Stern Grand Prix / Nascar
Thanks to the friendly people of Gamecastle, I had the opportunity to play a few games on a brand new (just taken out of the box) Grand Prix pinball machine by Stern. People in the USA know this game under the title of Nascar. Because of licensing this game is sold in Europe as Grand Prix. The game is basically the same, only the artwork and some dmd animations and sounds are different. Instead of a Formula 1 car in the center of the playfield (on top of the garage) there's a Nascar racecar.
For a full review of the game, check this article at pinballnews.com. It's no much use for me to repeat everything they wrote. I only played 5 games on it, not enough (certainly not for me) to learn everything that's on this game.
Back side of the playfield. Note the test car in the center is in the lower position.
Center part of the playfield. Note the inserts marking the shots you can make, every shot is also a jackpot shot. At the lower right (a bit hidden by the glare) is the captive ball. Whilst playing I was searching for an extra ball target, but you have to shoot the drop targets to earn it.
Lower side showing the flippers and slingshots. Between the slings are all the modes you can start at the garage.
Top right corner of the playfield, showing the right ramp. This takes a sharp turn to the right. But even slow balls passed through it well, better than I expected when I initially saw the shape of this ramp. Note the test car is in the upper position, giving access to the garage and two targets. A shot through the spinner (right of the test car) can pass through the inner loop (short track), or is sometimes blocked by an up-post so it enters the pop bumper area (the infield).
The scanner shot at the left side of the playfield. This gives you an award in a similar way to Road Show (Bob's bunker). Don't ask me what and how useful these awards are, I don't remember.
Top left side of the playfield, shows you the left ramp. Inside the hauler you see a racecar which rotates all the time and can block the entry. Blocked balls are diverted to the left of the ramp and enter the lock zone (blue pit road). To start multiball, lock 2 balls there and shoot the third ball through the hauler. It'll get locked at the back of the playfield and multiball will start. This is nicely done, balls are going around on the outer racetrack, multiball starts with only one ball on the playfield (so you can aim for some jackpot shots without having other pinballs blocking the way) and later the other balls are added.
Bottom left side, showing the outlane construction.
Bottom right side of the playfield, showing the outlane and the area where the ball is shot into the playfield.
I only played 5 games on Grand Prix / Nascar so I can only give you my first impressions. Don't expect a 'is it deep and should I buy it for home use or will I get tired of it in a year' review.
I like the game. But I like all Pat Lawlor games.. I had read that the available playfield size was smaller because of the outer track, and feared that Grand Prix / Nascar would feel like SafeCracker. This fear wasn't justified: I really didn't notice any difference in playfield size, it does not play different from any other regular sized pinball machine.
Initially (on my first game) the game reminded me of Road Show. The ramps award you miles, the way the scanner gives out awards and the metal ramp which ends on the left inlane are similar things. But as I played more and got to know the layout of the game and a feel for the shots, I learned the whole playfield layout and ball flow are unique and good enough. The left scanner lane i.e. looks like it's identical to the left lane on NBA:Fastbreak, Monster Bash, and The Sopranos, but it did not feel the same way when you shoot at it.
The game was brand new with very fresh rubber, so ball control was difficult and I had 2 games where I only scored like 5 million in total, because a few balls were away before I could do anything with them.. When launched into play the pinball went around the racetrack, got diverted onto the playfield, bounced around the test car, fell into a slingshot and got shot into an outlane. Not funny. But another game ended with 18 million points (replay is 20 mil, default highscores start from 50 and GC is 100 mil).
Anyway, if you have a machine where all your pinballs drain without you're able to do something about it, usually you also play a game on it in which you can keep the pinball a long time into play and just score everything there is. And that I had with my 5th and final credit on the machine. I was able to get all garage modes, scored a lot of jackpots, got multiball, scored victory laps, .. and started the Champion Challenge mode. Final score: 155 million. Not bad at all.
Because of this I do get the impression the game is quite easy. I don't know if there are other goals to achieve besides the Champion Challenge mode, but if I am able to get it on one of the first games I play, it means the game is not very difficult. But as an average player I'm happy not every pinball machine has such difficult rules that only the best pinball players in the world can reach and defeat the wizard mode.
What I don't like about this game is its music. This 'I can't drive 55' song is unknown in Europe
and its sound quality is even worse than on Sterns Elvis pinball machine.
It doesn't fit the game at all. Luckily the sample only plays when you score a jackpot,
but it didn't motivate me to do well, in the end you don't want to shoot jackpots because of it..
I also don't like the leds in the pop bumpers. The light is too concentrated into a small spot, you hardly see the bumper cap light up. Maybe leds work better with non-transparent bumper caps.
As in most pubs you can hardly hear any music from the pinball machine, I don't expect the bad sound quality to be a problem for the success of this pinball machine. It's an attractive game, beginners can shoot at the testcar and start modes, the outer racetrack and mutiball intro will impress them, so I guess the game will be popular on location.. The bad sound quality and maybe easy rulesheet won't make it very popular for home-use with experienced players. But these are all my own opinions and I can be wrong.