Black Knight is Back!

By | Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Black Knight is a classic Williams pinball machine. Black Knight and I go way back. I met him years ago at a place called Funway Freeway in Kenosha. It was an awesome arcade, back when arcades were more than just money making machines out to get your quarters. Back when you could actually learn and win a game, earn free games, and heck… even SELL a bunch of racked up credits to some sucker who wasn’t good enough at the game to earn them himself…YET.

I mastered Black Knight in the arcade. For months and months I learned the moves, all the nudges, perfect shots and combos, everything I needed to come in early, pop in a quarter, and play all day on it. It was a blast, and it paid off for me. Pinball Wizard wasn’t just a song, it was my life. And Hans was that poor sucker in the first paragraph who bought most of my credits. Yeah, some days I even turned a PROFIT!

A few years later, after Black Knight was eventually retired from the arcade and replaced with some new money-gobbling machine–when my master skills were waning, Bob Jensen gets a Black Knight machine for his restaurant, Pizza Popper. Not long afterward, it was offered for sale. I grabbed it of course, I couldn’t resist. It was $300 of money well spent, in my opinion. Getting it into my parent’s house and up to my bedroom must have been an interesting project, but I don’t really remember any of that. All I remember is playing it endlessly, cleaning it, and just looking at it. I had my dream machine, right there in my room.

Eventually it broke down though, to a point where I couldn’t fix it. I think it was a circuit board that failed, if I remember correctly. I got rid of it after that, and I don’t really remember who took it off my hands, if it was Hans or someone else. But Black Knight had provided a lot of the glue that brought Hans and I together back in the day, so there’s always been that special something in it.

Since then I had only my memories of it. Up until recently, when we got our Wii. Just after buying it we wanted to try out a few games on it, so we went to Family Video to rent some. I noticed a game titled “Williams Pinball Classics” so i picked it up. I flipped it over and looked at the 10 pinball machines that it contained. There it was. Black Knight was back. I doubted it was any good, so I thought renting it would be a pretty safe bet, since it’s much cheaper than shelling out the price of the full game. I really didn’t expect much, but thought it would be funny to see how close it was to the real thing.

Not knowing much anything about the Wii yet, we had to figure out the goofy nun-chuck connection thingie.. (why the heck does the nun-chuck use a WIRE, when the controllers are wireless?!?!) Who’s the brainiac that came up with that one? Fire him and hire someone who can develop a wireless nun-chuck! Duh. Anyway, we put the disc in and I immediatety searched the arcade and found no Black Knight. Silly thing was hiding up on the second floor! I quickly inserted my virtual quarter and figured out how to start a game and flip.

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Whoa. I was able to earn almost one million (you get a free game at one million) on my first game. I got just over 800,000 points, and by golly my SHOTS were there!!! Just a little more practice and I could get this down just like the real thing! It’s really quite well done for a virtual pinball machine! The timing, physics, and the who package is just amazingly accurate. There are a few sound issues I can hear and a couple mechanical differences, but I doubt many others beside Hans and myself would ever even notice. You can even nudge (in different directions!) and tilt, as well as play from several different camera angles! How they did it I have no idea, but I’m sure the original designers and/or some diehard players had a lot of input.

Fast forward a few weeks to today…

Jay was here from Arizona just after we got our Wii and we were in the middle of this rental.. Jay knows Black Knight well, having played it in my room quite a bit himself. Now my goal is to get him off of my high score board. The hard way. Tonight I got one step closer to my goal. It shouldn’t be long. I was able to “roll” the REAL Black Knight pretty easily ‘way back when’. Just a little more timeis all I need… you’ll see…Click on the thumbnail to see tonight’s high score.