California Extreme, the awkwardly-named yearly arcade/pinball show, comes to San Jose’s Parkside Hall again this weekend. I’ve been going for nearly a decade, and let me say (again) that this is the best thing ever. The world’s biggest 1980s-era arcade, filled with old favorites and many you’ve never heard of, all set on free play. (If the Flickr photos don’t get you drooling, then move along.)
Plus, the speakers they’ve lined up this year are great. Eugene Jarvis (creator of Defender, NARC, and Cruis’n USA) will be talking about the making of Robotron, Kevin Tiell will be showing his pinball’s-eye-view photography, and director Greg Maletic will be screening parts of his Future of Pinball documentary.
If you’re going, feel free to join the Upcoming event or leave a comment to let me know. I’ll be there all day tomorrow, so if you see me, say hi.
Update: The show gets better every year. My highlights, before I forget them:
- Panic Park. One of the funnest arcade games I’ve ever played. The goal of this Japanese two-player import is to shove your opponent around in a number of great minigames. The controls are like two big cushioned levers, which you throw your entire weight against to move your character around onscreen. Tilt your head sideways and watch this video to get the idea.
- Multi-Pac. This 24-in-1 Pac-Man hack created by Clay Cowgill is no longer available because of legal issues. With its crazy boot menu and hacked graphics, you feel naughty playing it. The one I tried appeared to be a different romset, as it had one Pac-Man variation called “Pacman Berzerk,” which used characters and animations from Berzerk Retro arcade mashup!
- Metal Slug X. I completed this remixed and upgraded version of Metal Slug 2, which took around 30 minutes. Exaggerated cartoon violence with a sense of humor and a ridiculous amount of on-screen action, it was very clearly a huge influence on Paul Robertson for Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.
- Bumper. Released in 1936, Bally’s “Bumper” was the first pinball game to use bumpers on the playfield. Funny enough, early pinball machines wouldn’t get flippers for another 11 years, until Gottlieb’s Humpty Dumpty in 1947. Until then, gameplay was limited to shooting the balls and watching them fall. If you want to see it for yourself, Bumper can be found at the Lucky Ju Ju pinball gallery in Alameda
- Warlords. I forgot how fun Warlords could be with four players at a cocktail (tabletop) cabinet.
- The Irritating Maze. Use a trackball to maneuver through a playing field with electrified walls. Touch the walls and a buzzer sounds, blasting a jet of air in your face. Irritating, but in a good way.
- Prop Cycle. By the time I beat the Story mode, I was sweating from pedaling the stationary bicycle, but the built-in fans kept me cool and added a little immersion. Despite some severe clipping problems and awkward controls, it still felt like I was flying a bike through the air.
- Older, underrated favorites: Quantum, Wacko, Puzz Loop