Pinball can be looked at as a game of luck to the uninitiated, but it really does involve a lot of skill if you want to do consistently well. Luckily, there are some key techniques to learn that will allow you play pinball with skill.
6 tips for playing pinball with skill are:
- Check the rules of the game
- Learn how to aim
- Practice catching
- Practice consistently
- Learn how to nudge
- Stay alert
While pinball might look like an easy game to learn at first, it is much harder to play well if you don’t master the basic skills that are required. From learning the rules to how to grasp specific techniques, we will go through everything below.
6 Tips To Play Pinball With Skill
1. Check The Rules Of The Game
Each pinball game has its own set of rules as well as game modes to play. These are mostly shown in the bottom corners of the cabinet as you look at the playfield. Every machine has its own playfield where you will have to learn the targets, tunnels and bumpers. Specific tunnels and bumpers can give you a different set of points.
Look For The Lights
If you are unsure of what to do, just aim for any flashing lights. This alone is still fun at first, but it can get old after a while. It may only lead to your games lasting a few minutes and yielding a poor score. If you are trying to beat your friends in a game and make them wonder when you became the pinball wizard, it’ll take a little more observation and aiming practice.
To start, every game has a set of rules that will help you better understand the playfield. This will inform you on what targets are worth the most or how many times you need to enter a tunnel for a multiplier.
Take a look at the playfield to understand where the ball needs to travel and how to get there. Read where the multipliers are on the field and what paths will collect the most points. When looking at the field, find any other flippers, as you will need to use these effectively to maximize your points.
Don’t Miss Anything
Also make sure there are no other buttons you are missing. There could be an extra button to control the other flippers, or they might just move with the main flippers. Some machines include their own shake button to avoid physical shakes as well, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the table before you start playing.
2. Learn How To Aim
So, you have taken note of the field, rules and flippers, and now it’s time to play. So, you send the ball into the game, and while remembering what to aim for will help you, learning how to aim is more important. When aiming, think of hitting a ball with a baseball bat. If the batter swings a fraction of a second later than they should it can send the ball in a completely different direction.
Timing Is Critical
As the ball rolls down to your flipper, your aiming will be based around how soon or late you tap to swing the flipper. Hitting the flipper as the ball is on the edge of it nearest the other flipper will catapult it up and towards the opposite side of the table, while hitting it while it is closer to the flipper’s base will send it straight up or even backwards.
Knowing when to hit the button is extremely important, and it can be the hardest thing to learn. But with practice, you will be able to get the ball to where you know it needs to be for the most points.
3. Practice Catching
Gain More Control
Catching is important when you want to control the ball or have to refocus in the middle of a game. Catching really allows you to control the ball. This is when you let the ball roll to the flipper, and you hold it with the flipper up. That will give you time to plan out your next shot.
If you release the ball and immediately hit it again, it will go towards whichever flipper you held it on, as alluded to above. If you let it roll to the tip of the flipper before hitting it, it will shoot across the field. This comes back to learning how to aim properly.
However, actually catching the ball is the hard part. If the ball is rolling down the table towards the flipper at low speed, you may be able to just hold the flipper up and catch it easily. If it is coming down the table with more pace, then you will need to time when you press the flipper very carefully.
This can often involve activating the flipper as the ball is coming towards it, and just as it touches the activated flipper you then drop the flipper to take the speed out of the ball. Then, as the ball is settling in place you then activate the flipper again to catch it as it bounces softly. This may sound complex, but with a little practice you will nail your catches.
4. Practice Consistently
Aiming takes a lot of practice to get down just because of the massive effects that a slight delay in pressing the flipper can have on where the ball ends up. The same goes for pressing the button just slightly too early, and so it is really important to just practice over and over again until it becomes almost like muscle memory.
A good way to practice would be constantly catching the ball and trying ways to flip it in targeted directions. This will test your catching and your aiming at the same time. Another good way might be trying to play with just one flipper. While this can be a challenge, it forces you to put all of your attention on one part of the table and can really hone your skills.
Getting the basics down before trying to learn the fancy tricks is essential if you want to work your way up the leaderboard.
5. Learn How To Nudge
You may also have to save a ball or two by giving the machine a little nudge, also known as a tilt. Some new machines have a specific button that will shake the field to reduce any abuse to the machine, but the theory behind it remains the same.
Don’t Shake Too Hard
If you see the ball rolling straight for the dead zone, you can shake the machine a bit to try to save it either on a flipper or another tunnel. Be careful, because you don’t want to do this too hard as it can end up penalizing you if the game deems you to be too rough. Repeated violent shaking could be deemed as cheating, so machines often have a system built in to prevent too much shaking.
Usually you will get a warning beforehand, but if you don’t hear it the third time you could end up having your game cut short. You might even get an upset arcade owner if it was hard enough, because the machine has many parts that could get damaged with shaking that is too violent.
An Important Technique
However, nudging or tilting is a pretty normal technique within the game so don’t be afraid, just don’t let anger control your nudge. There is an entire article here devoted to the proper technique of nudging and when to use it.
6. Stay Alert
Staying alert when you are playing pinball is vital. Modern games often have displays at the top of the table that play clips suggesting where to hit the ball for the most points, along with sounds and flashing lights that will let you know when something important is happening.
Listening and looking out for this kind of thing is important for learning how to play the table. Being able to stay alert means staying comfortable, as you will be standing there for (hopefully) a long time, so you don’t want to end up slouching or even in pain! This could affect your abilities in long games, so make sure to stay comfortable.
Playing pinball involves a lot more skill than many people think. The best way to learn the essential skills like aiming and catching is by practicing regularly. However, learning the rules of the table is vital as well so that you know how to score the most points, and sometimes it is just a case of staying comfortable in order to stay alert!