Thanks for the advice, everyone. (What is SMS? I’ve studied the rules, but I haven’t memorized them to the point that I can recognize acronyms. Is it “Springfield Mystery Spot”?)
In any case, that means I ought to focus on starting Otto’s double scoring (but I don’t have to actually shoot for those) and the Itchy & Scratchy multiballs. Got it. I’ll keep that in mind next time. I’ve never actually reached either of them. I’ve gotten close to Springfield Mystery Spot as I can shoot the center lane reasonably well.
As for why there are so many broken ones, I’m guessing it’s a combination of the machine being hard to repair (from what I hear), it being an early 00’s Stern and thus they break down easily, and the Simpsons name brings in non-pinball fans. (I’d bet that, for the same reason, I still see plenty of Konami’s Simpsons arcade game.) It’s not as bad as it used to be, but I would be horrified to see pinball machines in public getting replaced by The Simpsons Pinball Party, one by one. My best guess is that local operators notice that The Simpsons Pinball Party is one of the few pinball machines guaranteed to turn a profit. The other possibility is that most of these machines are owned by the same operator who only does it for the money. (This latter possibility would explain why southern California is unique in its concentration of Simpsons Pinball Parties.)
There is at least one thing wrong with about 80% of the public pinball machines I’ve played in the area (usually weak flippers). I’ve contacted some of the operators about them, but really, there isn’t much I can do after that except warn others on Pinball Map. Molly of 82 and Pins and Needles is very prompt and on the ball with fixing them, and so is the guy who runs Casa de Carlos and whoever is the operator of the Orange County Ice Palaces. (Same goes for Wagon Wheel Bowl’s pinball collection–as they are largely SEGA machines, I’m guessing they’re the same operator.) However, most of the operators I’ve reported problems with do not respond or are otherwise completely unavailable, and their machines remain broken and become more broken with time. Family Amusement Corporation is the worst when it comes to responsiveness. They have at least 11 pinball machines in their arcade, but they only fix cosmetic problems or obvious problems, like broken lights, bad plungers, stuck balls, or weak flippers. (This means The Simpsons Pinball Party there is one of the few to have functioning upper flippers. Some of the time.) If it requires knowledge of the rules to fix, it will remain unaddressed. The Ace in the Hole switch on World Poker Tour has been nonfunctional for as long as I’ve been playing it, and so have the Batmobile switches on the upper playfield in Batman: The Dark Knight. You have to report the problem in person, and the guy who does the repair work seems to be the general maintenance guy for the arcade as a whole. I don’t think he plays pinball except on a rudimentary level, and I’d bet those problems remain unaddressed because he doesn’t know the rules and thus doesn’t know better.
Sometimes, I report them and the pinball machine is removed without being replaced by anything. Me, I’d rather there be a broken pinball machine on location than none at all.
This is, by the way, not the worst condition Simpsons Pinball Party I’ve seen. Some of them have badly worn down artwork and bad DMDs. Some of them have the lights completely out. Some have lower flippers so weak, they cannot even reach the garage door. The one at Ball Park Pizza in Laguna Niguel has a hole in the playfield, dents in the cabinet, and crooked legs, as if someone took a baseball bat to the machine but had the glass recently replaced.
The Simpsons Pinball Party can get away with being broken messes because of the aforementioned non-fans. Every now and then, there will be someone who will drop some quarters in there, play a game (usually, they score less than 500,000 points), and walk away. I’ve done some observing when they’re in restaurants and movie theaters or when I’m playing some other arcade machine nearby. It happens quite often, maybe every 20 minutes or so. Something like weak flippers they won’t notice because they think it’s SUPPOSED to be like that. If it IS an operator who cares about profits and nothing else, and The Simpsons Pinball Party earns the most, why wouldn’t he or she stock nothing but The Simpsons Pinball Party? And if it gets almost as much in earnings when it’s broken than when it’s pristine, then why bother paying for the fuel to drive over and the spare parts where necessary, and the time taken out of one’s day to do so?