There may not be many of you out there, but if the things you cherish most in this life are digital pinball machines and Fox Entertainment’s animated programming, life just simply got better for you. Where in the past you may have been required to watch Family Guy while playing pinball separately, you can now combine both pleasures of animation and pinballery in the latest pack of tables for Zen Pinball 2, The Balls of Glory. In this set, four new tables are added, based on Family Guy, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers, and Archer.
Now, pinball is pinball. I’m sure you’ve seen it in action before even if you’ve never played, and if you’ve never experienced pinball before in your entire life, then this is certainly not the place to start (hit a pizza shack instead). Each of the four tables has standard lanes, targets, and obstacles for you to aim towards, and you rack up points based on the aim of the ball as well as longevity of each round. You launch using the x button and the flippers are activated using the triggers. These tables also have special modes that present you with mini games if you can get the right combination of hits and passes through special lanes in the table.
The design of the tables is really the star here in this pack. While the graphics aren’t always pretty, the overall layout of each table is really well done. Special events represent special moments or characters from each show, such as the Wheels and the Legman characters from American Dad, or the battling of Canadian terrorists in the Archer table. The characters from the show are “live” on the table, and will do different actions based on your progress. For example, Stan and Francine on the American Dad table will use the open space above the flippers as a skating rink, creating a wall-like obstacle to pass through. This is a nice touch that makes the tables less static and provides a little more replay value.
While there is very little to dislike about these particular tables, there are simply problems with video game pinball that are present across all tables and have made their way here as well. Often times it is very easy to lose the ball, and because you don’t have the ability to lean slightly forward like you would with a real table, you can often find yourself searching right before a quick loss. There is also the ever present fact that no matter how you dress it up, pinball will always still just be pinball, and while the variances of the tables are nice, you still end up doing the same actions with the same results, no matter what the branding may be.
With that said, the overall product here is positive. These tables are crafted with an individual flare that helps to combat the general monotony of pinball itself. Each table has dynamic events both on the table and as mini-games, such as a brief shooter on the Family Guy table where you navigate Stewie into a battle with his (slightly more) evil half-brother Bertrand. They all seem to work just fine without any glitches and give you more than you’d expect with a pinball game. Voiceovers are pulled from the shows themselves, but are still professionally done and come with all the wit and humor that these four shows provide. A “digital display” with animations from each program is also visible in the top corner, mimicking the digital displays on classic pinball tables with great visual success.