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Midnight Magic

Your dominance at the arcade is unequaled. When you walk through the doors, Sinistar's hunger is mysteriously sated, the robots in Berzerk fall silent, and even the feared Wizard Of Wor dares not laugh at you. Your initials, "XTC," sit atop virtually every high-score list in the building. The other kids bring you waffle cones while you play Galaga, just to stand near you. You are a god, with one small but significant exception: pinball. And there's another problem: That guy who hangs around the high school even though he graduated five years ago is a pinball master. Though there are only three pinball machines in the entire arcade, you can't touch him, and he knows it.

He may have a conversion van and a sweet mustache, but he doesn't have Atari, and he doesn't have Midnight Magic. Lock your bedroom door, crank up some Journey, and start practicing to kick his ass.

Gameplay: Too lazy to reach over and pull that "reset" switch? Want to get right into the "action"? Just tap the fire button, and you're on your way. Gasp in delight as you control your flippers with a simple joystick tap to the left or right! Gasp in wonder as a square "ball" defies the laws of physics and bounces off the only targets in the entire game, safely out of your reach at the top of the screen! Gasp in horror as you realize that you spent a month's allowance on this game!

Could be mistaken for: Video Pinball, or a trip to the dentist.

Kids today might like it because: As a practical joke, they can dupe their friends into playing "this really tight retro pinball simulator."

Their parents might like it because: It's just like pinball, but without any of that annoying "fun" that so often distracts us from getting the important things in life done.

Enduring contribution to gaming history: Programmer Glenn Axworthy eventually made up for Midnight Magic by helping bring the games Myst, Riven, and Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? to life. —Wil Wheaton

Images courtesy of Atari Age (www.atariage.com).

Wil Wheaton is the author of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. Contrary to what you might think, he is totally over never beating that guy at pinball.