill required for pinball than you may think, and it can take time to master since each machine is slightly different.  

How does pinball scoring work? Each pinball machine will be different, so scoring will vary. A Star Wars-themed machine may have you hitting bumpers for 10 points per hit. A Twilight Zone themed machine may have you hitting balls into the corners for points. Always read the gameplay instructions on each pinball machine to understand how the machine scores its game.

Read on to find a quick overview of how to play pinball, popular moves you should know, as well as tips and tricks to raising your scoring average. By the end of this article, you will be a scoring fiend that may need to invest in an at-home pinball machine! 

To see some of the most popular pinball machines on the market today just click here.

How to Play Pinball

Although the scoring metrics may vary per design, the basics of the game will be consistent. The main rules that you should follow to score higher and win more frequently are:

1. Read the instructions on your specific machine since each design will vary in scoring methodology. Instructions are often on the sides of the device. Take note of how to get the bonus points or what causes points to multiply. 

2.  Be sure you understand each symbol and how to score the points. Study the playfield of the pinball machine because there will often be obstacles labeled ’10-points,’ ’20-points,’ etc. 

3. Once you’ve learned your objective, insert your coin to begin the game.

4. Give the game a moment to warm up and let you know that it’s ready.

5. Pull the lever. This releases the ball and throws it into the playfield. 

6. If the machine is a double-player version, allow one person at a time to take their turn. 

7.  The main two buttons you will use will be the bumper controls. These are often called the ‘flippers’ and may have a nickname related to the machine’s theme. The flippers are the knobs near the bottom of your glass-enclosed pinball field and are used to hit the ball around and manipulate the ball up and down the course. 

Since all pinball playfields sit at a downward angle, you will be hitting the ball up to the top, allowing gravity to bring it back down to your flippers to hit again. The objective of the game will be to use the flippers to hit certain corners that are lit up

8. Sometimes if a flipper is lit up – it’s point value is doubled, tripled, or even multiplied by ten times! Therefore, if you see a bumper lit up, try your best to use it wisely.

9. Keep an eye on the points screen to see what areas offer you the most points. It could be that the top right corner has many high-point knobs you want to hit, so aim accordingly and focus on what’s working for you to get higher points. 

Again, the points will add up differently depending on the manufacturer and theme of that game, so always pay attention to the instructions. Many pinball machines are over 50 years old, so there are plenty of variations depending on the year that the device was made. 

Tips and Tricks for Pinball

Some secret tips that the big leaguers don’t want you to know are: 

·  Most playfield obstacles are intended to be hit by one specific flipper that matches their angle. Figure out which flipper hits which mark and how far down the flipper needs to be moved to hit your target.

· Slow down and consider what angles are getting you the highest points. If you feel that control is getting away from you, slow down the game by resting the ball on your bumper levers. When gravity lowers it to your grip, don’t flip it up. Instead, allow it to rest there to slow the kinetic energy built up in it. There is a move related to this slowing down, which is called forehand hit. It can also be called a hold trap.

· Slap slave is a move to save a ball that is nearing the gutter. You essentially hit one flipper and then the other quickly to knock the ball back up into the court. It must be timed perfectly, or you will assist the machine in knocking your ball into the gutter

· Feel out the energy behind your bumpers. See how powerful they are and how hard you need to hit them. Each machine will vary. 

· A backhand is a move you should avoid that involves hitting the flipper earlier than usual. It usually results in you having less control and accuracy. Be careful of a friend that tells you to backhand. They may be a foe. 

· The center of the flipper is your sweet spot for hitting the pinball. Allow the ball to roll down to the center of the flipper and then shoot. This will result in a more accurate score until you learn how to control the ball at higher-risk alignments. 

· Be careful with tilts. A tilt is where you pick up a corner of the machine and alter the angle. If there is a problematic spot you’re trying to reach, such as sending the ball up a tunnel that is set at a steep angle, many players use the tilt technique. 

Since it does come highly recommended by many players as a way to stretch the game, we won’t deter you. However, you should know that this can shut off the game, disconnect the power source, cause the machine to freeze up because it knows it’s being tilted, or even cause management to remove you from the arcade. Be cautious with tilting; we don’t recommend it. 

Try each machine with a few practice rounds before getting serious. This way, you can learn the major traps and scoring points on the devices and knock it out of the park in later rounds. Don’t expect to be masterful on a brand-new machine while you’re still learning the individual instructions of that machine and how it plays. 

Want a higher score?

Want to get a high score? Then you probably need to watch the video below. It gives some specific tips on how to take your game to the next level so you can get a higher score!

Final Tips on Pinball Scoring

If you thought pinball was the most straightforward arcade game known to man, you now see that there is plenty of room for error. With so many different machines and themes, the gameplay is never the same.

Some games will have you trying to spell a word out, and others will have you hitting specific levers to unlock a secret code or add up points. The best advice we can give you for success is to read each machine, play many practice rounds, and don’t expect any two models to be alike.

One may want you to hit a particular bell over and over, while another game wants you to hit all of the bells equally. Often, there is a voice box instructing you on what to do or a screen that may display a mini-movie. Pay attention to these auditory indications of how the game is supposed to be played. 

In Conclusion

Pinball is all about timing, and if you move too fast or too slow, you’ll miss your target. This will take time to master and practice. There is no greater instructor than hands-on experience. If you endure the process of failing many times and losing many balls, you will eventually become a pinball master. 

When in doubt, hit whatever’s flashing! That’s the big-ticket key to high scoring!

Matt Robbs

There is nothing quite so enjoyable as bringing back memories from your childhood. We used to spend hours playing pinball in my friends basement and that really got me involved in everything retro!

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