GENCO'S "7-UP" - AND THE CHALLENGE OF PLAYING "PRE-FLIPPER" PINBALL
By Russ Jensen
This is the seventh in my series of articles describing, in chronological order, the pingames in my personal collection. This time I will describe one of the more interesting early pingames which I own, Genco's "7-UP", and also talk briefly about the fun and challenge of playing such "pre-flipper" games, using the features of this game as an example of such machines. Before describing 7-UP, however, I will digress for a few moments and describe how and why I acquired this particular game.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old (in the late 40's) I was given two pingames by a local coin machine operator. These were Bally's VARIETY and VOGUE, both of 1939. My VARIETY had a crack in the backglass (in fact it was in two pieces) which made it less desirable than VOGUE. Well, it seems that another kid had also gotten a game from this same operator, but unfortunately he could not get his machine to work, having little or no knowledge of electrical circuitry as I fortunately had. As a result of this we made a trade.
I traded my VARIETY, which I had gotten to work, with the cracked backglass for his non-working game, which turned to be Genco's 7-UP from 1941. I was soon able to get it working and discovered it was a very challenging game and fun to play. I had VOGUE and 7-UP for several years and finally sold them to an ex-neighbor.
Now, over ten years ago I was talking on the phone to fellow pinball collector Rich Grant from St. Louis. Rich told me he had just acquired a Genco 7-UP and I told him it was one of the games I owned as a kid and that I would like to have one again someday. Well, when I went to Pinball Expo '85 I discovered that Rich had hauled his 7-UP from St. Louis, along with the other machines he had for sale, primarily I believe to show it to me and to offer to sell it to me. Seeing that machine after so many years brought back memories of the many hours I had spent as a kid trying to "beat" that challenging game.
We ended up making a deal for me to purchase it and Rich eventually shipped it to me upon his return to St. Louis. I again owned Genco's 7-UP.
SEVEN-UP, like most of the pingames of 1941, had several ways of winning replays. This use of alternate methods of replay scoring was a major factor in making these late pre-war games so challenging.
The first method, of course, is "high score." In connection with this I should first explain the game's scoring characteristics. The basic scores are indicated in units of 1000, ranging up to 77,000. Scores of 1000 can be obtained in several ways. All bumpers (except for the two "Super Bumpers", whose operation will be explained shortly) score 1000 if they are "permanently lit". I say "permanently lit" because some of the bumpers, connected with the "ABCD" and "Diamond" features, are sometimes "temporarily lit". This distinction will be explained later.
All unlit (or "temporarily lit") bumpers cause small lighted numbers, which are arranged in a circle on the backglass, to change. There are 12 of these numbers in the circle, each between 1 and 5, the sequence of numbers being: "1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,5." The next hit of a bumper, after the "5" is lit, causes 1000 points to be scored. The significance of these numbers is related to the "Super Bumper" scoring, which I shall now describe.
The game has two white bumpers, one at the top of the playfield and the other near the bottom, which are each labeled "SUPER BUMPER". These bumpers provide the "multiple scoring" feature which was mentioned earlier. Whenever any of these bumpers are hit (when they are not lit) they score from 1000 to 5000 points, depending on the lighted number (1 thru 5) in the circle on the backglass which was just described. If these "Super Bumpers" are lit (how they are lighted will be described shortly) they score 1 to 5 replays, again depending on the value of the lighted number. This is the second way to score replays on 7-UP.
In order to score replays with the "Super Bumpers" (other than by high score) they must first be lit. This is done in connection with what I shall call the "A-B-C-D Feature". On the playfield there are four rollover channels labeled "A", "B", "C", and "D" respectively. The corresponding letters are also indicated by lighted 'panels' on the backglass. Beside each "A" and "D" rollover is a red bumper, and on each side of each "B" and "C" rollover are two green bumpers. Whenever the ball in play hits any of these bumpers (or other unlit bumpers) the lights in them cycle "on" and "off", first one set and then the other. This, by the way, is what I meant by the "temporarily lit" bumpers mentioned earlier.
If a ball goes through one of the rollovers, when the adjacent bumper(s) are lit, the corresponding letter lights on the backglass. In the case of "B" and "C" only, when those letters are lit their corresponding green bumpers become "permanently lit" and score 1000 points from then on. The lighting of all four letters (A,B,C,D) causes the two "Super Bumpers" to light and score replays instead of points.
The third way to score replays on 7-UP is by lighting a "number sequence". Placed diagonally across the playfield are seven yellow bumpers labeled "1" thru "7" (that is probably where the name 7-UP came from). There are two additional numbered yellow bumpers, "8" near the bottom of the playfield, and "9" near the top. There are nine corresponding numbers on the backglass.
In order to light these numbers the player must hit these yellow bumpers "in sequence", this is, "1" first, "2" next, etc. As each number is lit, the corresponding yellow bumper lights and henceforth scores 1000 points, until all seven bumpers are lit. When the "7" bumper is lit one replay is scored. After that, hitting any of the lit yellow bumpers scores a replay (rather than 1000 points). If, after lighting the numbers 1 thru 7, bumper #8 is hit five additional replays are scored. Then hitting bumper #9 lights it, scoring an additional five replays. Lighting 1 thru 7 "in sequence" is quite difficult, but then hitting "8" and "9" is almost impossible!
The final way to win replays on 7-UP is the "Diamond Feature". This is sort of a 'jackpot' feature and works in the following manner: There are two rollover channels on the playfield (one near the top and the other near the bottom) labeled with a diamond. Next to the entrance of each of these channels is a red bumper which is alternately lit and unlit in the same manner as the other "temporarily lit" bumpers described above in connection with the "A-B-C-D" feature. At the top of the backglass are eight "half diamond" symbols, seven of which have numbers which show if that diamond is lit.
If a player gets a ball to go through one of these rollover channels, when the corresponding red bumper is lit, the first diamond on the backglass lights indicating number '1'. Additional rollover scoring causes additional diamonds to be lit on the glass ('2', '3', etc.). When a predetermined number of diamonds have been lit (the number required being preset by the operator) a replay "bonus" is scored.
The way this "bonus" is scored is somewhat novel. What happens is that the game's replay counter is automatically advanced to a preset level (either 20, 40, 60, or 75, as preset by the operator). If, however, the player already has that many replays to his credit, nothing happens! I guess the game's designer felt that you had already "beaten the machine", so why take the operator for any more.
This concludes the discussion of the many features of this very challenging and technically sophisticated pingame. This game is typical of the interesting pinballs manufactured just prior to World War II temporarily halting production of all new amusement devices "for the duration."
"PRE-FLIPPER" PLAY APPEAL
Most flipper pinball players seem to believe that playing a pingame without flippers would be extremely dull and unchallenging. This, I believe, is primarily due to the fact that they have never played one. The fact is the lack of flippers makes the game more challenging because it is harder to "beat". There is still a great deal of skill involved in playing a pre-flipper game, maybe even more since the player does not have flippers to aid him in his conquest of the machine.
The two main areas of skill required to play (and "beat") one of these games are plunger shots and "gunching". These skills are also used in playing flipper pinball, but are relied upon to a lesser degree with emphasis being put on flipper action. Another form of "skill", although not manual, is the "mental skill" in deciding which of the game's replay scoring features to concentrate on to try to win replays. I will attempt to give a little personal insight into the uses of these three factors in playing a pre-flipper pingame, using 7-UP and its play features as a typical example.
In playing the game the first action to be taken is of course the initial plunger shot. Before shooting the first ball you would probably want to decide which of the game's replay scoring features to go for. Probably the "1 thru 7" feature would be chosen since that is the "theme feature" of the game.
If that was your choice you would try to "aim" your first ball at the #1 yellow bumper at the upper left of the playfield. If the number on the backglass indicating the value of the "Super Bumpers" was at a high value, say 4 or 5, (incidentally, it does not get reset at the start of a game) you may try to hit the top "Super Bumper" first, scoring some extra points, and then try to get the ball to bounce off it and hit #1. After lighting '1' you would try, by a little "gunching", to hit additional numbers of the sequence (2,3,etc.), since with only five balls you must light more than one number per ball whenever possible to succeed in lighting at least seven numbers.
Now, during the play of the first ball you may have succeeded in other things, besides lighting one or more numbers. You may have lighted the "C" and/or "D" letters, or you may have gotten some good score by hitting both "Super Bumpers" for multiple points. In any case, what you accomplished on the first ball will usually determine your strategy on the next shot.
If you did well on your original plan of lighting 1 thru 7 you would probably continue with that strategy. If you did not you might decide to try for a different goal, maybe lighting all the letters (if say, you lit both 'C' and 'D' on your first shot), or going for "high score" if you did well with the "Super Bumpers". This, I believe, is where a lot of the "mental skill" comes in, making a decision to either continue with your original course of action or "switch horses" for a "better plan".
This "strategy switch" may also be unwise. It may be better in the long run to choose a goal and stick to it even though your first shot failed, as far as your original goal was concerned. I sometimes believe that one reason the designers of these games used several methods of scoring replays was so that a player would often be tempted to switch from his original goal and thus possibly decrease his chances of "beating the machine". This would help satisfy two of the major design objectives of any game, namely: 1) to provide challenge and interest to the player, and 2) to decrease the chances that the machine will be "beaten" easily, which could reduce the operator's profit. The decision to change, or not to change, his strategy during the course of the game is up to the player and this "mental skill", I believe, is of utmost importance in beating any of these games.
As I said earlier, "gunching" (nudging the cabinet with the palms of the hands to influence the path of the ball) is of utmost importance in playing pre-flipper pinball. Without flippers the player must make each ball hit as many "targets" (bumpers, rollovers, etc.) as possible. This is, of course, where gunching comes in.
Part of the skill in gunching comes from hitting the machine hard enough to influence the ball, without 'tilting' the machine. The player must first get the "feel" of the tilt setting of a particular machine by trial and error. The freshness of the rubber on a game is of course a big factor in the effectiveness of gunching. If a game has "good rubber" it is amazing how far a ball can sometimes be deflected by a slight push of the cabinet. Needless to say, if you don't have flippers to cause the ball to be redirected up the playfield to strike additional "targets", you must rely heavily on gunching (a real 'art', I might add) to make the most effective use of each ball.
I think the above discussion should give anyone who has never played a "pre-flipper" pingame (especially one of the 1940/1941 vintage) some insight into the fun and challenge of playing one of these fascinating games. It should also illustrate the various "skills" (both manual and mental) required to play, and "beat", one of these games. So, if you flipper players have never tried a "pre-flipper", find someone who has one and "try it; you may like it!"
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