By now, you might have heard about a new pinball arcade on Long Island. Unlike the video arcades proliferating the landscape in the ’80s, this space is dedicated to the fine art of playing the silver ball.
Pinball, you say. Who cares about pinball anymore?
Pinball in arcades became as rare as hen’s teeth due to the popularity of video games. Because of their size, they were phased out slowly, while clearing more room for the video games. But even video arcades went the way of the dinosaurs when home video consoles gave kids the option of staying in their basement and saving their money. Other than Nathans and Adventureland, it was hard to find an arcade to bring your kids to. There was nothing like using your kids as an excuse to go to the arcade as an adult.
For old-timers like me, nothing compares to a great pinball game. Feeling the flippers, the clanging of the ball off the bumpers and the ability to slightly nudge the machine can’t be duplicated in a video game. When playing pinball, you are part of the game; you are one with the machine.
Want to see someone my age’s eyes light up? Tell them where they can find a place to play pinball. Now, you can.
Go to High Score Pinball in Bayshore.
Nestled inside the Westfield South Shore Mall (by Macy’s), the newest home of pinball boasts over 40 fully functioning games. With a pay-one-price policy (depending on how much time you want to spend there), no quarters are required.
You can bounce from game to game until your time runs out instead of your quarters. Like emerging from a time machine, the choices range from 1971 (Home Run) to 2020 (Avenger’s Infinity Quest). Did you even know they were still making new pinball games in 2020?
The Beatles, Dracula, Evil Knievel (from 1976), and Iron Man are all present. They have movie-themed games, like Jurassic Park, Last Action Hero, Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Don’t see your favorite? Add it to their list for the future.
Ah, but what kind of a future does High Score Pinball have? Their location in the mall is temporary (they opened in early April) and will become permanent if enough pinball wizards visit to keep their dream alive.
Melissa Cerquin, the owner of High Score Pinball, convinced her boyfriend, Mike Burd, to share his inventory of classic games with us. More than 40 of them were collecting dust in storage but are now available to enjoy, socially distanced in over 3,000 square feet of lights, bells, and nostalgia.
Unlike Dave and Buster’s, which uses a ridiculous and confusing “points” system, at High Score Pinball, you don’t need a math degree. You just need to be able to tell time. I tried the 15-minutes (for $7), which was enough for a taste, but the time went by way too quickly. I’d recommend at least 30 minutes ($10) or an hour ($15). If you want complete freedom from time limits, you can play all day for $25.
A few classic video games, like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga, are available to placate the kiddies and millennials. Soon, they hope to open a back area dedicated to home video game platforms, like Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis.
If things work out, High Score will begin hosting special events (like adult and children’s birthday parties) and possibly participating in a Long Island Pinball League. Sounds like a better idea for us aging boomers than a bowling league, right?
So, while you still have a chance, head out for an early dinner with your friends and make your way to Bayshore for an evening of pinball. You will not be disappointed. Unless, of course, you continue to bump the machine too hard and get a “Tilt.” You can’t get that on a video game.
You think any of your kids know what “Tilt” means?
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.