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Random Thoughts & Pictures

Cyclone is the first modern game I acquired; the beginning of the "collection". The game was near the top of my want list. Cyclone was an instant favorite of mine. It's a game that I ran across on several occasions and always liked it. One of those occasions was during a Vermont ski vacation with my parents. It was March 1992. I know it was March 1992 because we witnessed the big Montpelier flood. Heavy rains and ice flows backed up against local bridges and the Winooski River overflowed into the capitol. We spent more time watching rain and being bored than we did snow skiing. Cyclone was in a sandwich shop down the road from our motel. My other memorable encounter was at an old mountain resort in Capon Springs, West Virginia. Capon was a premier 19th century mountain resort until the main hotel building burned in 1911. Enough peripheral buildings remained for the operation to limp along until a new family took over in 1932. The same family still runs the resort today. This place is a quiet little time capsule that few people know about. My wife is the third generation of her family to regularly vacation at Capon. Life moves slow at Capon. There is still a gameroom and that gameroom still has pinball. Cyclone occupied this gameroom around 2002 or 2003.

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The picture above was taken in 2007 when the Capon gameroom was hosting Bad Cats, another classic System 11 and another game on my want list.

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I bought my Cyclone in the flee market area at the 2006 Pinball Wizards convention in Allentown. My game was there next to the Galaxy, but I loaded it up the evening before this picture was taken. This was one of the few flee market stalls with electric. That's good for me because I was way too green to consider buying a game without trying it out first. The name of this operation was "Bigfoot Unlimited". I'm not sure if it was a serious company or just a collector that buys and sells on the side.

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Bringing it home.

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Set up in the basement (future gameroom).

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Ron and Nancy.

TAKE A CHANCE -- AND RIDE -- THE CYCLONE

Initial Impressions: I would theorize that this game had always been maintained by a reasonably responsible professional. The game looks to have been moderately worn, but well cared for. Yet there were no signs of the kind of TLC that a home use game might receive. A few incorrect parts were used where incorrect parts would work, but there weren't any wacky do-it-yourself hacks. Perhaps I am the game's fist home use owner. All in all a solid starting point.

The good news about the playfield is that there are only two small spots of wood showing where the ball drops from the ramps to the inlanes. There is also some minor insert wear along the top arch and by the Cyclone ramp. But the paint is very nice indeed. The bad news is that the paint is nice because of the several layers of Mylar covering the vast majority of the playfield. Some Mylar was applied over a less than clean playfield. And there is some unevenness and bubbling where inserts have risen. As nice as the paint may be, the Mylar is pretty ugly. Compared to other Cyclones I've seen, the ramps are outstanding. The right side of the Comet ramp entrance is broke, but a professional looking metal guard covers the damage. The right side of the Cyclone ramp also has some cracks, but is not visible from any normal viewing angle. All boards appear to be original, but the power supply board does have some connector hacks.

The game's biggest detraction is the cabinet. While structurally sound, the paint on both sides is cracked and chipped and a lot of paint is gone from the front. But the translite is nice.

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Ferris Wheel decals.

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Upper playfield with ramps removed.

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Ball view from outhole.

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Promotional bumper sticker for Cyclone.

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Promotional plastics for Cyclone. The clown holding the sign is a decal. The orange clown with the long tongue belongs with Hurricane. Also shown is a plastic for Comet.

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Shown above are the display panel speaker cutouts for Cyclone. I picked these up just for the sake of rounding out my collection of Cyclone promotional items. But the eyes are sinister looking and don't seem to go with the theme of the game. Are they meant to tie in with the mean-faced coasters? Otherwise I don't get the connection.

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Shown above is the two page promotional flyer for Cyclone. Click for larger picture.

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Shown above are patent drawings for Cyclone. Click for larger picture. The patent does not reference any specific game. And Fig. 1 oddly shows a Banzai Run cabinet. Nevertheless, this is clearly Cyclone's Shuttle Ramp.

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Service Bulletins for Cyclone.

Most Cyclones came with a translite, but there were a limited number of real backglasses produced. I acquired one of these backglasses for my game. But then I decided I was content with the existing translite. So I just used the backglass for a wall hanging. If your translite is in good shape I'd recommend passing on the backglass unless you just like collecting backglasses.

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Cyclone backglass.

In 1991 a band called Mr. Bungle released a self-titled album including a song called Carousel. The lyrics include references to Cyclone and the song uses many sound bites from the game. Not my kind of music, but an interesting bit of trivia. The song can be found on YouTube.

Time for a change...

Having read this page you probably have the idea that Cyclone is one of my sentimental favorite games. It is. But the game gets a lot of criticism for being shallow and repetitive. After owning the game for a year and a half, I was beginning to agree.

There are a few things about this game that bother me. First, the scoring is not very balanced. The Comet and Cyclone shots are so lucrative that there's no motivation to shoot at anything else. And most every feature on the game is a timed feature. I don't mind a few timed features, but Cyclone gets carried away. Worst is that all the timers reset when the ball is lost. In other words, the player is starting from scratch with each new ball. There's no sense of game progression. The last ball is exactly like the first. The game provides the same frustration you'd get from an old multi-player EM game. It was time to take a look at the factory settings and see what could be done.

First I adjusted the Comet and Cyclone ramps to not be lit at the beginning of the game. This forces the player's focus on the Cat and Duck targets to get the ramps lit. I turned off the Comet timer, but require six ramp shots to get the Million points. So now there's no timer to worry about, but it takes nine shots (three target shots and six ramp shots) to get the Million. The lit targets and the lit ramps carry from ball to ball so there's some sense of progression if a ball is lost. The Cyclone ramp timer remains as is so the Gate Jackpot is still the most challenging and most lucrative objective. But I did turn off the Ferris Wheel timer and increased the Ferris Wheel bonus to 5,000 points per bumper hit. This is meant to make the Ferris Wheel shot more attractive and diminish the relative importance of the Comet ramp. I also went from three to five balls per game. This allows for a satisfying game even when a ball or two is sucked down the dreaded outlanes. By the way, that fifth ball skill shot is worth 500,000 points. Again, this adds balance to the scoring and diminishes the importance of the ramps. Of course all these changes required the replay thresholds to be adjusted up.

Years later... I actually became less hardcore about game rules and strategies. I reprogrammed all my games back to three-ball factory settings. It just seems more authentic that way. I did disable all the automatic adjustments for items like replay scores and the Boomerang multiplier. I'm not really that good of a player and I don't like when game play become more difficult from one game to the next.

Pinball Expo 2006 and my Cyclone ramp story...

Cyclone has four clear plastic ball ramps. It's important to buy a machine with good ramps because most of these plastic ramps are hard or impossible to replace. I was able to find a Cyclone machine that had all good ramps. They were far from perfect, but respectable. Not ten minutes after I bought my Cyclone machine I discovered a vendor selling new reproduction Comet ramps for Cyclone. I immediately bought a new Comet ramp. That's one. A few weeks later I was phone ordering some parts and asked about ramps for Cyclone. I wasn't expecting anything, but in fact they just found an unused, old stock Spook House ramp. I bought it. That's two.

At the beginning of November 2006 I flew to Chicago for the big annual Pinball Expo show (my first Expo). Late Saturday afternoon (my last day there) I was roaming around the exhibit hall and noticed what appeared to be the Cyclone ramp for Cyclone. It was on top of a pile of other junk at the back of a vendor's booth. I had already been there for four days, but didn't notice the ramp until late Saturday. I had even bought some other stuff from this guy and didn't notice the ramp there. It was solid black with grime from sitting on a shelf somewhere for the last 18 years. I was only able to recognize it by its shape. First thing I noticed is that none of the ramp mounting holes had been threaded through. It was a virgin! Next I tried smearing off some of the grime and could find no chips or cracks. So I asked the guy how much. "Ten bucks." Hell yeah!

I immediately took my new find back to my hotel room. I filled up the bathtub and dumped in a few of those mini-bottles of shampoo and started cleaning my ramp. Then I carefully went over all the metal parts with a towel and hair dryer. Nice. I saw only two problems. There's a washboard-like ripple in the plastic over about an inch of the ramp's length. No big deal. Perhaps the ramp was a factory second. Also the finish on the spring-steel entrance flap was gone. But that can be easily refinished or replaced.

So I'm happy. I now have three out of four new ramps for my machine. I don't have a new Ferris Wheel ramp, but my existing ramp is near perfect and it never takes any direct ball hits so I don't expect it to ever break. Then I ran into a snag...

My new Cyclone ramp didn't fit in my damn suitcase. It looked like it should fit but it didn't. I considered taking the ramp as a carry-on, but the ramp has a few metal parts including an integral micro-switch and wiring harness. I was afraid the airport x-ray guy would freak and call the terror police on me. I had thrown my pocketknife in the suitcase so I grabbed the knife and started hacking away at the suitcase lid to see if I could get it to open further. After a lot of squeezing and twisting I got the ramp inside. I was not happy. The ramp was tweaked way more than what I was comfortable with. I carefully packed in magazines, cardboard and clothing and figured I did the best I could.

When I checked in at the airport I declared my suitcase as a fragile item. The guy slapped a "Fragile" sticker on the suitcase and frisbeed it onto the conveyor belt like all the other bags. Great. Next I became concerned about the cold temperatures in the plane's cargo bay. The ramp was under pressure. Would it crack it the cold? Fortunately the flight was only 80 minutes. When I finally made it back to Virginia it seemed to take forever to get my suitcase. But then it rolled out and I quickly opened it up to check my ramp. It survived!

My only remaining concern was getting the ramp back out of the suitcase. I was prepared to cut the suitcase in half rather then twist and bend the ramp again. But the ramp popped right out and lived happily ever after.

Epilogue... All Cyclone ramps have since been reproduced which renders the above story completely irrelevant.