Retro Coin Op Synopsis
By the early 1980’s, pinball designers began adding new kinds of features to their machines to compete with the increasing popularity of video games. One of the most interesting of these was the addition of an extra level. In 1980, Black Knight became the first pinball game with an upper level of play. In 1981, Black Hole, became the first with a lower level (seen through glass set into the main playfield). But both of these games were topped in 1982 by Haunted House, a Gottlieb game that offered three distinct levels of play.
In addition to its main playfield, the spooky-looking Haunted House offered both an upper level and a basement level. The upper level contained a row of targets and a set of drop targets. A player got to it by moving the pinball up a ramp or into an upkicker tube that shot it up there. The lower level—containing a set of drop targets and a bumper—was visible through a glassed-in area on the main playfield. It was accessed through ‘trapdoor’ holes that dropped the pinball down there. An upkicker tube returned the ball to the main level.
The lower level was doubly interesting because it was ‘reversed,’ meaning that it had the flippers at the top of the playfield and the targets at the bottom. It was slanted so the pinball would roll ‘upwards’ toward the backboard. All three levels had flippers for the players, which were controlled through two buttons on each side of the machine. There were eight flippers overall—two each on the upper and lower levels and four on the main level—a record number at the time.
The end result of all these levels was an endless array of opportunities to score points, and this was where Haunted House’s fancy scoring features kicked in. For instance, there were plenty of double-scoring opportunities. If you knocked out the lower target banks twice or the upper target banks three times, you doubled your scoring on the main level. If you made 11 hits on the upper level lights, you could double your scoring on the lower level, and vice versa. Bonus scoring levels were multiplied when the player shot the pinball into different levels.
The appeal of Haunted House was sealed by its amusing art design, which was funny and eerie all at once. The backboard featured an appropriately creepy-looking house surrounded by leafless trees that featured an owl with glowing red eyes. It also featured the name “HAUNTED HOUSE” in vivid, attention-getting orange letters that all but leaped off the backboard. The playfield art on all levels was designed to resemble the interior of a spooky old house. Ghosts lurked in every corner of each level, and there were also amusing touches like a sinister-looking suit of armor that held an axe in one hand.
Haunted House became a big hit upon its release in 1982. Although the game was difficult for arcade owners to maintain due to its many levels, it was played eagerly and often by pinball fanatics wishing to master its challenges. Although it is nearly twenty years old, Haunted House continues to be as popular as ever with collectors today, offering pinball fun in three dimensions.