[The fifth in a ragged series of 'Alex Handy Sez' missives, in which the former Game Developer editor and current Gamasutra contributor riffs on something or other, focuses on the just-concluded California Extreme retro arcade show.]

St. LouisYesterday, Travis and I went to California Extreme 2007, a celebration of arcade and pinball games. Hundreds of them, to be exact. It was a great time, though the $35 entry price was a bit higher than I’d have liked… Nonetheless, a unique experience that is not available anywhere.

We begin the Flickr tour with St. Louis, a Williams pinball machine from 1949. Probably the oldest one in the building, this machine’s flippers have their backs to each other!

There were a few other machines from this era nearby, though Orbiter 1, from 1982, was wildly different. That wacky machine had ruts [EDIT: but not magnets, thanks Sparky!], making the ball waggle all over and behave very oddly. If Hawking is right about gravity, this machine is probably a great model of the fundamental physics involved.Quick Draw

Then there was Championship Fast Draw, a quick-draw gun fighting game that was more fun, by far, than any cabinet
of the 80’s gun-based shooting games. Simple premise: Two hombres line up, and cock their guns in the holster. Then the machine beeps and flashes after a random pause. First one to get the gun out, level it, and pull the trigger wins. 7 rounds come at a time. I’m good against nerds, but Travis whipped me.

The Lucky Juju was present, of course. this beautiful trailer has such a great atmosphere: 5 old pinball games and a 45 record player piping in tunes. It normally lives on Alameda Island. I really liked Mars Trek. It has a fantastic artistic flair.

Of the 80’s games on hand, Narc is probably my favorite. There are others I love more, but the statement Narc makes really hammers home the psychotic hysteria that was generated by the Reagan administration. In a day when Mortal Kombat and Night Trap hadn’t even been invented yet, Narc was the most violent game in America (Chiller not withstanding). Use your machine guns and rockets to blow up drug dealers.

There’s not one character in the game, aside from the protagonists, that aren’t meant to be killed. They’re all druggies, and they deserve to be killed! With a properly placed rocket, you can disintegrate dealers, sending their bloody heads and arms flying around the screen, and bouncing out of sight.

Punk BoxingWhen all was said and done, Travis and I played more of The Main Event than anything else. This glorified Rock’em Sock’em Robots was a hoot, and only a direct chin-shot would knock the other guy out. The metal men inside had little buttons on their chins, which made me think of the Marx Brothers…

There are a lot more pictures on my Flickr page, so go look at them!

[Thanks to Alex for this swift show report, which was originally posted on his charmingly titled Gism Butter weblog. Long may the reign of the crazy hair continue!]