Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bally On Beam gameplay

There's a few gameplay videos on On Beam on Youtube, but there's no any real explanation on how On Beam is played.

I will try to explain how to play this semi-rare Bally game from 1969.

But first a bit of background information. On Beam was designed by Bob Jonesi, whose only other pinball contribution was on 1976 Atari The Atarians, on which he did the design, concept and mechanics according to ipdb.

The basic objective of On beam is to rendez-vous the space ship with the space station. It's a simple objective, in the same sens as climbing mount Everest is just reaching the summit of the mountain. The HOW TO is a whole other story.

So when On beam Starts, The Space Station appears on one of the 4 beams (A Pink, B Orange, C yellow or D teal). Also, the spaceship in on one of the 4 beams, not necessarily the same beam as the space station.

For the rendez-vous to happen, the spaceship has to be on the same beam as the space station. To switch the spaceship from one beam to the same beam as the station the player must hit either the correct (lit) mushroom bumper or the correct (lit) top rollover. However, if you hit any other A, B, C or D target that is not lit, it will send the spaceship to the respective beam.

There is a Beam-O-Meter on the playfield that indicates on which beam the ship and station is on.

The player may also try to take a chance and hit the captive ball saucer or the bottom inlane rollovers, to send the space station to another beam on a pseudo random base. Also, the bottom outlane rollovers change the space station beam on, also on a pseudo random base.

Once the spaceship is on the same beam as the space station, the player must hit various targets to advance the spaceship towards the space station

The slingshots, top rollovers, lit pop bumpers and centre targets advance the space ship. The spaceship advances from left to right, reaches the end and then advances from right to left. When the spaceship is on the same beam as the space station and in the same place. 3000 points are scored, the center target is lit and the station jumps to another beam.

Hitting the lit center target lites a star on the bottom left of the backglass and lites an insert between the flippers. When the insert between the flippers is lit, the ball, once in the outhole, is kicked back into play. One kick back per lit star on the backglass. Up to 5 stars can be lit.

On beam is a heart pumping, fast playing, vicious frustrating machine that unrelentlessly punishes the player for making the wrong move. It forces the player to have the utmost ball control skills and to constantly adapt his playing strategy. I think it's a brilliant game. It's one of the best Bally release of that era I would even go as far as calling a masterpiece. The electro-mechanicals are the closest thing I've seen to bingo machine complexity so far. And it has real 5 digit scoring! No dummy reels here. I strongly encourage pinball fans to try On Beam. It's not a game for everyone I concede, especially in an era where the standard is to reward the player for a task that gives the illusion of being difficult, but that's an whole other story.

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