A symphony of quarters clanging, low-fi beeps, upbeat digital sounds and faintly distorted classic rock provides the ambiance for the Pinball Hall of Fame.
Suggestive marquee art shows women in retro-futurist outfits that seem to be pulled straight out of a version of “Lost in Space” that was confined to the back of the video store.
Cartoons, both generic and familiar, make you feel just a bit too comfortable with parting with your money, while rock stars and TV characters from yesteryear beckon — and sometimes even mock you – in an attempt to nab a few more bucks.
“It’s a one of a kind attraction,” said Tim Arnold, the Michigan native who can often be seen digging into circuit boards and wires while fixing a machine.
The Pinball Hall of Fame looks like a plain warehouse with white walls and concrete floors. You hardly notice this, though, as your attention is immediately drawn to the noise and color of aisles upon aisles of amusement machines.
“Nobody else has this many machines and nobody else has the technical knowledge [to maintain them],” he said.
“The idea was simple: You put pinball machines in a big building then people come to play them.”
It’s hard not to part with your quarters at the largest collection of pinball machines in the world. Patrons have more than 200 pinball and arcade machines to choose from, ranging from simpler 1940s games to extravagant interactive tables based on “Avatar,” “Iron Man” and other recent films.
Yes, pinball machines are still being made.
The newer machines tend to have more gimmicks and (literal) bells and whistles: It’s surprisingly cool when you hear Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise say “All hands, prepare for multiball” or to play out the plot of “Terminator 2” with naught but a steel sphere.
Then there are original tables like the sci-fi themed and cheesecake-art-laden “Centigrade 37,” white-hat cowboy and Western trope-heavy “Lawman,” and the far-too-literal “Pinball,” each weave their own narrative in your imagination, without relying on voiceovers, brief video clips and glued-on action figures to do so.
These older machines don’t retell part of someone else’s story — they get the ball rolling and let you tell your own. It’s a throwback to an era when you used your imagination to fill in the blanks.
It’s important to appreciate these unique machines. As Tim Arnold insists, the Pinball Hall of Fame is about preserving history just as much as it is about having fun.
With no admission cost, just the cost of however many games you play, it’s a bargain. Best of all: Your quarters will go to a good cause. The Hall of Fame donates mostly to the Salvation Army, in addition to other non-denominational charities in the Las Vegas Valley.
“It’s unique, affordable entertainment and it helps the community. That’s a slam dunk, if you ask me.”
-- Review by Jorge Labrador