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Pinball / Black Knight

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"The Black Knight will slay you!"

"I am the Black Knight."

Black Knight is a series of pinball machines, all designed by Steve Ritchie. The first two were released by Williams Electronics in the 1980s, while the third was released by Stern Pinball in 2019 (under license from Williams, who had long since left the pinball industry by then).

The titular character is the main focus of each game's theme, being an antagonistic force the player battles as they play (which is made progressively clearer in each subsequent game). Fittingly, voice clips (provided by Ritchie himself) from the Knight taunt and mock the player frequently. Other staples of the series include a two-level playfield (though Sword of Rage relegates it to Premium and Limited Edition versions) and the "Magna-Save", a player-controlled magnet that can be activated to prevent draining the ball down the right outlane.

The games in the series are as follows:

  • Black Knight (1980): The original game, with software by Larry DeMar and artwork by Tony Ramunni. It introduces many of the aforementioned features and became a blockbuster for Williams, with over 13,000 tables sold. The game was copied for Brøderbund Software's video pinball game David's Midnight Magic. An officially-licensed recreation is available in Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection, and was formerly available as part of FarSight Studios' The Pinball Arcade before the WMS license expired on July 1, 2018.
  • Black Knight 2000 (1989): The first sequel, with software by Ed Boon and artwork by Doug Watson. The Black Knight returns, this time in a techno-feudal landscape (eschewing the more traditional, ornate look of the original game). The player must storm the Knight's castle and battle him, while a Choir of Angels provide moral support for the player. It was the first pinball game to offer a Wizard Mode, and featured a truly memorable soundtrack with Chicago singers Stephanie Rogers and Glo Van Vlack. A digital version was formerly available for The Pinball Arcade until their license to all Bally and Williams tables expired on July 1, 2018.
  • Black Knight: Sword of Rage (2019): A full 30 years after the last game, Stern Pinball got the license from Williams and created another sequel. It expands upon the previous games' premises and pits the player against the Knight's forces of evil (including a skeleton army and several fantasy creatures). It also has music from Scott Ian and Brendon Smallnote , as well as voice work by Ed Robertson.

This series contains examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes applying to multiple installments 
  • Antagonist Title: Every game is named after the Black Knight.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Two of them:
    • Every game has Last Chance, which will start if there are two balls locked and the final remaining ball leaves play through either outline. In 2000, it will allow the player to try and achieve multiball or the King's Ransom as normal, but is only be lit once per ball. The Premium and Limited Edition versions of Sword of Rage received an update in June 2019 that added a slightly different version of this feature - the goal is instead to get 3 balls into the Catapult Lock within a set amount of time (during which the player has unlimited balls).
    • The original game also has Bonus Ball, which is only available at the end of a multiplayer game, and is reached by the player with the highest score. It's a three-ball multiball where the player has 30 seconds to make as many shots as possible.
    • Sword of Rage simply has the traditional grace period at the start of each ball.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: 2000's main theme, composed by Brian Schmidt and Dan Forden, is renown to the point of being Awesome Music - to the point where Sword of Rage uses an even harder-rocking remix for its own main theme.
  • Black Knight: Unsurprisingly, the main antagonist is one of these.
  • Boss Banter: The Black Knight frequently taunts you as you play.
  • Cool Sword:
    • The original game has the player's weapon, prominently featured on the playfield. It lights up as more points are scored.
    • 2000's backglass shows the Black Knight wielding a double-sided lightning sword.
    • Sword of Rage has the titular weapon, which can be powered up and unleashed to enhance scoring during a mode.
  • Creator Cameo: Steve Ritchie provides the Knight's voice.
  • Elemental Motifs: 2000 and Sword of Rage has lightning in their designs with both having the lightning wheels. 2000's design ties the motif to the Feudal Future aesthetic. The Knight in Sword of Rage has lightning motifs on his armour and shield, with his sword having an electric effect on the Premium Backglass and in one of the animations on the screen.
  • Evil Laugh: The Black Knight does this frequently (including during 2000's main theme).
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Knight, in 2000 and Sword of Rage.
  • Fair-Play Villain: The "Last Chance" mechanic is obstensively the Black Knight letting you get up one more time, with Sword of Rage even showing an animation of him offering a hand to help you onto your feet. Whether its because he respects your potential or because he thinks watching you get beat to the ground again is funny never gets discussed.
  • Have a Nice Death: The Knight laughs at you if you engage the Magna-Save but fails to save the ball in the first two games.
  • Hellish Horse: The Knight rides one of these on the backglass of the first two games and the premium and LE Sword of Rage art packages. It also appears during War Hurryup in the latter game.
  • Match Sequence:
    • In 2000, two lightning bolts strike and slowly form a pair of digits.
    • In Sword of Rage, a knight hurls an ax at a skeleton chained to a spinning wheel. The digits are shown after it lands (obliterating the skeleton's head in the process).
  • No Plot? No Problem!: The first two games have a premise - the player is battling the Black Knight - but not any particular plot.
  • Spelling Bonus:
    • In both 2000 and Sword of Rage, W-A-R starts a hurry-up mode. (In the former, it also awards a million points during either the Double Knights Challenge or the King's Ransom.)
    • In 2000:
      • W-I-N increases the bonus multiplier and lights "Advance Ransom" at the drawbridge.
      • Hitting the K-N-I-G-H-T drop targets advances B-L-A-C-K, and relights the kickback and Magna-Save.
      • B-L-A-C-K lights the Skyway Ramp for 1 million points.
      • R-A-N-S-O-M starts The King's Ransom, and is carried over from game-to-game.
    • In Sword of Rage:
  • Storming the Castle:
    • In 2000, the upper playfield has a drawbridge that must be battered and lowered to start multiball.
    • In Sword of Rage, the player's ultimate goal is to storm and burn down the Knight's castle.
  • Wizard Mode:
    • 2000, the Trope Maker, has "The King's Ransom", where all targets are activated and all balls are in play for 20-30 seconds (depending on the machine's settings).
    • Sword of Rage has two:
      • "Black Castle", the last of the six main modes, in which the player fights the Knight directly. It is a timed single-ball mode. All three center "knight" shots must be hit, then any one of the outer shots. The sequence repeats three more times, but requiring a different outer shot each time - meanwhile, the flail and shield will hit back harder. Complete all shots to unlock a 6-ball "RAGE" multiball.
      • A code update for the Premium and Limited Editions in late June 2019 added a new iteration of "The King's Ransom", lit by spelling K-N-I-G-H-T twice in a single game. It's a 60-second 3-ball multiball (with unlimited ball saver time) where everything is lit, much like the original version; in addition, the screen shifts to a facsimile of 2000's display and a remastered version of its theme plays.

    Tropes specific to the original Black Knight 
  • Attract Mode: The game occasionally plays an audio clip of the Black Knight taunting you when no one is playing.
    Black Knight: You can't win! Ha ha ha!
    • If the start button is pressed with no credits, the Black Knight will respond.
    Black Knight: No way! Give me your money!
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: This game is the only one in the series to have Magna-Save on both the left and right outlanes. The sequels swap the left outlane Magna-Save for a standard kickback.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: The Knight's dialogue is composed entirely of a handful of words, with a few extra sounds added that can modify existing words to create new ones (i.e. "knight" into "fight").
    "[F][ight] [again][st]... [th][r][ee]... [enemie][s]."
  • Score Multiplier: During multiball, the number of balls left determines the score multiplier (twice or three times the amount of points).
  • Timed Mission:
    • The many sets of drop targets on the playfield all start a timer when one of them is hit. If the player does not knock down all three before time runs out, they reset.
    • The Mystery Score is lit for a short period of time under specific circumstances, requiring the player to shoot the center ramp before too long.

    Tropes specific to 2000
"Get ready for battle! Beat the Black Knight!" (chorus)
  • Advanced Tech 2000: The title, obviously; it does take place in a more futuristic setting.
  • Big "YES!": The choir sings "YEAH!" when you get an extra ball or win a Match Sequence.
  • Cap:
    • 1,500,000 is the highest possible score awarded for a Hurry-Up shot.
    • The bonus multiplier tops out at 5x.
    • Once a player makes 99 loops and/or 99 U-turns, no more will counted toward the end-of-ball bonus.
    • The highest possible base bonus is 594,000, making the highest possible bonus worth 2,970,000 after being multiplied.
  • Cherubic Choir: Without the children, but otherwise fits.
  • Combos:
    • The "Ramp-Loop Combo", a variant of Steve Ritchie's signature combo shot.
    • Enough consecutive shots to the loop on the upper playfield will temporarily light an extra ball, with how long it is lit based on the number of consecutive shots made.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Being the first machine with a Wizard Mode, letters in R-A-N-S-O-M are held over into subsequent games, similar to how some other machines around that era had a jackpot score that held over into later games, instead of only being achievable based on your individual play in the game at hand. Meaning you could play and collect the first five letters in your game or a series of games, then walk away from the machine, then someone else in a later game could complete the W-I-N upper rollovers and then shoot into the ball lock ramp on the upper playfield to collect the final letter and start The Kings Ransom with much less effort!
  • Feudal Future: Type 1.
  • Golden Snitch: The King's Ransom can turn into this in a multi-player game if it is close to being started.
  • Kirby Dots: Common in the game's art style.
  • He's Back!: The flyer for this table proudly reads, "He rides again", alluding to the return of the Black Knight.
  • Match Sequence: Two lightning bolts strike each other, and the digits roll, and stops at the matching digit. The Choir of Angels sing "YEAH!" if any of the digits match.
  • Progressive Jackpot: As with many games during this era. Also, "R-A-N-S-O-M" (see Wizard Mode in the Tropes applying to multiple installments folder) is carried over from game to game.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: The music intensifies if the player is down to one active ball and the multiball jackpot hasn't been collected yet.
  • Wheel of Decisions: The Lightning Wheel, which gives out a random award, and is a prominent part of the playfield.

    Tropes specific to Sword of Rage
"Challenge me, and I will show no mercy."note 

  • Call-Back: There are several allusions to 2000 beyond the music:
    • The Lightning Wheel returns, this time used to track completion of the game's modes.
    • The main multiball is called the "Triple Knights Challenge", alluding to the "Double Knight Challenge" from 2000.
    • The lanes at the top of the field spell "W-A-R", just like that game.
    • Several of the Black Knight's quotes either come directly from 2000note  or resemble ones from that game.note 
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of the main modes cause every shot required for them to change to a specific color - green for the Hydra, yellow for the Sandworm, orange for the Magma Beast, red for the Hell Hand, blue for the Lich Lords, and purple for the Black Knight.
  • Dem Bones: The Knight commands a whole army of living skeletons in this game. It's also heavily implied that he himself is one, too.
  • Excuse Plot: A step up from the previous two games' near-total lack of story, the instruction card sums it up:
    "The Black Knight and his minions are invading your lands. Use your sword to defeat him, his SKELETON ARMY, his EVIL ALLIES, and BURN his CASTLE!"
  • Epic Flail: The Knight wields one that is able to block shots.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The premium and Limited Edition backglass shows two of these in the background.
  • Game Mod: Like most Stern Pinball machines made after 2011, there is a topper available that you can install on the backbox. This one depicts the Black Knight's head and upper torso with two flaming gates at each side of him. The head sometimes interacts with what's going on with the playfield.
  • Giant Hands of Doom: The Hell Hand is a particularly demonic example.
  • Glowing Eyes: The Knight toy on the playfield and topper has eyes that glow orange when it speaks.
  • Hydra Problem: One of the main modes pits the player against a five-headed hydra - defeating it requires shooting each lit shot to cut off a head, then shooting it again to seal it before it grows back.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness:
    • The Pro edition is the only game in the series not to have a second-level sub-playfield.
    • The MagnaSave button is now located on the top of the lockdown bar (common placement area of the "Action Button" on many Stern machines, as well as other competing companies' pinball machines, of the current lcd score/display screen era) instead of being a side button(s) near to the flipper buttons.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Knight's shield is able to reflect the player's shots when it's down.
  • Kill It with Ice: The Lich Lords each take two shots to defeat - one to freeze them, and one to actually kill them.
  • Magma Man: The fittingly-named Magma Beast.
  • Meaningful Name: Bernie is a flamethrower-wielding skeleton.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is rather notorious for requiring quick reflexes; among other things, hitting the prominent Black Knight target can send the ball bouncing quickly and unpredictably (including straight down the gap between the flippers).
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • Knight Multiball (accessed by collecting every letter in "KNIGHT") changes the display to a static picture of Black Knight's logo and alters the sound effects to those from the original game.
    • Similarly, the King's Ransom Wizard Mode alters the display and sound effects to match 2000. (Interestingly, while the game already uses an instrumental arrangement of that game's main theme during regular play, a more traditional remix of the theme - vocals and all - plays during this mode.)
  • Not So Above It All: The Black Knight switches between more traditional threatsnote  and goofier ones like questioning if the player thinks they're "Mr. Badass".
  • Oculothorax: The Hell Hand is a giant demonic hand with one eye and a mouth.
  • Power-Up: The titular Sword of Rage, charged by hitting a specific target bank, can be used during a battle mode to help boost one's score.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Wizard Mode (where the player confronts the Black Knight directly) indicates the shots necessary to complete it with purple lights.
  • Pyromaniac: Bernie's enthusiastic flamethrower usage all but says it outright.
  • Rearrange the Song: The game's main theme is a full-fledged metal cover of 2000's main theme.
  • The Reveal: The Black Knight's head is skeletal.
  • Sand Worm: One mode tasks the player with killing one of these.
  • Sequel Escalation: Compared to the previous two installments, the theme is more pronounced as you are battling multiple enemies, exploring the world of the Black Knight and you actually get to duel the Black Knight himself.
  • Shout-Out: Bernie occasionally shouts "Great balls of fire!" when his spinner is hit.
    • One of the Black Knight's lines when you hit him is "It's only a flesh wound!" Rather appropriate, considering who said the line in the film.
  • Skill Shot: Two of them - the traditional top lane skill shot (which the Premium/Limited Edition changes to hitting a target on the upper playfield), and a "Super Skill Shot" accessed by holding the left flipper button, plunging the ball, and making a Knight shot (also changed for the Premium/Limited Edition, this time to locking a ball on the upper playfield).
  • Spikes of Villainy: One of the Knight's shoulder pads has three spikes on it.
  • Wreathed in Flames: The Black Knight appears this way on the bottom of the playfield.

Black Knight: Will you challenge the Black Knight again?

Alternative Title(s): Black Knight 2000, Black Knight Sword Of Rage, Black Knight 1980