Review by Retro

"Thanks again, Janus!"

Whether you wanted a new radio, a collection of shot glasses, a deck of playing cards, just chose to play for fun, or whatever, playing Skee-Ball has always been more fun and definitely more timeless of an experience than just about any other redemption (ticket-wielding) game ever made.

I guess you could say that Skee-Ball is a distant cousin of the game of bowling. It works like this: Depending on the machine you're playing on and whether it's working or not, you get the chance of testing your aim and rolling anywhere from zero to nine (maybe more in places?) wooden balls down a short alley of only a few feet, up a small ramp, and hopefully into a scoring ring. Years ago, there were usually five different scoring rings on each Skee-Ball machine. The scoring rings that would earn you either ten or twenty points were pretty big and hard to miss, whereas the ones for the thirty, forty, and fifty point slots weren't much bigger than the ball itself.

But like everything else in life that's good enough to remain the same yet increase in popularity with each coming day, Skee-Ball has evolutionized a bit. Now when you go to an arcade, carnival, etc., and find Skee-Ball ready to play, those five scoring opportunities are still there, but most of them also have a tiny and hard to ring one hundred point slot on each side.

One thing that won't ever be changed is how the game awards its skilled players. Again, depending on the machine, once you get a certain number of points on the electronic scoreboard (usually around 180 or less), the machine will begin to spit out a few tickets. Of course, the more you score after beginning your ticket-earning quest, the more and more tickets you'll rack up.

Your success at the still going strong game of Skee-Ball depends mostly on your aim and power. In a way, you could say it's kind of like shooting basketball. If you don't roll it hard enough or if you're off just a bit, you probably won't do so well. But if you're a sureshot (don't ask me if that a real word or made up southern slang) and your power is just right, you should be getting a few nothing but rings and a really high score, making it easier for you to get closer and closer to using your tickets for what you want.

I hope you're not expecting Skee-Ball to be like a video game, because it's not….entirely. It doesn't have any graphics to judge unless you want to look at the design of the fiberglass, wood, or the flashing lights that may remind you of an ambulance or police car. However, Skee-Ball machines do have some cool sounds. Even if you're keeping your eyes closed for a better challenge, you can tell how well or poorly you're doing because, based on how well you're doing, the machine will make a certain sound. For instance, if you ring the 40-point slot, the machine might beep four times (you know, 10 X 4 = 40), but if you score a zero, a horrible sound will play, which is the machine's nice way of saying that you suck. There are also different sounds and music that will play for when you begin earning tickets, when you score an unbelievably high score, and more. It's a cool way apart from tickets to reward and encourage players.

Skee-Ball's control depends entirely on the one who's rolling the little woodies. You could see someone score a fifty or a hundred on almost every roll on one machine, but then you might see somebody on another machine throwing a fastball at the rings and possibly having the ball bounce off the game's fiberglass and then landing right through a customer's newly replaced windshield on their Hummer. Just be certain to play on a machine that's a good distance away from the latter type and make sure that the Skee-Ball machine that you choose to play on isn't flashing a message such as ''Help'' or “Tilt” on its screen, because that would mean that it's not working and that it'd be selfish of giving you tickets.

One aspect of a video game that Skee-Ball does have is what we call the fun factor. In my opinion, there's not any redemption game that's more time enduring or that can be as addictively fun as Skee-Ball. If you haven't ever played it before, give it a shot, or a hundred shots. You'll be instantly hooked before you know it – especially when you have somebody you like competing against rolling away on the machine next to you. And if you don't want to take my word for it, just think about the fact that Skee-Ball was made in 1909 and that it's still rolling as fast as ever. Arcades are growing fewer in number every day. Most don't have pinball machines anymore, and you never know which arcade titles will be seen once you walk in. But one game is seen in 99% of all arcades. That game is Skee-Ball. Now how many games do you know of that are that old and still just as popular as ever?

Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/26/04

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