twiddle = T = twink

twilight zone n. //

[IRC] Notionally, the area of cyberspace where IRC operators live. An op is said to have a "connection to the twilight zone".

--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.

Twilight Zone is one of the last great pinball games. It is unquestionably one of the most complex pinball machines ever created, and arguably one of the best ever made.

Created in 1993 by Bally with the theme of the Twilight Zone television show, the game managed to squeeze references to most of the epsiodes on its playfield and bonus rounds. It used the song, Twilight Zone, by Golden Earring, as the background music.

Twilight Zone had many unique elements in its design. Among those were:

  • Hard magnetic stops near the top of the playfield (Nearly all magnetic stops used before and since are located over one of the return lanes).
  • Magnetic "flippers" on a small, elevated mini-playfield.
  • One lighter, ceramic ball (which is naturally not affected by the magnets), along with 6 standard steel balls. All of them going at once makes for one seriously hectic multiball.
This is my favorite pinball machine of all time, bar none, and I hope to someday own one. Unfortunately, due to its complexity, it is growing increasingly difficult to find one in good shape.

Twilight Zone

By Bally

Model No: 50020
Released: April 5, 1993

Designed By: Pat Lawlor
Art By: Joyn Youssi
Software By: Larry DeMar and Ted Estes
Sound By: Chris Granner
Music By: Chris Granner

Designed by one of Bally's most famous designers, Pat Lawlor, who has in his credits other highly popular games such as The Addams Family, Funhouse, Whirlwind, and Earthshaker, Twilight Zone is easily one of the most popular and collectable pinballs of all time. (Yes, it is officially known as Twilight Zone, not The Twilight Zone). It is based on the show of the same name, and really brings across the feel of dealing with another dimension.

One of the first things a player will notice when looking at the machine is the number of "toys" on the playfield - odd devices that are not just there to look at, but are fully functional and important to the game. There's a working gumball machine, that dispenses pinballs instead of gumballs. A clock with working hands, that times various modes. A little mini-playfield on the left side that uses magnets to manipulate the ball instead of flippers. And the unusual looking white pinball - made of a ceramic material, making it non-magnetic, lighter, and much faster and more difficult to control - called the powerball. Of course, all of this is housed in a "widebody" machine - a good few inches wider than most other pinballs.

A new feature that Twilight Zone introduced was the idea of a "buy-in" extra ball. When your last ball drains, the machine offers you the choice of buying an extra ball for one credit (unless the feature is disabled). You only get the one ball, but depending on what was lit and waiting on the playfield, it may be worth it. A high score achieved with a buy-in is compared against a list of scores specifically for buy-in games - you can't get on the regular high score list through a buy-in. When you buy in, you hear the "GREED" quote from The Addams Family.

There was also an incredible choice of people to do the voice for the machine. They fould a person could do the voice of Rod Serling dead on - you'll forget that it couldn't have been him, as he announces when starying a new game, "You unlock this door with the key of imagination." There are also, for the attentive listener, sound bites from a number of other pinballs tossed in here and there, from Funhouse, The Addams Family, Whirlwind, and Banzai Run for example. The game is as much a treat for your ears as it is for your eyes. The song Twilight Zone, by Golden Earring, is used as the theme song.

Twilight Zone benefits from an extremely well-designed playfield and rule set. There is a huge variety of shots, from simple ramp shots, to slightly tougher shots to the slot machine and player piano, to the highly difficult camera shot. This gives players of all skill levels the opportunity to enjoy the game, and the incredible ruleset makes sure every player has additional rewards to look forward to.

Twilight Zone has been called the best pinball ever by some sources, and even when it loses, it's usually second to The Addams Family. Probably the only reason it was less successful in machines sold to The Addams Family is that the toys gave it a greater cost, and they also made the machine more prone to breaking down. In fact, it's more common to find a machine that has a few parts that aren't working correctly, or at all, than to find one in perfect condition. Many collectors make some minor modifications on the game to extend the life of certain parts, and to protect others from breakage.

Someday, though I don't know when, I will own one of these machines myself. Yes, it is a lot of money (at the time I write this, $3,000 minimum for a good working one), but it'll be worth it.

Prototype Information:

All pinball machines go through many stages during development, as first the playfield is tested and adjusted, features are added, tested, and removed, and so on. There are a number of interesting details during the development of Twilight Zone.

Originally, plans were for the gumball machine theme to be used more in the game. Pat Lawlor wanted the balls in the machine to be of various colors, just like real gumballs. However, when they finally found the material to be used for the powerball, they found out it only came in two colors - blue and white. They obtained a ball of each color, and tossed then into another game that was finishing development (Whitewater). Upon tossing the blue one into the machine, the reaction was more or less one of "where did the ball go?" The blue was dark enough that the ball was extremely difficult to spot. Thus, that idea went out the window.

Another change involved some posts and rubbers near the bumpers. As any good designer does, Pat Lawlor decided to try something new - putting the pop bumpers low, close to the bottom of the playfield. It worked well, and they stayed in that position during early prototypes. Somewhere along the line, something changed, and suddenly balls would fly right out of the bumpers, and down the left outlane. Finally, after enough complaints from playtesters, Pat installed a few posts and rubbers to reduce this occurence. Everything was fine, until somewhere along the line of the actual production run of the game - another minor change somewhere, and now balls were flying out of the bumpers right down between the flippers. The posts were taken out of all the rest of the production machines - and left inside, for the operator to choose.

The Playfield:

The playfield for Twilight Zone is very varied and complex, so it can take a while to find all the targets and shots you'll need during a game.

There are actually two plunger lanes on the right. The outer one is manually controlled, and goes up to a gate a little less than halfway up the playfield. On the other side of the gate are three squares, red (at the bottom), orange (in the middle), and yellow (at the top), about an inch long each, then a kicker above it. This is used for the skill shot when launching a ball - shooting it into the kicker is a miss. The inner plunger lane is automatic, used for launching balls for multiball and such.

Around the upper left is a loop, the "spiral". One entrance is at the top center, the other on the upper middle right. There's a flipper at each end of the spiral. Immediately to the left of the left spiral entrance is a scoop, the slot machine. To the right of the center spiral entrance are two different ramps, then a little path that does a little u-turn at the top, with a kicker hole there (where balls are locked). Along the left side (but inside of the loop) are a few targets, the player piano kicker hole. There's also a little path from here down to the right middle flipper. On the wall above the player piano is the clock, which counts up/down time with it's working hands.

The left ramp leads either around, across the middle of the playfield, to the innermost left inlane, or can be diverted down to the automatic plunger lane (which has a little gate that can divert the ball onto the manual plunger). The right ramp leads across the top center, either catching the ball and dropping it right in front of the upper middle flipper, or letting it go through to the mini-playfield.

The upper left of the machine is home to the gumball machine. The middle left has two levels. The upper level is the mini-playfield, used for "Battle the Power". It's fed from the top left of the playfield, and has a hole at the top center, and bottom center. There are two spiral patterns with black centers at the bottom left and bottom right of the mini-playfield. These are "magna-flips" where the player uses the flipper button to activate magnets to pull the ball around, attemping to get it into the top hole.

Underneath the mini-plafield are a couple of targets to hit. Just under and behind the flipper in the top middle is the shot to hit the "camera". And further down, from the middle below is open space leading to the "dead end". Below the mini-playfield is a set of three pop bumpers.

At the bottom left, there's one outlane, and two inlanes. There's a post above the left outlane, right up against the left wall. The right side has one of each.

If you're looking for the rules, they are at Twilight Zone Ruleset because it is extremely large, and some may want to wait and explore the game for themselves (if they haven't played it yet).

Sources:
The Twilight Zone Quotes Sheet, http://www.thetzsite.com/pages/pinballquotes.html
GameRoom, A Peek at tbe Game Design Process, http://www.gameroommagazine.com/tzproto1.htm
Action Pinball & Amusement, http://www.aros.net/~rayj/action/tz3/tz.htm

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.