Ready to Battle?
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Ready to Battle?
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June 12, 2024
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June 12, 2024
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Based on the legendary Rod Serling TV series, Twilight Zone is often regarded as designer Pat Lawlor's magnum opus. At the time of its release, it was undoubtedly the most complicated pinball machine ever made. Today, there are certainly games with more convoluted rules. But take one look at Twilight Zone, and you’ll see what makes it so special: the playfield is jam-packed with cool toys and shots. And as you play the game, you start to realize just how many options you actually have available to you. While it does have its fair share of players who find it overrated, this classic is beloved by most. Its popularity makes it a great pick for tournament play - so let’s dive in, cause we have a lot to go through!

twilight zone pinball tutorial quote

About Twilight Zone Pinball

Twilight Zone was originally released in 1993 by Bally Manufacturing Co. It was designed by Pat Lawlor as his follow-up to the smash hit, The Addams Family. The game is based off of the hit TV series of the same name, and features art by John Youssi, code by Larry DeMar and Ted Estes.

See full game credits and more details on our Twilight Zone page from the Kineticist Games Database.

Twilight Zone Playfield Overview

twilight zone pinball tutorial playfield overview

Twilight Zone is a widebody game - if you compare it to other machines of the time, you’ll notice it’s significantly wider than most. A wider playfield makes horizontal movement more dangerous than it would be on a regular-sized machine. This is further accentuated by TZ's incredibly wide outlanes, which are kind of offset by these large rubber posts that you can delicately nudge to keep the ball pointed toward the inlane. Regardless, these outlanes are extremely deadly, and considering that TZ has no ball save, it’s possible for a ball to end faster than it starts.

twilight zone pinball tutorial lower flipper shots

TZ has four flippers - two at the bottom, one halfway up on the right, and one at the upper portion of the playfield, slightly hidden underneath the mini-playfield on the left. From the lower flippers, the two ramps are the most important shots. Usually, you can’t backhand them - shoot for the opposite ramp every time. The left flipper also has access to the Gumball shot on the far right, as well as the lock in the upper right corner. Both shots are very valuable, so try and figure out how to make them. (Don’t get too intimidated by that lock shot - it looks much harder than it is. It’s actually often easier than the gumball shot!)

twilight zone pinball tutorial upper flipper shots

The upper flippers both have their own shots to aim for. The upper left flipper is most easily accessible by shooting the right ramp, which will drop the ball perfectly lined up for a shot. It’s only really good for making one shot, a scoop directly across from it called the “piano.” This is the jackpot during multiball, so figure it out right away. The upper right flipper, on the other hand, can shoot the “camera” which is another scoop hidden underneath the upper left flipper. This is the jackpot relight. Hold up the left flipper as you shoot into the camera - it makes for an easier shot.

These scoops - along with a couple others throughout the game - all return the ball to you via the “Slot Machine” located near the upper right flipper. A lot of balls will come out of this scoop over the course of the game, including the initial plunge. Being able to regain control from the slot machine is like being able to breathe on TZ. Obviously, different games will behave differently - but figure out this feed fast. It can kick to either flipper, and can be hard enough to dead pass (i.e. don’t flip and let the ball bounce over to the other flipper, slowing down on the way), soft enough for a live catch (i.e. flip as the ball hits the flipper) or so soft that it’ll just end up in the right flipper if you hold it up.

twilight zone pinball under mini playfield

It might be tough to tell what's happening under the mini-playfield, but there are three shots in particular: one shot through the bumpers ("dead end"), one loop that goes into the bumpers ("the hitch-hiker"), and the “camera” which we’ve briefly mentioned. The dead end can be quite valuable as it collects a value boosted by bumper hits - similar to how the Graveyard works in Addams Family - but is a very hard shot to make. The camera, as mentioned, is very important for multiball, and the hitchhiker is not worth going for. It can be valuable, but it puts the ball into the bumpers, which are extremely dangerous: the ball will either dribble out towards the left outlane or kick out from the middle straight at the drain. They’re not instant death or anything - but keep the ball out of there as much as you can!

Scores on Twilight Zone are entirely dependent on how easy the game is set, but I’d argue that a score of 200,000,000 is pretty solid. It is possible to score a billion points if you get far enough into the game, but that’s quite a rarity. Also, this guide is FAR from comprehensive. Twilight Zone is chock full of easter eggs, silly little bonuses, weird combos, and the like, most of which aren't very valuable or worth noting. Keep your eyes - and ears - peeled. Odds are you'll see one or two of them in any given game.

Getting Started with Twilight Zone Pinball

getting started with twilight zone pinball
  • Multiball should be your priority. Light locks by shooting each ramp once for GUM-BALL, lock balls at the lock shot in the upper right.some text
    • Shoot the left ramp to start multiball when lit, not the lock shot. And make sure two balls are locked first for a higher jackpot value!
    • During multiball, shoot the Piano to collect jackpots, and the Camera to relight them.
    • There is no ball saver - but there is a relight. Multiball is hard! Try to keep control and line up your shots carefully.
  • GUM-BALL also lights Gumballs at the right loop. They’re worth good points, pick them off when lit.
  • The Powerball - a ceramic ball - will either be in the Gumball machine or in the drain. When put into play, put it back into the right orbit to start a lucrative multiball, called Powerball Mania:some text
    • Shoot the top hole of the Powerfield - accessed by the right ramp - to award a huge jackpot.
    • The Powerfield has “magna-flippers” which are basically impulse magnets you control with the flipper buttons. Use them to fling the ball into the top hole.
    • Powerball Mania points are awarded in bonus - don’t tilt!
  • Door Panels (modes) are awarded at the Piano and at the Slot Machine. Light them by shooting the right ramp and left ramp, respectively.some text
    • Most door panels are either too dangerous or not worth enough to really aim for. Some just light things, though, which is nice - but modes are usually ignorable.
    • All mode points are awarded in bonus - if you had a good mode, don’t tilt!

Don’t Skill Shot, Full Plunge

tz pinball tutorial no skill shot

Twilight Zone has an awesome skill shot which is unfortunately far too dangerous even to consider going for. You’ll notice an area above the shooter lane which has three colored zones - a red, an orange, and a yellow, all beneath a scoop. The goal with this skill shot is to get as close to the scoop as possible without going into it. The better the zone you get, the higher your bumper value will start out and the more points you’ll get. However, making the skill shot also catapults the ball into the bumpers, which basically invalidates any value you’d get out of it. So, just full plunge every time.

There are a lot of things to be aiming for on Twilight Zone. For the most part, there are two strategies that players tend to adopt - modes and multiballs - which might sound familiar if you’ve played a lot of Lawlor’s other masterpiece, The Addams Family. In fact, you’ll find that there’s a ton of overlap between the two games - both are very similar in the ruleset, although TZ certainly has a lot more to do.

At the same time, just about every shot you make will award some sort of object that the game tracks. There are robots, hitch-hikers, gumballs, you name it - and most of them are going to light other things as you collect them. So, while you should figure out whether you want to aim for multiball or modes in the long run, keep in mind that other various playfield features will light up as you make shots, most of them being worth enough points to aim for them. I’m getting a little ahead of myself - we’ll get to those soon. The point is, there’s more than just modes or multiball - lit stuff is good stuff!

Multiball in the Twilight Zone

twilight zone pinball multiball rules

Okay, while modes can be valuable in Twilight Zone, about 90% of players aim for multiball first. Unlike Addams Family, where most modes are worth at least ten million on a bad day, Twilight Zone’s modes are either not worth very much or are suicide to focus on. They still have value, but multiball is usually everyone’s top priority at the start of a game.

First, we have to light locks. The left ramp spots GUM, the right ramp spots BALL, and completing GUMBALL lights locks at the lock shot. When you lock the first ball, the game will tell you to shoot either the lock or the left ramp. Ignore that. You want to shoot the lock. Shooting the left ramp will immediately start the multiball, but the jackpot will be worth 10,000,000 points instead of 40,000,000, so lock that second ball instead. You can then start the multiball with a shot to either the lock or the left ramp - this time, we want the left ramp. Sit back and enjoy one of the best multiball starts of all time.

During multiball, all of the "5 Mil" standups around the playfield add 5,000,000 points to the jackpot. The piano - the upper scoop - is the jackpot. (This is why we want the left ramp - the ball will kick out to the upper left flipper that way, giving us a clean shot!) Collecting the jackpot is no easy feat - it's a tough shot to hit that piano with multiple balls flying around. After collecting it, relighting the jackpot is done by making a shot to the Camera. For the unaware, Pat Lawlor's signature is his use of horizontal jackpot shots. TZ has a horizontal relight, too, for twice the sideways action!

To help you out, the outer orbit (above each flipper - they feed each other) has a series of magnets in it which will grab the ball and drop it to the flipper you’re about to use to collect or relight the jackpot. Be sure to rely on these! During Multiball, you need to focus just on relighting or hitting the jackpot. You can't really do anything else anyway! 

This multiball is very tough, considering the variety of shots needed to demolish it. Remember to use the right ramp or right orbit to feed the upper right flipper and the left orbit to feed the upper left. Obviously, if you can trap up, you’re in a better position - but both upper flippers will block necessary shots if they’re being held up. While some players are able to “stage flip” - i.e. pressing the flipper button in just enough to trigger one flipper but not the other - that’s, in my opinion, one of the most difficult pinball techniques to pull off. Personally, I like to slow things down, get control, and then “distract” balls by putting them around a ramp or into a scoop if I need a flipper free to make a shot.

And to reiterate, Twilight Zone has no ball saver. Any balls lost immediately are just gone. If you don't collect any jackpots, you can restart the multiball by shooting the lock after the multiball has ended (the timer will be on the display). That said, a good multiball is sure to be enough to put you in the running for winning a game of TZ - and by "good," I mean "two or more jackpots." If you get into a rhythm, getting more than that is certainly possible. Subsequent multiballs are harder to reach - they require getting GUM-BALL for each lock, prohibit locking the balls on the left ramp, etc. The display does a great job of telling you what you need for your next multiball.


tz pinball gumballs

There's a gumball machine in the top left corner of the machine, in case you haven't noticed. More importantly, it has three pinballs inside it at all times. Aside from locking balls, GUM-BALL also lights a Gumball on the right orbit. Shooting the right orbit when a Gumball is lit will pop the ball into the top of the machine, spitting the lowest ball out, and awarding you 15,000,000 points, with your second gumball being worth 20,000,000, and every gumball after that 25,000,000. That's no small payday - that’s good value for a single shot! Gumballs also stack - you can have multiple lit at once (although you can only collect them one at a time).

Twilight Zone has several of the coolest toys in all of pinball, but if you ask me, the coolest of them all is the Powerball. It’s a ceramic white ball which will often be found sitting in the gumball machine at the start of each game. The Powerball is significantly lighter than a normal pinball, so it moves around much faster. It's also not affected by any of the magnets (such as the spiral helpers), which actually comes into play quite a bit.

As I said, the Powerball is usually inside the gumball machine. Putting one ball in spits the lowest ball out, so if the Powerball is on the top, it'll move to the second place, a second gumball collected will move it to the bottom, and on the third, it'll pop out. If you drain the powerball, well, it'll be in the drain. This means that you could just start your ball out with the Powerball thanks to random luck. You could also give it to someone else by accident if you drained it. So, make sure you use it well!

What do you do with it, you ask? Like I said, there are no special scoring rules with it, but there are two things it’s used for. Option one is to lock it. If you score a jackpot with the Powerball during a multiball, it's worth double, but that's stupidly hard to do and a massive waste of the true value of the Powerball. Instead, you should try for the much more lucrative....

Powerball Mania

twilight zone pinball tutorial powerball mania rules

By putting the Powerball into the gumball machine, you get an immediate payoff based on how many of the 5 Mil targets you've hit while using the Powerball (don't worry about increasing this, it's not worth it). Then, Powerball Mania begins. This is a three-ball multiball, ironically without the Powerball, which begins with a switch frenzy where all playfield switches are worth points. That alone is an easy 40-50 million, but there's a jackpot here, too.

That jackpot is located on the Powerfield, the mini playfield on the left side of the table. This is accessed by shooting the right ramp at any point during Powerball Mania. You might be thinking: "mini playfield? But there are no flippers!" And you're....half correct. There are two big bulls-eye marks on the Powerfield, called "Magna Flippers." Basically, these are electromagnets controlled by the flipper buttons. You can "flip" with them to try and fling the ball into the hole at the top, or hit the various switches on the border of the Powerfield for more Mania points. The hole is the most important: it's worth a "Mania Jackpot," worth a whopping 50,000,000 points.

The Powerfield is tough to navigate. It's really weird to flip with magnets, and takes some getting used to, especially during a multiball such as this. But the general idea is to keep in mind that on a flip, the ball will move towards the middle of the big black circle. If the ball is above it, it’ll fly below it. If the ball is arcing or moving past it, it’ll fly around it. Getting action going is good up here - it’s worth solid points - but to shoot the hole, try and line it up so the center of the magnet is directly lined up with the ball and the hole. It takes some practice, but it’s worth figuring out - and it’s lots of fun, to boot!

magnet flips twilight zone pinball

The Mania Jackpot is always lit, although collecting one will stop the right ramp from feeding the Powerfield until you shoot the left ramp first. If there are multiple balls on the Powerfield already, you'll still be able to score jackpots with all of them - but you'll need to hit the left ramp before any more balls can be put up there.

There's also a weird exploit to be aware of: the Powerfield hole and the Camera are the same hole. There are no sensors to determine whether a ball falling into the hole came from the Powerfield or not - instead, the game will just assume that if there are balls on the Powerfield, and a ball lands in the Camera hole, that the ball came from the Powerfield. See where I'm going with this? Shooting the Camera while balls are on the Powerfield (or shortly after the balls fall off of the Powerfield) will award Mania Jackpots. It's worth knowing this, but personally, I find it much easier to actually score them on the Powerfield anyway.

But, I digress. As with all multiballs involving a mini playfield, don't lose the balls on the main playfield while playing on the mini one. One more thing - all Powerball Mania points are awarded in bonus. If you score a couple Mania jackpots and tilt, those jackpots are worth zilch. So....don’t do that.

Door Panels

twilight zone modes door panels

These are Twilight Zone's version of modes. There are fourteen of them, all of which are located around the door on the center of the playfield, indicated with orange inserts. There are a handful of ways to collect door panels, but most notable are the Piano and Slot Machine scoops. Each one will award a door panel when lit - there's a little yellow bulb above each one, indicating when you can collect a door panel there. To relight them, shots to the left ramp will light the piano, shots to the right will light the slot machine. The only difference is that the Piano will give you whatever door panel is flashing, the Slot Machine will give you a random one.

Not all door panels are modes, however. Some of them just light things, some award instant points, etc. Many of them just light stuff: Light Extra Ball, Battle the Power, The Camera, and Lite Gumball (i.e. gumball at the orbit, not GUM-BALL) all just light their respective features. We'll talk about Battling the Power in a bit, but The Camera is basically a mystery award which you get on a shot to the Camera. After collecting a Camera, the display tells you what the next Camera award will be. Neat! Like Gumballs, you can have multiple cameras lit at once, but will only collect one Camera per visit to the shot. In fact, the Camera door panel will demonstrate this for you by lighting two cameras, although the game implies it’s only lighting one. You can also light Cameras by collecting Robots; you get a robot on each left ramp and/or lock shot. Extra Balls are collected at the lock, and Robots also can light extra balls if you collect enough of them.

Some things just collect stuff immediately: 10 million is just 10,000,000 points right away (and is also spotted by the yellow zone skill shot, which is arguably the most valuable thing about said skill shot). Hitch-Hiker awards 2,000,000 points for each Hitch-Hiker you've collected, and makes all hitch-hikers worth 2,000,000 for the rest of the ball. (Hitch-hikers are awarded on the loop to the bumpers. Bumpers are dangerous, so collecting hitch-hikers is, too. But, one Camera award is 10 hitch-hikers. If you have gotten that already, this can be a nice payday.) Super Skill Shot is the most unusual: it lights the left ramp to feed the shooter lane for another skill shot, except instead of lighting bumpers, each zone of the skill shot awards something more tangible, like extra balls, Battle the Power, or specials. Regardless of what you hit, you’ll always get 10,000,000 (even if you fail entirely) so full plunging isn’t really that bad of an idea to avoid the bumpers. (If you don’t mind risking the bumpers, Battle the Power is the best award in tournament play.)

twilight zone pinball machine

The rest of them are modes. Clock Chaos and Clock Millions are all about shooting that center target that says "Clock Millions" which is incredibly dangerous, so both modes can be ignored unless you either have a death wish or somehow get safely dialed in on that target. The Spiral is "shoot the orbits all day" and is fine but there are other equally valuable scoring opportunities that progress towards other things. Greed lights all 5 Mil targets for a brief period of time, this can be crazy valuable, but don't go out of control to make it worthwhile. Town Square Madness is a switch frenzy during which all switches award points and the bumpers increase them. It's pretty valuable but not worth putting the ball into the bumpers to make more valuable. Super Slot is pretty good, it's just "shoot the slot machine all day" but again, not exactly conducive to progress towards other things. Fast Lock is very good - it's a quick multiball that starts with a hurry-up to the Lock, locking a ball begins a three-ball multiball during which all lock shots are worth the initial hurry up value.

Like Powerball Mania, all modes have their points awarded in bonus (save for Fast Lock), so don't tilt if you put up a really good mode. That said, I usually don't focus on playing modes out, I just try and get stuff started. Lighting features is far more useful than the vast majority of the modes. Also, if you start a mode before a multiball, the mode will play out during the multiball, which can be really valuable for features like Greed or Town Square Madness, but again, not worth trying to make that happen.

Speaking of bonus, one Camera award is "Collect Bonus," which will include all mode scores and Powerball Mania points. Hitting Collect Bonus after a lucrative mode or Mania will effectively double the value of that mode or mania, so keep an eye out for that if the Camera foresees it, and maybe refrain from collecting it if your bonus isn't too big yet.

Battling the Power

Real quick, let's talk about Battling the Power: you can light it from the door panel, from every so many Hitch-hikers, and from the Super Skill Shot. When Battle the Power is lit, a shot to the right ramp will feed the Powerfield, during which all hits to the walls of the field will give you points. I mentioned it above, but the goal is to use the "magna-flippers" to slingshot the ball into the hole up top, but hitting all the switches on the side is nice, too. You are timed up here, eventually you'll just be ejected back down to the bumpers.

But as I mentioned, getting into the upper hole is ideal. Doing this doubles the points you've earned on this trip to the Powerfield and awards one random door panel, which is a nice little bonus. It's definitely worth figuring out how to work the Powerfield since it can pay off big time (20-40 million is very accomplishable on a hole shot). And just as a reminder, if you have the powerball out, you can bring it up to the powerfield, but since it’ll be unaffected by the magnets you’re basically throwing a Battle the Power away.

Lost in the Zone

twilight zone pinball tutorial lost in the zone

This is the final mode of the game, which is lit after collecting all fourteen Door Panels, and is indicated by the question mark on the doorknob. It is started by collecting another door panel. Lost in the Zone is a timed six-ball multiball (five steel balls and one powerball), during which you have unlimited ball saves, but after some time, the multiball will just end and all of the balls will drain.

During Lost in the Zone, pretty much everything is running, including Powerball Mania, Greed, Town Square Madness, and a bunch of other things. The game flashes all the scoring opportunities really at you when it starts, but honestly, it doesn't matter. I usually just flail around a bit, focusing on scoring Mania jackpots if a ball ends up top, getting paid for ramp trips and bumpers and all that good stuff. You have infinite ball save, so just try and hit stuff as much as possible. Don’t worry about trapping up or gaining control since doing so just wastes your time.

Lost in the Zone is effectively just a ~300,000,000 point jackpot, though your mileage may vary. It's also pretty tough to get to, but it is possible to reach. Since you're shooting the ramps to light locks anyway, it's not a bad idea to pick off a door panel when you get the chance, but again, multiballs and gumballs are really where it's at for immediate value. Like many wizard modes, saying “I’m going to go for Lost in the Zone” at a game’s outset is usually a bad idea in competitive scenes. Stumble into it, if nothing else. Good luck!