Retro Coin Op Synopsis
As the 1980’s began, pinball had to compete with the growing popularity of video games. The average array of flippers, bumpers and targets were no longer enough to thrill video-loving gamers, so pinball designers began working in new elements to jazz the game up. A great example of this new, high-tech breed of pinball machines arrived with Black Knight, a game put out by Williams in 1980.
Black Knight was a pinball machine that could hold its own against video games. It benefited from stunning medieval-theme art, complete with a backboard that depicted the title character rearing up with his steed in a menacing manner. The two-level playfield overflowed with dramatic images of knights and dragons that would come to life during the game, thanks to electronically-triggered displays of lights beneath the playfield. These lights would flash on and off in rhythmic patterns when triggered by the actions of the player, giving a dramatic, animated effect to the playfield.
Black Knight lived up to these awesome graphics by offering an array of cool features in the game itself. There was multi-ball play, which involved the player maneuvering pinballs into Locks 1 and 2 on the upper playfield. Once this was achieved, the player could release these pinballs by either launching a third ball into an upper level lock or by shooting a pinball into the multiball dropout hole on the lower level. Either one of these actions set the locked pinballs free so the player could use them all simultaneously until they slipped between the flippers or out a lane.
Multi-ball play was the only the beginning of Black Knight’s bonus features. Players could earn extra pinballs by knocking out a bank of drop targets three times, then shooting the ball up the left ramp to the upper playfield. This wasn’t always easy, because the drop targets would pop back up if they weren’t all knocked out in a matter of seconds. The player could rack up further points with the Mystery Score feature, which was triggered by shooting a ball through the left turn lane and then up the center ramp. Also, players could make the points offered by each bonus increase by putting a pinball through the turnaround to trigger the bonus multiplier. Another feature, the Bonus Ball, allowed the highest scoring player in a multi-player game a few extra seconds of game play.
But the coolest feature of all in Black Knight had to have been ‘Magnasave.’ This referred to two areas over the drain lanes that would become magnetized when a player knocked out a bank of three drop targets. This allowed the player to keep balls from being lost through the drain lanes by hitting one of an additional set of buttons located next to the flipper controls. The ball would then be triggered back into play and earn the player a 10,000-point bonus.
Black Knight’s combination of eye-catching art and nifty game design made it a big favorite with hardcore pinball fanatics, ensuring it a long life in the arcades. Its long-term popularity also led to a 1989 sequel, Black Knight 2000. The original Black Knight continues to be a favorite with collectors and commands big sums of money whenever it pops up at pinball conventions. For many pinball fans, Black Knight will always be one of the best pinball games ever made.
Arcade Machine Release HistoryNov 1980 - Black Knight
Apr 1981 - Black Knight Limited Edition
Apr 1989 - Black Knight 2000