Stingray (Stern, 1977)
UTAD and nudge for the 55,000 feature from the top saucer. Go-To Flipper: Right if the flippers are weak [common], Balanced if strong.
Skill Shot: Top saucer, ideally for 55,000; next best choice is double bonus.
This game is a bit too luck-based for my taste but is still used in tournaments. The luck issue comes from the saucer values, which cycle between five values: 5000+ light spinner and Stingray lane; 5000 points only; light double bonus; 55,000 points; and 5000+light extra ball lane. The player has no control over which one is lit when they plunge the ball, though. This mean that a player who makes the Skill Shot just once out of three tries and has the 55K lit when they do it can outperform their opponent who goes 3-for-3 but has something lesser lit each time. The same goes for all of their UTAD flipper shots: a handful of successes with 55K lit beats many more successes with other awards lit. The Extra Ball award is useless unless EBs are on. The 5000 award is chump change, and the 5000 plus spinner isn’t much better unless the spinner is really juicy. Double bonus can be useful, but bonus advances are harder to come by on Stingray than on most other games, so its value is uncertain. That 55K award trumps them all and tends to win the game if you manage to get it several times. Sadly, skill can’t light the saucer for 55K for you; you just keep changing the value and hoping it stops there long enough for you to take a shot at it before it changes again. If one or more of your opponents just keep happening to have the value stop on 55K a lot, and you don’t, you’re basically screwed.
The other issue I have with Stingray is that most Stingrays I’ve played in the past decade have not been maintained well. On Stingray, a good shot at the Stingray button lane on the right should go all the way to the top of the game and have a chance to settle in the top saucer. Ninety+ percent of the ones I’ve played can’t do this; the ball goes partway up, maybe gets to the uppermost rollover, then stops and falls back down. This takes away a major strategy of the game; you should be able to UTAD from either flipper, through the spinner on the left and the Stingray lane on the right, trying to collect the top saucer.
The strategy, if you have to play it, is UTAD for the saucer and pray for 55K, or at least double bonus, to make it worthwhile. Switch hits for 10 points move the lit item around the values shown in the circle [not necessarily in clockwise order]. Notice that the top left rubber left of the upper saucer is one switch that moves the saucer value, so account for that if your plunge will trigger it.
The saucer in the center of the game has matching values to the top saucer at all times, but it’s a high risk shot due to how tight it is and the drain risk from misses hitting the sides or rim-outs or rejections on shots at it. Successful shots into it, or when the ball falls into it from above, should be kicked out towards the left flipper.
The end of ball bonus maxes at 100K base and 2X. The only ways to get bonus before the ball drains [the two outlanes each give one advance] are either going over that little red disk just above the flippers or hitting the standup target in the alcove on the right side just left of the Stingray lane. Don’t bother trying for either; the standup shot is risky, and the rollover will get triggered a few times anyway as the ball bounces around the playfield.
The Stingray lane has some value once you’ve lit it, 1000 per disk hit on the way up. Likewise, the spinner is worth 1000 per spin when lit. You can grind on these for some points, but it takes a lot of shots to them to match one 55K saucer.
If Extra Balls are on, by all means try to get one, even over going for a 55K collect! Light it with the top saucer when indicated; collect it in one of the return lanes; which lane is lit also toggles with switch hits.