News broke at the Southern Fried Gameroom Expo on Sunday that a company called Circus Maximus Games will be producing a version of Python Anghelo’s prototype masterpiece Pinball Circus. Southern Fried’s Twitter feed broke the story giving just a few details: Circus Maximus is building two whitewood test tables, twelve prototype models, followed by a regular run of games with a production number yet to be determined. They also provided the picture to left of one of the Pinball Circus playfields, which is signed by the pinball vampire himself.
You had the feeling some sort of Python Anghelo project was on the horizon. From his final interview with Spooky Pinball, his last show appearance at the Louisville Arcade Expo and the final video released to his fans on Kickstarter and Pinside, you could tell something was bubbling just beneath the surface that Mr. Anghelo was excited to talk about. There was lots of speculation that he spent the final months before his death doing what he loved: designing pinball machines. This is probably one of the fruits of his final hours labour. How fitting that Mr. Anghelo’s legacy will be carried on by producing his controversial Williams design, a design that turned out to be his last for the company.
I had the pleasure of playing this rare game at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. The production run of the game sits at just two prototype units. The Hall of Fame machine was donated to operator Tim Arnold by longtime Williams honcho Steve Kordek, and each play on the machine will run you one dollar. Much has been said about its unique four level vertical design, and most of it has to do with its novelty and rarity. There is not much to the gameplay–it is very simple and quite repetitive. The game sits inside of a modified upright arcade cabinet, and a DMD is located in the play area itself, a la Cirqus Voltaire. Gameplay focuses on progressing through the three rings of a circus represented by three different playfields. The fourth, and last, playfield represents a final battle with a circus clown. The game has odd flipper configurations throughout: the main playfield has off-set pair of primary flippers, while the third has only one right flipper with a kicker in place of left. After three or four games on the Pinball Circus, I had done all that there was to do in the game.
The main tagline associated with Pinball Circus from those who have played it is: “You’ve gotta play it, at least once.” The translation being: there ain’t that much to it, but it is unique enough to hold your attention for a game or two. Nate Shivers, Coast 2 Coast Pinball host and Southern Fried attendee, stated on Facebook that the Circus Maximus folks would be introduing features that Python Anghelo originally planned to have in the game. We can only hope that these changes will make the game a little more deep than the original prototype. Otherwise, Circus Maximus is going to have a hard time finding average customers who are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a one trick pony with so many other viable options in the market today. Nostalgia for Mr. Angelo alone will not sell the game, unfortunately. There will be some collectors who will buy this game in a heartbeat on reputation alone, but folks tight on money and space will probably have a hard time justifying the purchase.
As of press time I couldn’t find any information about Circus Maximus games or who they have on board as “talent”. Hopefully more details will roll out from the attending parties at the Expo once the excitement dies down. Wonder if this means a Zingy Bingy is on the horizon, too?