For me, Sunday evening’s TV used to be all about watching the cartoons on Fox: The Simpsons, Family Guy, and so on. But while the network may have neutered the night by adding such non-animated shows as Brooklyn 99 and Last Man On Earth to the schedule, Zen Studios are bringing “Animation Domination” back with the Ball Of Glory pack for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Vita, iOS, Android, Amazon), which features tables inspired by Archer, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and American Dad. Though after playing all four, it’s clear you’ll want to play them more than one night a week.
For those unfamiliar with Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2, they’re pinball video games that feature a mix realistic physics and authentic sound effects with unrealistic mechanics. While the balls move around the table as they would on a real one, and sound like they would in the real-world as well, they also have cars driving across them (like on the Archer table), turn into 2D flying arcade games (Family Guy), and have bits where you’re at a first-person shooting range (American Dad).
All of the tables in the Ball Of Glory pack also have tons of fan service. Not only do they use actual dialog and sound effects from their respective shows, but there’s also nods to different episodes, like how the plunger in the Archer table is the gator from the pipeline episode, while the Bob’s Burgers table brings back the 3:00 fire from the episode “Moody Foodie.” They even employ the shows’ respective fonts for the point indicators.
As for the individual tables in the Balls Of Glory pack, the simplest is the Archer one, which has a handful of ramps and tracks, one of which leads to a cul du sac of bumpers. There’s even times when you get a multiball going, except that the second ball isn’t a ball, it’s a grenade, and not only does it explode after a while but, since the pin makes it lopsided, it doesn’t roll like a regular ball.
For a bit more complexity, there’s the American Dad table, which has a number of railways, holes, and even some traps. There are even some randomly dropped exploding boxes, which can be distracting in a good way. It also, if you do it right, brings up a bunch of targets of Tearjerker you can knock down, while things get especially crazed when you get a multiball going (which seems to happen a lot). It even has a ball that changes color depending on the terrorist threat level (the one in the game, not the real one).
Next up in the Balls Of Glory pack is the Bob’s Burgers table, which has a multi-layered approach that results in the ball disappearing and then reappearing somewhere else. You even get in a bit of target practice when you try to knock down some rats. As a result, this is a table that really keeps you on your toes, especially since those pathways often cause the ball to really gain speed. Plus, y’know, the rats.
But the most inventive table of the Ball Of Glory pack is the Family Guy one (which is not to be confused with this one, or this one). While the top half consists of a series of ramps and pathways that circle back around, one of the harder to find paths leads back to the plunger, something you don’t see much in pinball games. This table also employs the changing color mechanic of the American Dad table, except that instead of solid colors, it makes the ball look like someone squished such characters as Meg into a sphere. You can even, if you hit the chicken enough, starts a multiball with a Peter ball and a giant chicken ball.
As fun as the tables in the Balls Of Glory pack may be, which is a lot, there are some downers. Most notably that while Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2 are rating E10+, which means they’re safe for anyone over the age of ten, the shows these tables are based on would be rated M if TV shows used the same rating as games. Because of this, there’s none of the cursing, ribald humor, or gross out jokes that these shows are known for, especially Archer and Family Guy.
Some of these tables are also missing some iconic characters (well, unless they’re hidden so deeply that I just haven’t seen them yet, which is entirely possible). There’s no Beefsquatch in the Bob’s Burger table, no bionic Barry in Archer‘s, and while it seems like having both tables would result in their being a nod to the Archer episode in which he thought he was a burger chef named Bob, that’s missing as well.
The console version of the Balls Of Glory tables also suffer from the same problem as, well, all of Zen’s tables on consoles: the type is sometimes too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your momma told you to — you’ll find it difficult to read the mid-game messages that tell you when you’ve beaten your high score. Not that you need to read them, they’re just distractions anyway, and the same cannot be said if you play this on the Vita, smartphone, or tablet, but it’s still kind of odd they haven’t fixed this issue yet.
Admittedly, having Family Guy, American Dad, Archer, and Bob’s Burgers pinball tables isn’t as good as having a Sunday night of new cartoons, and only cartoons, on Fox. But until that happens, the Balls Of Glory pack is a great way to spend a Sunday night. And a Monday night. And….