Stern Pirates of the Caribbean

The Pirates of the Caribean pinball machine (POTC) is based on the second movie in the series: Dead Man's Chest. It features top acters such as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. There's even a third movie made now: At World's End.

Stern made a pinball machine with this pirates theme, and it was very much anticipated. People were looking forward to this pinball machine because of its theme, and also because it's the comeback to pinball design of Dennis Nordman.

In september 2006 we rented the game for a weekend from a local dealer. That way we could test and play the Pirates of the Carribbean game as much as we wanted and make up our opinion about it in optimal conditions..
No distracting sounds like when you play it on location, and with the pressure 'I have to like it because I paid a lot for it' when you would buy it new. And we made a POTC-party of it, we invited a lot of people to come over and also play it..

For a detail review of the game rules of Pirates of the Carribean, check the reviews at It's no much use for me to repeat everything they wrote.
There are several goals to achieve, and while some are easy to do and may give you the impression that it's an easy pinball game, there are also some very difficult goals to do.

Stern Pirates of the Caribbean backbox
Pirates of the Caribbean playfield


I like the game. OK, I'll start with the negative things. Pirates of the Caribbean is not the best game I ever played, and I wouldn't spend the money to buy one new (but I have never bought any game new and don't intend to, no game was that good for me that I really have to have it new.. so me not wanting one NIB (New In Box) isn't really a valid complaint)
Now the good things. I like it. It's quite good for a Stern. It's also easy and even average players will have a good game.. most of the goals you have to reach to light the compass can be achieved by everyone. But there are some modes that are difficult to reach, it's difficult at the same time. Therefor I think this game will do very well on location: you'll play again as you think you can reach the wizard mode..

This game also didn't feel like a Stern. We played the game at my house for about 9 hours straight and the flippers stayed strong. And the quality of the sound was excellent !! Finally a Stern game that doesn't sounds worse than an old jukebox - I still have nightmares from hearing Elvis non stop the evening before the belgian pinball championship 2004 (World Poker Tour probably also sounds fine but I haven't played that game yet).

One thing I don't like is that the game doesn't really have a lot of flow.
I had expected more from mr Nordman. The game feels like a game of ping-pong to me.
There is a distinction between the upper and lower part of the playfield. The pinball is at the flippers, you shoot it up (up a ramp, to the boat, in the bumpers or treasure chest) and the ball will do it's thing for a while and then come back towards the flippers.
Only the Jack ramp is fast and immediately returns the pinball to the flippers (it reminded me a bit of the railroad ramp on Monopoly pinball).
It's not that the game is stop-and-go: the ball keeps moving, either it's held on the spinning disk or its diverted into the bumpers or on the large ramps.. It's moving but just not fast or in a straight path returned to the flippers.

I like the games rules. As said above, they set up so that both a novice and experienced player will have a good time. I.e. to start a multiball all you have to do is shoot the Parlay ramp so the ball hits enough targets on the spinning disk. Anyone can do that.
But then multiball starts, within 10 seconds you have to lock another ball on there. If you don't succeed, multiball starts. If you do succeed, you can lock another ball up there, and scores will be multiplied. This is great !
Everyone can start a multiball but only good pinball players can really optimize their game and get the maximum amount of points out of it. The game rules also integrate well with the movie, but it's not a must that you have seen the movies to know what to shoot for or what everything means.

There's also quite some strategy involved, what modes do you go for first: easy ones that score less, or more difficult ones that will make the easy modes score more ?


The game looks good from far but far from good..
From far the cabinet looks great !
Pirates of the Caribbean
but when you look close you see how much dithering there is..
Pirates of the Caribbean

The playfield itself looks great ! The artwork on it is excellent !
The artwork on the plastics is less great.. too fuzzy, too much dithering.
Another positive thing is that the game looks very good in the dark.. it's very colorful and bright. This really is the best looking playfield I have seen in a long time.

Build quality

As we had the game at our house for a weekend we had time to inspect it thorough.. first time I was able to inspect a recent Stern game. I'm still used to WPC games and the most recent game I had 'inspected' was a Monopoly.

Pirates of the Caribbean

I was amazed by the amount of paint overspray there was on the inside of the cabinet. There just was not a square inch uncovered by paint ?!
This is not a problem but it's quite a difference compared to the nice bare wood you're used from seeing in older games.. I wonder if pinball restorers will later sand this all off or try to restore it ?
The coin door wasn't straight into the wood front btw. The top edge stuck out while the bottom edge was a bit inside. I thought it was just badly assembled but heard later all Stern games now are like this.
And the edges off the wood around the coin door were badly touched up with black paint.. like you would give a 5 year old kid a thick paintbrush..

Pirates of the Caribbean

Like I said the flippers stayed strong, even after playing many hours. Mechanically the game held up fine. Nothing broke or needed adjustment. We did notice that one of the yellow targets round the spinning disk was a bit loose or already bent, as it wasn't standing up stright anymore in the evening..

Pirates of the Caribbean

A disadvantage of clear plastic ramps: they wear fast. There were probably less than 100 games played on this machine and the middle of this plastic ramp already started to show a ball trace.

Pirrates of the Carribean

This is how the bottom side of the playfield looks like. Nice and clean.
Notice there are no lamp boards anymore on Stern games, all individual sockets.

Another complaint about this game: in Europe it is shipped with a PinLED display. The size of the pcb it mounts on is a bit smaller, so around the edge of the display it is possible to see the pcb's in the backbox and the light inside falls through.
Also not a major problem, but also a small detail that just isn't like it should be..

One local collector had bought a new Pirates of the Carribean game and returned it a week later.. some of his complains were about the Pinled display. Some leds on the display where always slightly lit, and he also didn't like the look of the pinled itself, not every led was soldered straight on the board, so the image looked a bit 'bumpy'.

Anyway.. what do I think of the game ? It plays great and I will definitaly play it when I see it on location. However I wouldn't want to buy one myself (unless in a few years when they are really cheap).. but certainly not a new one as I find the quality is just not there..

It seems Pirates of the Caribbean is a big success for Stern ! I'm happy with that ! Even here in Belgium I heard the distributor quickly sold out of the first batch he ordered (and I picked up the rumor may consider ordering a next container). I haven't found one on location yet, but it's a good thing to know they are available here in Belgium..


Pirates of the Caribbean
There are 2 promo plastics for this pinball machine, one square (see picture) and a round one.

Click here to see the IPDB entry of this game.