Pinball Tactics: Flippers
Proper flipper technique can save a ball from the outlanes, hit high scoring drop targets and find other hidden features, such as multiball play.
While video games may have replaced pinball in the hearts of modern gamers, there are still plenty of pinball enthusiasts who enjoy the physicality and visceral thrills of flipping a steel ball around a table loaded with bumpers and bells. Modern pinball machines may have added video elements and more intricate ramps and targets, but the basics of good flipper management remain the same, no matter what game you play. Here are some tips on how to use your flippers to their full advantage when playing a round or two of pinball. (These also work with the computerized video pinball programs as well, since the flipper action is so similar to the classic version.)
1. Use your flippers defensively. Beginning players often make the mistake of considering flippers to be offensive weapons only, intended to keep the ball up in the playing field. Advanced players realize that the flippers can also be your last great defense when a ball is headed for certain disaster. Depending on the model and design, there is usually a large space between the flippers that serves as a ball stealer. Occasionally, the designer will add a small rubber post in that space that may allow the ball to rebound towards a flipper, or an electronic kickback device may propel the ball back up to the field. Despite these aids, you never want to give up a ball without a fight. When you see a ball heading for the undefended area, put both flippers in the 'up' position and wait for the ball. If it is leaning towards one flipper or another, you should have enough time to lower that flipper and send the ball back up. You might also get fortunate enough to trap the ball in the elbow of a flipper, provided the arms are up. Waiting until the ball actually reaches the 'resting' flippers may be too late, so keep your fingers close to the flipper buttons at all times.
2. Flippers are also offensive. This is the aspect of flipper control that every player learns the very first time they play the game. But modern machines have added features that can only be activated by aggressive and accurate offensive flipper action. Good players develop a feel for a flipper's 'sweet spots'- those areas on a flipper that will cause a ball to hit a certain ramp or drop target. Beginners tend to be more reactionary when using flippers, waiting for the ball to finish its trip around the table before finally flipping the ball at the last possible moment. Advanced players will often trap the ball with a well-timed flip while holding the arm in the up position. This gives the player more time to choose the area of the playing field that will give them maximum points. Many modern games offer valuable targets that can only be hit during a fixed amount of time. By aggressively trapping and then flipping the ball offensively, a good player can activate many hidden point opportunities.
3. Other tricks and techniques. Sometimes a player may need to use a specific flipper to hit a certain target. Practice trapping a ball in one flipper and then send it over to the other flipper for the shot. This technique may prove useful when the ramp or drop target is simply out of the range of one flipper. Designers deliberately create targets that require extremely well-timed shots in order to hit them. If you see a ramp that will enable a multiball situation, chances are it will be placed where you must wait until the very last second to flip the ball off the arm.
Practice sending the ball off the ends of the flippers, which should put the ball up the ramps or into the 'secret' lane. During a multiball situation, your focus should be on aggressive flipper action. With so many pinballs striking the targets at the same time, the points should take of themselves. You want to keep your flipper area free and clear for the one shot you need to hit for the maximum points while in multiball. Once you lose all but one ball, those points can be a memory. Most of all, never give up on a ball until it is clearly out of play. You'd be surprised what a little desperate flipper action can do to save a ball from the outlanes.