It had a number of features going for it, the most striking of which were the dual playfields: a normal playfield, and the "Black Hole", a reversed playfield embedded underneath, visible through a transparent hole in the table. It also featured speech, something of a novelty at the time, with the game memorably taunting prospective players by saying "Do you dare to enter the Black Hole?" during Attract Mode. Finally, it featured an eye-catching mirrored backglass with a rotating black hole. Both features were taken out of the export version. The game cost 50 cents to play, which was fairly extravagant at the time, but played up in marketing to promote the game's earning potential.
The original concept came from Joe Cicak, a pinball player from Pennsylvania who was curious on how to use the empty space inside a conventional pinball table. After watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, he and his friends were inspired to build a prototype game; when the actual game proved fun to play, they decided to present it to Gottlieb, who were making games with large playfields. Gottlieb, already under pressure for innovative table designs from the success of Williams' Black Knight, quickly agreed to purchase the rights.
Black Hole is not for the timid many players were turned off by the table's difficulty, and the reversed lower playfield is guaranteed to disorient new players. Getting multiball is difficult and considered an incredible achievement, which explains why its highly regarded by players looking for a challenge. Even today, it remains an interesting piece of pinball history for its design and art.
Digital versions of the game are available for Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection and The Pinball Arcade.
This pinball machine provides examples of:
- Dummied Out: The rotating backglass art and speech card were omitted from exported versions of the game.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The black hole shown on the backglass spins. Unfortunately, this feature was excluded from the export release, along with the mirrors.
- Interface Screw: The lower playfield, which is slanted away from the player so pinballs fall "up" the table.
- Machine Monotone: Unlike Williams' machines at the time which used human voices, the above quote (and all other dialogue) is said by a Vortrax SC-01 voice synthesis chip.
- Nintendo Hard: This game is a notorious drain monster.
- One-Way Visor: Shown on all the astronauts.
- Spelling Bonus: The B-L-A-C-K-H-O-L-E drop targets light g-force accelerators to increase score values on the lower level.
- Sucking-In Lines: Shown on the black hole on the side of the cabinet and backbox.
- Title Drop: Done by the game's dialog during the Attract Mode.
- Unrealistic Black Hole: The nature of the spinning black hole on the backglass means the trapped astronauts are moving with it.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Objects actually can orbit a black hole without falling in, however.
- Wizard Mode: Multiball is considered this, as it's really hard to achieve.