Bally's Spectrum
By Dan Mowczan, dano@ic.net
Version 1.0

I. History

Spectrum is a 3 ball game with a codebreaker theme from Bally. It was designed by Claude Fernandez, and the art was done by Margaret Hudson. Claude also designed such games as Flash Gordon, Elektra, Baby Pac-Man, and Phantom of the Opera. It had a production run of 994 machines, with rumors of a significant number of machines never being sold (see rumors). It was a complex game that didn't perform particularly well on locations.

Spectrum was a unique game for several reasons. Although there were three balls installed, only a single ball was intended to be in play at any time. Secondly, no plunger is present on the machine. It is an Add-A-Ball machine, which was rarely used in the 1980s. There are no outlanes -- balls can only be drained between the flippers. Finally, the absence of a plunger will confuse most people at the beginning of their first few games.

II. Playfield

Due to the fact that the Spectrum playfield is 100% symmetrical in construction, I will not describe the playfield clockwise from the bottom left, as is the convention. I will describe the playfield from the bottom up. Features of the playfield beyond the basic mechanics will be discussed near the end of this section.

Drain Saucer
Between the flippers, there is a saucer, which holds a single ball whenever a ball is not in play. This ball is launched up between the flippers to begin play, due to the lack of a plunger lane for that purpose.

The flippers are of the standard Bally type for this era. The only unique feature worth mentioning is that the gap between the flippers is abnormally large. Due to the absence of outlanes to drain a ball, the game required a larger gap at the bottom to equalize play. The distance between the two flippers (from rubber to rubber) is 2 7/16"!

In the standard location of pinball slingshots, two triangular wedges are placed at these locations. They do look like standard slingshots, but perhaps are a bit smaller. They do not have switches and slingshots to propel the ball, and only serve the purpose of forming inlanes. Slingshots are primarily designed to bounce the ball back and forth, increasing the danger of dropping a ball in an outlane, and are not required in this case.

Inlanes and trapped balls
The inlanes are typical for any machine. However, a trapped ball is located on each side of the machine. It is on the outside of the inlane, level with the portion of the lane leading up to the flipper. This ball can be launched (quite quickly) down the inlane towards the flipper. If not reacted to quickly, it will certainly drain. A "Special" lamp is located near each inlane entrance.

Computer Code Array
A large picture of a box, being about eight inches across and spanning from the bottom of the wedges up to the computer clue saucers is the code array. The array is made up of 12 cells, in a 3 across by 4 high array. Each cell in the array contains four lamps, one each of the colors red, yellow, green, and blue. Your successful and unsuccessful attempts to break the current 4 color code are shown here (see gameplay).

Computer Clues Saucers
About 5 inches from the top of the wedges, there is a pair of saucers that is easily accessible from most any angle. Each one ejects the ball into the hidden side lanes. Each of these saucers has two arrows which can be lit leading up to them. The left one has a red and yellow arrow, and the right one has a green and blue arrow.

Stars and Super Star
Located above the computer code array is four stars and one super star. These are lamps in the playfield that indicate the number of computer codes that you have successfully broken. (see gameplay)

Color Drop Targets, Red and Blue
About four inches above the computer clues saucers there is a set of three drop targets located on each side on the machine. They are approximately a 50-degree angle from horizontal pointed towards the flippers. The set on the left is blue and the set on the right is red. Each set is labeled clearly with its color on the silkscreen plastic above it, and says SHOOT (color) WHEN FLASHING.

Bonus Rollovers
Located about two inches above the top of the red and blue drop targets is a set of four rollovers stretching across the playfield in a tiny arc.

At the outsides of the machine, right above about 1 1/2" above the bonus rollovers, two spinners is angled about 15 degrees from horizontal, facing the flippers. These spinners each have two arrows pointing towards them which can be lit. The left one has a green and blue arrow and the right one has a red and yellow arrow.

Color Drop Targets, Yellow and Green
These two sets of three drop targets are located near the center of the of the machine, about 3/4 of the way up from the bottom. They allow enough space for a ball to travel between them comfortably. They are angled at about 5 degrees from horizontal and are facing the flippers. As with the red and blue set, each set is labeled clearly with its color on the silkscreen plastics above them, and say SHOOT (color) WHEN FLASHING.

Spectral Curve
The Spectral Curve is a large arc starting at the left spinner, arcing over the yellow and green drop targets, and exiting on the right spinner. A successful shot into the spectral curve should be from a flipper, travel through the spinner on the opposite side of the playfield, arc over one set of drop targets pass the gap allowing access to the top saucer, over the other set of drop targets, and into the hidden side lane on the side of the playfield that the original shot came from. Four rollovers are located above the drop targets on the spectral curve to track the balls position in it.

Top Saucer
At the highest point of the machine, a center saucer is located. It is recessed fully and can only be hit from a very accurate upward shot from the flippers. It has the ability to eject the ball to the right or left, which sends the ball directly into the hidden side lanes. The ball passes over three rollovers to track its progress getting kicked into the hidden side lanes. This saucer has four lighted arrows (red, yellow, green, and blue) leading up to it. It is also labeled Computer Clues like the lower two saucers.

Hidden Side Lanes
This is one of the features that make Spectrum very unique. These side lanes are completely invisible to the player, as they completely obscured by opaque silk-screened plastics. They begin at the top, arced up to the top saucer, and at the bottom they empty into the ball reservoir on the inlanes. Three rollovers are visible at the top to track the ball's progress from the top saucer into the hidden side lanes. A ball can enter the hidden side lanes at four points on the playfield -- kicked out of the top saucer, on the spectral curve, between the spinners and the red and blue drop targets, and out of the lower computer clues saucers.

III. Gameplay

The goal in Spectrum is to break the computer's code. Gameplay is begun by pressing the right flipper button, which ejects the ball sitting in the drain saucer into the playfield by firing it up between the flippers.

The Computer's Code, which is kept secret from the player, is made up of a sequence of four colors. Each of the four colors is Red, Yellow, Green, or Blue. Colors can repeat in the code, so all four colors are not required to be used in the code. A new code is determined at the start of each game and immediately after the old code is broken.

Reading the Computer Code Array
The computer code array, located centrally in the lower half of the playfield, is what keeps track of your correct and incorrect guesses. The three columns in the array initially keep track of your first, second, and third attempt at breaking the code. If you have to make more than three attempts at breaking the computer code, the attempt records are pushed one column to the left. Attempts pushed off the left of the grid are lost, and these guesses cannot contribute to your bonus scoring at the end of each ball (see Scoring).

The four rows indicate the guesses at each of the four colors in the code's sequence. The top row corresponds to the first color in the code, and the bottom row corresponds to the last color in the code.

Each of the twelve cells in the array contains four controlled lamps. The lamps are red, yellow, green, and blue. The state of the lamps can tell you about a particular position guess (row) of a certain code guessing attempt (column).

  • All lamps dark: Not yet ready to guess this position on this attempt
  • One light solid: Guessed this color for this position on this attempt, it was incorrect.
  • One light flashing: Guessed this color for this position on this attempt, it was correct.
  • Four lamps alternating quickly: Currently making this attempt.

Each of the cells must be filled in order. In other words, the first guess you'll make will be the first color in the codes, the second guess will be the second color, etc. You cannot proceed to the next position in the code without guessing the previous one, and you cannot start a new codebreaking attempt without completing all your guesses on the last one.

Taking guesses
When the game begins, the first position on the first attempt will have the four color lamps flashing in a circular pattern. This indicates that you're ready to take a guess at what the color is for that position in the secret code.

To take a guess, you need to strike two of the three bank targets of the color you want to guess. Immediately after sinking two of three targets of any color bank, the bank is reset and that is your guess if that color is currently allowed to be guessed (see Computer Clues). If the guess is legal, it is applied to the computer code array. The light in the cell is either turned on solid if the guess is incorrect or flashing if the guess is correct. The next cell on the grid immediately starts rotating colors indicating that you are ready to move on to your next guess.

Computer Clues
Of course, randomly guessing at the code won't get us anywhere. Three computer clues saucers on the board will give you a hint as to what the computer's code is.

The two side saucers each have two arrows pointing at them. The left saucer has a red and yellow lamp which defaults to yellow, and the right saucer has a green and blue arrow which defaults to blue. The lit arrow pointing at the saucer can be changed by hitting the spinner on the opposite side of the playfield. There is another set of arrows facing the spinners that duplicate the arrows pointing at the saucers for clarity. Each spin toggles between the two sets of two colored arrows pointing at the spinner and the corresponding saucer. If a clue has already been given out by the side saucers relating to a color, that color will not light again until you move on to a new guess.

The top saucer has arrows of all four colors pointing to it. Instead of being lit on a specific color, this top saucer's arrows rotate approximately every one second. Depending on the timing with which you hit the top saucer, clues are issued based on the currently lit arrow. Again, if a clue has already been issued for a specific color from the top saucer, that color will not light again until you move onto a new guess.

When you land in a computer clues saucer, you are immediately rewarded with some information about the current guess you are making. The lit arrow is what color you will get a clue about.

  • If the color would not be a correct guess, the machine announces "Not (color)." The light above those bank targets go out, and that color can no longer be guessed by hitting two bank targets -- but only for that particular guess.
  • If the color would be the correct guess, the arrow starts flashing, and all the bank targets except that color are disabled. At this point, you cannot guess wrong -- you make your guess by hitting 2 of 3 bank targets, or you hit the same saucer that has the flashing arrow.

Note that when you get a clue about a color that would be a correct guess, only the arrow starts flashing on the saucer that you got the clue from. For example, you cannot get a clue from the left saucer and then hit the top saucer to collect a correct guess, you have to hit the same left saucer. The top saucer continues to operate as normal and will give you information about whatever color you hit, even though you already know the proper guess to make.

Making Progress
As you make guesses, the computer code array will slowly fill up with your guesses. After completing four guesses, any correct guesses are already spotted for you in the next column in the computer code array. You'll have to redo incorrect guesses. When you lose your last ball, the computer displays the code you were trying to guess in the rightmost column of the computer code array.

Although you may have guessed incorrectly earlier on colors, you can still guess the same incorrect color again. Remember, getting computer clues will disable sets of bank targets, but just knowing what an incorrect guess previously was doesn't automatically disable bank targets. Often, you will know what color to shoot for even if you have more than one set of bank targets still active, due to your knowledge of previous failed guesses.

Cracking the Code
Once you crack the code, the machine will announce your success and spot you a star. A star is only a counter of the number of successfully cracked codes, and delivers points at the end of the game. After getting four stars, the next cracked code awards a Super Star. When a super star is awarded the older four stars are taken away.

Bonus Multiplier
The bonus multiplier starts at 1x, and grows to 2x, 3x, and 4x. In order to increment the bonus multiplier, you need to light all four of the rollover targets just above the middle of the playfield. Operator settings determine several factors:

  • Whether or not the bonus multiplier is held from ball to ball
  • Whether or not you must get the rollovers in order from left to right
  • Whether or not you hold lit rollovers from ball to ball

Add A Ball
In order to add a ball to the balls remaining for play, you need to complete the spectral curve. Shooting a ball from a flipper, through a spinner, around the spectral curve, and into the opposite hidden side lanes awards one of two spectral lights on that side of the spectral curve. Completing all four spectral lights adds a ball to your balls remaining to play. Operator settings determine whether or not lit spectral lights carry over from ball to ball.

Inlane reservoir ball kickout
The inlane reservoirs each hold a ball ready to be shot down the inlane. This ball is kicked out of play immediately upon a ball entering the hidden side lane at any time. Basically, if a ball drifts into the hidden side lane through any of the access points or lands in a ball saucer, the ball at the bottom is immediately kicked into play, and replaces the current ball in play. While you're playing it, the ball that entered the hidden side lane makes it way down to the reservoir, ready to be kicked out next time a ball entered that hidden side lane.

Since the top saucer has the ability to kick the ball into either hidden side lane, you really do not know which side lane the ball is coming out of. The ball at the top isn't kicked down a hidden side lane until the reservoir delivers the ball into play, making sure that you have no clue as to where the ball is going to shoot out from. Getting used to this is somewhat difficult, and causes a great deal of frustration on your first few plays.

IV. Scoring

Playfield Scoring
Inlanes 2000
Side Computer Clue Saucers 5000
Any Drop Target 5000
Spinners 1000
Bonus Multiplier Rollover 300
Spectral Curve Rollover 500
Top Saucer 10000
Rollovers leading to hidden side lanes* 10
Completing Spectral Curve 25000 + Extra Ball

*Only two of the rollovers leading to the hidden side lanes score 10, the other does nothing. So, a successful top saucer shot will award 10020. A shot into the top saucer area that sneaks down the hidden side lanes without collecting a clue is worth 20.

Bonus Scoring
Bonus scoring is collected at the end of each ball. You are awarded 5000 points for every incorrect guess on the computer code array, and 10000 points for every correct guess. Your current bonus multiplier multiplies these scores.

End of Game Scoring
At the end of the game, you are given credit for every Star and Super Star that you collected by breaking codes. 100000 is awarded for each Star and 500000 is awarded if you have the Super Star.

Special codebreaking bonuses
After breaking the second code, a single special is lit on one of the two inlanes. The spinners will make this alternate from inlane to inlane. The fourth code broken awards both special lanes lit, but once one is collected the other disappears.

When you complete a code that contains 3 yellow, 4 yellow, 3 red, or 4 red, a special bonus is immediately awarded to the player. These bonus are optional, and can be turned on or off by the operator. There are several different settings for these, and they range from 25000 points up to 3 specials. I have no documentation on what levels can be set, but these are the largest and smallest awards I have seen when the bonuses are enabled.

V. Strategy

Spectrum is a fast paced game where the huge flipper gap makes sure that any missed shot has the potential for disaster. First and foremost, hitting your targets is the single most important skill at any time.

Another important step is to load up the Computer Code Array as quickly as possible -- even with incorrect guesses. Basically, you're bound to make some right guesses even without clues, and if you don't get as many guesses as you can on the array early, the bonus point payout is likely to be poor. In addition, making incorrect guesses gives you information about what colors you should be shooting for.

The spectral curve is an important shot, and looks deceptively easy. Making sure you can hit this shot fairly often should keep you in an ample supply of balls.

Finally, the top saucer is the easiest way to collect information about the clues, and its worth twice as many points as the side computer clue saucers. Make sure that you are able to hit it often. When any saucer has a flashing arrow, collecting that guess by hitting the saucer is always safer than shooting for the bank targets, which are all angled towards the drain.

VI. Speech

Spectrum is a very talkative game. It says a number of things throughout the game and keeps talking at all times.

Here's a list of the speech in the game:

Challenge Me Attract Mode
Four (yellow or red) When you break a code that has four yellow or red positions and you collect a special code bonus
Get a clue During play when no arrows are flashing
Get another clue During play, at least one clue collected, no arrows flashing
Go for (color) When that color arrows is flashing
Go for (Left, Right, Top) Saucer When a flashing arrow is pointing at this saucer
Go for Spectrum Attract Mode
Not (color) When landing in a clue saucer that has a lit arrow that is not the next correct guess
One More Game, Perhaps? End of a game
One more guess for a star Player one guess away from breaking the code
Player (number) Beginning of Multi-player game balls
Spectrum Beginning of game, sometimes when a code is broken, attract mode
Three (yellow or red) When you break a code that has three yellow or red positions and you collect a special code bonus
Use Right Flipper Player taking too long to begin play
You are a star player When player breaks code
You are a super star player When player breaks a code that awards the Super Star
You have broken the secret code! When player breaks code
You shouldn't do that! Tilt or ball saved by score of 0
You're Taking too long! Player still taking too long to start play, ball is shot into play automatically

VII. Rumors

Spectrum had a production run of 994 games.

However, one collector on the net told me (and I cannot remember who it was) that he received his spectrum for free from a distributor that couldn't sell them. At one time, sales were so bleak that Bally was giving away a free Mr. and Ms. Pac-Man if you purchased a Spectrum. After poor sales, about half of the machines were disassembled, parts returned to inventory, backglasses stripped of paint, and cabinets tossed.

VIII. Other Information

The art theme depicts a large number of computer wires and circuits all over the playfield, plastics, cabinet, and glass. A dominant theme running through the art is a man and woman, from the neck up, facing in opposite directions. They're placement is symmetrical, once on the backglass and once on the playfield. There is another humanoid representing the computer -- it is a bald female and is twice on the center axis of the game from top to bottom. Most of the games details also rotate around the red, yellow, green, and blue theme.

Apparently ROM revisions of 0 and prior, which shipped in early production games, did not award any Add-A-balls.

This game uses the Squalk 'n' Talk board for speech. It has two lamp driver boards due to the large number of controlled lamps installed.

IX. Bugs

The most common strange occurance in spectrum is that a ball falling down a hidden side lane to the reservoir falls past the reservoir and into play. Basically, you have more than one ball in play, but the machine realizes something is missing and handles it properly. If you loose your ball down the middle, the lost ball is kicked immediately back into play. When the empty hole is filled by a ball falling into the hidden side lane in any way, the game goes back to normal. Any shot into the top saucer will not send the ball a random direction, but will always send it in the proper direction to fill the empty reservoir.

X. Comments

This is my first rule sheet, and I've found Spectrum fairly hard to describe. It was really not like many other games available at the time, and if you have the chance to play one, please do. You'll do much better understanding exactly what made the game unique. In fact, if you ever pass near the Detroit area, just write me at dano@ic.net and come play mine.

Please forward any information to me that you see that I am missing about the game.

XI. Additions to be made

  • Complete list of operator settings
  • More ROM revision information
  • Substantiate that rumor!
  • Get more rumors
  • Pinpoint more bugs

This rulesheet copyright 1997 by Dan Mowczan. Duplication is allowed only for non-profit.

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