Pinball Spotlight Series:
This is a 1996 release by Williams; designed by the brilliant and enigmatic John Popadiuk. He was one of the many talented designers working for Bally/Williams during the 90s DMD golden era. His designs are very popular and feature all sorts of magnets and cool interactive toys and gimmicks. He is responsible for such classics as World Cup Soccer, Theatre of Magic, Cirquis Voltaire, and of course the featured game, Tales of the Arabian Nights (or TOTAN for short). He is known for whimsical ramp and playfield geometry. His games feel like sleight of hand, and he really is a master at making the ball do unexpected things.
Perhaps in no game is this better illustrated than TOTAN… There is one spiraling ramp with multiple diverters so the path it takes each time down is different. It has a giant spinning magic lamp, and an interactive genie bash toy that you battle. There are physical ball locks, and the third ball disappears under the playfield on a magnet in front of the genie that begins multiball… There is also an upright “Fireball” magnet ring that sends the ball down a wireform in which are tasked with hurling it back into the genie. And then there are wire spike cages called “Shooting Stars” that come up from the playfield and trap the ball inside them before releasing the ball safely into the inlanes under control preventing outlane drains when lit.
TOTAN is stacked with cool features and has all the great things that John Popadiuk is known for, however in recent years his once great name has been sullied by misguided and naive business ventures. In 2011 he started a company called Zidware and starting taking deposits for a new boutique pinball machine he was developing and planned on releasing called “Magic Girl”. He promised the moon to pinball fans and ultimately ended up squandering the money raised from deposits.
Only a handful of “Magic Girls” ever got made and shipped, and even the ones that did lacked the functionality promised. The code was paper thin and unfinished, and the fantastic mechanical toys that he is known for, didn’t work. It was a major black eye for the pinball collecting community. But some phoenixes have risen from its ashes. A then unknown (to pinball at least) artist named Jeremy Packer (aka Zombie Yeti) was noticed for his stunning art package for this game and other failed Zidware project “Alice in Wonderland” and was eventually given a job at Stern pinball. And his fantastic artwork can now be seen on games like Iron Maiden, Ghostbusters and Deadpool.
Even John Popadiuk has risen. He is now employed by a new pinball company named Deeproot out of Texas. They have yet to release anything to the public, but have many Pinball veterans on staff and have a proven businessman at the helm with very deep pockets. He is promising that Deeproot is going to revolutionize the pinball industry and most importantly, he isn’t taking anyone’s money until he has products to sell. He has even confirmed that his company Deeproot will honor and build Magic Girls for all of those that never received theirs, despite having no liability for Popadiuk’s former debts or failures. Hopes for Deeproot are high, and maybe even pinball redemption for the great JPOP himself is on the horizon… Time will tell. But until then, we got a wonderful example of what I believe to be his best manufactured pin ever in our game room now, come and spend some time exploring the Tales of the Arabian Nights!