Rumours about the next Stern game being based upto the Playboy theme started circulating about 4 months ago, shortly after the launch of Monopoly.

So here we are at the ATEI show in London and those rumours have proved to be true.

Before we look at the full details, some qualifications are in order. This is not the final version of the backglass, nor is it the production version of the game ROM, though this probably won't change very much when it finally hits the streets. There is a small amount of tidying-up needed and a few display animations need finishing. Monopoly will continue on the production line until the end of January when Playboy will take over.

The game obviously has a controversial theme so in an attempt to tone-down the content, there are 2 different sets of model pictures supplied with the game. These are operator installable. The pictures are revealed when certain features are activated. One set shows semi-naked Playmates while the other has them clad in lingerie. There is a third set using bikinis but it's possible that these won't make it into production as they're so similar to the lingerie shots.

The backglass shown above is by Kevin O'Connor. Game Design is by George Gomez (yes, him) along with Dwight Sullivan and all the team at Stern Pinball Inc.

That sounds like a good combination to me so let's look at the playfield.

Don't worry about not seeing too much detail, we'll look at all the various elements in due course. Working around the playfield in the traditional clockwise manner from the bottom centre we have:

Left flipper - Normal, only two flippers on this game.

Left inlane - one inlane and one outlane, rollover switches in both.

Left Slingshot - This is unusual. It looks much smaller than usual and indeed it is smaller than a standard Williams slingshot plastic but it is actually the same size as those used in Monopoly.

What is unusual is the way the mounting posts are right on the very corner of the plastic so that a standard sizes steel protective washer extends way beyond the plastic itself. You'll need to replace these with smaller-than-usual washers.

You'll see that these are also 2-layer slingshots and there's a flasher mounted on each one (a red flasher on the left).

The mounting bolts extend much higher than the upper slingshot plastic so perhaps there was going to be another level or something other than a flasher there.

Either way, home owners would want to cut these down to size to tidy up the appearance.

Peek-A-Boo - This is a metal box with a picture of a semi-naked woman on the front face but hidden by a gold bead curtain.

Balls hit at the picture are registered and when two hits are recorded the curtains are magnetically pulled aside to reveal the picture behind.

There is also a Millions+ mode using this where each hit score 1 million more than the previous shot.

The placing of this make it a classic `sucker' shot - i.e. one that is quite likely to lead to a drain. It positioned just above the left outlane.

In play this is a feature that is easily overlooked and not used that effectively. It occupies quite a lot of real estate on the playfield.


Above the Peek-a-boo are the three left side shots - left loop, left ramp and left lane.

Left Loop - this feeds round to the right loop, though weak shots can fall into the rollovers. There is an up-post at the top of the left loop to stop right loop shots and direct them into the rollovers.

The left loop scores Bunny Loops and Photo Shoots.

Left Ramp - There's a red standup on the left entrance to the ramp which scores a Surprise Package (random award). The ramp feeds to a metal wireform on the left side of the playfield and back to the left inlane.

The ramp scores Photo Shoot, Jackpot, Splash, Collect Playmates and Strip Poker. There are 2 coloured lamps as in Monopoly for these last 2 awards.

The Left Lane is a short entrance/exit to the pop bumpers. There's a Tease lamp to indicate when the bumpers are worth more and activate the Tease function. Balls that exit the bumpers can either come down the left lane or there's a secret passage below the ramp to feed the left loop.

Above these three shots are the rollovers - three of them - with the classic Playboy bunny logo on. Lit lamps can be rotated left or right with the flipper buttons as usual. Lighting all 3 lights first "Strip" then "Tease".

Below these are 3 pop bumpers, each one has a sticker on it with a message - "Tease when flashing" on two of them and "Top lanes start Tease" on the right had one. That's typical of this game - there are a lot of instructions written on plastics or stickers all over the playfield which helps novices understand the working of the rules. A small matter but they are appreciated.

But there's one other item up by the rollovers. On the backboard (not the backbox) is the Tease feature.

The picture above is gradually revealed as the cover drops down. The more pop bumper hits you make the more is revealed.

Moving further clockwise around the playfield we come to the centre shots.

Centre Ramp - Protected by a drop target with the bunny logo on it, much like the Cop target in Monopoly. The target is angled slightly so balls don't get trapped behind. The ramp awards multiball locks, starts multiball, scores jackpots and double jackpots while the drop target scores Pyjama Party.

This is probably the most important shot of the game as you can start multiball with this shot alone. Just keep hammering the drop target and shooting the ramp and you can score big points.

Drop target shots can rebound straight down the middle but it's not common.

The ramp feeds around to the same wireform ramp used by the left ramp, and hence down to the left inlane.

This wireform also contains the ball locks.

They consist of an up-post and 3 microswitches to detect locked balls. Both the left and centre ramps can feed the ball lock.

Although it can (and does) hold 3 balls, balls are not held here to start Centerfold Multiball. Instead `virtual' locks are used, though the term `Lock' is never used in the game - it just says to shoot the ramp twice more to light multiball.

During Centerfold Multiball itself you can have up to 3 balls locked here and the software can release just one ball at a time if it needs to.

Above the centre ramp is another of the game's toys - The Centerfold.

When multiball (or Centerfold Multiball to give it its full name) starts, this metal pack unfolds to reveal 3 picture panels showing a Centerfold model.

Unfortunately, the glare from the backbox lighting means you can't see this very well but perhaps that's not such a bad thing or you wouldn't be able to concentrate on the game.

To the right of the Centre Ramp is the Centre Lane.

This lane scores Grotto (random award), extra ball, Photo Shoot and starts Pyjama Party multiball. Shots up here are stopped at the top by a magnet which allows the ball to roll back into a saucer which in turn kicks the ball into the rollovers. Some awards are given when the ball triggers a switch on the entrance to the lane so it's not always necessary for the ball to fully make the shot.

The Right Ramp curves to the left and joins a wireform that runs down the right side of the playfield and ends up at the right inlane. It scores Splash, Photo Shoot and most importantly it also scores the Triple Jackpot.

To the right of this is the Right Loop. Balls shot up here feed round to the left loop unless they are stopped by the up-post in which case they will fall through the rollovers into the pop bumpers. The Right Loop scores Photo Shoot and Bunny Loops and is quite easily loopable.

Above the right ramp is another picture toy - this time it's a rotating 3-sided picture block.

The face you see most often just has the bunny logo on it, but the other two sides which appear when triple jackpot is lit show more Playmates in various stages of undress.

Again, like all the other pictures of the Playmates, these can be selected by the operator.

Below this is the skill-shot saucer. Weak ball launches fall in here and score the skill-shot award.

It is also used to start Jackpot Hurry-Up, scores Photo Shoot and (unusually) can also award a Special.

Balls are then kicked up onto the right side wireform and from there into the right inlane.

The up-kicker arrangement is both clever and attractive. Using a brushed metal arch to direct the ball, the same metal is bent round and cut into the bunny logo. It's a really nice touch.

Scoring the skill shot also opens the magazine above it to reveal (yes you guessed it) another picture of a scantily clad woman.

Below this is the usual one inlane and one outlane, a manual ball shooter (with autofire) and the single right flipper completing this round up of the playfield hardware.

But there's one game feature that takes up more space than all the others. Set into the lower playfield is the Playmates Calendar.

Each month lights up as you collect the Playmates, but more about that in the next section covering the rules and our opinions.


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© Pinball News 2002