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Pinball / Gilligan's Island

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Gilligan: I'm not afraid of Kona.
[volcano rumbles; Kona's deep, throaty voice makes a threatening growl]
Gilligan: I'm afraid! HELP, SKIPPER!

Gilligan's Island is a Licensed Pinball Table designed by Ward Pemberton and Dan Langlois, with artwork by John Youssi. It was released in 1991 by Williams Electronics under the Bally label.

Based on the popular television sitcom, the game begins with the Castaways' tranquil island home disrupted by the impending eruption of Kona, the local volcano god. To avoid the calamity, Gilligan (and the player) must scour the island for seven ingredients to make the Professor's Secret Formula Lava Seltzer and relieve Kona's pressure. After gathering up the ingredients, Gilligan must then traverse the Jungle Run and deliver the Seltzer before it evaporates — but will the rotating jungle turntable send Gilligan in circles and sink the Castaways instead?

Gilligan's Island is noteworthy for being the first Williams pinball released with a dot-matrix displaynote , a few months after Data East's Checkpoint first offered a DMD. That doesn't redeem it among pinheads, however, who find Gilligan's Island unchallenging and unbalanced — collecting the ingredients is too easy, and mastering the Jungle Run ramp shot allows players to repeatedly relieve Kona and rack up several hundred million points in one round. Supporters counter that the classic sitcom humor and undemanding gameplay make this a perfect game for kids, families, and casual players.

The Gilligan's Island pinball demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Appease the Volcano God: A rare variation that does not involve a human sacrifice.
  • Bamboo Technology: Seen around the game, such as Mary Ann's electricity-generating stationary bike.
    • Averted with Gilligan's Jet Pack, which is implied to have been recovered from a wayward Japanese submarine.
  • Big Damn Pinball Machine
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Kona the Volcano.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Implied, as Gilligan can apparently fly over Kona (who is about to erupt) with no ill effects.
  • Creepy Souvenir: One of the Seltzer ingredients is a Shrunken Head.
  • E = MC Hammer: To track what ingredients are needed for the seltzer, the Professor's formula is shown iconically on the playfield, with nonsense like "...[seashell] +/- (mix well and add) [rope] - ( [shrunken head] < [turtle eggs] ) / [banana]..."
  • Fake Shemp:
    • Continuing her post-Gilligan boycott of the series, Tina Louise refused to lend her likeness to the game. As a result, Ginger only appears twice — once on the playfield and once on the backglass — with her face heavily obscured. She's also the only Castaway who doesn't appear in the Match Sequence.
    • Promotional flyers for the game feature Bob Denver as Gilligan with an unnamed not-Tina-Louise blond actress.
  • God Is Inept: One of the random rewards a player can get is "Gift of Gods", which gives the other players 1 million points each.
  • Golden Snitch: Successfully delivering the Lava Seltzer to Kona rewards a lopsided 50 million points... with another 50 million rewarded for each subsequent shot to Kona until time runs out.
    Gilligan: "Here we go again!"
    • For comparison, this game does NOT use Pinball Scoring numbers for anything not jungle- or Kona-related. If you're good, you will still need at least a few minutes to reach even one million points not derived from the jungle or Kona.
  • Hollywood Natives:
    • Played with using a shirtless native on the playfield. Though he is brandishing a spear and holding up a Shrunken Head, he's also unmistakably pale and wearing face paint that looks like a pair of oversized Nerd Glasses.
    • Played straight in one instance when the Professor explains his Lava Seltzer formula — when Watubi is mentioned, a picture of a more traditionally-dressed native appears on the dot-matrix display with the word "WATUBI" next to him.
  • Jet Pack: Gilligan is shown wearing a jet pack on the backglass; he uses it to fly above Kona on the playfield.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Multiball is available only as a random Lagoon Treasure.
  • Match Sequence: A castaway thinks of a match number, which appears inside a Thought Bubble. Depending on how many games have been played, the castaway is either: the Skipper, Gilligan, Mr. Howell, the Professor, Mrs. Howell, or Mary Ann, with Ginger left out for reasons detailed in Fake Shemp above.
  • Mobile Maze: The Jungle, a turntable with multiple chutes. Shooting the pinball up the Jungle Run ramp will send it out one of several different directions depending on how it's positioned.
  • Mythology Gag: "Kona" is directly taken from the series' first season episode "Waiting for Watubi", complete with bits of dialogue from said episode (see Posthumous Collaboration below), though Kona in that sense refers to the statue of an ancient god and not the volcanic god himself.
  • Noodle Implements/Plot Coupons: The ingredients for the Professor's Secret Formula Lava Seltzer, made from turtle eggs, seashells, pineapples, a rope, a Shrunken Head, bananas, and (of course) coconuts.
  • Not Quite Starring:
    • The impersonators for Mr. Howell and the Professor. Notably, Mr. Howell's voice is done by Tim Kitzrow, who would later impersonate Rod Serling for Bally's Twilight Zone two years later.
    • Averted with Gilligan himself, however — none but Bob Denver could have done his voice.
  • Posthumous Collaboration
    • Ward Pemberton finished the game after co-designer Dan Langlois' death during the design phase.
    • Unlike Gilligan (who was voiced by his actor, Bob Denver) and Mr. Howell and the Professor (whose voices were impersonated), the game uses dialogue of Alan Hale, Jr. taken straight from the series for the Skipper. In one instance, the dialogue was taken from the season one episode "Waiting for Watubi", repurposed as a conversation with Gilligan, with new custom dialogue. Hale had died over a year prior.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Naturally, the game plays the "Gilligan's Island" theme.
  • Skill Shot: Soft plunge the pinball into the top Eject Hole for a random reward.
  • Spelling Bonus: L-A-G-O-O-N enables the Lagoon for a random Lagoon Treasure.
  • Timed Mission: After collecting all seven ingredients, the player has 50 seconds to run through the Jungle (shoot the Jungle Run ramp six times) and deliver the Lava Seltzer to Kona.

Mr. Howell: "I hope there's more where that came from."