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Pinball / Banzai Run

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You've Never Seen Anything Like This!
"Go for the Hill!"

Banzai Run is a Physical Pinball Table designed by Pat Lawlor and Larry DeMar, with artwork by Mark Sprenger. It was released in 1988 by Williams Electronics, and is notable for its continuous playfield, which extends vertically into the backbox.

The game itself is centered on the 1988 Banzai Run Supercross race on the notorious Banzai Hill track. As an up-and-coming racer, you are up against four rivals: Green Machine, Yellow Belly, Blue Beard, and Red Hot. Build up laps on the lower playfield, then hit the twelve color-coded targets to challenge each racer and access the hill. Once that's done, ride the Ball Lifter to the vertical playfield to defeat the challengers, then take on the King of the Hill in a light-and-sound spectacular.

Although some earlier pinball games included bagatelle-style minigames in the backbox, Banzai Run was the first to have a fully-featured vertical playfield with flippers, kickers, and sinkholes. Besides its novel design, Banzai Run was the first pinball game designed by Pat Lawlor, and established many of his preferred gameplay elements that would appear in later pins.

A digital version was available on the PC and mobile versions of The Pinball Arcade before being taken down at the end of June 2018.

Banzai Run demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Big Word Shout: The racer shouts "BANZAIIIII!" when you shoot the Cycle Jump on the vertical playfield, after starting the next ball with an extra ball, and after defeating the King of the Hill during multiball.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The rival's targets match their primary colors and names.
  • Creator Cameo: The faceless racers on the playfield are named after the game's design team. In order of rank, they're (John) Krutsch, (Pat) Lawlor, (Ed) Boon, (Mark) Sprenger, and (Brian) Schmidt.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • If the player challenges or defeats a single opponent, the announcer will address each one individually. However, if a second competitor—or, in extremely rare cases, a third—is challenged or defeated very quickly after the first, the announcer will name them all within one complete sentence.
    He's challenged (opponent 1) and (opponent 2)!
    What a move on (opponent 1), (opponent 2), and (opponent 3)!
    • If a ball exits the Hill, doesn't make a clean feed on the ramp, doesn't hit any switch on the main playfield, and then drains, a Super Jump is awarded, acting as an instant Extra Ball/Ball Saver. Bear in mind, the Hill's flippers would still be active if this happens.
    • The game has an alternate ruleset which exclusively makes use of the lower playfield, in the event the upper playfield is out of order.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: The hill can only be accessed if a rival is challenged, but not beaten. A Boring, but Practical strategy is to never defeat opponents and just go for Cliff Jumps.
  • Faceless Goons: The lower playfield features additional racers (in addition to the player's four rivals), all of whom are completely covered in motocross gear and have no influence on the game.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The only identifying characteristic for the player's character is his gender.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: The announcer uses separate voice clips for each rival's name in a fill-in-the-blank fashion.
    Announcer: "He's going after (rival's name)!"/"He's challenged (rival's name)!" — upon lighting a rival
    Announcer: "What a move on (rival's name)!" — upon defeating a rival
    Announcer: "He's moved into (2nd through 5th) place" — after defeating any rivals and returning to the main playfield
    Announcer: "Go for the Hill/Instant Rematch!"
  • Mini-Game: "Freestyle", a separate miniature pachinko-style playfield in the backbox.
  • Score Multiplier: Hitting the A, B, and C targets on the lower half of the vertical playfield doubles the current Cliff Jump value.
  • Signature Style: Banzai Run features what would become Lawlor's trademarks: Multiple flippers (in this table's case, six), a soft-plunge Skill Shot, the Bumper Shot, horizontal shots, dual-left inlanes (though in this case, it's a kicker), and game-changing gimmicks (the vertical playfield).
  • Skill Shot: Gently plunge the ball into the Banzai Hill saucer to score the "Super Cycle Stunt" bonus and send the ball up Banzai Hill.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Red Hot is the only female racer in the game.