TNB Night Owl – Challenger

Pinball games at the Flippermuseum, photo by Lina Wirag

Pinball machines are a constant mix of classicism and modernity. The basic design never changes: plunger meets ball, ball rolls onto playing area, various bumpers and targets are struck, and the player tries to keep the ball from rolling past the guardian flippers and out of play. The modifications create the modern aspect, and they are plentiful. There are spots designed to capture balls (later to release them for multi-ball play), steel tubes which carry the ball across the playing area, different levels for the ball, video games (either on the surface or the backboard) which can be triggered by certain combinations and a variety of other options. Sometimes those options were incorporated in dozens of subsequent machines; sometimes, like with the spinning disc in the center of the Fireball game, were only rarely seen again.

There’s one that stands above all others for odd innovation. That’s Challenger.

A Gottlieb machine from 1972 which used a lever mechanism underneath the playing surface, the game was designed to be played only by a pair of competitors. As each took their turn, the field would tilt upward to ensure the ball would roll toward them. The opposing player would use their flippers not to keep the ball in play but rather to send the silver sphere hurtling into the opponent’s goal.

Each would have three turns with the ball, and at the end of the sixth turn, the game was over, with the higher scorer declared the winner.

One other head-to-head pinball game was produced, Joust. It was released by Williams in 1983, and featured a dually-inclined field. As one player shot a ball over the top it would go into play for the opponent, and vice versa. It was interesting… but not nearly so innovative as the tilting board of Challenger.

Question of the night: Pinball, pool, darts, skee-ball… where there any non-video arcade or bar games that you particularly enjoyed?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.