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Pinball: Cirqus Voltaire
"You must challenge me!"
Announcer: "Welcome to the greatest pinball on earth!"

Cirqus Voltaire is a pinball game designed by John Popadiuk and Cameron Silver, with artwork by Linda Doane. it was released by Williams Electronics (under the "Bally" label) in 1997.

As the title indicates, the game takes place in an electricity-themed avant garde circus, and the player is an aspiring performer who wishes to join this eclectic crew. To do this, he must perform nine Marvels, then prove his mastery of the show by completing the multi-stage Wizard Mode. Along the way, he will impress the Jugglers, prance with the Highwire Multiball, pop the Boom! Balloon, fire the cannon in the backbox, roll the Menagerie Ball, and challenge the four Ringmasters when they rise from the playfield. But if he perseveres and Joins The Cirqus, perhaps he will unmask Ringmaster Voltaire and be crowned as the Party Champion.

Visually, Cirqus Voltaire is notable for its brash art design, with people divided on its electrifying aesthetic, neon colors, and unapologetic flamboyant style. In terms of gameplay, Voltaire is praised for its deep but understandable ruleset, eight multiball modes, and the ability to stack multiple multiballs to quickly build up scores. If nothing else, no one remains indifferent to this game.

Production trivia: Unlike most pinball games, Cirqus Voltaire doesn't have a single design style, but was manufactured with neon tubes and Menagerie balls of various colors and patterns. It's actually considered one of the more beautifully designed tables because of it. Of these, blue and purple seem to be the most common, while yellow and red are the rarest.

Cirqus Voltaire is available for The Pinball Arcade.


This pinball demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Ringmaster, whose face is bright green. Some of the performers have uncharacteristically bright yellow and orange skin tones.
  • Artificial Limbs: The Ringmaster has a spring for a neck, while the acrobat on the backglass has her legs replaced by a spring.
    Ringmaster: "You'd be cranky too, if you had a spring for a neck."
  • Attract Mode: A textual history of the Cirqus appears in the display.
  • Big Bad: The Four Ringmasters, whom you face off against.
    Ringmaster: "Is that the best you got?"
  • Big "NO!": Sometimes done by the Ringmaster upon defeat.
  • Blackout Basement: "Neon Multiball", a three-ball multiball mode where the only illumination comes from the neon tube in the cabinet.
    Announcer: "Are you ready for a shocking experience?"
  • Blipvert: After defeating the Ringmaster during the "Ringmaster Battle" mini-Wizard Mode.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The long-haired high-wire walker in the right corner of the backglass is John Popadiuk.
    • Some of the end-of-ball judges include members of the design team.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: During a weak ramp shot, if the ball falls into the Highwire lock without being lit, you are awarded a "Sneaky Lock" bonus (with an animation of a pinball tip-toeing across the display), and that ball is locked.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: Hoping to start the Ringmaster Battle mode? It can actually be difficult to defeat the Ringmaster five times without achieving the other marvels in the process, which activates Join The Cirqus and resets your Ringmaster progress.
  • Dramatic Unmask/The Reveal: After "Unmask Voltaire" is completed in "Join the Cirqus," it is revealed that Voltaire is actually a woman, Madame Voltaire, who is also the game's Announcer.
    Voltaire/Announcer: "You must challenge Voltaire. Hey, that's me!"
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French/Voltaire: Word of God is that the game was intended to be a tribute to France for inventing bagatelle, Pinball's predecessor.
  • Everything's Better With Cows:
    • One of the obstacles Roonie jumps over is a cow.
    • The history of the Cirqus mentions fire-eating cows.
    • One of the "Fun With Bonus" judges is a cow named "Heffer".
  • Expy: Cirqus Voltaire is obviously inspired by Cirque du Soleil.
  • French Jerk: The Ringmasters.
    Ringmaster: "Monsieur, I challenge you to a duel!"
  • Gratuitous French
  • Harmless Electrocution: The fate of the highwire artists when starting Highwire Multiball.
  • Hold Up Your Score: At the end of each ball is "Fun With Bonus", when three judges hold up scorecards that affect the player's bonus.
    Announcer: "And the judges' score..."
    • If you get a perfect score (three 10s) from the judges:
    Announcer: "Show off!"
    • If you get an average between 9.6 and 10
    Announcer:Take a bow! They love you!
  • Hyper Destructive Bouncing Ball: The Menagerie Ball, which is contained in a spherical cage on the left side of the playfield.
    Man: "Here is Menagerie Marvel, very nice!"
  • Losing Horns: The weak fanfare that plays when the sideshow prize is Big Points.
  • Match Sequence: A clown walks across the display and gets knocked down by a pie, with the splatter forming the match digits.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Juggler dramatically proclaims his ability to juggle one, two, and even three balls at the same time.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Parts of Julius Fucik's "Entrance of the Gladiators" (AKA the "circus music") was used for its main theme.
  • Shock and Awe
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many of the "Fun With Bonus" judges, which include Rincewind, Tommy, and Judy.
    • Underneath the left and right slingshot switches are the words "Pop" and "Duke", a reference to designer John Popaduik and his father.
    • Near the right inlane is a cat pushing a dynamite plunger with "Joos TNT" on it, a reference to Williams' engineer John Joos Jr.
  • Skill Shot: Gently plunge the ball so that it hits the Skill Shot target on the ramp. Making five or more skill shots gives this quote by the Announcer:
    Announcer: "Skillfully done! Show off!"
  • Spelling Bonus: Spell W-O-W to challenge a Ringmaster to a duel, S-P-I-N to complete the Spin Marvel, R-I-N-G to increase the bonus multiplier. and V-O-L-T to activate the Boom! Balloon. The first part of "Join the Cirqus" also requires spelling C-I-R-Q-U-S. The game begins with W-O already lit, so challenging the first Ringmaster will likely happen after a minute into the game.
  • Stealth Pun: Spelling RING increases the bonus multiplier, but only up to 3X — because this is a three-ring circus...
  • Take That Player: Many of the Ringmasters' quotes fall under this.
    Ringmaster: "You're a disaster and I'm still the Ringmaster!"
  • The Place
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The backglass depicts a visibly feminine person with a spring for a body, holding a green mask in one hand.
  • Video Mode:
    • "The Amazing Roonie", where the goal is to help Roonie the kangaroo jump over various obstacles.
      Roonie: "G'day, mate!"
    • The 2.0H software adds a second video mode, called "Copy-Cat", which is similar to Simon Says.
  • Villainous Harlequin: The Ringmasters.
  • Wizard Mode: "Join the Cirqus", a four-stage wizard mode which can only be reached after completing all nine Marvels. It is divided into four parts — Spell Cirqus, Unmask Voltaire, Meet the Cirqus, and Party Multiball. A player who reaches Party Multiball and gets the best score gets to enter his initials as the Party Champion.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: About the only place you'd see a "Q" in place of a "C"...

Ringmaster: "Do you still want to play? I think you've had enough for today."
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