Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rock-Ola's - Nibbler - 1982

Rock-Ola before the video game craze really made mainly jukeboxes. But they did release a few classic games, one of which in 1982 was Nibbler. The game was the first video game to break the possibility of being able to score over 1 billion points. Nibbler was yet another maze type game involving a snake which slithered it's way to growing while you collected items on the level. You needed to avoid hitting your own body, while rushing to try to not have time run out. As the levels continue Nibbler gets faster making him more difficult to control. If you hit any of the corners of the levels he will continue moving. If you hit any other wall he will come to a dead stop, but mind you the time will surely start to wind down quickly. You must gather all the items on the level to complete and move on. Nibbler also found it's way onto other consoles and many other knock off versions of Nibbler often labeled as "Snake" even made it to various cell phones such as the Nokia.

One of the first surprises I saw on the bottom of the cabinet was a second Nibbler / or perhaps Fantasy board.

Unfortunately the 2nd PCB wasn't working, however I'm sure at some point I can revitalize it as a back-up. Overall the cabinet was in decent shape but I certainly noticed that originally this Rock-Ola Nibbler at some point was a Fantasy. The instruction folder which was stapled to the back of the cabinet contained various schematics etc, but clearly you can see some one perhaps in the Rock-Ola factory blacked out the "Fantasy" words.

Now when I looked at the side art, you can clearly see the Fantasy artwork which was underneath the cabinet. I used a hair dryer to remove the artwork, I intended on painting / stripping the cabinet down regardless. As you can see below the Fantasy artwork started to emerge after 30 years.





 Once the adhesive residue was off I decided to sand down the Rock-Ola cabinet.



The original control panel overlay had various burn marks and issues I decided to remove it. Luckily I found a NOS Nibbler Control Panel overlay on eBay for very cheap. During the removal process more Fantasy artwork was revealed. 


As far as I know Fantasy wasn't received very well in terms of game play / popularity. This was a common occurrence where the factories converted other games to try and salvage profitability. Nintendo also did this with a game called Radar Scope which was a red cabinet, and ultimately converted them into Donkey Kong's, which is why you sometimes find what people claim to be rare as opposed to the more commonly found Blue Donkey Kong's. Getting back to Nibbler, the Rock-Ola control panel is mainly wood, however Rock-Ola was smart enough to make colored metal plates to protect it from abusive use. My metal plate tarnished, yet when I flipped it over, looked to be in great shape.


I pulled off the marquee, and Bezel, and used Novus to clean up various minor scratches. Below you can see the NOS CPO was applied, being held by plastic clamps. Also cleaned up the Wico joystick in the chuck of my drill.
NOS Nibbler CPO
Overall the game play is certainly challenging and the game seems to certainly be sought after by many collectors. They actually made a documentary about the game titled : "MAN vs SNAKE: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler". In the film you get to see; " Tim McVey (the gamer not the bomber) who in 1984, on a single quarter (and over forty-four hours of non-stop play) was the first person in history to score over one billion points on a video game." - IMDB

Below is a photo, as well as a video of me playing my dedicated Rock-Ola's Nibbler for the first time.









Sunday, March 1, 2015

Universal - Lady Bug - 1981

In the early 1980's the maze games were all the rage. Universal Lady Bug was a great contender which although wasn't as popular as Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man, it certainly had it's own unique features which added just enough to separate the game from the competition. The game play is similar to the Pac series instead of collecting dots, your collecting what looks like asterisks or tiny  flowers. You have other insects chasing you not ghosts. The cool part about Lady Bug is that you can manipulate the maze you have these levers which can alter the maze and temporarily keep the enemies away from killing you. Prior to the enemies coming out of it's area the outside of the maze has a count down timer indicating when they will start to be released. Skulls are helpful so long as you don't touch them, however it will kill the enemies if they touch them. Once all of the enemies are released on the level the inside area will have a bonus vegetable which will temporarily freeze the enemies once it's touched, and award you with bonus points. As you continue to move through the levels the point value of the vegetable / item will increase by 500 points, however once you hit level 18 it will max out at 9500 points. You also have letters in the game which if you collect the red letters it will spell out SPECIAL, collecting the yellow letters spells out EXTRA. If your playing the game on location and you want to try and earn an extra credit collecting special will do just that, if your looking to prolong your current game keep spelling EXTRA with the yellow letters and you will be awarded an extra lady bug. In addition to that if your really looking to maximize your score collect the blue circles with the pink hearts, this will advance the multiplier up to 5x. When you do this if you collect a red letter they will be worth 800pts x 5x which will equal 4000 points.

Lady Bug actually got more exposure from the Colecovision. However the Arcade version had superior graphics.

My Lady Bug prior to restoring
 When I first got the game it was in fair original condition considering the games age. However someone at some point drilled the original plastic control panel and used an adapter plate to use a wico joystick. For nearly almost a year I looked for a replacement control panel and proper joystick for the Universal cabinet. Although the wico joystick is in my opinion a better functioning joystick I wanted to track down the original one that the game utilized. At first I got cocktail joysticks which were slightly shorter. I finally found a replacement control panel without it being molested but the ball top was missing from the original joystick. After continuing to search and search finally I was able to find the direct ball top replacement which according to the manual is a 32 mm ball top. This Universal cabinet was originally built in Taiwan. I would go as far to say that not many things were universal about them. Some had slight variances from game to game. Another popular Universal title which shared the same generic cabinet was Mr. Do.

The Universal joystick is certainly different where it has vertical leaf switches. Here you can see the exploded view of how the Universal Joysticks are assembled :

And over the past roughly year you can see some of the bits and pieces of other Universal Joysticks I've come across. The first three are cocktail joysticks and the one on the right with the missing ball top is for the upright. I had another member sand blast the rust off of it, and ended up actually selling majority of these as I don't really need that many back-ups. Another member had a Space Panic control panel with the upright joystick and I ended up using that and selling the remainder of the Space Panic control panel populated.

Universal Joysticks
Another thing the universal control panel had was these cross haired translucent player one and player two start buttons. These are actually more commonly found as Gottlieb pinball flipper buttons. The artwork on Lady Bug is nicely done which I think it was originally done by the artist Kohtani.


I pulled the original marquee off since it had some tape / residue and minor scratching. Using goo gone, as well as novus it started to clean up nicely. Below you can see a picture of the marquee of what it looked like to prior to cleaning it up. I have seen a few variations of the Lady Bug marquee the one I have which is more of a magenta or pink type background as well as a green one.
Lady Bug Marquee
Back Lit Plexi
 One of the coolest features of the Universal cabinets below the marquee is the back piece of plexi gets lit. It creates a really nice look and certainly stands out from other games. It's really one of the few games I can think of that this is featured on. 

One of the games biggest eye sores was the original coin door needed to be cleaned up. I stripped all of the parts off the coin door and sanded / painted accordingly. In addition to that the bottom area was also painted black as well.



 Another thing that the Universal cabinets have is flat 3/4'' T-Molding. Although mines not perfect and could use a replacement It's still mostly intact so I left it because I wasn't able to find a suitable replacement.

Flat 3/4'' Black T-Molding


After working on the game with my magnetic tools the monitor colors were off & needed to be degaussed. If you have one side of your monitor with good colors and the other side is faded or looks odd try using a degausser, most likely it will fix your issues. I once again used my GC Throsen 9317 High Power Degaussing Coil, which can be purchased here.

As of right now currently my high score on Lady Bug is 123,600. 











Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sente / Bally's - Chicken Shift - 1984

One of the rarer titles in my collection is Sente / Bally's Chicken Shift. The game play is rather simple yet unique where you only have two rectangular buttons. A red button which shifts red things and a blue button which shifts blue things. Not many people remember playing this game on location but I actually first played this on Long Island at an arcade known as "Space Plex". The Chicken shift game at Space Plex was housed inside a midway Pac-Man cabinet which was known as a "Sac-Man". Three different versions of the Sente cabinet exists you have the dedicated Sac-1a which was a huge cabinet that doesn't fit through a standard door which has the large fiberglass / white plastic sides. The other dedicated Sente cabinet was known as a Sac-1b. And finally you also had conversion cabinets generally housed in midway cabinets known again as "Sac-Mans".

 Ever since I've been collecting arcade games I've always wanted to have a dedicated Chicken Shift in my collection. I found a Sac-1b dedicated cabinet located in Pennsylvania. The Sente cab had "Hat Trick" inside which is another Sente game. The Sente system was way ahead of it's time. It utilized a cartridge system so that operators can easily swap out games. Some of these Sente titles included not only Chicken Shift & Hat Trick but; "Gimme A Break", "Goalie Ghost", "Mini Golf", "Name that Tune", "Night Stocker", "Off the Wall", "Rescue Raider", "Snacks'n Jaxson", "Snake Pit", "Spiker", "Stocker", "Stompin'", "Street Football", "Toggle", & The "Trivial Pursuit" series.

Chicken Shift Roms
 Prior to obtaining the Sac1-b cabinet I knew that I was going to need to track down some Chicken Shift parts. I ordered the rom set from Steph at hobbyroms.com. While I now own my own rom burner steph is great if you don't have a rom burner and need arcade roms. Next I needed to obtain the various artwork for Chicken Shift. Only a finite amount of Chicken Shift owners are known to exist on such a rare title I was lucky that a KLOV member was willing to scan in his dedicated control panel , as well as dedicated marquee. A while ago on the MAMEWORLD forums someone came up with a chicken shift control panel but the accuracy was way off.

 Above you can see on the left the mameworld badly misrepresented vecotorized version where as on the right you can see a sample of the actual chicken shift control panel scan. My artwork skills in adobe illustrator are terrible so I actually had someone assist me in getting a proper vector file done from the original scans, and they came out looking awesome! The same was done for the marquee as well.

Hat Trick Roms

Chicken Shift Roms
Chicken Shift uses essentially 13 Roms not included the sound rom file which is separate on the soundboard. Above you can see 13 of the 14 slots are being utilized with 1 left intentionally blank on the donor cartridge. All of the Sente games to my knowledge use the exact same sound Rom and are interchangeable between the games. Some of the cartridges you can swap roms and use a cartridge as a donor cart. I was extremely lucky to find a blank 14 slot empty cartridge (being that the 14 slot carts are more rare) off ebay for $11 bucks!
So now I potentially had a working Chicken Shift cartridge but still needed to test / fix a few things on the sac-1b cabinet prior to testing the game. The Sente cabinets utilize a main mother board, the cartridge, a power power supply board, and separate sound board. Not knowing the condition of the power supply I saw Todd Tuckey on ebay from TNT Amusements was selling advertised working power supplies for the sente system, I ordered two.  When I got the cabinet the original g07 monitor was present unfortunately the chasis was removed. I had an extra test CRT and  proceeded to hook up.

The Sente Sac-1b cabinet has metal inlay control panels that are interchangeable between the games. On the left you can see how the cabinet looked like when I first got it. For the most part all of the Sente games essentially shared the same generic side art with an exception of "Snake Pit" in the sac-1a. The side art on my Sac-1b cabinet was in decent shape, but I decided to just repaint some of the black. I proceeded to mask off the generic green Bally / Sente logo on the sides. Meanwhile I contacted a local metal shop which I had them custom cut some blank panels. Getting back to the cabinet the bottom was in bad shape and needed to be rebuilt. Also some of the metal hardware also needed to be repainted. The next step was to start taking the Sente Sac1-b cabinet apart.

Removing various parts
Primer added prior to painting

Here you can see I started to strip the cabinet down, and mask / paint various areas of the sac-1b. Also the Sente cabinets if you look you can see a large metal base underneath the boards. The metal housing actually has wheels and slides out for easier access to the parts.


Here you can see I stripped off all of the parts from the Hat Trick control panel, and had my metal shop cut me some blank Sente control panels. This control panel is actually in decent shape for a Sente panel and the reason why is because originally they silk screened the art directly onto the panels. When players would sweat the ink would literally over time start to deteriorate. Some are more prone to issues such as sente games that utilized trackballs where the players palms were constantly rubbing the control panel. Sometimes with rare games you need to fabricate your own parts.  

Hat Trick working
With the donor monitor this was awesome knowing the main mother board, sound board, power supply and cartridge for hat trick was all working. Now the real test, Chicken Shift.... Sure enough once all the roms were properly placed on the donor 14 slot cartridge it fired up!

Chicken Shift working
I initially tested the control with the Hat Trick control panel and if I recall up, down respectively were used as the "shift" buttons in chicken shift. I needed to recreate my own harness. I grabbed my crimper, wire, and molex connectors and begin to build my new harness.  As I stated above although the Chicken Shift controls are rather simple and in game only utilize 2 in game buttons, you in addition still have the p1, p2 start buttons. Below you can see I created my own harness with new molex connectors, new pins, and new wire.


Red & Blue Rectangle Chicken Shift Buttons
I started to reassemble the cabinet once all the parts that I wanted to refurbish and paint were finished.  Artwork was originally scanned in by a KLOV member, after I had help with the scans to be professionally and properly vectorized. I applied the artwork to one of the blank Sente metal control panel inlays for the Sac-1b, along with hooking up the controls with the proper disconnects.
Awaiting control panel inlay
Chicken Shift control panel

Chicken Shift Sac-1b


The game is essentially finished and ready to be enjoyed bringing back great memories. While this game is not incredibly sought after by every collector to me has way more of a nostalgic value that probably exceeds it's true cost. Who knows perhaps down the road Sente / Bally games will be more sought after once they get more exposure. I only know of about 3-4 of these to exist outside of perhaps CAX which is known as california extreme not that many are known to be publicly displayed. It's been rumored that possibly a Sente multi cart would be available in the near future, only time will tell. Currently enjoying my dedicated Sac-1b Chicken Shift, which after tracking down all of the rare parts / having reproduction fabrication done I doubt this will be leaving my collection anytime soon. I have over time collected a few original sente game cartridges, back up power supplies, main motherboards, as well as other sente artwork and control panels. More than likely this Sac-1b will remain a Chicken Shift.