Pinball Wizard: 5 Tips to Play a Mean Pinball Game

by Staff & Contributors

Did you know that pinball was actually banned in the U.S. in the 1940s for promoting gambling? Back then, certain machines paid you when you won! We’ve come a long way from those days, and now pinball is one of the most enjoyable pastimes for people of all ages.

Pinball is so popular, in fact, there are even tournaments held for it! Pinball game tournaments see pinball wizards from across the world competing for the highest scores. For a game that seems to rely so much on luck, this might come as a surprise to many.

You too, though, can become a pinball wizard. Here’s how.

  1. Practice the Drop Catch

When a pinball takes on too much momentum, it’s easy to lose control of it. To deaden some of that momentum, practice the drop catch.

Right before the pinball hits your flipper, raise the flipper. When the pinball hits it, it should slide up the incline next to the flipper, then right back down into the flipper with much less momentum. You can then flip the pinball again, only with much less out-of-control momentum as it had before.

A good drop catch takes expert timing to pull off. Flipping too early leaves the pinball open to fall into the gutter. Flipping too late will only lose you control of the pinball even more, which could also lead it into the gutter.

By practicing drop catching, you’re also practicing your speed. This will help you become the best you can at pinball.

  1. Nudge & Tilt Like a Pro

Many beginner and novice pinball players avoid tilting and nudging the machine at all costs. In reality, you can and should tilt the machine sometimes.

A certain amount of tilting and nudging is allowed in professional pinball. That’s why there’s a tilt option in digital pinball games like Space Cadet pinball.

You can tilt the pinball machine to save a ball that would otherwise end up in the gutter, or to guide your ball towards your flippers. You can’t tilt the machine too hard, but mastering a simple tilt will bring you a long way.

There’s a difference between gently nudging the machine and battering it out of anger. What’s more, controlling the strength of your nudge is crucial in keeping end-ball bonuses on some machines. Certain machines will penalize you for playing too aggressively, so learning the machine and how far you can push it is very important.

A machine will usually warn you a few times before penalizing you for tilting. Use these warning to find your perfect tilt, and take that knowledge with you to become a pinball wizard.

  1. Perfect the Live Catch

Sometimes the best move is to stop the pinball dead in its tracks, especially if it runs the risk of losing control.

To perform a live catch, hold your flipper up as the ball comes towards it. The pinball will slide down the flipper, then settle into the corner of the flipper where the hinge is. The ball will stop moving entirely, letting you aim your shot and flip it off any part of the flipper you wish.

This one can be tricky to perfect, as it takes speed and proper aim to get it back in play. Once you release the flipper, be ready to flip it again with good strength to get it where you want. Too slow and the ball will fall right into the gutter; too fast and it may not end up where you want it.

The live catch is similar to the drop catch, only it takes more precise timing. However, by mastering the live catch you’re essentially giving yourself a new start with the ball. A pinball master can aim and shoot a pinball almost anywhere they want with a masterful live catch.

  1. Learn the Death Save

This is one of the most masterful pinball skills to learn, and one of the most impressive.

There’s nothing worse than when your pinball lands in a side gutter. When your pinball lands in the side gutter, that means your ball is lost — right? Well, not exactly.

With a carefully timed nudge, you can save your ball from the void. Right as the pinball gets to the bottom of the gutter, right between the flippers, a well-timed and decently-strengthed nudge can send the ball back into play! The perfect nudge will send the ball right up between the flippers and onto the right or left one, effectively saving it from “death”.

Once the ball is back in play, don’t panic — quickly hit the flipper and send it back into play. Be warned, this move isn’t legal in most pinball tournaments, and will almost definitely cause a machine-shake penalty. However, if you’ve got a good game going, it could still be a good move.

Now, if only there was a way to save your ball from death during a game of ping pong! If you’re looking for a good pinball table, shop here:

  1. Tap Gently to Pass

It’s always frustrating when your ball heads for the wrong flipper time and time again.

If this happens to you, practice the tap pass. To perform a tap pass, you need to hit the flipper at the right strength to gently bop the ball from one flipper to the other. That usually means a quick tap with only a moderate level of strength rather than a full-blown smack.

To perform a perfect pass, wait until the pinball is right at the tip of the flipper. You can use a live catch to make this a bit easier. Once the ball hits the other flipper, make sure to quickly smack it back into play, or catch it and figure out your aim.

This one takes a steady hand and a lot of practice to perfect, but it can be one of the most useful tactics in pinball.

Play the Perfect Pinball Game Every Time

If you want to become a master of the pinball game, practice these five tips above. Whether you’re a casual player, a tournament hopeful, or just looking to impress your friends, you’re going to be pleased with the results.

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