Williams Whirlwind

This is the third Williams pinball game designed by Pat Lawlor (after Banzai Run and Earthshaker), and the second of his 'blue series' of games ( Earthshaker, Whirlwind and Funhouse all have blue as base color for the cabinet). The display panel is similar to that of Earthshaker: bonusses are indicated by a light underneath the alpha-numeric score displays. Game rules are simple and similar to Earthshaker and Funhouse. But the game still has a unique feel and is a lot of fun to play.

The music and lightshow (especially if you've been able to get a high score) is great and really gives you a feeling of accomplishing something. Funhouse also has this feature: an excellent high-score music, something which most modern pinball games seem to miss ?


Whirlwind is an excellent game, a real classic ! Compared to modern games it has simple rules, but it's a lot of fun.

I like the playfield layout. It's the right combination of shots: short, long, easy, hard. Probably because it's so good, more recent games by Pat Lawlor often use very similar elements. The right ramp is very easy to shoot, the left ramp is very hard. Locking 3 balls and starting a multiball is not very difficult, but then being able to actually score a jackpot is.
To score a jackpot i.e. you have to make this difficult left ramp shot from the upper flipper. The game helps you, the right ramp is raised so if you are able to shoot a pinball in there, it's released and slowly roll in front of the upper flipper so you can make the shot.. It's these kind of small details which make Pat Lawlor games so good. This 'feature': the game stops a ball and releases it so you can make a shot with an upper flipper for an important shot is later used on many other games, i.e. Addams Family, Twilight Zone and Monopoly.

The playfield is open, at the bottom left there are two scoops, of which one ejects a ball back to the flippers. There are two sets of 3 pop bumpers, on on the left, the other at the top of the playfield. There's a difficult, steep left ramp which can only be made from the upper right flipper. The right ramp is easy and can be made from both bottom flippers (it's nice to back-hand it from the bottom right flipper). This ramp has an entrance which raises to reveal a ball lock. Further there are targets scattered over the whole playfield. Lastly there are 3 spinning disks in the middle of the playfield which cause the ball to go wild and fling it in all directions.

The object of the game is to hit specific targets (which stand for the wind directions on the compass). Once a sequence is done you can lock a ball. Lock three balls and start multiball, try to score jackpots. And the left scoop gives awards.. easy rules to explain, but the game becomes gradually more difficult, and is just plain fun. Collect all awards to start a 'frenzy'.

There are also some details in the game rules that expert players appreciate and only them can do. Take the skill shot for instance: an average player will try to plunge the ball just hard enough so it will hit one (or two) drop targets. The 100K target is easy and safe, going for the 200K together with the 300K points target is more difficult and is a drain risk. But an expert pinball player has another option: plunge the ball even more softly so it falls down onto the flippers, catch it without triggering any other playfield switch, and then shoot all three targets down at once, which the game awards the player with a 'sweeping skillshot score' !

My game

I had this game about a year and loved it. I had to sell it because I didn't have enough room to keep it, and had 3 already other Lawlor games (Funhouse, Twilight Zone and Safecracker). After a while I really started to miss my whirlwind and even considered buying one again, but then I added an Addams Family to my collection. TAF has a similar layout and feel to it, but much more gameplay/modes.. so the need for a Whirlwind is gone.

Things to look for when buying

  • Extra ball drop target: many machines have a problem with it (usually just the opto needs to be replaced).
  • Decals on the spinning disks are usually worn. Replace with originals which have a texture, as deskjet-printed decals on regular decal paper do not have any texture to grab a pinball and influence its path.
  • The fan on top of the backbox.
  • Complete checklist of things to pay attention to


There are 3 promo plastics for this game: 2 square speaker cutouts, and a flipper-shaped plastic.

Some games have a 'diamondplated' playfield which is therefor usually still very nice, not faded.

There seem to be 2 versions of the yellow drop target decal. One only has black text on it, the other also has a twister drawing.

There are 2 (or technically 3) versions of the translight. Originally the baseball cap of the boy had a Cubs logo (a C) on it. Because there was a licensing problem with this, a Williams logo decal was put over it. Later versions of the translight already have the Williams 'W'-logo printed on it.

Click here to see the IPDB entry of this game.