To celebrate the launch of Pinball FX3 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), the sequel to both Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2, the good people at Zen Studios have teamed with Universal Pictures for Universal Classics Pinball, three new virtual pinball tables inspired by the movies Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and the Back To The Future films. And like Pinball FX3, all three offer the same kind of pinball fun we’ve come to expect from these folks.
For those who never played Pinball FX2 or Zen Pinball 2, Pinball FX3 is a pinball simulation that combines realistic physics and sound effects with unrealistic mechanics. While the ball moves and bounces around these tables like it would in a real pinball machine, and sounds like a metal ball rolling over wood as it does, the tables have gameplay mechanics that would be physically or financially impossible, sometimes both.
In the case of Universal Classics Pinball for Pinball FX3, these unrealistic mechanics include a space ship on the E.T. table that takes off and hovers over the table for a bit. And if it hit a ball into the hole it leaves behind, you get to play a mini game in which you have to tip the floor to make your ball move.
The tables in Pinball FX3, including those in the Universal Classics Pinball, also differ from real pinball machines in how they can be more forgiving than real ones. While real pinball machines are determined to end your game as quickly as possible — say, by positioning their flippers far apart — the ones in Pinball FX3 are closer together. Not so close that it makes these tables super easy, but they’re certainly not what we would’ve called “quarter suckers” back in the day.
Along similar lines, if you have to take a break while playing the Universal Classics Pinball collection — or, indeed, any of the tables in Pinball FX3 — the game will actually let you pick up where you left off. And no, I don’t just mean when you hit the pause button to answer the phone; I mean if you turn off your console mid game to cook dinner.
Licensed tables for Pinball FX3, including the ones in the Universal Classics Pinball collection, also have lots of fan service. Not only do they include all the iconography you’d expect, and tons of dialog from their respective films, but they often get clever in a way that confirms that they’re made by fans of the films. In this collection, for instance, the Back To The Future table has Marty’s guitar as a spinner, and even plays a riff when you spin it.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
As for how the tables in the Universal Classics Pinball collection compare to previous ones, all three are pretty even in far as how much fun they are to play. Though, admittedly, the more you like these movies, the more you’ll enjoy their corresponding table. That said, you need not be a film buff to enjoy these tables. Quite the contrary; all three work well as pinball tables regardless of how you much you like sharks, aliens, or time travel. But if you love Jaws enough to own the t-shirt, you’ll like that table more than someone who dislikes the movie.
Individually, the Universal Classics Pinball tables are quite different from each other. Jaws, for starters, is the least encumbered, and has a largely open floor plan that gives the ball room to really build up speed. Though it also ups the challenge by often going dark, with only the light of a flashlight to illuminate some of the table.
Back To The Future, by comparison, is the most densely populated, as it has a number of ramps, passageways, and tracks. As a result, it’s the most surprising, as the ball can seemingly come down from (almost) any direction. It’s also the table that carries on Pinball FX2‘s and Zen Pinball 2‘s recent penchant to be liberal with the multiball.
In between those two is E.T., which is far more elaborate than Jaws, but not to the level of Back To The Future. While it has a large, open space in the middle (like Jaws), the top part has a bunch of pathways and rails (like Back To The Future). As a result, balls on this table can get fast, and come at you from surprising directions, which is a deadly combination, but a fun one as well.
As engaging as the Universal Classics Pinball tables for Pinball FX3 may be, there is one aspect that won’t appease fans of the original films. While, as I said, these tables have lines of dialog from their respective movies, they’re sadly not taken from the movies. Instead, they’ve been rerecorded by sound-a-like voice actors…most of whom sound nothing like the film’s original stars.
Back To The Future
While there have been movie-inspired tables for Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2 that I’ve enjoyed more — included the ones for Star Wars and Aliens — it’s not by much, and largely just because I like those films more. Which is why, ultimately, the Universal Classics Pinball not only does justice to Bruce, Marty, Doc, and Kleborp, but it’s also a great way to inaugurate Pinball FX3.