Houdini Rulesheet


Houdini Rules
Current Version: 18.5.4

Playfield Design, Mechanics: Joe Balcer
Engineering: Jim Thornton
Rules, Programming, Animation: Josh Kugler
Artwork, Animations: Jeff Busch
Music, Sound: Matt Kern
Sculptures: Matt Riesterer (Back Alley)
Animation: Ish Raneses

Rules edited and compiled from the following sources: American Pinball, This Week in Pinball, Josh Kugler, Straight Down The Middle: a pinball show YouTube channel, konjurer, et al.


The goal of Houdini is to become the Master Magician and make it to the Master Magician wizard mode. You to the Master Magician Mode by spelling H-O-U-D-I-N-I. Each of the 7 letters of Houdini correspond to the 7 major areas of the game.

Becoming a Master Magician is very difficult due to the depth of the ruleset and a challenging playfield. You have to complete 20 modes, 5 combos, collect 8 awards, collect jackpots from 2 multiballs, and complete 3 mini-wizards modes. Simple, right?

The difficulty of getting to the end of the game can be adjusted in the settings so that Houdini letters are easier to achieve. There are several settings that are going to dial down the difficulty. See suggested home settings below.

Progress towards the Master Master mode can be seen on a cool dashboard display by pressing both flippers before plunging. You can also see progress and by the chain link inserts on the playfield. Each major area of the game is represented by a different color as noted later in this document. Progress towards the end goal impacts your end-of-ball bonus.


Skill shot – 3 random rotating awards

10 Stage Modes

  • Vanishing Elephant
  • Chinese Water Torture
  • Indian Needle Trick
  • Walk through Walls
  • Handcuff King
  • Milkcan Escape
  • Metamorphosis
  • Bullet Catch Multiball (video mode using the upper catapult)
  • Straight Jacket Multiball (reverse/inverted flipper mode)
  • Card King (video mode)

Mini Wizard Modes

  • Movie Binge - complete all 5 Movie Modes
  • Great Jail Escape - complete all 5 Jail Escape Hurry-Up Modes
  • Ultimate Secret Mission - complete all Secret Mission Combos

Master Magician Mode
For the Master Magician (Wizard) Mode, you must collect all the HOUDINI letters by:

  • Complete all 10 Stage modes
  • Complete all 5 Movie Modes
  • Collect eight items from the Magic Shop
  • Complete all 5 Jail Escape Hurry-Up Modes
  • Complete all Secret Mission Combos
  • Earn a super jackpot during Trunk Multiball
  • Earn a certain number of jackpots during Seance Multiball

Drain Modes
There are two modes that are set up at the outlanes that can revive your ball.

  • Return from Beyond
  • Escape Death

Slow plunge to hit one of three rotating awards including points, letters, multipliers and even an extra ball. Points values increase with the number of skill shots made.


Color Code: Red

The stage modes are completed one at a time and are offered in random order. You will typically have 45 seconds to complete a stage mode. You can now adjust the timer to between 30 and 60 seconds. For a beginner to intermediate player 45 seconds can be a very time short to keep the ball under control and completing the mode.

The stage modes are started in one of 3 ways:

  • Bashing the theater curtain 3 times (this can be made easier in the settings)
  • Hit through the Back Stage Alley shot hitting the theater without hitting the bumpers
  • Hit through the Key Lane hitting the red target at the back without hitting the bumpers

The announcer will stated that the show is about to begin and the theater curtain will open. You must get the ball into the open theater.

As of version 18.4.11 you can get awarded Players Choice at the Magic Shop or as a skill shot award. This allows you to select the stage mode after you qualify the start of a stage mode. You may wish to start with an easier mode like Walk through Walls or the Indian Needle Trick.

Vanishing Elephant — Three ramp shots move elephant into the crate, then stage to show crate empty.

  • Ramp 3 times
  • Stage

Chinese Water Torture — KeyLane to lower into tank, either orbit to close curtain, stage to open curtain and set Houdini free. There is now recognition for the fastest escape from the tank!

  • Key Lane
  • Either Orbit
  • Stage

Indian Needle Trick — All switches score X, magic and red standup targets increase value. Houdini pulls needles out of his mouth as shots are made.

  • All switches
  • Red Standups to increase values

Walk through Walls — To move Houdini through the wall, shoot one of the left shots, then one of center shots, then right shots.

  • Left Shot
  • Middle Shots
  • Right Shot

Handcuff King — Shoot the pops, every X hits results in a handcuff or chain being thrown out, hit it enough time to totally free Houdini. The number of handcuffs on Houdini and the number of pops needed to shed a handcuff is adjustable in the Feature Settings. There is now recognition for the fastest escape from the cuffs!

  • Hit 3 Pops to shed a handcuff
  • Shed 5 handcuffs

Milkcan Escape — Three shots through the lower left loop will lower him into milkman, rollout the screen and then show him free. This can be the most lucrative of the stage modes.

  • Milkcan Loop 3 times

Metamorphosis — Shoot trunk to lower Houdini into the trunk, then orbit to close curtain, then stage or trunk to open curtain to set Houdini free, and Bess then in the trunk.

  • Trunk
  • Orbit
  • Stage

King of Cards — A video mode where you are throwing cards (known as scaling) through moving hoops. The longer you hold the flipper in before throwing, the higher it will go, so you need to time it both for when you start and release your press. As you make shots, the hoops move faster, making three of the smaller hoop, will then light the smaller hoop for extra ball. It is possible to make both hoops with a single throw, which will double their value.

The length of time in this mode is adjustable in the Feature Settings

Straight Jacket Multiball — You have the option of ‘reversed flippers’ (left flipper button controls right flipper, right controls left) or ‘reversed and inverted flippers’, where flippers are reversed as described, but they are inverted, which means they are the up position and then drop when flipper button is pressed, so they become ‘release to flip’. Jackpots are doubled when inverted. A feature will soon be added that if you are ‘chimping’ the flippers (e.g. just hitting both at the same time) during this mode will result in a reprimand and the jackpot value will be reduced.

Hint: cross your arms so that your right hand is on the left flipper button and left hand is on the right flipper button. Your brain will work as intended and you should be fine.

Hint: Once you feel comfortable with the reversed flippers, try the “reversed and inverted” a few times. It is worth big points and it’s actually not that difficult.

Bullet Catch — Shoot trunk to lock a ball in upper catapult, then shoot moving target to lock in the site (and jackpot value which is decreasing while you try to hit the moving shot). Locking the site fires the gun, to get into a two ball MB. Then continue to hit the trunk shot (right inner loop) to lock and fire the gun again to score jackpots.


The Magic Standup Targets help you in different ways depending on the current state of the game. Hitting a magic target can add escape letters, séance letters, or film letters. Hitting a target can also advance you a step during a Stage Mode or Movie Mode. The magic targets also engage the magnets.


Color Code: Blue

There are five modes based on Houdini’s movies. These modes are presented in black and white with an old film look and have a piano accompaniment. Failing to complete results in the film ‘burning’. One is a type of add-a-ball Multiball. Complete all five for Houdini letter. Completing all five will also start the Mini-Magician Mode called Movie Binge. You don’t have to complete each movie mode but how well you did at each mode will impact your scoring potential in Movie Binge.

Terror Island (Scoop, ramp, scoop, ramp) — Free the woman from the safe that was thrown in the ocean, then go back for the treasure.

Haldane of Secret Service (all about the spinner) — Escape the waterwheel. Each shot makes it spin faster until it breaks free

Master Mystery — Features Q The Automaton, the first ever movie robot, stop him from getting the woman or getting to the weapon — left orbit, right orbit, left orbit, right orbit. You only have X seconds to complete the next shot in the sequence, making it resets the clock (but less time that previous shot).

Grim Game — Move Houdini from plane to plane to rescue the woman (orbit, ramp, orbit)

Man From Beyond — This is a add-a-ball kind of mode. First bash the stage to free Houdini from the Ice (where he was frozen for 100 years), this will then put a second ball in play. Then shoot orbits X times to free him from his restraints in the insane asylum, another ball is put into play, then all the GI and Inserts turn off, except for three shots (and a moving ‘spotlight’ running through inserts). Only one of the three lit shots will pay off, you can figure out which by sneaking a peek at the display and spotting Houdini when the spotlight is on him. Shooting the correct shot scores a jackpot, and then Houdini will randomly move between the three shots.

NOTE: For most of the stage and movie modes, you can also hit one of the two ‘magic stand-ups’ targets, which are located on either side of the lower playfield to advance a step through the mode. When not in a mode, these targets will assist you in other ways, based on current state, typically adding ESCAPE, SEANCE or FILM letters. They will also trigger the magnets under the hands which will then twirl and throw the ball. There is an optional ball saver (controlled via settings), when the magnets are triggered via the targets (and when not in seance mulitball). Also, for most stage and movie modes, once the timer gets to 10 seconds or less, you can shoot the spinner to add time to the timer. You can up to 10 seconds to the timer.


Color Code: Green

Spell E-S-C-A-P-E via stand-up targets begin a Jail Escape Hurry Up. Complete all five to earn a Houdini letter. Complete all five for the Great Jail Escape mini-magician mode.

E-S-C stand-up targets are shootable but the A-P-E letters are not. Use the pop bumpers and indirect shots to hit the A-P-E stand-ups. Complete X to earn Return From Beyond, also possible to earn Extra Ball if enabled in settings. Modes will be selected from a random order or you can go into the settings and set for “easy to hard” order. Complete all five for mini-magician mode.

What are the 5 escape modes?

  • New York - Ramp for 20,000
  • London - Key Lane for 30,000
  • Paris - Trunk for 40,000
  • Sydney - Spinner for 50,000
  • Chicago - Milkcan Loop for 75,000

Rule designer Josh Kugler stated that “random is default since always seeing same one first would annoy most owners. However, random just means how it is set at the beginning, so if you get New York first and don’t make it, you will see the other four before it gives you NY again.”

Kugler went on to say that “the easy difficulty setting, means you only need the ‘first part’ of a shot versus the complete shot (normal/hard).”

A beginner set the Escape modes to easy to be a little more forgiving. “The Milkcan shot, you only need to hit the magic target or near it - you don’t have to make the loop.” On easy mode you can just sneak it up the ramp and it doesn’t have to make it all the way around. With the Key Target - you just need to hit key lane. Inner loop? Just first switch and you don’t have to make it around the bend. On easy you can hit the spinner from either direction and not just the right orbit.


Color Code: Pink

Houdini was rumored to be a spy for the US government - hence the secret missions! Each secret mission is a combo. Each combo gets progressively harder to complete. There are five different combos to complete. The secret missions are considered to be the hardest objective in the game to complete.

Secret Missions start at the scoop. Only one secret mission is active at a time. Complete it and you can then start the next. Complete all five for a mini-magician mode and a Houdini letter. The next shot in the sequence will be identified with a flashing purple arrow. If the sequence is broken, it will go back to the first shot of the sequence. They get harder as you go.

  • Combo Mission 1: chain together the ramp and scoop shots for 25,000
  • Combo Mission 2: chain together the right orbit and scoop shots for 50,000
  • Combo Mission 3: chain together the ramp, right orbit, and scoop for 75,000 and lits extra ball at the scoop
  • Combo Mission 4: chain together the right ramp, right orbit, lock shoot and scoop for 100,000
  • Combo Mission 5: chain together the milkcan, ramp, right orbit and scoop for 250,000


Complete the task, continue your ball, fail and ball ends. The modes are:

Return From Beyond
You get 30 flips to spell seance (via mini stand-up targets). Earned by scoring X jackpots during seance multiball.

Escape Death
You get 30 seconds to spell ESCAPE (via stand-up targets). Escape Death is the harder of the two to complete. Earned by completing X jail escape hurry-ups.

You can also earn/light the outlane drain modes at Magic Shop. If earned there it will bounce from side to side with flippers. If earned via Seance or Escapes, it will not move. If you have earned one plus magic shop version, then both outlines are lit. You can only earn each once per game.


Color Code: Yellow

The Magic Shop is the place to get mystery awards. You’ll need to collect 8 items from the shop to get to the Master Magician Mode.

The magic shop is opened by the spinner. Once the Magic Shop is open for business you can get something from the shop by entering the “gobble hole” under the ramp. The direct shot to the gobble hole is through the Stage Alley lane through the pops. You can also bank it in off the theater curtain or use the pop bumpers to bounce it into the hole.

There are also Easter eggs at the Magic Shop that poke fun at some of American Pinball’s friends and competitors.

Magic Shop Awards:

  • Virtual Ball Lock
  • Extra Ball Lit
  • Playfield Multiplier
  • 20 second Ball Save
  • Milkcan Multiplier Advance
  • Return from Beyond Lit
  • Escape Death Lit
  • Big Points (various amounts)
  • Hold Bonus
  • Bonus Multipliers (various award)
  • more???

There are settings to also you to earn a HOUDINI letter more easily or even multiple letters.


You can stack multiballs on both stage and movie modes as well as other multiballs. You do have to start the modes first. Stage modes and movie modes can not be stacked with each other. Once a multiball is running, you can not start a movie or stage mode. Jail Escapes, starting of Secret Missions and Magic shop visits can occur if a mode is running, but not if multiball is running.


Trunk Multiball
Color Code: Turquoise

By default the lock is lit at the start of the game. Stage Alley shot will lit the lock on subsequent locks. Shoot the right inner loop to catapult a ball into the trunk for each locked ball. Lock three balls in the trunk to start the Trunk Multiball. Three shots are lit for jackpots, complete those then shoot trunk (via inner loop) to score super jackpot and re-light jackpots. Super Jackpot will earn Houdini letter.

Seance Multiball - 3 ball
Color Code: Teal

Spell S-E-A-N-C-E to light at the scoop. The magnets will engage in this multiball. Spell seance to score jackpots, spell in order for super jackpot (very hard). Gets harder to light each time. Two jackpots during Seance Multiball will earn you a Houdini letter.


Color: Orange

The Milkcan loop (lower left loop) is a difficult shot that feeds the left inlane. Shooting the milkman loop feeds immediately followed by the ramp will increase the playfield multiplier for X seconds. Each time this 2 shot combo is hit advances the multiple from 2X to 3X to 4X. Starting a mode via Stage Alley with a max milkcan multiplier gives 8X scoring.

If you would like a more approachable game for the family and for new to intermediate players try these settings. This configuration allows the player to start a mode by bashing the theater just one time. You also get more time to complete a mode before the mode times out and the crowd “boos” at you. When the jail escape order is from “easy to hard”, it forces you to complete the cities in order.

  • Stage Difficulty: Easy
  • Stage Mode Timer from 45 to 60 seconds
  • King of Cards from 40 to 60 seconds
  • Jail Escapes Order: Easy to Hard
  • Jail Escapes Difficulty: Easy

You may elect to start each stage mode by shooting through the Stage Alley lane. A well-placed shot will start the stage mode at 2X.


Bug fixes and updates not listed - only features listed as new.

18.5.4 Bug fixes

18.4.27 (New features only)
New — Fastest Escapes recognition (inspired by TNA/Scott Danesi)
• Handcuff Escape
• Water Torture Escape

18.4.11 (New features only)
New — skill shot — each target has an an award, so hitting the flashing shot when on that target gives that award. Shooting super skill awards all three items.
New — Players Choice — allows the player to choose which stage act to perform. Available when the ‘status’ screen is on the marquee. That screen can be locked in via skill shot award or magic shop award.
New — match sequence. **Temp music
New — added a display counter for spins needed during Haldane movie mode
New — 4 additional ‘bad’ hat pull items
New — animations for increasing of trunk multiball jackpot
New — Setting to adjust timer for Movie modes from 30 to 60 seconds (45 second is default)
New — Setting to adjust timer for Stage modes that use a timer, except king of cards which has its
own setting. Adjustable from 30 to 60 seconds, 45 is default
New — Settings for match sequence (credit or off) — Off will not show sequence
New — Settings for match sequence (percentage) — percentage of 0 will show match sequence but never award a credit
New — settings for Knocker (‘Audio High Volume’, ‘Audio Low Volume’ or ‘Off’)
New — lightshow for super skill shot
New — lightshow for magic targets
New — Score banner animated when going from shown to hidden and vice versa
New — coil adjustments for left ball lock to shorten or lengthen the time the plunger is held down. If two balls are being released reduce the time if the ball is getting hit and bouncing up when releasing increase the time. If you find you are needing to increase the time more than a small amount it is possible its s mechanical issues that needs to be addressed.
New — Setting to enable an autofire of the shooter lane if the ball has been sitting idle for 60
seconds. Defaults to Off
New — sound effect when ball traveling the wire form return from upper catapult
New — Extra ball when reaching a certain level of bonus multiplier. Controllable via settings
between 5 and 9 or Off, defaults to 7


Welcome to the Houdini Rulesheet. Use this wiki to discuss the rules and to add and clarify rules as they are discovered. This is a wiki and you are encouraged to edit the rules directly.

Tim (aka Konjurer)


Version 18 already? Stern, take notice… :wink:


I’d rather the code was complete at point of release - rather than 17 updates!


I’m gonna take a wild guess that those aren’t serialized version numbers, but are instead dates (i.e. April 27, 2018 for the top-listed version, April 11, 2018 for the previous one).


The code was about 90% complete at launch. There main things left to complete are the 3 mini-wizard modes and the final master magician mode. I don’t think anyone has even gotten close to the final mode yet.


It wasn’t a specific dig at Houdini, rather that it seems the norm for nearly all games to be released without being either fully bug tested, or wizard modes to not even exist.


The Houdini we have on location in Portland at Quarterworld (which is right out of the box) won’t even make it up the ramps - any idea if there is a way to increase the flipper power? There’s just no way a game should be flipping like this one is, feels like it’s playing at 50% power.


Update on the Jail Escapes. Still don’t know what all of them are but I know the shots you have to make.

Chicago - Milkcan Loop
London - Key Lane
New York - Ramp
Paris - Trunk


The flipper power can be increased in the game settings. Most have suggested a setting of 21-22 for enough power to make shots but avoid airballs.


Sweet, hopefully the ops will figure this out. I’ll pass that info along, thank you!


Thanks Capt! Just need the last one. Where those in order? I have my Houdini set to do the escapes in order. That setting seems to make more sense since the shots are supposed to be in progressively more difficult order on that setting.


I’m pretty sure this escape is in there too.

Sydney - Spinner


I have a correction for this. It is the Key Lane shot that goes through the pops to the red stand up at the back. The Stage Alley shot directs the ball through the pops left to right towards the stage. Making either of these shots, without hitting one of the pop bumpers, will open the stage without having to bash the stage directly multiple times. You still need to shoot the ball into the stage to start the mode.

Also, at least in the newest code releases, the stage only takes one hit to open up for the first stage mode. Subsequent stage modes take multiple hits unless the one of the two shots through pop bumpers is successful.


Thanks lodgingdolphin. I corrected the rules.


On the KISS thread the community of owners came up with a Home Use configuration. Most of the people in the KISS forum thought these settings tweaks made the game much better. What would you say is a better set for home use. By 'home use" I mean mere mortals that are average players who, along with their friends and family would like to eventually get to the end of the game… and yet, maintain the challenge.

My tweaks from factory settings would be as follows to the Feature Settings only:

Stage Difficulty: Easy
Stage Mode Timer from 45 to 60 seconds
King of Cards from 40 to 60 seconds
Jail Escapes Order: Easy to Hard
Jail Escapes Difficulty: Easy


Greetings! I’m about to receive my Houdini pinball and I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the rules and settings before it arrives.

I’m confused by the statement about adjusting the “Stage Mode Timer” from 45 to 60 seconds. I’m reviewing the documentation at Houdini Instructions and I don’t see anything anywhere about a Stage Mode Timer. Is this an omission in the online service manual?

Thank you!


Never mind, I answered my own question: looks like the Stage Mode Timer was added later via software updating, and the online manual (which is marked “preliminary”) doesn’t include it.


Tim, do you want the easter egg details in this wiki?


I think that would be cool. Are you talking about the magic shop top hat things?