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February 2023

Pinball FX3

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: Sept. 26, 2017


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Xbox One Review - 'Pinball FX3' - Williams Pinball Volume 2

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 25, 2019 @ 1:45 a.m. PST

Designed to bring the community together like never before, Pinball FX3 is built around multiplayer match-ups and competitive tournament play.

Zen Studios' first foray in re-creating classic pinball tables was largely successful. Despite the more aggressive removal of lightly risqué content, the tables were re-created rather faithfully, while the flourishes were mostly subtle and rarely intrusive. It also helped that Medieval Madness was absolutely fantastic, with both The Getaway: High Speed II and Junk Yard bringing up supporting roles with some interesting gimmicks of their own. As we approach the second volume of Williams pinball tables, we see the studio tackling Attack from Mars, Black Rose, and The Party Zone.

For the most part, everything experienced in the first volume applies here as well. Regular and tournament rules are included with the pack, so the tables have some added replayability. Both the classic and enhanced versions of the tables are here, as well as both classic and Zen-like physics. The tables look and sound just as good as they do in real life, but the art and sound have been altered to make this less risqué than what appeared in The Pinball Arcade. For those seeking something more authentic, this will be disappointing, but the gameplay is authentic enough that some won't mind the alterations.

The Party Zone is the first table in the pack, and it's a crossover table of sorts. The premise is that characters from Dr. Dude and His Excellent Ray, Party Animal, and Elvira and the Party Monsters are hanging out at a club called the Cosmic Cottage and partying it up, with Captain B. Zarr heading up the festivities. It doesn't make a huge difference to the table, but you now know where some of the characters in the cut scenes come from. Since those tables aren't in Pinball FX3 yet, it's a bit curious why we didn't get those tables first.

The table itself is pretty good, with the middle and top segments housing all of the fun stuff, while the bottom provides a good amount of room to get enough speed to reach the top. There are a few loops and bumper spots at the top, and the pathways leading back to the flippers are clear slides that loop back instead of going straight down. To the left is a dancing robot bonus and a ramp leading to a rocket, and to the right is a comedian robot, but the real highlight is at the center of the table, which has a target that lets you change the soundtrack that plays during the game. Although most of the tunes are original, the inclusion of "Pinball Wizard" by The Who is a nice touch.

The flourishes are plentiful and nicely done. Both the dancing robot and the robot comedian are fully modeled and animate rather well. Activating bonuses has the effect of having things either hit the table or simply fall from the sky. Get the end zone bonus, for example, and a football will be spiked onto the table's glass, while scoring bonuses makes tickets briefly rain from the sky. The only one that may be jarring to those familiar with the table is the change from a large Captain B. Zarr head to a fully modeled version of him riding a rocket. He still follows your ball around the table, and he now falls from his rocket when you lose your ball, but this is a change that fans will either love or hate, with no middle ground.

Black Rose is the next table, and when compared to the rest of the pack, the layout is busy. The layout is typical of the other tables in the pack, with lots of pathways and bumpers near the top. There's a special target in the center top that signifies the ship you're trying to attack. The top also contains a flipper on the right side that can give you better access to some of the loops. As you go down, you'll see a pathway that crosses over to return the ball to the flippers, but the most interesting part is a cannon recessed at the center that allows you to fire the ball upward in certain situations. The other interesting element is a return lane that runs down the center of the table before depositing the ball to the right flipper.

The table is good but not as exciting as the others in the pack, and that sentiment comes through in some of the available flourishes. Some elements are fully modeled out, like a compass and treasure chest, while the pirate herself hangs off the rigging on the left side; she sometimes falls but catches herself once a ball drains out of play. About the only piece that feels different is the cannon at the center, which sees the camera drop down to its viewpoint, so the shot toward the top of the table looks better.

The final table in the pack is Attack from Mars, and for many, this is the real highlight since it has the same frantic energy as Medieval Madness from the first pack. Compared to the other tables, this is very long, with just about every ramp, bumper, and loop located squarely at the top while return paths flank each side. The main point of interest is the top center of the table, which houses a UFO whose barrier needs to be taken down with repeated shots before you can blow up the ship. The area needed to get the ball into the sweet spot isn't that narrow, so you can more easily complete the goals on this table than on the others.

If The Getaway: High Speed II from the first volume was good about stroking your pinball score ego, this one amplifies that to a much greater degree than before. Everything you hit yields millions of points, whether it's a lowly million or something in the tens of millions. Some of the bonuses even generate hundreds of millions of points, and things start to get astronomical once the multipliers are going. The end of a game sees the player get an average of a billion points, something unheard of in other games unless you're a true wizard. It's amazing but a little disappointing when you go to the other tables after playing this table and realize that having such a high score without much effort is really an exception and not the rule.

As for flourishes, this table is rich with them. The top of the table contains two UFOs, with one staying steady and the other constantly flying around. The aliens are fully modeled out, while the bottom of the screen contains both a bevy of missile trucks and an army officer with a pistol. Explosions appear once the UFO is destroyed, and a full-on missile barrage occurs when you activate a ton of jackpot bonuses in multiball. In short, it is full-on chaos, and it fits the table perfectly.

Pinball FX3: Williams Pinball Volume 2 is another winner thanks to the variety of tables included and the improved use of flourishes. You get a better sense this time around that Zen knows how to spruce up the visuals without losing track of the solid gameplay in the original titles. The fact that Zen did so with both well-known and lesser-known tables is a good sign for the future of the license. At this rate, we can't wait to see what the next pack will hold.

Score: 8.0/10

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