Manufacturer: Williams , Year: 1989
It’s Sunny Drive Time!
Earthshaker is another Pat Lawlor game (Addams, Whirlwind, Funhouse), so it follows much of the same “patterns” as his others. Do some stuff, lock some balls, hit the jackpot. But even that is far more complicated than the base strategy for points: Center Ramp. Over and over. And over. But more on that later. Let’s take a look at the playfield and rules a little.
SKILL SHOT: The skill shot is to get the ball plunged all the way around to the left ramp loop without going over (which feeds to the left flipper). On this machine, it’s pretty much a pull the plunger all the way back shot anyway. But it is very much worth it to pay attention to this skill shot, it can be 100K per plunge, and if you lock a couple of balls, you’re talking about 500,000 points. That’s significant!
In order to open up the Locks on this machine, you have to complete the different “zones”. These zones correspond to the numbered grid on the playfield. The zone numbers that are lit are shots on the playfield you have to make. Completing these zones will light lock, which can be the top scoop on the right side of the playfield (called the Shelter), or the right ramp (called the Fault). After you’ve locked a ball, and watched California float off into the sea, a new one will come out that you can plunge (for another 100K). The Earthquake Institute board will reset and show you some different zones to hit. Complete those, lock another ball, and the next plunge will start multiball.
During multiball, you have to hit the center ramp to activate the jackpot, and then the Fault to acquire said jackpot. This can be a good amount of points, the backglass shows what your jackpot is set at, and can be up to 2.5 millon for that one shot. After you’ve completed the jackpot, there are no more to be had until the next multiball. If you don’t get the jackpot and drain back down to one ball on the playfield, you can restart multiball with a timed shot to the shelter. This will start a two ball multiball and you’ll have to light your jackpot again.
The shelter is the right hole in the playfield, to the right of the ramp. This shot is similar to the Cellar on Whirlwind, but there’s no “panel” or “mirror” you’re trying to get all of the modes out of. Hitting this during normal play will give you a random award, be it points or Quick MB or miles or jets.
You can get a quick multiball through the Match-Up (Shelter), or by ripping the ramp until the captive ball on the right says 250K. To start Quick Multiball, you need to hit Zone 5 (the saucer on the left). The right Fault ramp will award a 1M jackpot.
The center ramp is also known as Scenic Drive. Earthshaker can get a little monotonous because this ramp, which feeds cleanly to the left flipper for another shot, is actually quite valuable. It first starts out at 25K, then goes 50K, 60K, … , 100K. After you’ve gone 100 miles (a mile or two is added for each ramp shot), that center shot sticks at a tasty 200K per shot!
PRACTICE AND STRATEGY
For me, this game really boils down to knowing, and knowing well, three shots on the playfield. That’s it. Three shots. Achieve Mark Brown OH status with only three shots.
1.) Left Flipper to Center Ramp.
The timing on this is a little earlier on the flipper than it seems, especially when it’s rolling. But the roll from the inlane to the flipper is pretty smooth, so you can just keep going at it. This is one of those “all day long” shots, every time you make it, it’s a good thing and just keeps getting better. It also can make the game incredibly boring to watch, and play, but when it’s about league points, there are no points given for fancy maneuvers. Hit that center ramp, let it feed to the left flipper. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Points galore.
2.) Upper Left Flipper to the Fault (Right Ramp)
This is the jackpot shot. However, it’s also a super awesome mega fun help you out shot too. When you hit this ramp during normal play, it will spot you the lowest number on your Earthshaker Institute grid! So in theory, you could never make an actual numbered shot and still progress toward your multiball. And, that’s the lock shot too. And, it’s the jackpot shot, and with 2.5M on the line, you want to be able to hit this shot repeatedly. Practice. Practice. Practice.
3.) Right Flipper to Zone 5
While not as fun as the previous two shots, Zone 5 will make your game come completely together. Being able to hit Zone 5 (the saucer) consistently is going to raise your scores tremendously. Details below.
With these three shots, we have something here that’s pretty unusual for a pinball machine: Completely controlled, safe shots with safe returns, that will yield you “All The Points”. So with that, my strategy is pretty simple. If I have the ball on the left flipper, I’m shooting for the center ramp. If I have the ball on the right flipper, I’m shooting for Zone 5, which feeds to the upper left flipper, which then feeds to the right ramp and awards me a zone shot.
I don’t actually “go after” zone shots. You’ll get the 9 from the feed from the center ramp, and you’ll get the 5 from the saucer when you’re feeding the ball up. Other than that, all of the zone shots I get are from the Fault or accidental.
These three shots will get you through 90% of where the points are in the game. The only other shot you can really make a case for is the Shelter, which is great for the Match Up random award, as well as restarting the multiball. But that’s superfluous really, make your jackpots and you won’t need to restart multiball.
When you’re playing this game just for fun, consider just going after those three shots, and ignore the institute numbers, ignore the points, ignore everything. When you have it on the left flipper, shoot the center ramp. When you have it on the right flipper, Zone 5 then Fault. Get those down solidly, and your scores will skyrocket.