California Extreme 2006

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


    Andy, I just have to add, that while California Extreme is a ton of fun, it would be best to rub a little vicks under your nose. The nerds who show up at this show have never heard of bathing, or deodorant.

    Aside from the stench of unbathed game-nerds, California Extreme is a must for anyone interested in the golden age of the coin-op. I wish I still lived in San Jose, cause I would definately be going again.

    Ohh… I shudder in joy at the thought of Warlords – especially in cocktail table form. Man, would that make an excellent living room coffee table! (Albeit, probably an exceedingly expensive one.)

    Warlords was the game on Atari 2600 that I made all my friends and family sick of playing, because I just had to rope together 4 people to get a good match.

    Looks like my wife and I will be touching down in the Bay Area next week – but I wish everything had gone a week earlier so we could’ve made it to this. Is this somewhat annual?

    Yeah, California Extreme just rocks! I was there in 2006 and will of course visit this event this year again. It was just a pleasure to play all these retro-games. Let’s see what they will present this year.

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