Pinball themes have been inspired from all kinds of topics and all sorts of genres, from science fiction and fantasy through sports and movies and all points in between. Yet even in this broad field, America's Most Haunted is unique for being the first pinball game inspired by a podcast.
The genesis of this game came when Charlie Emery, creator and host of the Spooky Pinball podcast, hooked up with Video Game-console modder and internet celebrity Benjamin Heckendorn, a.k.a. Ben Heck. Heck, already (in)famous for building his own Bill Paxton pinball table, became inspired to develop a game combining Emery's love of pinball and all things paranormal. Emery, in turn, was inspired to start his own company to manufacture and sell it to collectors of boutique pinballs.
The game itself is about the wacky antics of four amateur Reality Show ghost hunters as they search for evidence of ghosts in various haunted venues. Visit places like the Abandoned Hospital, the Historic Theater, and the Haunted Bar, take photos of sneaky spectres, consult the Spirit Guide, then Complete Investigations for a chance to battle the six different Ghost Bosses. While the Ghost Minion on the playfield follows your ball, jump across the Theater Balcony, push open the Morgue Door, manipulate the haunted Hellivator to summon the Hotel Ghost, then use the high-tech and psychic powers of your team to clear each haunt. Color-changing LEDs and over a thousand comical quips keep things lively, but only the best will be able to Battle the Demon behind all the haunted happenings.
After two years of development, a name change (the original name was "Ghost Squad"), and lots of good-spirited help from industry veterans and pinball fans, America's Most Haunted was released in 2014 as the first game from Spooky Pinball LLC, in both "Animated Blue" and "Reality Green" art packages. A complete run of 150 units has been filled, with games shipped to buyers through 2016. The game software is also fully open sourced, allowing budding developers to update the software and animation simply by swapping out an SD card.
A gameplay video can be seen here.
America's Most Haunted demonstrates the following tropes:
- Abandoned Hospital: This is one of the game's settings.
- Affectionate Parody: Of Paranormal Investigation television shows such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and Destination Truth.
- All Women Are Lustful: The tombstone for Molly Fitzpatrick, ghost of the Haunted Bar, includes the quotes "Loved by Many" and "If this grave is a'rocking, don't come a'knocking."
- Art Shift: Played with via the two different versions of the game; the "Animated Blue" version has hand-drawn cabinet and translite art, while the "Reality Green" uses photographed models. The playfield art is the same in both cases, though.
- Ass Shove: Many of the Ghost Doctor's prognosis involve this.Ghost Doctor: "Patient is unruly. Recommend enema, repeat until condition improves."
- Back-Alley Doctor: Herbert Holston, the manager of the Landmark Hotel, is described as an "amateur physician."
- Bedsheet Ghost: Most of the ghosts have a cartoonish bedsheet look.
- Big Bad: The Demon.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: All of the ghosts share at least one feature or held item that matches with the color of the insert light for his or her location.
- Deadpan Snarker: Kaminski the jaded sound tech."Following instructions written in blood leading to a morgue — what could go wrong?"
- Double Entendre: Fully embraced at every opportunity."You knew right where to put your balls!"
- Dumb Blonde: Heather, the blonde cheerleader of the crew is too busy chewing bubble gum and videotaping herself to pay attention to the ghosts around her.
- Early Installment Weirdness: America's Most Haunted is Spooky Pinball's first and only table to have a single-color dot-matrix display, with all subsequent tables having full-color monitors designed to resemble a dot-matrix display. It's also Spooky's only table not based on a licensed theme (or at least not intentionally).
- Everything's Better with Cows:
- The silhouette of a ghost cow can be seen in the center background of the backglass.
- On initial settings, the second high-score entry has the initials COW.
- Fantastic Science: Several of the ghost hunters use hardware to track down the spectres.
- Fun with Acronyms: Ghost photos are taken with GLIR — Ghost-Locating Infra-Red.
- Game Mod: The game software is open source (files here), the sound files can be replaced by any PC, and the PinHeck controller allows owners to make updates by swapping SD cards.
- General Ripper: The tombstone for Captain Dixon, ghost of the War Fort, reads "He grew too fond of war."
- Granola Girl/Hairy Girl: Misty Moon, the red-headed "gypsy"."I'm glad I didn't shave my legs for this — or any other occasion."
- Ham and Cheese: Invoked; everything in this game is intentionally played for scenery-chewing lowbrow humor.
- Haunted House: Many of the venues fall under this trope, particularly the Haunted Bar, Landmark Hotel, and Historic Theater.
- Holy Burns Evil: An animation shows a ghost being sprayed with a super soaker loaded with Holy Water.
- Hot Gypsy Woman: Played with; Misty Moon likes to dress up like a stereotypical gypsy woman.
- Hurricane of Puns: Comes with the ultra-hammy territory.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The Prison Guard ghost is implied to be one in his former life.
- In-Universe Camera: The backglass art shows the four ghost hunters from the POV of a camcorder viewfinder.
- Indian Burial Ground: The War Fort has apparently been turned into a burial ground for the former soldiers there.War Ghost: "You dare disturb the burial ground of brave Confederate soldiers?!"
- Intangibility: Subverted; one of the animations shows a ghost getting punched in the face, knocking its teeth out.
- Lethal Chef: Julienne Sikes, the former cook of the Old Prison, is implied to be one.
- Mad Doctor: The Ghost Doctor."Next they'll be using aspirin to treat heart attacks!"
- Miss Kitty: Molly Fitzpatrick, the Bar Ghost.Kaminski: "Great, now I'm going to get a spiritually transmitted disease!"
- Mooks: The Ghost Minion, an easily-defeated enemy geared towards casual players.
- No Name Given: None of the ghost hunters are named in-game.
- Number of the Beast: One of the random point awards is 3,666,000 points.
- Paranormal Investigation: The player leads a team of four paranormal investigators.
- Rule of Three: Many of the goals and jackpots require hitting a target three times.
- Shielded Core Boss: To attack the ghost of the War Fort, the player must first knock down the target bank blocking his weak spot.
- Skill Shot: At the beginning of a new ball, the display shows a ghost near the pop bumpers, top rollovers, or Stairs passage. Shoot the corresponding location to collect a reward.
- Spelling Bonus: O-R-B increases the bonus multiplier, G-L-I-R enables Ghost Photos, and W-I-K-I, T-E-C-H, or P-S-Y-C-H-I-C makes the Spirit Guide available.
- Spin-Off: The entire game was spun off from the 2011 Halloween episode of The Ben Heck Show.
- Thrown Down a Well: This is how Molly Fitzpatrick is defeated.Host: "She died as she lived — going down."
- Toilet Humor/Vulgar Humor: Many of the jokes fall along the lines of "frat boy" humor.Misty Moon: "I sense you're actually a coward... and impotent."
- Unfinished Business: Salazar, the ghost of the Historic Theater, is defeated when the player completes his unfinished play.
- Valley Girl: Heather plays this painfully straight."The elevator's stuck! There's, like, totally a ghost in here!"
- Video Mode: Spelling WIKI, TECH, and PSYCHIC enables "Flippy Ghost"; as the display scrolls from left to right, the player must repeatedly tap the flipper buttons to make a ghost move up and down, avoiding various obstacles in the way.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: Lampshaded word-for-word.Kaminski: "Who writes this crap? These shows are so fake!"
- Wizard Mode: "Battle the Demon," available only after completing all six Ghost Boss investigations, beating a requisite number of Minions, becoming a Photo Ace, and completing Multiball at least once. After locking three balls, the fourth ball is launched for a four-ball multiball. Hit the Moving Shot six times to weaken the Demon and drop the targets, then repeatedly hit the Ghost Minion loop for Jackpots. When you're down to your last ball, make a final hit to the Demon and win the game.
- Woman Scorned: Implied by Samuel Salazar's tombstone, which reads "His wife Lisa tore him apart."
- World of Ham