In 1999, when Sega built their South Park pinball table, it ended up being the last pinball table they would ever make. Let’s just hope that’s also not the fate of Zen Studios, who are bringing South Park Pinball — a two-fer with the tables South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball and South Park: Butter’s Very Own Pinball Game — to Pinball FX2 for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PCs via Steam; Zen Pinball 2 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, WiiU, and Mac; and Zen Pinball for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire.
For those who haven’t played one of Zen Studio’s pinball tables before, all of them pair realistic physics and sound effects with unrealistic expectations about what a pinball table could physically do…unless you spent millions of dollars and figured out how the T.A.R.D.I.S. on Doctor Who is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Why is why both South Park pinball tables have a ball that both moves and sounds like a real metal ball careening around a wooden table, but the table does such crazy things as having the Channel 4 blimp show up on the South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball table, while South Park: Butter’s Very Own Pinball Game has a hidden Professor Chaos Vs. Coon And Friends mini table.
As for the individual South Park pinball tables, South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball continues the pattern Zen have employed recently with The Walking Dead and others in that it’s far less cluttered than some of their older ones. But it also throws in a new wrinkle by having you play on a mini pinball table when you first start. It’s only when your drop the ball there that the action moves to the regular table.
The sparse approach is even more evident on South Park: Butter’s Very Own Pinball Game, which is so clean — with little on the lower half save for the flippers, while the top part has most of the ramps, bumpers, and turnstiles — that it ends up being the most old school-ish pinball table that Zen Studios have ever made. As a result, it’s also a table where the ball really flies, which can make it rather challenging.
Though while both of the South Park pinball tables may be relatively less complex, that doesn’t mean they both don’t have lots to do. Of course, I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises, but suffice it to say that hardcore fans of the show will appreciate some of the fun mechanics Zen have built into each game, especially since they’re based on classic episodes and moments from the show.
As much fun as the South Park pinball tables may be, though, the console versions do suffer from one problem that stymies all of Zen’s home games. If you play either South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball or South Park: Butter’s Very Own Pinball Game while sitting at a reasonable distance from your TV, you’ll have trouble reading the messages that pop up when you’re about to beat your high score or a friend’s. But while this isn’t a big deal, since you can just ignore those, it is more problematic that it can also be tough to read the messages you get from the table itself, letting you know about the mini games and bonuses.
Of course, if you play this on the Vita, a PC, or a tablet, these messages are perfectly readable. But then the trade off is that, if you play on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 instead, the HD graphics make those versions so good looking that you might think you’re playing on a picture of a real pinball machine.
Thankfully, though, the South Park pinball tables avoid one of the more annoying issues that have plagued other licensed tables: the bad voice acting. While Zen have never been able to get Harrison Ford to do the voice of Han Solo for their Star Wars tables, they’ve also never been able to found someone who sounds like Ford, either; their Solo sound-a-like sounds nothing like him. But both South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball and South Park: Butter’s Very Own Pinball Game features numerous lines of dialog that were clearly taken from the show itself. And these were not rerecorded, either. When Cartman sings about how “Stan wants to kiss…Wendy Testaburger,” his voice sounds like it did during the show’s first season.
Though this does lead to some odd moments, such as when, because two sound files ran back to back, Stan inadvertently said that ManBearPig was, “half man and half bear pig, and he comes out of the toilet every year and gives presents to everybody who has a lot of fiber in their diet.” Accidents like that aside, the voices work really well in this context, and Zen clearly picked some good ones. Which is why, when you start to play South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball, Cartman sometimes groans, “Who wants to hit a dumb little ball around?”
Like so many of their recent tables, Zen Studio’s South Park pinball tables — both South Park’s Super-Sweet Pinball and South Park: Butter’s Very Own Pinball Game — manage to be as fun for fans of this ’toon as they are for fans of pinball. Not only do they have as much in the way of fan service as the South Park: The Stick Of Truth game, but they also have solid fundamentals, realistic physics, and elaborate tables you won’t see at your local pub, but wish you did. Let’s just hope this isn’t the last table we see from these guys, South Park or otherwise.