Spy Hunter Pinball Machine – $2,700
In the wake of the industry crash of 1983, pinball manufacturers were faced with the challenge of creating a fun game on a tighter budget. With Spy Hunter, Bally succeeded.
What did they take out to meet the budgetary requirements? For starters, it has a single level playfield. Bloated split-level games like Elektra and Vector from a couple years earlier would have been fine if they had sold as well as Flash Gordon, but the multi-level playfield was a gimmick that was expensive to produce, and making games like that while selling only a few thousand units of each was unsustainable. Spy Hunter has an upper and lower playfield area, but all on the same plane with no ramps necessary.
Also absent is speech. At the time, speech was still an expensive special effect in the audio world, requiring extra hardware. Instead, Spy Hunter and other games from this time used the “Cheap Squeak” sound board, which produces some great sounds (the tilt sound from Black Pyramid is one of my favorites) at a lower cost. Spy Hunter uses the Cheap Squeak to play the “Peter Gunn” theme, like the video game it is based on.
Spy Hunter does not have multiball. Within a couple years, multiball would become the main goal of most games, but in 1984, no one raised eyebrows if a game did not have it. This saved a few bucks also.
Despite leaving all of those things out, this is a really fun game, and an unusual layout. This game answers the question, “What if we had no outlane on one side, and TWO outlanes on the other side?” The answer: you had better get that gate open on the skill shot, which eliminates one of the outlanes. Also, maybe avoid shooting the drop targets, which can send the ball into that troublesome left side area.
We had a Spy Hunter pinball at the arcade I worked at in the eighties, when it was nearly brand new, and I liked it then. I still like it now. This one is for sale only because I have a spare!