1989 Williams Earthshaker Overview


Williams Earthshaker Backglass

I’ve been meaning to start the review section of this blog for about a week, but keep getting tied up with other things. Seeing as my Earthshaker is for sale now, I knew I wanted to get a review in before it leaves the house. My Diner is also going to be leaving, as I have found a reasonable deal on one of my “grail pins”. Actually, let me rephrase, it’s for my “main grail pin”, my favorite game of all-time, so sacrifices must be made. I’ll miss them both (I miss every machine I sell…I wish I had infinite space and money), but such is life. Before they go though, I want to get nice coverage of each, so expect Diner to be covered next post!

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to not review games in the traditional sense of the meaning. As in, I don’t want to rate what’s good or bad about the various aspects of the machine because, in all honesty, it can only be subjective no matter how objective I’d try. One thing about pinball is that everyone has their own set of games that appeal to them, and conversely, ones that don’t. There are games that are, in general, more well regarded (and subsequently more expensive) than others, but I’ve known many people who can’t stand some of the “Top 10″ games. So, in that regard, consider the “review” more of an “overview”. Hopefully, it will be a good introduction to the game, or refresher, that can help you better understand the concept, history and playability of the machine, as well as help determine if its something you might be interested in seeking out on location, learning more about historically or pursuing as a purchase for your personal gameroom.

Earthshaker was designer Pat Lawlor’s second pinball machine following Williams Banzai Run in 1988, and was developed on the Williams System 11 platform. However, it was Lawlor’s first traditionally designed pinball machine, being that Banzai Run had the interesting dynamic of two playfields, a traditional¬†horizontal, as well as a vertical playfield. Earthshaker also holds the distinction of being the first machine that had the “trademark elements” of a Pat Lawlor game if you will, including: the three flipper setup with top flipper to ramp for jackpot during multiball, the “Pat Bottom” (a 5 lane bottom with one inlane and outlane on one side, and two inlanes and one outlane on the other) and a “through the pops” shot, where the ball could be shot through the pop bumpers without actually triggering any of them.


Earthshaker’s Playfield. Note the “Pat Bottom” with the in/out lanes.

Theme-wise, Earthshaker takes on a natural disaster premise of, you guessed it, earthquakes. The beautiful mirrored backglass of this game has a 1950s Elvis Presley-esque cat driving a convertible with his attractive girlfriend through the “quake zone.” On the playfield, there are various zones you can visit, a mileage odometer ramp, a fault ramp that doubles for a lock at various points in the game, an “Earthquake shelter” and various other targets that tie into the overall theme of cruising around quake-watching. In addition, Earthshaker has a shaker motor that comes on during the multiball modes that was the first shaker motor ever put into a pinball machine. The motor shakes the entire machine and simulates the “feeling” of a quake. At the time a novel and trailblazing addition, the shaker motor later became commonplace on many pinball machines from all manufacturers.

Earthshaker has two multiball modes: a “quick multiball” and a regular multiball. The Quick Multiball mode is a two-ball, whereas the regular locks two balls and then starts a three-ball with a plunge. In addition, the playfield has a scoop, captive ball, two ramps, eject hole and three pop bumpers.

Earthshaker had a production run of 5,165 with an additional 200 sample machines that included a sinking Earthquake Institute and slightly different coloring. Earthshaker was a big success for Lawlor and helped define a lot of elements of his design that would be later seen in his next project, Whirlwind, as well as in later designs such as Funhouse, Addams Family and Monopoly.

Likely more beneficial than any amount of explaining is actually seeing a machine in action, so I have shot a gameplay video that you can watch of the game and posted it to Youtube with a link below.

This is my first gameplay video, so please work with me as I continue to iron out kinks and figure out how to best approach the filming of a pinball machine. I tried to get the most normalized angle from a player’s perspective; it was difficult to play around the camera, but I hate the off centered shots I see sometimes. I also was pleased with the glass off approach and leaving the overhead light on for a little fill to the playfield. I wanted to include the score display, but in retrospect, should have changed the frames per second to eliminate the strobing. I also need to adjust the shutter speed a hair more — it’s hard to get the capture of the balls motion 100% to my liking, but this wasn’t bad. Anyway, enough critiquing, here’s the gameplay of Earthshaker (enjoy!):

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