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Pinball / Cirqus Voltaire

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"You must challenge me!"
Announcer: "Get ready for the greatest pinball on earth!"

Cirqus Voltaire is a pinball game designed by John Popadiuk and Cameron Silver, with artwork by Linda Doane. it was released by Williams Electronics (under the "Bally" label) in 1997.

As the title indicates, the game takes place in an electricity-themed avant garde circus, and the player is an aspiring performer who wishes to join this eclectic crew. To do this, he must perform nine Marvels, then prove his mastery of the show by completing the multi-stage Wizard Mode. Along the way, he will impress the Jugglers, prance with the Highwire Multiball, pop the Boom! Balloon, fire the cannon in the backbox, roll the Menagerie Ball, and challenge the four Ringmasters when they rise from the playfield. But if he perseveres and Joins The Cirqus, perhaps he will unmask Ringmaster Voltaire and be crowned as the Party Champion.

Visually, Cirqus Voltaire is notable for its brash art design, with people divided on its electrifying aesthetic, neon colors, and unapologetic flamboyant style. In terms of gameplay, Voltaire is praised for its deep but understandable ruleset, eight multiball modes, and the ability to stack multiple multiballs to quickly build up scores. If nothing else, no one remains indifferent to this game.

Production trivia: Unlike most pinball games, Cirqus Voltaire doesn't have a single design style, but was manufactured with neon tubes and Menagerie balls of various colors and patterns. It's actually considered one of the more beautifully designed tables because of it. Of these, blue and purple seem to be the most common, while yellow and red are the rarest.

A digital version of Cirqus Voltaire was formerly available for The Pinball Arcade before the license to the Bally/Williams tables expired on July 1, 2018; to mimic the multitude of colored accents mentioned above, you get a random color every time you load the game. It later reappeared in Pinball FX 3 as part of Volume 5, except players can now choose the neon and Menagerie ball color.

This pinball demonstrates the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: The game's backstory, given as a scrolling message in Demo Mode, justifies the "Voltaire" pun by having the French philosopher Voltaire as the founder of the Cirqus' initial form.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Ringmaster, whose face is bright green. Some of the performers have uncharacteristically bright yellow and orange skin tones.
  • Angrish: The Ringmaster sometimes lapses into this if you hit him enough times during one of his multiball rounds.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The game has silent ball savers for a few events, such as when the ringmaster drops the ball from his head.
  • Artificial Limbs: The Ringmaster has a spring for a neck, while the acrobat on the backglass has her legs replaced by a spring.
    Ringmaster: "You'd be cranky too, if you had a spring for a neck."
  • Attract Mode: A textual history of the Cirqus appears in the display.
  • Big Bad: The Four Ringmasters, whom you face off against.
    Ringmaster: "Is that the best you got?"
  • Big "NO!": Sometimes done by the Ringmaster upon defeat.
  • Blackout Basement: "Neon Multiball", a three-ball multiball mode where the only illumination comes from the neon tube in the cabinet.
    Announcer: "Are you ready for a shocking experience?"
  • Blipvert: After defeating the Ringmaster during the "Ringmaster Battle" mini-Wizard Mode.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The long-haired high-wire walker in the right corner of the backglass is John Popadiuk.
    • Some of the end-of-ball judges include members of the design team.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: Hoping to start the Ringmaster Battle mode? It can actually be difficult to defeat the Ringmaster five times without achieving the other marvels in the process, which activates Join The Cirqus and resets your Ringmaster progress.
  • Dramatic Unmask/The Reveal: After "Unmask Voltaire" is completed in "Join the Cirqus," it is revealed that Voltaire is actually a woman, Madame Voltaire, who is also the game's Announcer.
    Voltaire/Announcer: "You must challenge Voltaire. I am Voltaire!"
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French/Voltaire: Word of God is that the game was intended to be a tribute to France for inventing bagatelle, Pinball's predecessor.
  • French Jerk: The Ringmasters.
    Ringmaster: "Monsieur, I challenge you to a duel!"
  • Godiva Hair: The Pinball FX 3 digital rendition of the table applies this trope on images of a female performer on the backglass due to censorship of suggestive imagery.
  • Good All Along: completing the wizard mode shows the Ringmaster is just the announcer (Voltaire) testing you. This is foreshadowed by the fact that most of his quotes encourage you to defeat him, and those that don't are more playful than malicious.
  • Gratuitous French: The Ringmasters often dip into this.
  • Harmless Electrocution: The fate of the highwire artists when starting Highwire Multiball.
  • Hold Up Your Score: At the end of each ball is "Fun With Bonus", when three judges hold up scorecards that affect the player's bonus.
    Announcer: "And the judges' score..."
    • If you get a perfect score (three 10s) from the judges:
    Announcer: Show off!
    • If you get an average between 9.6 and 10
    Announcer: Take a bow! They love you!
  • Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball: The Menagerie Ball, which is contained in a spherical cage on the left side of the playfield.
    Man: "Here is Menagerie Marvel, very nice!"
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The Ringmasters, right down to having the same voice.
  • Losing Horns: The weak fanfare that plays when the sideshow prize is Big Points.
  • Match Sequence: A clown walks across the display and gets knocked down by a pie, with the splatter forming the match digits. The clown also gives a thumbs up if there is a match.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Juggler dramatically proclaims his ability to juggle one, two, and even three balls at the same time.
  • My Grandma Can Do Better Than You:
    Ringmaster: "Granny ringmaster shoots better than you!"
  • My Nayme Is: "Cirqus", "Frenzie"...
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Parts of Julius Fucik's "Entrance of the Gladiators" (often known as "circus music") are interpolated in the main theme.
  • Repulsive Ringmaster: You have to beat four of them as part of the requirements to unlock Join the Cirqus. If you're careful about the order in which you earn the marvels, you can even take on a fifth.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: One of the animations for destroying a Ringmaster is something of one, with the ball being relayed by many circus performers into the Ringmaster's mouth.
  • Sequential Boss: The Wizard Mode definitely qualifies.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many of the "Fun With Bonus" judges are Lawyer Friendly Cameos, including Rincewind, Tommy, and Judy.
    • Underneath the left and right slingshot switches are the words "Pop" and "Duke", a reference to designer John Popadiuk and his father.
    • Near the right inlane is a cat pushing a dynamite plunger with "Joos TNT" on it, a reference to Williams' engineer John Joos Jr.
  • Skill Shot: Gently plunge the ball so that it hits the Skill Shot target on the ramp. Making five or more skill shots gives this quote by the Announcer:
    Announcer: "Skillfully done! Show off!"
  • Spelling Bonus:
    Announcer: "Spell W-O-W to summon the Ringmaster!"
    • The game begins with W-O already lit, so challenging the first Ringmaster will likely happen after a minute into the game. There is also S-P-I-N to complete the Spin Marvel, R-I-N-G to increase the bonus multiplier. and V-O-L-T to activate the Boom! Balloon. The first part of "Join the Cirqus" also requires spelling C-I-R-Q-U-S.
  • Spoiler Cover: The backglass depicts a visibly feminine person with a spring for a body, holding a green mask in one hand.
  • Stealth Pun: Spelling RING increases the bonus multiplier, but only up to 4X — because this is a three-ring circus...
  • Take That, Audience!: Many of the Ringmasters' quotes fall under this.
    Ringmaster: "You're a disaster and I'm still the Ringmaster!"
  • Video Mode:
    • "The Amazing Roonie", where the goal is to help Roonie the kangaroo jump over various obstacles.
      Roonie: "G'day, mate!"
    • The 2.0H software adds a second video mode, called "Copy-Cat", which is similar to Simon Says.
  • Villainous Harlequin: The Ringmasters.
  • Wizard Mode: "Join the Cirqus", a four-stage wizard mode which can only be reached after completing all nine Marvels. It is divided into four parts — Spell Cirqus, Unmask Voltaire, Meet the Cirqus, and Party Multiball. A player who reaches Party Multiball and gets the best score gets to enter his initials as the Party Champion.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: About the only place you'd see a "Q" in place of a "C"...
  • You Fight Like a Cow: The Ringmaster. "You make me weep...Not really!"
  • Your Mom: The ringmaster is ready to insult her. And have his mom be implied to be insulted too.
    Ringmaster: "Bah! Your mother drives a dumptruck!"
    Ringmaster: "What did you say about my mother?"

Ringmaster: "Do you still want to play? I think you've had enough for today."