Eight Ball was a Physical Pinball Table designed by George Christian. Released by Bally in 1977, it set a new record for the industry with 20,230 tables sold, a threshold that was only surpassed by The Addams Family nearly fifteen years later.
As one of Bally's early solid-state pinballs, Eight Ball was groundbreaking for being able to track the progress of each player via software. Targets would reset for each player based on their earlier state, preventing players from "stealing" the work of others. Eight Ball followed the rules of pool in the pinball game, requiring players to sink the seven balls of their type (solids or stripes) before shooting the eight ball for the jackpot.
Eight Ball is also noted for "borrrowing" the likenesses of The Fonz and Pinky Tuscadaro (Henry Winkler and Roz Kelly) from Happy Days on the backglass and cabinet art. Reportedly, Bally got in trouble with Paramount Television and CBS as a result, but the details of the settlementnote are unclear.
Eight Ball demonstrates the following tropes:
- Absolute Cleavage
- Bare Your Midriff: "Pinky".
- Aside Glance: Done on the backglass by "Fonz" and "Pinky".
- Boobs-and-Butt Pose: Done by "Pinky" on one of the triangle bumpers.
- Captain Ersatz: "Fonz" and "Pinky", obviously.
- The Casanova: Not only is the "Fonz" playing pool with his girl on the backglass, but one of the waitresses in the background is also eyeing him.
- The '50s
- Greaser Delinquents: "Fonz", of course.
- Hell-Bent for Leather
- Jerk Jock: One of the guys on the backglass.
- Malt Shop
- Nude-Colored Clothes: Done inadvertently; due to how the playfield is lit, "Pinky" appears to be wearing a tan/pink-colored top when the pinball machine is turned off.
- Unplugged Version: Although it's a solid state game, Eight Ball generates its sounds using a controlled chimebox, for the nostalgia of electro-mechanical chimes.
Naturally, the success of Eight Ball led Bally to develop a sequel. Released in 1981, Eight Ball Deluxe was designed by George Christian, with art by Margaret Hudson. Instead of The Fifties malt shop-and-greaser theme of the original, Deluxe went with an Urban Cowboy atmosphere. The game takes place in a western bar, complete with mechanical bull and sawdust on the floors. The main draw, though, is the unnamed shooter, a steely-eyed mustached cowboy (and his attendant girl) having a game of pool against the player.
Eight Ball Deluxe took advantage of the technological advancements of the day, offering a more complex set of rules and digitized voice clips. While it was not a record-breaker like the original, it was still a hit. Bally offered a "Limited Edition" a year later, and re-released the original in 1984; they featured different cabinet designs and art, but the playfield remained the same.
A digital version of Eight Ball Deluxe was developed in 1993 by LittleWing and published by Amtex for the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows computers. Amtex' bankruptcy had left the game in legal limbo until 2016, when a modern digital version was released for The Pinball Arcade. However, with that game's license with WMS expired as of July 2018, the table is once again in legal limbo.
Eight Ball Deluxe demonstrates the following tropes:
- The Computer Shall Taunt You
- Cowboy: Everyone's either a cowboy/cowgirl, or dressed like one.
- Hunk/Mountain Man: The shooter on the backglass.
- Mad Libs Dialogue: Used to identify what the player should be shooting for, and done rather well."Nice shot. Shoot the eight ball, corner pocket."
- Male Gaze: One of the playfield images is a woman in tight jeans with her back to the viewer, leaning over the pool table...
- Match Sequence: Sounds like a car engine sputtering out while the numbers flash rapidly before slowly, before landing on the number.
- Nintendo Hard: This game is a notorious drain monster, as even making a shot successfully tends to either send the ball screaming back down towards the flippers or induce lateral motion, making the ball more likely to go into one of the outlanes. Those who aren't good at nudging will not do well.
- Oral Fixation: The shooter has a cigarette hanging in his mouth.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: The playfield shows two six-shooters firing at the pool ball drop targets.
- Signature Line: "Quit talkin' and start chalkin'."
- Spelling Bonus: Sinking all seven balls (solids or stripes) and then the eight ball allows the player to shoot for DELUXE for more points and possibly a Super Bonus.
Bally returned to the well once more with 1985's Eight Ball Champ. This time around, George Christian and artist Tony Ramunni set the game during The Edwardian Era, with two sharp-dressed men playing pool at the local gentleman's club while others hang around the background. Once again, the objective is to sink your seven balls, then pocket the eighth for the win.
Unfortunately, while players consider Champ a decent game, it did not catch on as well as its predecessors did, possibly because it was a single-ball game at a time when multiball was popular. In the end, fewer than 2,000 units of this game were made.
Eight Ball Champ demonstrates the following tropes:
- Anachronism Stew: Invoked by the mixture of the Edwardian-era art design and the game's digital sound effects and Machine Monotone voice.
- Aside Glance: Done by one of the players on the backglass.
- Mad Libs Dialogue: Mostly lifted straight out of Eight Ball Deluxe, though a few new lines have been added in.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Worn by the woman on the backglass.
- Proper Lady
- The Edwardian Era: Invoked by both the backglass art and the playfield trimmings.
- Spelling Bonus: Spell C-H-A-M-P to increase the score of the left outer orbit. Spell E-I-G-H-T to light the letters in B-A-L-L, which gives extra points or an extra ball.