Cirqus Voltaire

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Cirqus Voltaire
CirqusVoltaire pinball.jpg
ManufacturerWilliams Electronics Games
Release dateOctober 1997
DesignJohn Popadiuk, Cameron Silver
ProgrammingCameron Silver
ArtworkLinda Deal (aka Doane)
MechanicsJack Skalon, Louis Toy
MusicRob Berry
SoundRob Berry
Production run2,704

Cirqus Voltaire is a 1997 pinball game, designed by John Popadiuk and released by Williams Electronics Games (under the Bally label).[1] The theme involves the player performing many different marvels in order to join the circus. Some of the captivating features include a neon light running along the right-hand ramp, a pop bumper that rises up from the middle of the playfield at certain times, and a mini-playfield at the top of the center ramp with a magnet to catch the ball for locking. The most notable feature is the Ringmaster, a head that rises at certain times and makes cracks against the player.


Cirqus Voltaire pinball.png

It was the first Williams/Bally pinball machine missing a real replay-knocker, a device driven by a coil to produce a loud bang when hammering against the wood of the cabinet or backbox. Instead this sound effect was pre-recorded and played via the regular speakers. It was also the second machine (after Capcom's Flipper Football, released in 1996) to move the dot-matrix display (DMD) from the backbox right into the cabinet, so the player isn't distracted from gameplay when watching the DMD (an idea that was taken to the maximum with the Pinball 2000 architecture two years later).


This games features nine "marvels" the player must complete before they are invited to "Join the Circus." Each string of marvels leads to one letter, so that when all marvels are complete, the word C-I-R-Q-U-S is spelled, and the player must shoot either the left or right orbit to try and join the cirqus.

  • Juggler - Player must shoot left orbit 3-times to activate this. Then the games starts locking up balls. After locking up three juggler shots, they are released for "Juggler multi-ball".
  • Side Show - Shooting the left orbit when the Side Show target is lit leads the player to an animated computer game played on the DMD. There are various games to play, and only one is needed to get credit for this marvel.
  • Ringmaster Frenzie - Depending on settings, this involves either defeating the Ringmaster the first time or the second time.
  • Menagerie - Targets just above the left flipper are involved in completing this marvel.
  • Defeated All Ringmasters - After defeating the Ringmaster three times (or four depending on settings) lights this marvel.
  • Highwire Multiball - Shooting balls up the center ramp when lock is lit calls balls to be locked away on a ramp. After locking up the third ball, "Highwire Multiball" starts and the player is given this marvel.
  • Spin - Spinning the target located next to the Ringmaster enough times to light up the four letters S-P-I-N causes this marvel to light up.
  • Boom! - When the letters V-O-L-T are spelled for the first time by rolling over the lightning bolt targets on the playfield, the third pop bumper rises up out of the playfield, and grants the player this marvel. The target may raised up again in the future, and completed hits against this target eventually leads to lighting the extra ball target.
  • Acrobats - Shooting the right orbit three times activates this target.

The Ringmaster[edit]

The Ringmaster normally resides below the playfield, but after lighting the three WOW targets, he rises up and makes cracks at the player. There is a magnet underneath the top, and he will trap the player's ball. After challenging the player, the ball is randomly thrown somewhere onto the playfield. The game includes a brief ball saver mode, just in case he throws it into the drain.

There are five diamonds around the Ringmaster's neck. After hitting the Ringmaster five times, he rises up to reveal a hole underneath. Shooting the ball into the hole defeats the Ringmaster. Depending on the game's settings, this may start a multiball mode.

  • Ringmaster Frenzie - Completing this multiball also counts as a circus marvel.
  • Ringmaster Razz
  • Ringmaster Special - After completing this multiball, the player is credited with the marvel of "Defeating All Ringmasters."

The first time the player confronts the Ringmaster, he always says "I am the Ringmaster. Defeat me for the Ringmaster marvel."

After that, he has other things to say:

  • "Monsieur, I challenge you to a duel!"
  • "You'd be cranky too, if you had a spring for a neck."
  • "You must challenge me!"
  • "Do you still want to play? I think you've had enough for today."

At other times, when the Ringmaster is not visible, but the ball passes over him and hits a WOW target, the magnet will switch on and change the path of the ball, and trigger a response.

  • "Granny Ringmaster shoots better than that!"
  • "What are you doing?"
  • "So, your shooting isn't so bad."


This game features eight multiball modes:

  • Highwire Multiball
  • Juggler Multiball
  • Neon Multiball
  • Strike-an-Arc Multiball
  • Ringmaster - after defeating the Ringmaster, a multi-ball mode is started. Depending on how the game is set up, either the first defeat of the Ringmaster sends the player into a Ringmaster Frenzie, or the player must defeat the Ringmaster a second time.
    • Ringmaster Frenzie
    • Ringmaster Razz
    • Ringmaster Special
    • Ringmaster Battle

There are other modes where the player has multiple balls in action, but these are not considered "multiball modes", such as the wizard mode where every ball is put in play.

Digital versions[edit]

Cirqus Voltaire is no longer available as a licensed table of The Pinball Arcade for any platform due to WMS license expiration on June 30, 2018. Unlicensed recreations of the game are available for Visual Pinball that runs on Windows.


External links[edit]