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Pinball and vintage television series have found substantial overlap over the years. Not only have pinball machines made prominent appearances in these shows, but the pinball industry has “returned the favor” by creating machines based on them, introducing audiences who would otherwise be unaware of the shows in question. This was exactly my experience when Stern Pinball announced The Munsters as their first release of 2019. I had vaguely heard about the show in passing and, at a surface level, felt it was a “ripoff” of The Addams Family… but despite both shows having a vaguely similar premise, The Munsters made humanizing its titular family the priority, the show emphasizing this family of monsters living in a world full of people unlike them.
As a pinball machine, The Munsters is an interesting beast – comparable to a hybrid of the simplicity of early 90s Williams releases combined with the underlying complexity of very recent Stern releases, a tad like Black Knight: Sword of Rage which released immediately after this machine. I might not be the biggest fan of this machine, especially considering its short ball times, but I feel that The Munsters is a very important machine to practice, offering many ways to approach it but just as many quick ways to drain.
Take part in the hijinks and escapades of a monstrous family that lives on 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
About The Munsters Pinball
- Kineticist Game Page
- Manufacturer: Stern Pinball
- Year: 2019
- Design: John Borg
- Code: Dwight Sullivan, Waison Cheng, Rick Naegele
- Mechanics: Elliot Eismin
- Art: Christopher Franchi
- Animation: Zac Stark
- Music / Sound: Jerry Thompson
The Munsters Playfield Overview
The Munsters’ playfield primarily emphasizes shots on the top half of the playfield and targets on the bottom half. Two important shots on the lower half of the playfield are the DRAGULA target and the lane directly above it – completing DRAGULA will light the lane for 5x Dragula for a limited time, and shooting the lane itself will award small points and boost one of the game’s modes. The target on the right half of the game is dedicated to Lily and will start her mode when completed. Both targets can generally be completed at any time, even during multiball modes.
Also on the left half of the table are the left side of the game’s orbit shot, the left ramp, and the Herman bash toy, which reacts when hit with the ball and has a magnet in front of it that holds or releases the ball at certain times. Under the left ramp lies Spot, the family’s dragon pet, represented by a target that can be deadly to shoot. Try backhanding Spot when available to make recovery from the target easier.
The middle of the playfield is occupied by the unassuming but lucrative Kitty target and the scoop. The Kitty target lights after starting any mode and allows the player to increase their playfield multiplier up to 6x for a timed period, while the scoop is used to start Grandpa’s modes and is lit by collecting enough chattering teeth at the purple targets that surround both ramps.
On the right half of the playfield is the right ramp, which makes a U-turn and feeds the right flipper and the other side of the game’s orbit shot. In the back are the bumpers and the top lanes, which are used for skill shots at the start of each ball and can be diverted after collecting enough lit Marilyn shots at the right ramp.
The action button on The Munsters is very important, as is expected for a game coded by Dwight Sullivan. After hitting any purple target, the “zap” button will briefly flash blue to increase the zap meter, with zap jackpots available at lit mode or multiball shots after fully charging it up. If super jackpot is lit at the Dragula lane and the ball falls in there, holding the action button will cancel out the super jackpot so that more can be qualified before scoring it.
Scoring on The Munsters is lower than average for its era, roughly comparable to the low scoring on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but similarly including several major scoring opportunities. Great players can expect to break 30M, but the very best might be able to exceed 100M.
Abridged Munsters Tutorial
There are five different areas to complete: Herman, Raven, Lily, Spot, and Grandpa.
- Shoot Herman to start a hurry-up mode – lock the ball there, and then shoot it with another ball to start Herman Multiball.
- After starting any mode or collecting the lit Kitty target, the left ramp lights to advance Raven. Collect three advances at the left ramp for the lucrative Raven Multiball.
- Complete LILY at her target on the right side of the playfield for a frenzy mode.
- Spell SPOT by alternating shots to the left and right ramps to begin Spot’s mode. Shoot Spot under the left ramp or combo into him for higher values.
- Collect chattering teeth at the purple targets to enable the zap button, light Grandpa’s mode at the scoop, and award other goodies, including lighting the extra ball.
- Play all five modes to start Munster Madness – make shots to Herman, the left ramp, and the Lily target to light a massive hurry-up at the scoop. Afterward, the modes will get tougher but more valuable for the second go-round!
There are many different super jackpots to light at the Dragula lane – some for making enough progress in the above modes and others awarded from the side features described below. Stack multiple super jackpots for bigger points! Hold the action button during the super jackpot animation to cancel it out.
Shoot the Dragula lane for random awards, including boosting some of the modes. If the DRAGULA target is completed before shooting the lane, the next lane shot will score 5x but must be collected quickly.
After starting any mode, shoot the blue Kitty target near the bumpers to light Raven advances and increase the playfield multiplier. The maximum playfield multiplier available is 6x and can be obtained by shooting the lit Kitty target three times while playfield X is running.
After hitting any purple target, press the zap button to advance the zap meter. Once full, zap jackpots will be scored at all mode and multiball shots alongside their normal jackpots.
The Munsters Skill Shots
Getting control on The Munsters is more important than on most other games of its era due to the lack of a ball save on tournament copies of the game – not to mention none can be added through skill shots. Regardless, various skill shots are available – a standard one by plunging into the right of the two top lanes, by short plunging and shooting the left ramp, or a super skill shot by holding the left flipper and shooting the right ramp.
The biggest priority in the early game should be getting control of the ball to shoot Herman, so in the long run, it might be best to always short plunge to the right flipper and go for Herman at the start of a game, then go for skill shots later in the game when Herman Multiball can’t be started until all five modes are played.
There are five different “areas” of 1313 Mockingbird Lane that correspond to different members of the family and different modes, all of which must be started to access Munster Madness. Starting modes allows you to shoot the left ramp for Raven advances and lights the Kitty target for playfield X, and super jackpots can also be lit at the Dragula lane by making enough shots during each mode.
For the sake of this guide, I am going to list the modes in the order I play them, explain scoring for them, and then explain my strategy for playing them out for a high score.
Spot is notorious for his positioning on the playfield and causing many shots, regardless of strength, to drain right between the flippers. His mode is started by alternating the left and right ramps; during the mode, keep shooting Spot to score increasing points, and shoot him four times to light super jackpot.
Because Spot can be deadly on some examples of The Munsters, your best bet during his mode is, unfortunately, to start it first and then time it out. However, the time will temporarily stop if the game notices the ball is being held on a flipper. A good way to prevent this is by repeatedly shooting an easy shot to recover from – the right ramp is a particularly great shot in this scenario.
After timing out the mode - or, more likely, draining - the player’s next priority should be playing the rest of the modes out, starting with:
Shooting Herman’s target twice starts the first Herman hurry-up – after making the second shot, quickly shoot him again to lock the ball and award the hurry-up. The ball can then be released to score a multiplied hurry-up value and start Herman Multiball, where all shots score jackpots increased (and relit) by repeatedly shooting Herman. Scoring four jackpots lights super jackpot.
Herman is my priority in the early phases of the game, offering a quick multiball after only three shots to his target. After making a skill shot (if necessary), I will immediately focus on trapping the ball on the right flipper and shooting for Herman while looking out for the magnet in front of him. During the multiball, however, I typically won’t focus on shooting for jackpots, instead focusing on…
Shooting Lily’s target four times within at least 15 seconds between hits – at any time during the game – starts a fast-scoring / frenzy mode where the value of each switch hit is increased with further shots to the target, and super jackpot lights after collecting 100 total switch hits.
At the start of Herman Multiball, I will focus on shooting for the Lily target above all else to try and get the frenzy mode going and qualify another playfield multiplier at Kitty. Once the multiball ends, I’ll be 2/5ths through the modes.
After playing Herman / Lily, my next priority will be:
The scoop is lit to start Grandpa’s mode after collecting enough chattering teeth at the purple targets, which frequently occurs by accident while flailing around during multiball. As this tutorial is being written using a Pro model, I will only describe the “Enlarging Ray” mode here – there is a secondary mode involving the lower playfield on the Premium / LE that takes priority and should be played with a 6x multiplier.
During Enlarging Ray, all shots are lit to score jackpots that can be increased in value and relit by shooting the purple targets near them. This is a great mode to charge up your zap meter by pressing the action button when flashing. A super jackpot is available after scoring four jackpots.
Once Grandpa ends, I will begin shooting the left ramp for…
Every mode you start, along with every shot to the lit Kitty target, lights the left ramp for a Raven advance. Once all three advances are collected, Raven Multiball will start. Collect all four jackpots to light the super jackpot and boost their value – the jackpot scores can also be boosted by shooting the left ramp three times or advancing the hour hand on the display’s clock with switch hits. An add-a-ball is available at the Dragula lane, and if the multiball ends without lighting the super jackpot, it can be restarted for a limited time at the left ramp.
Raven is a very lucrative multiball and is integral to qualifying the 6x playfield stack - keep shooting the Kitty target during this multiball to get there. A 6x Raven Multiball can greatly pad out your score, whether playing casually or in a tournament.
Once Raven multiball ends, keep the ball alive, ignore the lit Kitty target, and shoot the scoop for:
Munster Madness is a great way to pad out your score, as long as you’re familiar with what shots light during it and in what order. To score jackpots, you must make three shots to the following three areas within 15 seconds per phase: Herman, Raven (left ramp), then Lily (right target). A hurry-up is then made available at the scoop, starting at the total value of all combined jackpots.
At the start of Munster Madness, your priority should be cashing out any lit Kitty targets to reach 6x playfield and then focus on shooting for jackpots from there. If you already have 6x running, focus exclusively on jackpots above all else, but aim for Kitty if the multiplier is about to time out.
After playing Munster Madness, you’ll be able to play through the five modes again to reach a more complicated version of Munster Madness that I won’t describe here. The modes themselves are higher in value for their second level than their first but should still be played in the same order as described in this guide.
A great way to get even more value out of multiballs and Enlarging Ray is to use the action button to fill up the zap meter. This is done by hitting any purple target near the game’s two ramps and then quickly pressing the action button while it’s flashing (only one press is needed). Once the zap meter is full, every jackpot shot will award an additional zap jackpot. Maintain the zap meter by continuing to shoot for purple targets and pressing the action button when available.
There are many ways to light super jackpot at the Dragula lane – 10, in fact. All five character modes/areas have a corresponding super jackpot, and five others are lit through the game’s side features (zap button, Eddie loops, Marilyn ramps, one lights after scoring a mystery award, etc.). The game will tell you how many super jackpots you have lit at the Dragula lane at a time and boost scoring if multiple super jackpots are stacked.
During the “super jackpot collected” hype animation, while a ball is in the Dragula lane, you can cancel out the collect by holding the action button. It’s a good idea to do this if you haven’t reached a 6x playfield multiplier yet or want to keep lighting additional super jackpots.
- Take a “safety-first” approach in single-ball play. The ball should always be under control – if you treat The Munsters as a flow game, you’ll have a tough time. I learned this the hard way when the game first came out. Patient, skillful single-ball play is rewarded with hectic, chaotic multiball play.
- I always play modes in the following order: Spot (on ball 1), Herman, Lily, Grandpa, and Raven. Typically, I’ll cash the super jackpots out either during Raven or during Munster Madness, and always with a 6x multiplier.
- Keep your multiballs running! Chattering teeth are gained by flailing around during multiball and can greatly improve scoring, even though they might seem insignificant at first. You can also use multiballs to shoot the lit Kitty target for playfield X and score random awards at the Dragula lane.
- Remember the uses of the action button and when to best use it. A good way to do this is to associate the action button with certain shots or areas of the playfield – I associate the purple targets with instantly pressing it to fill the zap meter and the Dragula lane for canceling the super jackpot if necessary. This can also help with many other newer Stern releases that use the action button.