An in-depth review of every (playable) pinball machine at Cleveland’s Superelectric Pinball Parlor

An in-depth review of every (playable) pinball machine at Cleveland’s Superelectric Pinball Parlor

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go with University Program Board (UPB) to the Superelectric Pinball Parlor, a pinball establishment in the Gordon Square Arts District. The Parlor was opened in 2016 and houses a collection of pinball machines put together by former Bowling Green State University students.

I will be honest, even after spending a good few hours at the parlor, I am still only 50% sure I understand how pinball works. Generally, there are various targets on an upwards tilted board that you try to hit the ball into and various other surfaces that will deflect the ball. At the bottom of the board are two flippers that can be used to push the ball up, or if not used correctly, will allow the ball to fall through. Normally each game is played with three balls. And depending on the machine, there is an elaborate light show with sound effects that go along with the game.

There were roughly three types of machines. There were the old school styles with a manual clicker that would cycle through from zero to nine. There were also those that had a dot matrix screen, and finally there were those with a liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen. While the first two were okay, the overreliance on machines with the LCD screens was distracting. These were mostly made up of scenes from famous movie franchises, such as The Avengers, Jaws or Jurassic Park. Logistically, these things made no sense to me; they were positioned so that one must either focus on the board or the screen. Also, as someone who is not an avid fan of any of those franchises, I was left confused by all the scenes shown on the screens and struggled to connect them to the game of pinball.



Cactus Canyon: 7/10

This machine had a vague train aesthetic, which was a lot of fun to play with. It was genuinely rewarding but very difficult due to its open board.


Star Wars: The Mandalorian: 6/10

Playing this machine was addictive. It was fun and hard to take my eyes off of but lacked substance and an awe factor. Part of the reason, in my view, was because when you would shoot a ball off, it would only go halfway up the board before being dropped down. This decreased the satisfaction from playing this game.


Jurassic Park: 4/10

While “Star Wars” was an enjoyable playing experience, this one was downright frustrating. Part of my problem with this machine was that you were unlikely to get any special trick shots, even if there were tracks all over—almost teasing at the player. As a result, it was incredibly boring.

Whirlwind: 9/10

This was by far the most enjoyable machine, even though I had zero clue what I was doing nor what was going on. This machine had several small rotating plates that would throw the ball off course, various places to aim and shoot the ball and even a small fan on top. In all, it was like those tacky 4D films you would get at an amusement park.


Dragon: 3/10

This one gets three points for being old, with rotating number clickers and a nice mechanical sound. Other than that, the machine was frankly boring and also hard to play, owing to the small paddles and lack of obstacles.


Demolition Man: 9.85/10

This machine was simply crazy and so much fun. Point inflation is definitely a thing in this game—on my first go, I got a cool 93 million points, with the high score being above a billion points. The game was remarkably accessible, the targets were reachable and the lights and sounds added to the fun. At times even a second ball would be deployed, stirring chaos and garnering enjoyment. Yet, the 0.15 point reduction came from there being these bizarre handles controlling the pins.

Jaws: 7/10 

This machine was very friendly, which is a bit odd considering there was a giant shark on top. It would literally give out second tries whenever I messed up. Play was quite fun, with the game being accessible and the targets approachable.


Stranger Things: 2/10

This was just boring. There was so much empty space; it was like watching an ant crawl across an empty pizza box.


Iron Maiden: 6/10

This machine is one where I wish I had understood what I was doing. The game itself was very engaging and entertaining, with plenty of tracks and targets to shoot at. Yet, it was centered around collecting some letter thing … and to be honest, it confused me a lot. Also, the cutscenes on the television were frankly long and unbearable at times, stopping the ball midgame.


Avengers: 5/10

This was another spelling game, which frankly confused me. I also found that when you hit the ball, it could take 30 seconds before it returned into view. In the back of the board, there is some kind of labyrinth where the ball was once stuck for 30 seconds.


Centaur: 4/10

It was just so boring. From what I could gather, there were four targets that looked like scrabble pieces, and nothing else. I had no reason to try and play the game: The tracks that run all over the board were inaccessible, and the lighting was not attractive.


Seawitch: 8/10

First, I should mention that this board is beautiful. The lighting and sounds were on point, and the board design was quaint while also being modern. In all, it reminds me of a more fun version of the Centaur game.

Bad Cats: 7/10

This game was average. It was fun, but I was a little confused as to what I was supposed to be doing.


Yukon: 10/10

This is the most perfect little pinball machine west of the Cuyahoga River. It was all mechanical, from the counter to the different parts that the ball would bounce off of. You could hear the machine tick its way up and down as the game commenced. My favorite part about this machine was the fact it was much slower. The ball would not be going at twice the speed of sound, so you could analyze your next attack. However, the consequence of this was having to make sure that every move you made was intentional.

Elvira and the Party Monsters: 4/10

I found the game to be interactive yet utterly confusing and frankly bizarre. Why in the world is there a massive spine on this board? We will never know.


All in all, traveling with UPB to the Superelectric Pinball Parlor was a really fun event. Getting the opportunity to hang out with friends in a new part of Cleveland that CWRU students often do not get to go to is an experience in and of itself. However, getting to play with the enormous variety of pinball machines is arguably an even better one, and it is a trip that I would recommend to any CWRU students looking to spend an afternoon away from campus.

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