2017 Pinball of the Year: Total Nuclear Annihilation

TNA Pinball by Spooky

As terrible and frustrating 2016 was for the world of pinball machines, 2017 was a complete turnaround.

2017 pinball was an amazing year for great pinball.

What do we mean by “best pinball of 2017” anyhow?

This simply is the game we recommend to buy this year (if you can only buy one game).

To be fair…all three of the finalists this year are easy to recommend to most anyone. They are very fun pinball games with a lot to like.

The finalists are:

  • Aerosmith Pro by Stern Pinball
  • Dialed In! by Jersey Jack Pinball
  • Total Nuclear Annihilation by Spooky Pinball

Let’s review them one by one.

Aerosmith Pro

Aerosmith has a lot of similarities to KISS, but has a much better toy, is harder, has a color screen, and better rules. It still feels like something unique as KISS has licensed products for just about everything — even online slot machines.

Aerosmith as a game feels like a unique celebration of the 70’s as Dirty Donny gave the game a very Dazed & Confused feel.

We are going with Aerosmith Pro here instead of the souped up Premium version, as the extra upper playfield slows down the action on the more expensive version of the game.

We enjoy the Pro version just as much, if not more. And it costs a good deal less money to boot.

Aerosmith Pro is a pinball machine that checks off all of the boxes we are looking for:

It features some of the best artwork Stern has ever done by Dirty Donny. Aerosmith has fabulous lighting, exciting sound, great music (appreciating Aerosmith music helps), a nice layout, good speed and challenge, and an inventive toy in the Toybox that loads up to 6 pinballs.

This game stacks up with anything Stern has ever done, yet there are few areas where it could be better:

1. The software is fine but does not feature an extra layer of depth you will find in a pinball such as The Walking Dead.
2. The shots are a bit tight and the great looking metal ramps hold up better than plastic but are not as smooth to shot.

At around $5200 this is a lot of pinball.

Dialed In!

Jersey Jack pinball started off with two pinball machines loaded with exciting technology and innovations.

But they left out something important in both their Wizard of Oz and Hobbit pinball machines.

The fun.

Both games lacked interesting and fun shot design and left us cold (despite all of the cool features.)

Pat Lawlor has come to the rescue for Jersey Jack. Dialed In! has a super layout with nice ball speed, fun shots, 3 flippers, and great all-around flow and feel.

The layout feels very much like a modern take on a Whirlwind. That is a good thing as Whirlwind is all-time classic that still holds up decades later.

Speaking of old Pat Lawlor games — just like Road Show this game is a pinball machine with so many features it is almost overwhelming.

Dialed In! has some very cool tech packed in:

  • Revenge from Mars style holographic animated visuals.
  • Magnets that throw the ball around like nuts.
  • A camera that takes your picture when you get a high score or during special modes like the Selfie ModeA first for pinball.
  • A Bluetooth connected smartphone app (another first).
  • An animated realistic smartphone with video visuals that explain modes and keep the story moving.

This is a packed game technologically and obviously had a ton of work put in it by talented people.

Yet somehow the voice acting, theme and overall story arc do not resonate as much as one might hope. It is hard to explain or even understand, but this game is not greater than the sum of its parts.

The parts are pretty amazing — so this pinball machine still is something special.

This is easily the best Jersey Jack game ever…and by leaps and bounds. It is built like a tank, with great tech, deep game play, and with outstanding lighting.

You do pay for it however at the rate of about $8000 or so.

A game that is greater than the sum of its parts is…

Total Nuclear Annihilation

Total Nuclear Annihilation is almost the opposite of a Jersey Jack pinball game. The game does not even feature ramps. When was the last time a pinball machine was released without a single ramp? Decades?

That is a bold.

This is a purposely retro game designed by Scott Danesi, a young pinball genius.

Scott came up with the idea of locking balls inside of inline drop targets — something no other designer ever has done. This seems like such an obvious idea now that Scott came up with it and works amazingly well.

Scott and the Spooky Pinball team also gave us a few other firsts:

  • A mode for players to play with each other instead of in competition.
  • A sound system with thumping music so astounding it feels like something new. The deep bass rocking this game is like nothing ever experienced in a pinball machine.
  • A game built to be old-fashioned yet still featuring new technologies such as LED lighting and a video display screen.
  • A countdown timer on your ball save.

Total Nuclear Annihilation also features a fun and unique playfield layout with two satisfying orbit shots (one with a spinner). There is an upper playfield section with a mini flipper. This is not a unique concept but done in a more fun way than typical.

The game is simple but compelling and (like the other games we have discussed) looks amazing.

The lighting, music, sound, and frenzied game play provide a rush that is intoxicating. I cannot stop playing this machine.

TNA provides everything we look for in a new pinball machine. Challenge, fun, atmosphere, and a feeling of playing something very new.

While Aerosmith Pro and Dialed In! are both very good pinball machines — Total Nuclear Annihilation is a great pinball machine.

TNA feels like something completely new and unique. It is unlike anything else we have ever seen.

For that reason Total Nuclear Annihilation is the Gameroom Blog Game of the Year for 2017.

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