Hey, here’s another of those “how to play this game” overviews. As before, one of my goals for this series is to describe how and why playing competition games differs from playing normal games. This time it’s Jackbot, a game used in PAPA A qualifying and B finals in 2009. Jackbot is a game with multiple scoring strategies, with varying degrees of risk and reward.
Before you play: Ask other players how the game is playing! They’ll actually tell you! For Jackbot, critical information includes the feeds from the Game Saucer, the eyeball saucers, and the bumpers, the likelihood of a ramp shot rejection, and whether or not the eyeball saucers are holding shots cleanly. The Game Saucer return is of particular importance, since if its feed is difficult or drainy, it can significantly impact strategy. If possible, watch another player on the game. Specifically, find out if a ball saver is active or not, watch for tilt sensitivity, and get a sense for how the other player is €œmissing€� their shots. Does this player keep missing the Game Saucer, hitting the post on the left? Now that you know, you won’t… well, not as often anyway. Also, watch another player to determine the Visor settings: how many locks for the first multiball? the second? These settings can change strategy significantly.
Know the sucker shots: Each game has shots that are valuable but lead to drains. In arcade play, these are worth going for €” they’re fun, they score points, you can save the ball with a shake, and if you drain, you can earn an extra ball. In tournaments, sucker shots are death. Outlanes are wider. Tilts are tighter. Reaction time is faster. Extra balls are off. If you think the ball may drain from a successful shot, don’t shoot that unless it is absolutely critical to success. For Jackbot, this is the Visor. Do not shoot for the Visor willy-nilly. See comments below about how to shoot the Visor, but in general, the more you avoid the Visor, the better you will do in tournament Jackbot.
Getting started: One key when playing a game for the first time is to make a few shots, and ideally get to multiball. In multiball, the penalty for mistakes is the end of multiball, and not the end of the ball in play. One reasonable goal in Jackbot is to get to the regular multiball as quickly as possible. But… that means shooting the Visor, and didn’t I just say not to shoot for that? See below.
On center posts: Do not trust the center post on Jackbot!! Only on an absolutely dead-center drain will Jackbot’s center post save you. It is probably better to play as though the post is not there. Frequently, the ball caroms off the center post in an odd way, so be prepared to use a flipper immediately to save the ball off the post. Also, watch out, since PAPA games sometimes have their center posts removed, and others have their center post rubber removed, which is even worse.
The Visor: A critical play in Jackbot is instantly opening the Visor. Pinbot had the same feature: at the start of a new Visor, the rows and columns will strobe, and if your first shot to the Visor hits the right one, the whole Visor is cleared immediately. One shot to replace up to 25! That means this shot is the most important shot in the game, but can easily be screwed up by a bad bounce, especially out of the bumpers and into the wrong part of the Visor. So here is what to do:
- Plunge “softly”, trying to get the ball just past the edge of the shooter lane. You want to hit no bumpers, no switches, nothing.
- The ball should roll to the left flipper with the ball saver still on. Either trap it there, or let it bounce over and trap on the right. Do not flip and send the ball away. If you have to shoot something, aim for the ramp, since the ball is unlikely to bounce into the Visor targets.
- After trapping the ball, time your shot to hit the leftmost column when it lights up. The ideal shot is from the right flipper, not the left, but either is okay. If you’re going to miss this shot, miss to the left, since it won’t hit the Visor at all. That is why the leftmost column is the ideal target.
- Visor open! Hopefully.
In later phases of the game you may find the Visor open when you don’t want it to be, but the strobing is still happening. Don’t shoot for the row targets! Get the ball into the Game Saucer or up the ramp and the Visor will close. Do not shoot for the Visor willy-nilly or you will lose. If you find yourself with an empty Visor and a desire to shoot it anyway, stop and reconsider, but if you must, aim for the row targets. They carom frequently to get 2, 3, or more hits, and are less likely to send the ball screaming down the center or sides.
During multiball: Four shots score in multiball: under the left ramp (try backhanding! works great!), the two eyeball locks (known as Left Eye and T-Boz), and the Hit Me target on the right. Important is the “Super Jackbot” earned by locking a ball in both locks simultaneously. This awards the next three values in an increasing chain of points, so this is really worth going for. The easiest way to do this is to trap one ball on each flipper then “backhand” each of the locks. Backhand shots are less likely to be rejected by the locks, and the shots seem easier (to me) as backhands. Don’t forget about the Game Saucer, which relights all shots and holds the ball for a few seconds. This is a good way of earning more when the Hit Me target is the only thing lit.
After multiball: There are two strategies worth going for on Jackbot. Continued multiballs, and Casino Run. I recommend playing two multiballs before going toward Casino Run, since the second multiball is more valuable (and 3 balls instead of 2) and can still be earned by shooting the “complete visor” shot described above. If you miss a Visor shot you might consider abandoning the Visor and going for Casino Run.
Game Saucer / Cheating: Note that the left flipper controls the next game, so you can choose the game you want to play. Here are some comments on the games:
- Keno: The most valuable game, but watch out: this game will kill the “complete Visor” shot if you are in that phase. In general, save this until you’ve built up its value.
- Slot Machine: This game sometimes awards a 2-ball multiball, which may or may not be a good thing. Ignore the Hurry-Up if you get one.
- Dice, Poker: Not much to say about either of these. Both become more valuable in a very long game, but it’s unlikely to matter here.
- Cheating: I am told that in tournament play, every fourth cheat works, starting with the fourth. I don’t know if this is actually true. You can cheat by hitting the “Extra Ball” button during the animation for any game and for the end-of-ball bonus. The best time to cheat is during Keno (gives 99 million), or if you have three aces in Cards (4 aces = 149 million). Slot Machine cheat may give “Light Extra Ball”, which is 200 million. The worst time to cheat is during Poker if you don’t have three aces (generally awards 10 million more than what you would have gotten). Cheating dice may be effective with a very high value or a very low roll, but it is hard to beat Keno for the points.
In all games other than Slot Machine, a “Double or Nothing” offer appears. Shoot under the ramp to collect. Always take this offer unless you need exactly that number of points. On the first run through the games, collecting Double or Nothing (on a fairly generous timer) also relights the next Game Saucer! Since you would need the ramp shot anyway, why not take an easier shot plus a side of bonus points? If it is the last game, the Game Saucer will award the Double or Nothing and then start…
Casino Run: This is one of the greatest single-ball modes in all of pinball, and in tournament play there are a lot of decisions to make. First, use the Cheat button at every opportunity. In general, Casino Run will let you get away with one “bomb” by cheating it away (the normal cheat rules do not seem to apply here). A generally safe strategy is to “continue” until you hit your first bomb, then get out. If you pick up the “no bomb” option, you can generally survive two bombs before having to give up.
Another thing to keep in mind is that extra balls and specials may be awarded by Casino Run. An extra ball is worth 200 million, and a special is worth 500 million, and these will not be awarded if you bomb out. They are not reflected in the visible Casino Run total, but still count as points!
I am cautious about continuing in Casino Run in tournament, because all the points count. In qualifying, pushing an average score into the top 20-25% is more important than going for a runaway score. In finals, use your opponents’ scores to judge what you should do, but collecting puts more pressure on them to either get their own Casino Run or play a strong multiball.
Other advice: Try not to lose control of the ball, since slingshot -> outlane drains are common. The inlanes are narrower on Jackbot than on most games, so be especially careful. If the inlane posts have been removed, the best save is off the divider, off the side wall, and over to the inlane.
Nudging is not very significant on Jackbot except on slings. The higher you push the ball off the top of the slings, the less likely it is to get into danger. You want the sling to send the ball into Hit Me or into the drop targets. By the way, both those shots are pretty useless otherwise, and so is the ramp for anything other than relighting Game Saucer. “Cashier” mode is worth a good amount from the ramp, but it doesn’t happen that often.
The left flipper on Jackbot gets very little attention, because there is so little of value to shoot from it. If you have a ball trapped on the left flipper, consider using a post transfer to the right, then shoot either the ramp or Game Saucer. Do not shoot for the Visor willy-nilly!
Score targets: If you need this many points… try…
- Less than 200 million: go for Game Saucer unless Visor is already open for multiball. One or two well-chosen Game Saucers should do it, especially with double or nothing points.
- Less than a billion: if close to Casino Run, do that. If close to multiball it may be worth the risk to hit the Visor a few times. If not close to anything, Casino Run is a safer goal and makes a billion.
- 2 billion: if on the second Casino Run rounds, do that, since Game Saucer awards will be larger. Otherwise, you’ll need a very strong multiball.
- over 2 billion: relax, and play your normal strategy. Good multiballs are your target but the points are makeable.
At PAPA 12, 2 billion was good for 14th place overall in A Division qualifying, and no one in B Division finals scored over 1.1 billion. This suggests to play it safe — take the easy early multiballs, if there are any, and play Game Saucer for Casino Run. Casino Run only takes 9 shots to start, so if you go for it, it’s pretty likely to happen.
I hope this helps and let me know in comments what questions you have or what other games you’d like to see profiled.
– Bowen, long-ago PAPA champion