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Pinball / Sharkey's Shootout

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The only thing more boisterous than the game is its creation.

Sharkey's Shootout is a Physical Pinball Table released by Stern Pinball in 2000. Designed by John Borg with art by veteran pinball artist John Youssi, this is a game with an unconventionally tumultuous origin.

Sharkey's is about an exclusive, invitation-only pool tournament in Sharkey's Pool Hall, where a motley cast of characters — including Sharkey himself, Tex the cowboy, and a space alien — attempt to dethrone the current champion, Real Life pool expert Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee. The player must first defeat five other players at 8-ball or 9-ball, then take on The Black Widow herself to win the generous cash prize. And the challenge extends beyond the playfield, as Sharkey's is Stern's first tournament pinball, allowing players worldwide to compete with each other.

This game got its start as Golden Cue, note  a Spiritual Successor to Bally's Eight Ball Deluxe. It was developed at Sega Pinball by Jon Norris, who intended it to be a "goal oriented" game that ended after a set of objectives were met, giving beginners opportunities to catch up to expert players. Outside of a handful of test machines, however, Golden Cue was never finished, as Sega Pinball closed its doors and was reformed into Stern Pinball. During the transition, Jon Norris was ousted due to conflicts with management, and John Borg was tasked with re-engineering Golden Cue's unorthodox game design into a more conventional pinball table.

Perhaps as a reflection of its turbulent origins, players' opinions of Sharkey's Shootout tend to be divided between those who enjoy its blend of old-school gameplay and modern sensibilities, and those who dislike its white backbox, poor sound quality, and conflicting mix of rules and game elements.

Golden Cue demonstrated the following tropes:

  • Celebrity Endorsement: Kelly Packard of Baywatch was reportedly added to Golden Cue because she looked good on the backglass and cabinet art, in a blatant attempt to attract players. She has no connection to either pinball or billiards.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The flyer claimed that "NOW TOURNAMENT VERSION EASILY UPDATES TO TOURNAMENT VERSION!" on both sides.
  • Flexible Tourney Rules: Golden Cue was designed to have different "freezes" that could be used during tournaments to change the rules.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Attempted by signing Kelly Packard to the game, but ultimately averted by its non-release.
  • Spelling Bonus: Two of the goals needed to win the game were spelling V-O-D-K-A and G-O-L-D-E-N.
  • Skill Shot: Shoot the ball into the center rollover.
  • Take That!: One of the messages displayed during the Attract Mode was "Can You Read This?" flipped upside down (which mirrored on the top part of the playfield). Sega did this because they knew about Williams' Pinball 2000 platform, using a monitor flipped for reflection onto the upper third of the playfield.
  • Tournament Play: Golden Cue was intended to support worldwide tournaments, using technology from Incredible Technologies' Golden Tee series of Video Games.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: To win at Golden Cue, the player had to complete six goals, then shoot the Corner Pocket to collect a countdown bonus and finish the game. Expert players were expected to play faster and collect a bigger bonus.

Sharkey's Shootout demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Aside Glance: On the backglass, both "Sticks" and Dr. Wood are giving sidelong glances to the viewer.
  • Building of Adventure: Everything takes place in Sharkey's exclusive pool hall.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Jeanette Lee was added to Sharkey's Shootout to lend some billiards gravitas, but did not participate in its design or development.
  • Cowboy: Tex, complete with large hat and bolo tie.
  • In-Series Nickname: Except for Sharkey, all of the pool players have a nickname.
  • Red Baron: Jeanette Lee's Real Life nickname is "The Black Widow" because of how, in spite of her sweet demeanor, she would "eat people alive" when she plays pool.
  • Shout-Out: Tex could be seen as a Shout-Out to Eight Ball Deluxe, which featured a cast of cowboys.
  • Spelling Bonus: P-O-O-L relights the Mystery Ball, C-U-E increases the bonus mulitiplier and starts Bumper Pool, and P-A-Y-O-F-F awards the current prize money value.
  • Skill Shot: Shoot the ball into the center rollover.
  • Tournament Play: Like Golden Cue, Sharkey's supports worldwide tournament play.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The game against Jeanette Lee is neither 8-ball or 9-ball, but "The Web", a four-ball multiball mode.
  • Wizard Mode: "The Web," the game against Jeanette Lee. Shoot four key shots to collect the four Jackpots and start Web Hurry-Up, then shoot the Black Widow drop target to collect the current Web value. This repeats until only one ball remains.

Alternative Title(s): Golden Cue