Pinball Spotlight Series:
This is Stern’s Iron Man. Originally released in 2010, and re-run due to popular demand again in 2014. It was designed by the criminally underrated and underknown John Borg. He has been working in the pinball industry since the late 80s and has been designing games since the early 90s. He worked for “the other guys” at Data East during the Bally/Williams Merger Golden Era during the 1990s, so it seems that his contributions have been continually slept on. Data East later became Sega, before finally being purchased by Gary Stern and renaming the company Stern pinball, where it lives on to this day! Despite working for the red headed stepchild of the industry, John Borg was responsible for some of that company’s most popular and successful games such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Tales from The Crypt, and Guns ‘N Roses. He has also designed Tron, Metallica, The Walking Dead, KISS, and Guardians of the Galaxy for Stern in recent years. But Iron Man is the game that came first.
Iron Man has the super steep and super long ramps that Borg is now well known for. It has three different multiball modes, an awesome Iron Monger bash toy that rises from underneath the playfield, and one of my all time favorite features in a pinball machine: War Machine super kickback. A shot to the War Machine, immediately sends the ball SCREAMING back at the player. Legendary pinball designer Steve Ritchie has said before that great pinball should feel like a fight. It should be you trading blows with the machine. Fast and furious. Iron Man personifies this better than any pinball machine that I have ever played.
This brings up an even better and more controversial point: John Borg makes games that are more innovative, faster, and better flowing than Steve Ritchie does now. COME FIGHT ME. John Borg is Stern pinball’s best and most consistent designer of the modern era and it’s about time that he gets some damn credit for it!
Iron Man benefits from coding and rules by a duo of legends in Lonnie Ropp and Lyman Sheets. Top level coding talent is really what separated the Bally/Williams games from the games being made at Data East/Sega. Because even their good games didn’t have the coding polish of the BW games. The goal of Iron Man was to shorten ball times and simplify the rules. The game has fantastic risk/reward decisions like whether to play a multi-ball now, or to wait to stack it with another multi-ball or fast scoring mode first. The Jericho shot hurry-up is the epitome of pressure and excitement.
In conclusion, Iron Man is one of the best games that Stern has ever built. And I truly believe it has the best multi-ball gameplay ever with the add-a-balls coming from the war machine rocket. It’s ridiculously fast, hard, and exciting. We have even removed the post at the top of the orbit so that nothing slows the ball down now. It kicks even the best pinball player’s ass regularly. This game will make you better at other games because nothing else fights you this hard. The sound design is great and immersive, and at least the backglass is pretty cool although the playfield art is hideous like all Stern’s from this time. Thank god the low res photoshop era is behind us! Come get some.