Flying Dangerously: Avoid Icarus’ Fate With Our Led Zeppelin Pinball Tutorial

Flying Dangerously: Avoid Icarus’ Fate With Our Led Zeppelin Pinball Tutorial
Photos by
Flying Dangerously: Avoid Icarus’ Fate With Our Led Zeppelin Pinball Tutorial
Graphics by
Flying Dangerously: Avoid Icarus’ Fate With Our Led Zeppelin Pinball Tutorial
Published on
February 22, 2024
Updated on
February 22, 2024
Read time:
No items found.

Image Gallery

Given how much pinball and classic rock go hand-in-hand, it might come as a surprise that a band as influential as Led Zeppelin didn’t get their own machine until 2020. Maybe that has to do with how the band is notoriously stingy with how their music can be used (usually requiring seven-figure licensing fees), or maybe it has to do with the difficulty of adapting the music to fit a pinball machine, probably a little bit of both. In any case, the game has proven to be rather divisive. Sure, the layout is notoriously difficult, which is always a polarizing aspect of any pinball machine, but then there’s the ruleset. The game’s objectives are rather straightforward, and there admittedly aren’t too many modes or features to aim for. But the actual scoring rules are often unique, bizarre, and sometimes can be extremely confusing. So, let’s take a closer look at the game, hopefully, this guide can clear some things up and help improve your score.

About Led Zeppelin Pinball

Led Zeppelin is a pinball machine manufactured by Stern Pinball in 2020, based off the music and iconography of the band Led Zeppelin. 

The game is notable for being Steve Ritchie’s last design as a Stern Pinball employee, before moving over to Jersey Jack Pinball shortly after its release. 

Full game details can be found on our Led Zeppelin Pinball game page

Led Zeppelin Playfield Overview

Led Zeppelin features one of the most punishing layouts Stern has released this century - I’d argue it takes the bronze medal behind Iron Man and Black Knight: Sword Of Rage (gold and silver, respectively). The wide-open layout means that horizontal motion is exceptionally deadly, you need to aim for many targets with unpredictable feeds, and the unpredictability of the plunge (which usually flies into the LED bank and straight towards the right outlane) means control is never a given. Most drains tend to be to the outlanes, so try to avoid putting the ball above the slings when you can help it.

The layout here is notoriously left-heavy. With the exception of the right ramp and the right orbit, every other shot is on the leftmost half of the game. Those two right shots are good to figure out: the right ramp is crucial for accessing one series of multiballs, and the right orbit is good for changing your songs later in the game. On the premium version of this game, the right orbit becomes much more important as it doubles the value of a jackpot during a premium-exclusive multiball, a multiball which revolves around the “Electric Magic” spinner that pops up in the middle of the playfield. We’ll talk about this later, but it’s not that hard to figure out where it is and how to hit it.

The right orbit also feeds an upper flipper which is unbelievably high up the playfield. This flipper is only really good for two things: clearing the “LED” bank of standups (which you can do from the lower flippers, anyway), and hitting the extremely narrow side shot, which is a standup target on the pro and a ramp on the premium. The side shot actually provides some pretty significant value if you can get dialed in on it, but be really careful with this flipper! It’s not that hard to shoot the ball straight into the left outlane, or brick off of the post and into the right outlane.

Ok, onto the left side. From left to right: there’s a scoop on the far left which is only accessible by the right flipper. This is a crucial shot, as it lights and starts one series of multiballs, and should likely be the first shot you make in any game. The left orbit is accessible by either flipper, and is mostly useful for the spinner attached to it. The left ramp locks balls for the “main” multiball of the game, making it also quite valuable, and is also accessible by either flipper. As one might expect, it’s safer as a backhand, but be careful as failed shots often go straight down the middle.

At the back center of the table is a third ramp, which is the easiest shot to make. You can usually make this shot from either flipper, although I usually find it’s easiest from the left. Several modes encourage repeatedly looping this center ramp for big points, so try to figure out how to get into a groove doing that. 

Finally, Led Zeppelin has four banks of targets scattered around: “Ball Saver” on the left, “LED” and “ZEP” up the middle, and “ROCK” on the right. All four banks are actually quite important for high scores, so try and figure out how to clear the banks without arcing the ball towards the outlanes. One more target - the “Icarus” target, located straight up the middle - is both your playfield multiplier AND your add-a-ball during multiball. It’s not that hard to hit, but missing it when needed can hurt a lot.

If the game is playing exceptionally nasty, scores above 10,000,000 can secure a win. However, due to how multiplier-heavy the scoring tends to be, scoring can rocket into the hundreds of millions out if a multiball is stacked right.

Abridged Led Zeppelin Tutorial

At the start of each ball, you get to pick which song/mode you’re playing. You will be playing a song at all times - when the song times out, the next one will begin automatically.

  • Each mode has lit shots which move around depending on what’s happening in the song (e.g. different shots might be lit up during the chorus than during the verse).
  • Shoot lit shots to earn Record Sales, enough Record Sales award Gold Records. 5 Gold Records completes a song and lets you change it at the upper eject.
  • All modes determine their value the same way, so there are no “bad” modes. Pick whichever looks good to you.
  • During any guitar solo, loop the center ramp repeatedly for mode points.

There are two main multiballs available on the Pro, and three on the Premium:

  • Tour Multiball is lit by shooting the left eject and selecting a tour you want to play. Each Tour requires hitting a certain feature enough times to collect a lock, with subsequent Tours requiring additional locks & features.
  • You should always be making progress towards a Tour. If you only have one ball in play, and you’re not working on Tour locks, shoot green lights to start Tour progress.
  • Zeppelin Multiball is lit by shooting the ROCK bank to light locks, and shooting the left ramp to collect locks.
  • Electric Magic Multiball (Premium/LE only) is lit by completing the LED ZEP bank enough times, then spinning the Electric Magic spinner which pops out of the playfield to light lock.

Multiball should always be your priority. If you have nothing else going on, go after whichever multiball is easiest.

  • Add-a-ball during any Multiball by hitting the Icarus standup three times, and by hitting the action button when it’s lit red.
  • Don’t press the action button unless it’s red.

The playfield multiplier - Icarus X - is lit by clearing all four banks of targets - Ball Save, LED, ZEP, and ROCK. 

  • Each bank has its own multiplier, which are all multiplied together for the Icarus X.
  • Ending a combo into a bank increases that bank’s multiplier by 0.1x for each shot made in the combo. For instance, ending a 3-way combo into a bank increases that bank by 0.3x.
  • When all four banks have been cleared, hit the Icarus standup to start the playfield multiplier.
  • Try to build your bank multipliers up evenly: one huge multiplier and three small ones will lead to a smaller Icarus X than four average multipliers will.

Song Modes

Led Zeppelin has a very simple skill shot: aim into the blinking L-E-D target to get a few seconds of ball save and some points. While you can use the flippers to change the lit letter, it’ll also change automatically, and it’s more important to select the right song, which also requires using the flippers. So, just time it right.

At the start of the game, you’ll be prompted to select a song. These songs correspond to modes, meaning that your choice isn’t purely aesthetic. You’ll be able to change your song at the start of each ball, and will also get the option to change your song during the game if you manage to “complete” the one you’re currently playing. Similar to AC/DC, you will be playing a song at all times. They are all timed modes, but the “timer” is just the length of the song. You listen to the entire song as you play, and when the song ends, the mode will end and the next song will begin automatically. Each mode lights various playfield shots which awards points when hit.

This is where Led Zeppelin’s rules become really, really funky. The shots that are lit change as the song plays out, with the scoring rules changing depending on the part of the song that you’re listening to (e.g. verse, chorus, solo, etc.). Extra shots might light up during choruses, roving shots might appear during a drum solo, or maybe the shots you make during a verse affect what’s lit during the chorus. It’s very weird. In case it helps, as the lit shots are about to change due to a change in the song, the shots that will be lit next will flash white to “cue you in” before they change. I don’t think it’s that helpful, but it’s a nice thing to be aware of.

However, that’s where the mode rules stop being really, really funky. Aside from determining which shots you’re aiming for and when, all of the songs work exactly the same. This even extends to how the actual value of the modes are determined: there are like 25 different factors that all mix together to determine how valuable mode shots are, but they all boil down to “how well you’ve been doing this game” and “how well you’ve been doing this ball.” The more shots you’ve made, modes you’ve completed, switches you’ve hit, etc., the more valuable your mode shots will be, with extra care being given to the stuff you’ve done on this ball.

In other words, every mode is basically worth the same number of points. So, there’s not really a “bad” choice as far as a mode goes, it’s really just whatever shots you want to aim for. The game will light up the shots that the mode will focus on when you’re selecting your song, so I would honestly say that memorizing the shot sequences is quite unnecessary. The only universal rule that you should definitely be aware of is that during any guitar solo, you can loop the center ramp repeatedly for mode shots. For that reason, a lot of players will pick Rock and Roll as their song since it has a very lengthy solo. I also see a lot of players pick Communication Breakdown since it has nearly everything lit. (Again, there are no “best” song choices, but those two are the ones that I see most often.)

Anyway, with each mode, what you’re actually trying to do is earn records. Making mode shots, scoring switch hits, and just moving the ball around the field will earn you “record sales.” Scoring enough record sales will earn you a gold record for that song. Scoring five gold records for one song will “complete” the song, allowing you to change it at the right orbit/upper saucer if you like, or you can keep playing out the song and collect more records. Collecting 10 gold records will have the song “go platinum” which further boosts your mode value, but permanently locks you out of playing that song again. There is a multiball available after completing 5 songs, so it might be best to not worry about going Platinum and try to complete five songs first.

Note that the number of records you collect will carry over on each attempt of a song. If I score three records on Communication Breakdown before it times out, if/when I switch back to Communication Breakdown, I’ll still have three records.

Icarus X

*Note: the original published version of this tutorial had some inaccuracies regarding how Icarus X works, which have now been corrected.

Before we get to multiballs, we need to go over the Icarus X multiplier.

The playfield multiplier is lit at the Icarus standup up the middle by clearing all four banks of targets: LED, ZEP, ROCK, and the Ball Save targets on the far left (which also light an outlane save on the left outlane). Each bank has a corresponding multiplier, which is factored into the value of the Icarus X when started. Each bank corresponds to a “symbol” insert at the center of the table. The insert will light up when the bank’s been cleared, and the “cooler” the color of the insert, the higher the multiplier:

The multiplier for each bank starts out at 1.0x, and is increased by 0.1x for each shot made as a combo when you end the combo into the bank. For instance, making a 3-way combo, then hitting a bank will increase that bank’s multiplier by 0.3x. You’ll know you have a combo going when the various red Combo inserts light up around the playfield. Also, in case it needs to be mentioned, 1-way combos exist, so if you make a shot just once, then hit a bank, the multiplier goes up.

After clearing all four banks, the Icarus X will light at the center standup, which will be worth the four multipliers multiplied together. This means that it is possible to increase a multiplier without clearing the bank - if the insert’s not lit, that doesn’t mean the multiplier isn’t huge, it just means the bank hasn’t been cleared yet.

Let’s break that down a little bit. Suppose I finish a 3-way combo into the LED bank, then I finish a 2-way combo into the ROCK bank. The four multipliers - from left to right - would be 1.0x, 1.3x, 1.0x, and 1.2x. I complete all four banks of targets to light Icarus X at the center standup. If I hit the Icarus X now, I’d start a playfield multiplier for about 20 seconds worth 1.0 x 1.3 x 1.0 x 1.2, or 1.5x.

While Icarus X is running, you can still increase the multipliers, but they won't be factored into your active playfield multiplier until you hit Icarus again. So, if you were to put a 3-way combo into the ZEP bank, the multiplier would remain at 1.5x, but would increase to 2.0x once Icarus is hit again (to account for the jump from 1.0 to 1.3 for that bank). When the multiplier times out, all of the banks will reset to 1.0x (whether or not the multiplier has been adjusted for the bank), and you’ll have to clear them all again to relight the multiplier.

If you want to forget about the math involved, the general idea is that you want to increase the four multipliers as evenly as possible. That’s not to say that having one huge multiplier is a bad thing - big multipliers are always good. But increasing the smallest multiplier will have the biggest effect on your Icarus X. So, if you want to build your Icarus X up faster, try to increase the lowest-valued bank. In any case, those billion-plus scores you might be seeing often are borderline impossible to reach without at least one good Icarus X.

Don’t get too greedy, though! They’re not that hard to light considering you can build and start your Icarus X at all times. Given the relative danger of shooting at the targets during single-ball play, I’d advise against aggressively building up an Icarus X outside of multiball. Plus, thanks to random bounces, you’ll clear the banks easier than you’d expect to. That said, you should definitely try to end all combos into target banks, and you should definitely not sleep on that Ball Save 2-bank since you should try and have one at all times.

Tour Multiball

Led Zeppelin has a ton of multiballs, all of which are quite comparable in value. Multiballs in LZ don’t stop songs from running, they just stop you from starting other multiballs. So, unless you’re super dialed in on the song you’re playing - which, frankly, is unlikely - you should absolutely make progress towards multiballs whenever you can. Let’s start out with Tour Multiball.

Saying “Tour Multiball” is a bit misleading, as there are actually four Tour Multiballs available. But, they’re all comparable in value, and are all started the same way. These multiballs are - as you can probably expect by now - a bit unusual in how you light them. By shooting the left eject during single-ball play, you’ll be able to select which Tour Multiball you want to play. Each Tour Multiball will require you to collect “locks” by hitting a specific playfield feature enough times. For instance, the Earl’s Court tour requires you to hit the spinner 70 times to collect a lock. Each tour you play will add another required lock, which will have another unique objective: e.g. if Earl’s Court is the second Tour you play, you’ll need 70 spins for one lock, and 9 LED ZEP targets for another. Once all required locks have been collected, shooting the left eject will start Tour Multiball.

Led Zeppelin doesn’t allow for multiball stacking, meaning you can’t start a Tour while another multiball is running. However, you can progress to and collect locks at any time, including during (non-Tour) multiballs. So, if you’re not progressing towards Tour locks, that should immediately become your priority. I always try to make the left eject the first shot I make on any LZ game, and I suggest you do the same. As for the tour that I pick, I just pick whatever features I’m most comfortable with hitting. Usually, Earl’s Court is my go-to since 70 spins is incredibly easy to pull off (especially on a Premium), but ramps aren’t bad, either.

Each multiball has its own unique ruleset, and to level with you for a second, I’m unfamiliar with the actual multiball rules here. That said, like the song modes, the game does a good job of telegraphing what you need to aim for during multiball. Plus, given that the lucrative song shots and Icarus X are still available, I usually just use LZ’s multiballs as safety nets and just continue aiming at the flashing arrows. Don’t get me wrong - the jackpots and super jackpots are worth a lot of points. But I don’t think you should pivot away from your songs and target banks during a multiball - they’re still really valuable and deserve your attention.

After Tour multiball ends, you’ll need to shoot the right ramp in order to light the left eject to start progress on your next tour. Generally, green lights correspond to tour progress, so if you’re ever unsure on what to aim for next, shoot a green light. You can’t replay tours, and again, each tour will require one more lock than the last. This also means that each tour will have one more ball in play than the last - the first will be a 2-ball, the second a 3-ball, and so on. Playing all four tours lights World Tour Multiball which I honestly don’t know anything about other than it being a point frenzy where everything is worth a gazillion points.

One more thing - hitting the Icarus standup three times during any multiball will add a ball into play. This applies to all multiballs, so if you want to extend your multiball play, aim for Icarus.

Zeppelin Multiball

This is the “main” multiball of the game, which is started by shooting the left ramp three times to lock three balls. You may need to light locks first by clearing the ROCK bank, but in any case, once you’ve locked three balls, multiball will begin. This is a very simple multiball: shoot flashing shots for jackpots. Each jackpot then lights a double jackpot for about 10 seconds, which will disappear if uncollected. After all double jackpots time out or are collected, a super jackpot will be lit at the left eject worth the sum of all jackpots scored since the last super, and a double super jackpot will be available at the side shot, which is obviously worth twice that. Collecting either super brings you back to the jackpot phase, but you can multiply the super by +1x by clearing the LED, ZEP and ROCK banks. (Note that the double super on the side shot would become a quadruple super, as multipliers multiply each other.)

Again, song modes are still worth good value, but those supers should not be slept on, especially when you consider that the supers can be re-multiplied by a huge Icarus X. It’s not unheard of to get multipliers of 9X or higher, so if you can manage to pull something like that off, that super can be worth hundreds of millions if you time it right. Zeppelin Multiball is definitely the best multiball if you want to go after multiball objectives, but continuing to focus on songs and/or tour progress isn’t the worst idea, either.

Electric Magic Multiball (PREMIUM/LE ONLY)

The Premium/LE version of Led Zeppelin features the “Electric Magic,” which houses a third multiball. This multiball is arguably the easiest to start of the three, so be sure you keep it in mind if available. Basically, this device will rise up out of the playfield, revealing a spinner that you can rip for points (and Tour progress, if needed). There’s also a magnet which can grab the ball, as well as two posts in the back which can stop the ball from flying through at some points.

Electric Magic will pop up after you complete LED and ZEP, prompting you to rip the spinner inside it. This shot is definitely better made from the right side: from the left, the ball is likely to bounce into the ZEP bank, back through the spinner, stopping it, and if you miss early, you’re liable for instant drains if you brick into the posts on the left side. Plus, from the right, it’s possible to shoot it through the spinner and up the center ramp. Aside from the spinner itself being quite lucrative, it’ll eventually charge up a magnet which will grab the ball and lower it into the playfield.

Once the ball is locked, a second ball will be kicked onto the field as the first one is lowered into it. You’ll be prompted to collect a hurry-up, either at the upper eject or the left eject, whichever is easier for you. The value of the hurry-up you collect is also the value of the jackpot when the multiball actually starts. Making that shot will hold that ball there, kick a third ball onto the field, and raise the electric magic back up. Here, you have 20 seconds to hit the magnetized ball off of the magnet, which will start the multiball proper and award the jackpot value times the number of “seconds” remaining on the timer. (So, if you hit the ball in 5 “seconds,” you’ll be awarded 15X the hurry-up value. I put “seconds” in quotes because they’re significantly shorter than actual seconds.) Alternatively, when the magnetized ball can be hit, you can lock the third ball in whichever eject you didn’t hit with the second. That’ll reset the timer to 40 seconds, and the jackpots during the actual multiball will be doubled. In either case, the value of the timer-multiplied jackpot is going to be the value of the super, so be sure you’re not dawdling when that becomes available.

During the actual multiball, all major shots are lit for jackpots, save for the last shot made for a jackpot. Enough jackpots will light a super at the Electric Magic, which will remain up for the duration of the multiball. As a quick aside, the spinner on the Electric Magic here is pretty valuable, so just repeatedly ripping it isn’t really a bad strategy, either. 

This is probably the most valuable multiball you have access to, so be sure to take advantage of it when given the opportunity. Like the other multiballs, be sure you’re also building up Icarus X and collecting records from song shots, but given that everything’s lit for points here, it can build up very quickly. It’s also worth noting that even if the hurry-up or timed start time out, the multiball will still begin, albeit for a significantly reduced value. So, if you just want a multiball, locking in the Electric Magic will suffice. Unfortunately, if you fail to fully charge the magnet and drain, you’ll miss your chance to start multiball altogether. So, if the Electric Magic rises up, that should become your priority unless you have another multiball ready to go.

Subsequent Electric Magics will need more LED ZEP completions than the last, but you won’t get Electric Magic Multiball every time, as the modes alternate between Multiball and....

Electric Magic Frenzy (PREMIUM/LE ONLY)

Contrary to how it sounds, this is also a multiball. It’s started the same way, by completing LED ZEP enough times, spinning the Magic spinner, and magnetizing the ball. But this will immediately start after the ball gets locked, and is a 4-ball multiball that’s also absurdly lucrative.

Basically, this multiball is a switch frenzy, during which all switch hits are worth huge points and boost the value of the super. The only exception is the Magic spinner, which increases the value of the other switches instead. After like, 30 seconds or so, the Super jackpot will light at the Magic spinner. This isn’t a shot, but a spinner rip - the super jackpot counts for one rip of the spinner, and again, the value will be higher based on how many switches you hit. You can also get a playfield multiplier by locking the ball into either the left eject or upper eject, both of which will hold the ball for a bit and add-a-ball the first time you hit them. Shoot these as soon as possible, even though they’re putting balls away for fewer switch hits.

Anyway, Electric Magic Frenzy is rather tough to start due to the difficulty of clearing LED ZEP multiple times in single-ball play, so I don’t see it very often. It is worth an absurd amount of points, but what did you expect? It’s a switch frenzy with four balls in play!

Other Things

Aside from the math-heavy nature of the game, and how weird the rules can be, that’s pretty much the general idea of what you’re going for. Shoot song shots for points, clear targets for playfield X, and bring in multiballs to stay alive. Of course, there are some other things scattered around the playfield which we should go over.

First off, completing the ROLL lanes increases your bonus multiplier. Bonus is largely based on how many gold records you’ve collected, and while it doesn’t ever get to be that substantial, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be changing these lanes when given the opportunity. Plus, these lanes tend to be awfully generous - if you roll through a lit lane and change it fast enough, the game might count it anyway, similar to the lanes in Stern’s Star Trek.

The side shot, which is a target on the Pro and a weird U-turn ramp on the Premium, starts Super modes which make one playfield feature significantly more valuable until you either drain or hit the feature enough times. For instance, the first time you make the shot starts Super Spinner, which boosts the value of the next 100 spins by 100k. Each shot also adds 5 seconds to your next Icarus X whenever you start it. This shot is tough on the Pro and extremely tough on the Premium, but the Premium provides added safety by returning the ball to your right flipper.

There are copious Extra Balls available on Led Zeppelin, all of which are collected at the left eject. If you’re playing in competition, these are worth 10,000,000 points each, which is pretty significant.

Finally, we have the Band Boosts. At the start of the game, and each time you change or complete a song, you’ll be awarded with a Band Boost that you can use by pressing the action button - you’ll know you have one if the button is lit up green. Using a Band Boost during single-ball play will instantly complete whatever combo you had running for 5X its usual value, and will add the combo multiplier to whatever target bank currently has the lowest multiplier. During multiball, it’ll spot one hit to the Icarus standup for your add-a-ball. You can have up to 5 band boosts ready at any time, but if you have 3 of them, they’ll merge into a Super Band Boost, indicated by the action button turning red. During single-ball play, a Super Band Boost completes your combo for 10X value, and adds the multiplier to the two lowest banks. During multiball play, it just adds a ball. Personally, I like to just use my Super Band Boosts for add-a-balls, but that’s subjective. Band Boosts don’t show up very often, so I tend to use them sparingly.

Ordinarily, I’d save the wizard modes for their own section at the end, but I’m gonna be honest, I have never gotten close to any of the wizard modes on this machine. What can I say? This game is hard, man! I don’t have much insight into the rules or strategy of any of the modes. But, I think that it’s worth knowing which modes exist and how to access them. So, for those who want to know, the wizard mode - and my best understanding them - are:

  • World Tour Multiball: lit by playing all four Tour Multiballs. I think this is just a super-valuable multiball with unique jackpot rules and such.
  • Mothership Multiball: lit by completing (5 gold records) five songs. This multiball really cares about the song choice - whatever shots aren’t lit for song points are lit for jackpots.
  • Top of the Charts: lit by completing all ten songs. Reminds me of Sea of Simulation from Tron: you’ll phase through the songs you haven’t gotten to Platinum yet to try and get them to Platinum. Ends when you drain down to 1 ball, the current song times out, or you go platinum on everything.
  • ? / Celebration Day: lit by getting all ten songs to platinum. Again, this is reminding me of Tron: if you get everything Platinum without Top of the Charts, you’ll just skip Top of the Charts, and if you get everything platinum during Top of the Charts, this will start immediately. I believe this is another points bonanza multiball where everything’s worth a gazillion points, but I find getting one song to Platinum is hard enough, let alone ten.

When all is said and done, this game appears much more complicated than it actually is. Hopefully, knowing what to aim for can help you get those scores up. Best of luck!