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Pinball / The Who's Tommy

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Tommy - A Name That Means Pinball

"See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me."

The Who's Tommy (Full title: The Who's Tommy Pinball Wizard) is a 1994 arcade pinball game by Data East. It was designed by Joe Kaminkow, Ed Cebula, Lonnie D. Ropp, and Lyman F. Sheats Jr., and is based on the 1993 award-winning Broadway musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff (itself an adaptation of The Who's Rock Opera of the same name).

As with the source material, the pinball table chronicles the life of Tommy Walker, a child traumatized in his youth into being deaf, blind, and mute. Despite his disabilities, Tommy proves to be an extremely adept Pinball player; he gradually finds himself elevated to the head of a religious movement when his condition is miraculously cured, and must struggle to cope with his newfound fame.

The pinball table recreates the main scenes of the story through a series of "Union Jacks", such as Tommy's traumatic Christmas, Smashing the Mirror, a visit to the Acid Queen, and Tommy's shunned love Sally Simpson. Completing all twelve Jacks starts the "Pinball Wizard", a six-ball multiball mode that is played while the player's view of the flippers is blocked by a pair of opaque blinders.

The Who's Tommy has been widely praised by players for its excellent and balanced use of the entire table. With a mesmerizing light show, over twenty songs from the Broadway show, and lots of fast action and fun shots, it's considered one of Data East's best pinball games, if not their best ever.

Ten prototype tables were produced for use as props for off-Broadway productions. The prototype included fewer voice samples, electro-mechanical chime units, lacked the eyes on the blinders, and six pop bumpers instead of three. Another version made an appearance during the 1993 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade during a preview of the Broadway musical. This version lacked the backbox and was locked in autoplay mode.

A heavily modified (and gold-festooned) version of this game was featured as the "Richie Rich" pinball in the 1994 live-action Richie Rich film. Kabuki, another modified version of the game, was presented to the Chairman of Namco in 1994 as a goodwill gesture during corporate buyout talks.

The Who's Tommy Pinball Wizard demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": The game refers to a mode as a "Union Jack".
  • Cap: If the player's score is one billion points or more, it is displayed normally instead of on the EM reels.
  • Challenge Run: By holding down the Extra Ball button when pressing start, the game starts in "Tommy Mode", where the Blinders open to block the player's view for the entire game.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Sung both whenever a player lights or collects an extra ball, with an accompanying newspaper on the display. (The tune is specifically derived from "Miracle Cure", a short linking song from the source material.)
  • Heart Symbol: Sally Simpson is shown going to see Tommy in concert, with heart symbols floating above her head.
  • Interface Screw: The Blinders, which fold out from the bottom of the table and completely block the player's view of the flippers. These come out during the main game to represent Tommy's blind phase, though they can also be played with during the entire game if playing in "Tommy Mode". Tommy Mode also makes the blinders cover important ramps and paddles as well.
  • Machine Empathy: Invoked by the Blinders.
    "Feel all the bumpers, become part of the machine."
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The playfield depicts the adult Tommy looking into a mirror and seeing his innocent childhood reflection.
  • Nonindicative Name: The "One Way Combo," which isn't a Combo at all — just shoot the Tommy saucer.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Not only does hitting the mirror spots a letter for TOMMY, it is used in the "Smash the Mirror" mode. It is also used in the third phase of Multiball, where it must be shot 5 times to spell T-O-M-M-Y and light the Super Jackpots.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The game includes twenty-one songs from the Broadway show, sung by the original cast.
  • Retraux:
    • The player's score is presented as scoring reels seen on EM pinball tables.
    • Smash the Mirror Multiball replaces the normal sound effects with electrical chimes and bells, simulating an EM pinball table. The prototype version uses actual chime units while the final version uses simulated chimes.
  • Secondary Adaptation: The game is based on the 1993 Broadway adaptation of The Who's original album Tommy.
  • Skill Shot: Up to three shots are available:
    • Soft plunge into the Parachute for a bonus value.
    • Launch counterclockwise to the upper left flipper, then shoot the right ramp for a bonus and advances the mystery award.
    • If Multiball is ready, launch to the upper left flipper, then hit the Tommy saucer for the "One Way Combo" and start multiball.
  • Spelling Bonus:
    • Spelling T-O-M-M-Y lights Tommy Multiball.
    • During Pinball Wizard, the player must spell W-I-Z-A-R-D to prove his mastery.
    • The scoop that feeds the upper flipper will award a letter in one of five words of increasing length. The sequence goes O-K, W-O-W, G-O-O-D, S-U-P-E-R, and finally G-E-N-I-U-S. After each word is spelled, an increasing point bonus will be awarded and the sequence moves to the next word.
  • Title Confusion: The game's official title is often shortened to simply "Tommy" or "The Who's Tommy".
  • Tuckerization: The "Sigma Bonus" is named after newsroom poster Kevin "Sigma" Martin.
  • Video Mode: The player controls Captain Walker's bomber to make it shoot various obstacles on the screen.
  • Wizard Mode: "Pinball Wizard", a six-ball multiball mode, which is reached after completing all twelve Union Jacks. Every 25 targets or switches hit awards one letter in WIZARD, a progressive bonus, and launches another ball.

Alternative Title(s): The Whos Tommy Pinball Wizard