Pinball Spotlight Series:
“COME TO WEDGEHEAD IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!” This is 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day released by Williams. This was designed by the king of flow, Steve Ritchie. Look at our previous Spotlight Series for Firepower, and Black Knight: Sword of Rage for more detail about this design legend. The game was licensed at the beginning of the golden era of modern pinball in the early 90s and was developed alongside the film to be released at the same time. This game was a SMASH hit and sold over 15k units. Many people point to 1992’s The Addam’s Family by Pat Lawlor as the beginning of the 90’s Bally/Williams Golden Era, but I think that it should be more respectfully be attributed to T2 instead.
T2 features a number of firsts in pinball. Most notably is the dynamic duo pairing of software coder Dwight Sullivan and Steve Ritchie. This was their first project together, but it led to many more collaborations in the future on games like: The Getaway – High Speed 2 and Star Trek – The Next Generation all the way up to modern Stern releases like Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Supposedly their collaborations are passionate and combustible, but they do seem to both do their best work together, even if they fight like cats and dogs through the process.
Another new feature, for better or for worse, was the addition of a video mode into T2. Now listen, I ain’t gonna lie. Video modes are typically just shitty video games shoved into the middle of pinball machines. And whilst this one isn’t horrible (like Theatre of Magic’s tragic “video pinball”) it did still pave the way for an unsettling trend that still rears its ugly head today from time to time. However, the rest of the game kicks major ass and absolves the sins of the video mode including the last major pinball first: the rotating cannon mech. T2 was the first implementation of what later became a Steve Ritchie design staple, and is still the game in which it is best implemented and utilized.
T2 also has sound design by the G.O.A.T. Chris Granner, and by this point in time, maybe I should just change the name of this from the Pinball Spotlight Series to the Chris Granner Spotlight Series, as the dude keeps popping up all over the place, as I have showered many gushing adorations upon his legacy already. Check out my Spotlights on Whitewater, Fishtales, Addam’s Family, Twilight Zone, and Funhouse for more effusive praise to the genius of his work. Nobody does it like Granner, and he works his magic yet again on Terminator. His original music for the game is dope and the combo ramps sounds are killer! Sound effects are Pavlovian, and Granner knows how to play the player like a violin. It’s not a coincidence that everybody’s favorite games had his name credited for sound.
But to wrap it up, Terminator 2 is a lot like the movie it was based on: fast and frenetic fun. It’s not super deep, they aren’t really any true modes yet, but the game is a fantastic banger. It flows great, and the ability to physically lock three balls on the playfield during multiball and then load the cannon for a pressure fueled shot at a triple jackpot is pinball bliss! And then, the SUPER JACKPOT!!! Kudos to Steve for making the ball scream around the playfield, and to Chris for composing those unforgettable earworms, and finally to Dwight for orchestrating the fantastic light and sound show and giving us those fantastic pinball moments that we all eagerly chase. This game is an all time favorite of mine and a brilliant showcase of an all-star development team at the peak of their powers.