Of the many pinball machines based on films that aren’t too good, The Shadow easily ranks up there as my favorite. The film, based on a 1930s radio drama, tells the story of an eccentric playboy (Lamont Cranston) who takes on a double life by night as a vigilante and attempts to thwart Shiwan Khan’s plans for world domination following the end of World War I. While an ambitious film and one that has some good set design and aesthetic, the film was otherwise unremarkable and flopped at the box office.
Enter Williams / Bally, hot off the heels of arguably one of their best years ever in 1993 but competing with Data East (now Stern Pinball) for the rights to lucrative properties. While Data East consistently acquired massive licenses, Williams was often left with less desirable licenses, explaining why a pinball machine was made for a film that didn’t do well at the box office. Regardless of their licenses’ quality, however, Williams treated these games just like they would a major release.
The Shadow was the first pinball machine designed by prolific pinball designer Brian Eddy, later responsible for the one-two punch of Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness. Prior to entering design, Eddy was partially responsible for the code on the earlier Williams releases Black Rose and Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. As a result, The Shadow shares some similarities to those two games but has an identity of its own regarding game progression and the many valid ways to play the game for a high score.
The Shadow is a pinball game manufactured by Bally Manufacturing Co. in 1994. Design and code by Brian Eddy. Mechanics by Robert Friesl. Art by Doug Watson. Music and sound by Dan Forden. Callouts by Tim Kitzrow. Animation by Eugene Geer and Scott Slomiany. The game features a DMD display, 4 players, 4 multiballs, 2 ramps, and 3 flippers.
- Design: Brian Eddy
- Code: Brian Eddy, Mike Boon
- Mechanics: Robert Friesl
- Art: Doug Watson
- Sound/Music: Dan Forden
- Animation: Eugene Greer, Scott Slomiany
- Callouts: Tim Kitzrow
The Shadow has four main objectives (at the top right of the scene inserts) to achieve, with the final battle against Khan serving as the wizard mode for completing all of them. Still, there are many ways to score well in the game, some of which have nothing to do with the objectives whatsoever. I’ll go into my ideal strategies for the game later.
The bottom of the playfield is standard - two flippers, no kickbacks, and a few scattered yellow targets (including two near the left ramp that can be quite a pain to deal with) – but the familiarity quickly fades heading upwards.
One of The Shadow’s major gimmicks are the Phurba diverters (or as Nudge Magazine puts it, "those lol' knife diverter fuckers") atop both ramps. The diverters are triggered by the secondary, blue flipper buttons on the sides of the game, and use of them is required to collect the four rings and start Vengeance mode, a major scoring opportunity if played well. Learning to use the diverters can take some effort but is very rewarding if you can consistently nail your ramp shots. These two ramps are, in my opinion, the most important shots in the game; rivaled only by the left loop, upper loop, and the “start scene” saucer near the right ramp.
Located behind the left ramp are the two upper flipper shots – an upper loop that’s important to nail during Shadow Multiball and is integral to the 2-way combo strategy, and the side saucer, which is difficult to make but can often be made as a combo from the upper loop.
The upper half of the playfield is home to the Battlefield, a “Breakout” styled upper playfield where the goal is to defeat Khan by using the paddle to hit the playfield’s 12 yellow targets. This can be quite difficult, but completion of the Battlefield is required to access the final battle, and I’ll discuss my tips for playing out the Battlefield well later.
Also located to the right of the Battlefield entrance is a target disguised as a brick wall, with a hidden magnet in front of it. This shot is called the Sanctum, and shooting it will hold the ball before flinging it behind the target to lock the ball. One of the coolest ball locks ever!
Scoring on The Shadow is average for Williams / Bally releases of the era. 100M to 200M is considered a good starting point for players new to the game, but masterful players can consistently achieve scores of over a billion – or more!
Keys to the game
- Skill shot will either be worth points or something potentially more rewarding, and can be changed with the left blue button. Weigh your options accordingly, especially if this is your first skill shot of a ball and ball save is running.
- Shoot the “start scene” saucer to start scenes, your modes for the game. They can be changed by shooting the ramps, and points from scenes are only awarded at the end of the ball, so don’t tilt!
- Access the Battlefield by shooting the upper left drop target at your own peril, as this can be tricky to recover from on some machines, and use the paddle to nail the flashing targets. Completing the Battlefield nets at least 30M and a lit extra ball.
- Shoot the Sanctum enough times to start Shadow Multiball, and nail the upper loop for jackpots.
- Spell KHAN at the return lanes to increase Bonus X and light Khan Multiball at the side saucer, which times out if started enough times. Shoot all major shots for jackpots.
- Complete both entrances of both ramps to start Vengeance mode, then complete them again under the time limit to score 50M. The ramps are worth big points whenever Vengeance is running.
- Complete MONGOL to light “who knows?” mystery award and light the orbits for a 30M hurry-up.
- The game features lots of combos for making shots that lead into each other, including a 2-way loop combo for left orbit – upper loop shots with no known points limit. Making combos at the upper loop also lights extra ball.
Right off the plunge, use the left flipper button to select the award that can be scored at the left ramp; either points (starting at 10M and going up to 30M), or a random award (examples include: start Vengeance, start Mongol mode, etc.). If you’re uncertain about nailing the left ramp off the plunge, or ball save isn’t currently active, it might be a better idea to shoot the left orbit off the plunge to set up a 2-way combo and potentially get a scene started out of it.
There are six scenes in the game that can all be started with just a single shot to the “start scene” saucer whenever you’re not in a mode and multiball isn’t running. These are roughly comparable to the modes from Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure in that they’re worth a sizable number of points, and many of them can be completed. Points scored during each scene, just like in that game, are awarded in end-of-ball bonus, so try not to tilt.
The scenes are, from top to bottom, left to right:
- Punish the Guilty: Shoot all three loops for 10M, with a final shot at the start scene saucer for 30M. This is a good scene for stacking some 2-way loop combos.
- Farley Claymore: Make as many shots as possible within 30 seconds to deplete the Hit-O-Meter, usually for around 70M if completed. Try bringing this into a multiball.
- Duel of Wills: Video mode. Use the flipper buttons to dodge phurbas and score millions, with an extra ball awarded deep enough in the video mode. Pressing the gun trigger will clear the screen of phurbas temporarily, good for if you’re getting overwhelmed.
- The Beryllium Sphere: Make all six major shots to score 10M + 2M per shot, then shoot the start scene saucer for 30M. This tends to be one of the higher-scoring scenes.
- Escape Underwater Doom: Hurry-up shots starting at 30M are lit in the following order: both ramps, left orbit, upper loop, left ramp, with a final shot at the start scene saucer for 30M. If you can nail these shots as combos and memorize their order, expect high scores from this scene.
- Discover Hotel Monolith: 2-ball multiball. Shoot the Sanctum target three times for a total of 40M, then shoot a ball into the Sanctum itself to light all arrows for jackpots. Like Duel of Wills, this scene is relatively safe and can be lucrative.
Conquering the Battlefield
Shots to the upper left drop target will lower it and allow entry to the Battlefield above it. Shoot the ball into the kicker behind the target, and you will be tasked with nailing 30 hits to any yellow targets using the paddle. You can shoot the targets on the sides by applying sideways momentum to the paddle and hitting all targets will add to the value for completing the Battlefield. Once enough targets have been made (even across multiple attempts), send the ball through the drop targets up top to defeat Khan for 30M and light the extra ball. Look out for the feed to the upper flipper after defeating Khan.
This is arguably the main multiball of The Shadow as it requires several shots to the center Sanctum target. The first ball lock is always available at the start of the game, but subsequent locks require more shots and can be dangerous to light; be wary of the ball return off the raised target. Lock three balls, and Shadow Multiball will start, with the upper loop lit for 20M a shot – possibly 40M or 60M if you lock balls at either saucer during the multiball. Making enough jackpots lights the side saucer for a sizable super jackpot of 100M. Remember, you can make 2-way loop combos during multiball; use those to your advantage!
Spelling KHAN at the return lanes, which often occurs after shooting the ramps enough times for Vengeance, lights the side saucer for Khan Multiball. As this can be a tight shot, your best bet is to shoot for the upper loop and hope a reflex flip from the upper flipper lands the ball into the side saucer. Nail every lit shot to score 20M (or 40M, or 60M) jackpots, with a 100M super jackpot available at the roving target on the Battlefield afterwards. If you have a scene running with this multiball, it might be a good idea to focus on the scene scoring and let the jackpots come naturally.
Completing all the objectives described above lights the start scene saucer for the final battle. This plays just like “Eternal Life” from Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, requiring the player to keep a 5-ball multiball alive and make a shot to every single area of the playfield to score 10M per shot, with a massive 1-billion-point bonus for scoring them all. The final battle billion is notoriously difficult to collect but is immensely satisfying (akin to completing the Stiff-O-Meter in Scared Stiff) and is the highest-scoring feature in the game.
Vengeance mode is a great way to get used to operating the phurba diverters and get quick points but it requires mastery of the game’s two ramps to truly excel. Shoot both entrances of the two ramps – requiring a minimum of four shots – to start Vengeance, then shoot them all again within 20 seconds to score 50M and reset the timer. Starting Vengeance, or making the required shots during Vengeance, as a 4-way combo doubles the values scored during Vengeance, making this a potentially significant source of points but one with a steep learning curve for new players.
There is a myriad of combos scattered throughout The Shadow. Shooting the ramps in quick succession will often net you three or 4-way combos for 15M and 20M, respectively, but arguably the most lucrative combo is the 2-way loop combo that can be scored by shooting the left orbit, then quickly shooting the upper loop. The 2-way combo value starts at 10M and increases by 3M each time it is made, even if the display isn’t always visible. Going for loop combos isn’t necessarily a valuable strategy on its own but can greatly boost scores and can pay off for players used to how the loops return.
My Favorite Strategies for Playing The Shadow Pinball
The three objectives I primarily focus on while playing The Shadow in competition are:
- Playing out scenes. I feel the value of the game’s modes has been greatly understated, especially scenes like Escape Underwater Doom and Discover Hotel Monolith that can average very high scores if played out well. You can get a good score without completing a single scene but completing them might split the gap between your score and another player’s.
- Shooting ramps for Vengeance mode, then scoring as many 4-way combos during Vengeance as possible for repeatable 100M shots. As I mentioned in my description of the Vengeance strategy, this has a steep learning curve for new players and will require repeated plays of the game, something I know many don’t have time for, but this has proven to be a major help for me while playing the game in tournaments.
- 2-way loop combos, but not on their own; alongside other objectives loop combos can add up in a jiffy. The timing for the loop combo is simpler than that of the 4-way ramp combo. Both can be rewarding during long games, however.