Category Archives: Games and Arcade

The games of life…

Repair: “Slick Shot” by Grand Products

Yeah it looks cool. Just don't play it in a bad mood.
Yeah it looks cool. Just don’t play it in a bad mood.

What we have here is a rare “gem” in the land of classic arcades, a 1990 Slick Shot by the short lived gaming company Grand Products. I put gem in quotes because the game is high on style and concept, but short on lasting fun. Still, I bought three of them, all broken, for $100.

If you have one of the 1,500 of these ever produced, chances are you have been experiencing some of the following problems. If you were lucky enough to find this blog post from the your desperate Google search attempts, I hope it helps.

The big issue with these machines is probably that they were seemingly all put together by hand. If you’ve found the manual online, you’ve probably noticed that the monitor schematics are wrong, that there is very little in the way of troubleshooting advice, and that the wiring diagrams and schematics weren’t added before Grand went out of business, almost immediately after their release of the Slick Shot game it would seem. These games break so fast, that one of the three I have only has 192 games tallied on the coin counter.

The Ball Return Gate

There it is, on the left side of the cabinet, still in place, forever a curse to Grand Product investors.
There it is, on the left side of the cabinet, still in place, forever a curse to Grand Product investors.

For arcade use, there is a ball return gate that holds the ball inside the machine, so people won’t walk off with the ball when they are done playing. In all three of my machines, the sensor board was bad. The game developers knew damn well that this was a major fault, and they even put an option in the owner’s menu to disable the gate entirely.

Of course, if you do this, the gate just stays down, trapping the ball, regardless of whether you’re playing or not. Since these games aren’t going to be spending much time in any modern-day arcade, the best thing to do for home use is to disable the gate and remove it.

There, the gate is removed. But, don't stop reading, because you'll probably have to change the CMOS battery, too.
There, the gate is removed. But, don’t stop reading, because you’ll probably have to change the CMOS battery, too.

There are four screws on the front side of the gate unit, which attach it to the ball return pipe. On the back, the spring that lifts the gate is attached to the ball return pipe, and has to be removed as well. There is a two prong Molex plug, and another screw attaching the unit to a ground wire. Remove these, and the gate comes free. You can screw the ground wire back into the ball return pipe, if you’re worried about that.

The little board above the ball return pipe is probably the real problem, but can just stay there, all alone, to think about what it has done wrong.

The CMOS Battery and Game Settings

Now that you have removed the ball return gate, you’ll need to turn off the gate in the options menu. Before you do that, however, you’re probably going to have to replace the battery that allows the CPU to store data.

I just put the new battery on, and left it on the floor of the cabinet. No big deal, but you can glue it to the board if you like. The battery will surely outlive your desire to keep the game.
I just put the new battery on, and left it on the floor of the cabinet. No big deal, but you can glue it to the board if you like. The battery will surely outlive your desire to keep the game.

Depending on what kind of battery there is, you may just be able to stick in a new AAA and move on. For me, the housings were all leaky and didn’t look safe, so I just replaced the entire thing with a double-decker lithium battery. You can buy them with the wires attached, and just replace the current battery with a little soldering on the board. The holes are labeled. Red is + and Black is -.

Now you can change the settings in the menu, and they will stay put when you turn off the game. Boot up the game, and then hit that red button on the inside upper right corner of the coin door. The third screen has an option “USE CUE BALL SWITCH”. Turn that to “NO” and you’ll be ready to play the game. Other settings that you’ll want to check out include setting the game to FREEPLAY, and changing the time the game gives you per credit.

You can just recycle that gate unit, unless you think it will come in handy as a model train crossing bar or something.
You can just recycle that gate unit, unless you think it will come in handy as a model train crossing bar or something.

The Monitor

As for the monitors in these things, they are probably still in great shape, especially since the games almost never got played while they were in arcade owner possession. Still, there are a few things I’ll put here, just to document the things I had to do.

If the monitor has blown out, that’s beyond my scope. If you’ve never worked with CRT television monitors before, you need to be extremely careful. Those things have open coils and a lot of power going through them. The best advice I can give you is don’t screw with it. The monitor is busted, end of story.

I sure hope you didn't spend a lot of time trying to adjust the monitor like I did...
I sure hope you didn’t spend a lot of time trying to adjust the monitor like I did…

If you look at the front of your screen, and see this crusty looking strip of tape across the top, that’s an easier thing to fix. There’s a plastic boarder behind the game’s painted glass, that is glued to a cardboard frame. The plastic boarder has come loose, fallen down, and is blocking part of the monitor. You’ll have to remove the glass, and get some double-sided tape to get that thing back where it belongs.

These kinds of things pop up occasionally while you are working with arcade machines. Buying one of those kits with the detachable heads isn't a bad idea.
These kinds of things pop up occasionally while you are working with arcade machines. Buying one of those kits with the detachable heads isn’t a bad idea.

 

At the bottom of the glass, the frame that has the cue sticks holders on either side of it, also keeps the glass in place. The frame is easy to remove, if you have the right tool. You’ll need specialty screw kit, with a T25 star driver head. Feel free to replace the screws with something less obscure, once you get them out.

Remove the frame, and the glass will come out easily.

If you want to remove the playfield, there are three screws holding that in place as well. That, and there are two latches on the underside of the playfield, and a single Molex plug; pull these and the entire thing can be removed.

If the monitor needs any kind of adjusting from there, the size and hold dials are in the front of the cabinet, bolted to a panel at the very back. If you pull off the playfield, they can be adjusted very easily, while the game is running. The color dials are in the back, attached to the TV board. Again, be very careful about messing with this area while the game is on. If you must, wear long sleeves at the very least, as electricity can jump right onto your sweat and give you the free game of your life. Take your time, and be very careful.

And that’s all I know about the Grand Products Slick Shot arcade hybrid. I hope this helped anyone that might need it, and I sincerely hope that, after you get your game running smoothly, you have more fun with it than I ever did.

The Bally EM Slot Machine (part 1)

For those of you not tremendously interested in technical stuff, this section of my blog may come off a bit dry. Still, I’ll try to shock myself once in a while to keep the read interesting.

BallyEM1Here she is: my father’s Bally EM slot machine. The glass says 1982, but Bally started making solid state machines in 1980, so it’s hard to pinpoint the game’s year. There is a hand-written version number on the inside of the machine, which does not correspond with this version.

It is a quarter machine, allows three credits, and pays out a maximum jackpot of $150. That doesn’t seem like much considering it’s odds; today’s similarly reeled Wheel of Fortune machines offer top prizes around $800 and have progressive jackpots generally worth a few hundred thousand, all for the same three-quarter pull.

Anyway…

As the story goes, my father purchased this machine in working condition. He put quarters into it, and used it to entertain himself and guests. Then, he hit one of the jackpots, which locked up the machine. There’s a simple push lever to reset the machine, slightly hidden below the coin hopper. All you need to do is push this lever, and play can continue.

Of course, if you don’t know that, you may decide to pull out the reels assembly and start sticking your fingers into the mechanism.

Sounds like that is what happened, and it has been at my brother’s house for a few years, just kicking it. I obtained the service manual, a hefty 100-page tome of schematics and half-helping tips. Still, I was able to isolate the problem (at least the first problem) to the coin accepting circuit. Of course, before I could test that, I had to get the coin acceptor to actually accept quarters..

Adjusting a standard coin acceptor unit.

This is an interesting video from the manufacturer of the acceptor in the Bally. A lot of things about how they work, and how to adjust them.

So, now it accepts quarters…

Even with the acceptor taking quarters (and probably any similarly sized items) the game still does not acknowledge that the coins have  been taken. There seems to be a problem with the acceptance circuit, which will be the next thing we look at in this series.

Exciting stuff! Stay tuned for that.