Saturday, December 22

Review: Pinball FX3 - Williams Pinball Volume 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


The announcement that Zen Studios, the people behind Pinball FX3, would be taking over control of the Williams license was terrific news. While up until recently the team behind rival Pinball Arcade had done some fine work converting many classic tables the most recent engines had shown Pinball FX3 had the upper hand, particularly on Switch. With the first pack of tables they released part of their strategy to add interest while preserving the integrity of the original tables was revealed, there would be a toggle to move between a straight representation of the table and an enhanced version. With that first pack the added effects were a bit hit and miss, not necessarily adding much excitement. Now, with the release of Volume 2, it appears they’ve hit their stride a little more effectively, mixing enhancements both subtle and obvious to improve on the core experience of each table.


Starting with Black Rose, a table I don’t recall having played before, I was pleasantly surprised by both the classic feel of the ramp layouts and the inclusion of the cannon gun in the middle of the playfield. The over-the-cannon perspective when aiming to fire it is a great touch that demonstrates the value of playing the table in virtual form. In terms of other enhancements the inclusion of the female captain on the left side isn’t terribly interesting but I do really love the small touch of a splash of sea spray as the ball makes its way around the right ramp. Overall, it has the feel of a traditional table but has some special elements like more than one video mode for more modern flair as well.


Next up is Party Zone, a table I only played a few times but that has a layout and some elements reminiscent of another table, Doctor Dude, that I always enjoyed playing. It includes characters and table elements of two additional tables, Party Animal and Elvira and the Party Monsters as well. This all adds up to a pretty crowded and crazy table with a ton of targets, loop, and ramp shots to get the hang of. In particular, in terms of visuals the rocket-riding host of the table, Captain B. Zarr, easily grabs your attention, replacing his very static and odd head that used to be over the middle drop target. It has a lot going on, though in terms of overall layout and flow it’s probably my least favorite of the 3 tables in the pack.


The absolute star of this volume, and a stand-out table among the best Williams ever made, is Attack From Mars. Between its layout that has a lot in common with the ever-popular Medieval Madness, its weirdo sense of humor, and plenty of ways to rack up some really high scores it was always a favorite of mine in the arcades. Among the tables I’m glad that the enhancements Zen Studios brought to this one specifically are probably the best. While the general off to the left seems mostly passive like some other table characters when things get intense he’ll pull out his sidearm and take some shots himself. In addition, the Martian Attack also gets a nice little boost to help it be a bit more silly, and who wouldn’t love an extra saucer floating around.


While classic pinball fans probably don’t need much encouragement to check this pack out since it includes Attack From Mars even people less familiar with it should consider checking it out. Yet again Zen has been careful to choose 3 tables that play very differently from one another so as not to deliver too redundant an experience. I’m glad that they seem to be improving their vision for how to do small things to enhance the existing table experience, whether that’s by getting more ambitious with their replacement on-table animated elements or even just subtle touches in the right spots. I can’t wait to see what tables they choose next, the Williams tables are legendary for a reason and there are plenty of worthy candidates I’d love to see.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Attack from Mars is a legendary table well worth having in the first place
  • All 3 tables have a very different flow and elements, keeping the collection diverse
  • The table enhancements have continued to do a better job of enhancing the experience, and can always still be turned off

Cons:
  • With diversity comes a greater chance that not all tables will be winners for everyone
  • Some of the more static and less interactive characters added to tables like for Black Rose show a need to better justify their inclusion