Nick Spade: "And then, I was on the case."WHO dunnit
is a pinball machine
designed by Dwight Sullivan and Barry Oursler
, with artwork by Linda Doane and Paul Barker. It was released in 1995 by Williams Electronics
(under the "Bally" label), and is best remembered for its melding of Pinball
with Mystery Fiction
, Film Noir
, and Interactive Fiction
The game is set in 1934, and the player is Nick Spade, a Hardboiled Detective
who is investigating a series of murders at a hotel and casino. Interrogate various suspects, gather equipment to help your investigation, and search for vital clues. Ride the train around town, search the sewers, then catch a taxi back to Tony's Palace. Use the elevator to explore the different floors of the hotel, then take a break by playing Roulette or the Slot Machine. Discover mysterious notes behind secret passages, watch out for ambushes in the Basement, then get up to the Roof and confront the killer. Play well and you'll get a chance for a Penthouse Party, but only the smartest gumshoes will figure out just how the fates of Tony, Victoria, Butler, Bruno, and Trixie are all intertwined.WHO dunnit
was an attempt to create a pinball game that could simultaneously appeal to casual players while offering a larger challenge and narrative depth for experts. Passersby could simply bat the ball around and enjoy the various gambling minigames
, while wizards could play it tactically, such as stretching out a case for more clues (and an extra ball) or quickly solving it for a chance to catch the killer. Players tend to be divided about the game as well; those who enjoy straightforward action are stymied by its measured pace and interruptions to advance the story. Those who take the time to understand the game, however, enjoy it for its intertwined plots, polished atmospheric presentation, and Film Noir
A digital version is available for The Pinball ArcadeNOTE:
While the game's murders are presented as stand-alone cases, there is
an overarching set of Plot Threads
that connect the five suspects. Spoilers have been marked where appropriate.For the television series by the creators of
CSI, click here.
WHO dunnit demonstrates the following tropes:
- All There in the Manual: A complete timeline for the characters' histories is given in the operator manual, though it is also hinted at through the characters' various interrogation answers. The full details are available here. (contains spoilers!)
- Badass Longcoat: Nick is always seen wearing one.
- The Bad Guy Wins/Karma Houdini: It is possible for this to happen if the player fails to catch the killer, either by failing the Taxi Chase or not completing The Roof chase.
- Battle Butler: Butler. He's secretly Victoria's father and goes into full Papa Wolf mode when she is threatened.
- Betting Mini-Game: Played straight with the Roulette Wheel, which allows players to bet a number of points on either Red or Black. Subverted with the Slot Machine, which always gives a reward, and even offers chances to turn a losing pull into a win.
Nick Spade: "Come on baby, come on!"
- Black Widow: Victoria, who's left two dead husbands in her wake before she and Tony conspire to kill Tex.
Tony: "Tex and Victoria's honeymoon was short, just the way she likes it."
- Bodyguard Betrayal: Bruno is actually Victoria's ex-husband, Tex; after surviving the attempt on his life, he gets plastic surgery, then works as a bodyguard at Tony's Palace while awaiting an opportunity for revenge on Tony and Victoria.
- Bookcase Passage: Nick finds a revolving bookcase that reveals a secret passage.
- Building of Adventure: Almost all of the events take place at Tony's Palace.
Nick Spade: "Sooner or later, they all show up at the Palace."
- The Butler Did It: Since the killer for each case is randomly selected, it is possible for a murder to play this trope straight when Butler is the culprit. Also quite possibly inverted if he's the victim.
- Cap: The score display rolls over at 10 billion points, which a good game can easily surpass. High scores are usually in the tens of billions.
- Chalk Outline: There's one on the backglass.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Tony has a tendency of betraying his business partners, such as Walter and Tex.
- Clueless Mystery/Fair Play Whodunnit: The game zigzags both tropes at the same time. The clues for each case are always the samenote and don't have any specific relevance. On the other hand, interrogating a suspect always provide a clue to the killer's identity,note so attentive players can solve the case easily.
- Collection Sidequest: Collecting all five clues in a case will light an extra ball, though they are not needed to solve the case.
- Combos: Comboing the right ramp gives various awards. 2 times in a row (1 "combo") lights Roulette, 3 times awards the Flashlight, 4 times lights an extra ball, and the 5th allows the player to attempt to be Loop Champion.
- Consolation Prize: Getting three unmatching symbols on the slots will award 5 million points, which is worth almost nothing in this game.
- Darkness Equals Death: Averted; when Nick goes into the Basement of Tony's Palace, he gets ambushed by an axe-welding attacker. Nick narrowly dodges the blow and gives chase, starting Basement Multiball.
- Deadly Bath/Psycho Strings: If a case has a female victim, it will sometimes begin with a shower murder scene complete with Psycho Strings.
- Death by Childbirth: Trixie's mother dies while giving birth to her.
- Destination Defenestration:
- Some cases begin with the killer throwing the victim's body off the roof of Tony's Palace, causing it to crash through a skylight.
- Scoring a Jackpot during multiball shows a person being thrown through a plate-glass window.
- Difficulty Levels: By default the game allows a selection between "Regular" and "Novice" difficulty levels at the beginning. "Novice" allows unlimited balls for 2 minutes and lasts until the first drain after the 2-minute period.
- Easter Egg: "Midnight Madness", which occurs if a game is started or played at midnight. The machine pretends to malfunction, with the flippers going dead, the balls draining, and the game shuts down. After a few seconds, the game wakes up with MIDNIGHT MADNESS, all four balls are launched, and every shot is worth three million points.
Nick Spade: "I was afraid of this."
- Written Sound Effect: During Midnight Madness, every hit causes the display to show "BOOM", "BLAM", "DOH!", etc.
- Economy Cast: Despite having a hotel full of people and a lifetime of business associates, all of the happenings in Tony's Palace revolve around the same five suspects.
- Elevator Failure: During "Elevator Madness" multiball, the game shows a plummeting elevator car.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Victoria's butler, who is only ever referred to as "Butler".
- Exact Eavesdropping: Done twice in the same incident. Tex overhears Victoria conspiring to murder him for his money (though he doesn't know who her co-conspirator is). When he confronts her afterward and threatens her, Butler overhears and plots to kill him in retaliation.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Trixie sees Victoria as a threat to her love for Tony.
- Happiness in Slavery/Undying Loyalty: Butler has this to Victoria. Justified, as he is secretly her father, Walter, and treasures her as his only surviving link to her late mother.
- Hardboiled Detective: Nick Spade, complete with fedora and trenchcoat.
- Instant-Win Condition: If the three-reel Slot Machine has two matching symbols, the player has a limited amount of time to shoot a flashing "Pull" target. Successfully doing so makes the third reel match and awards the result.
- Last Chance Hit Point: The outlanes can trigger the slots. If two symbols match as stated in Instant-Win Condition above, another ball is plunged so the player can attempt the Second Chance. The player gets to continue playing regardless of whether they succeed in that or not. Getting Multiball on the slots will also prevent the ball from ending.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Butler has this for Victoria. Not only does he put up with her constant abuse, but he participates in her Black Widow tendencies and attempts to murder Tex after he threatens her. Justified as he is secretly her father, Walter.
Butler: "Miss Victoria bears an uncanny resemblance to her mother."
- Luck-Based Mission: Normally the Slots and Roulette are this, but Tournament mode de-randomizes them. Slots will cycle through a pre-determined series of awards. Roulette will alternate between losses and wins, starting with a loss, however it must actually be played to advance in the sequence. The strategy is to only play small bets when it is guaranteed to be a loss.
- Mad Libs Dialogue: Done with some of Nick's dialog, particularly during interrogations.
Nick Spade: "Tell me about [character name]."
- Magic Plastic Surgery: After surviving his auto accident, Tex gets plastic surgery and adopts a new identity as Bruno. None of the people who knew him previously — his daughter Trixie, his ex-wife Victoria, or his former business partner Tony — catch on.
- Missing Mom: Happens to both Trixie and Victoria. Trixie's mother died giving birth to her, leaving her to be raised by Tex. Victoria's mother died during her youth, and she grew up in a boarding school as a result.
- Mistaken for Murderer: Tex/Bruno thinks Victoria tried to kill him by sabotaging the brakes on his car. In reality, it was Butler who did it.
- Mysterious Note: Nick gets one inviting him to the Basement of Tony's Palace.
Nick Spade: "'Meet me in the basement'? Hmmm."
- Mystery Fiction
- No Ending: Each case begins on the evening when Victoria and Butler return to Tony's Palace, where Trixie and Bruno are working. The randomly-generated murders means anything can happen, and the reasons why are left to the player's interpretation.
- Not Quite Dead: Tex survived the sabotage of his car. He gets plastic surgery, adopts the new identity of Bruno, and is out for revenge against Victoria.
- Offing the Offspring/Patricide: The randomly-generated murders make this possible, such as Bruno killing Trixie.
- Old Retainer: Butler is this to Victoria; he used to work for her mother, and she hires him as her manservant. He's really her father, Walter, and stays with her because of his Happiness in Slavery.
- Papa Wolf: Butler, who's secretly Victoria's father, Walter. He sabotages Tex's car after overhearing him threaten her.
- Parental Substitute: After Tex dies in his auto accident, Trixie latches onto Tony as a substitute father and falls in love with him.
- Pinball Scoring: Played ridiculously straight — even a billion points isn't enough for a Replay. The default replay value is 1.5 billion.
- Police Are Useless: Despite all the high-profile murders at Tony's Palace, the police are nowhere to be seen. Arrest warrants are also nowhere to be seen; failing to tackle the culprit on the roof leaves the case forever unsolved.
- Posthumous Character: Both Trixie and Victoria's mothers are deceased before the game starts.
- Power-Up: The equipment has various effects:
- Revolver: Increases the value of jackpots by 5M per bumper hit instead of 1M.
- Magnifying glass: Eliminates a suspect if the Phone hole is shot with nothing lit on it.
- Flashlight: Finds the map.
- Map: Various awards when the sewers are shot.
- Precocious Crush: Trixie develops a crush on Tony at the age of eight when he and Tex become partners to open the hotel.
- Randomly Generated Levels: Each case has a randomly-selected killer out of the five suspects.
- Real Song Theme Tune: The game's main tune is Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn".
- Rooftop Confrontation: Occurs when the player correctly solves the current case — if he can quickly complete the Taxi Chase, Nick will go to the roof of Tony's Place and confront the killer. Chase and catch the killer before time runs out to end the case and start a four-ball multiball.
- Skill Shot: Shoot the lit T-A-X-I target for points, a new clue, bonus multiplier, or to light Roulette, respectively. There is also a Super Skill Shot obtained by plunging into the hole below the "I" target, which awards points, a clue, bonus multiplier, and locks a ball for Multiball.
- Smoking Is Cool: Nick is often seen with a cigarette in his mouth.
- Spelling Bonus: T-A-X-I awards a clue, allowing a suspect to be interrogated.
- Spinning Paper: Used to introduce each case. If you successfully capture the killer, another one is used to announce your success.
- Spoiled Brat: Victoria, who treats everyone poorly.
Trixie: "Poor butler was so devoted to Victoria, and she treated him like dirt."
- Stalker with a Crush: Bruno is this for Trixie; he keeps a locker full of her pictures and news clippings. Justified in that he's actually her father, Tex.
Butler: "Bruno had a disturbing fixation on young Trixie."
- Swarm of Rats: Entering the sewer rewards a "Pack of Rats".
- Take Your Time: Until the suspect is found, there is no time limit to solving the case. If you are close to collecting all the clues, it may be better to prolong the case so that you can collect all the clues to light an extra ball.
- Title Confusion: The stylized logo causes confusion over the exact use of case and punctuation in the title; variations include "WhoDunnit", "WHO?dunnit", "Who Dunnit?", and others. Fan abbreviations include "W?D" and "Wd?".
- "WHO dunnit" is the official spelling, as used in Williams' advertising and marketing materials.
- Vehicular Sabotage: The brakes on Tex's car are sabotaged by Butler, after he overhears Tex threatening Victoria for conspiring to kill him. Tex drives off a cliff and the car explodes.
- Whammy: Near the beginning of the game, it's possible to play Roulette, bet more more points than you actually have, and lose it all.
- Worth Living For: Tex survives his Vehicular Sabotage accident only because of his love for his daughter, Trixie.
Nick Spade: "Get the phone!"