Not too long ago, Pinball FX3 had an influx of new tables as part of the Williams Pinball: Volume 1 pack. Essentially these are iconic machines brought to Pinball FX3 from the Williams Bally library, remastered to add a few modern touches whilst retaining their classic style at the press of a button. Now there’s another trio of vintage experiences arriving in the form of Williams Pinball: Volume 2 and I’ve taken up the task of figuring out if these are best suited to hardcore pinball players again, or whether these have enough excitement to draw in the casual gamers too.
Volume 2 of Williams Pinball features three more tables from yesteryear to add to your collection; The Party Zone, Black Rose and Attack from Mars. All three can be played with either Pro physics or the usual physics Zen Studios implement; bearing in mind that the Pro option will ensure you’re tearing your hair out, unless you’re a pinball wizard of course. There’s also the choice to switch between the classic version and the more up to date looking tables with 3D characters, special effects and improved textures.
Starting with The Party Zone, which originally released in 1991, the theme is centred on a cosmic party in a parallel universe, led by the host and DJ, Captain B. Zarr. What’s pretty cool is that it gathers together various characters from the designer’s – Dennis Nordman – previous incarnations including the “party animal” and the “party monsters”. As is standard for a party atmosphere, the colours are rather vibrant, with shades of orange, yellow and bright purple being used to really catch the eye. The layout sees a rather big gap between the main flippers and the lanes, targets, ramp and such, thus providing a little more time to react when the ball comes back towards you. It’s a bit sparse with just the single ramp, however there are plenty of lanes and kickout holes to aim for; one of which leads to a very neat feature.
On the modernised table, Captain B. Zarr rides a rocket like he’s at some kind of rodeo and if you slip the ball in the kickout hole behind him, it’ll let you request one of four tunes. Despite some of the tracks once found in The Party Zone being omitted, the fact that a version of the legendary Pinball Wizard by The Who is present is great. Dropping into another of those holes kick-starts the robot comedian head and that can reward a much welcome multi-ball bonus. The last quirky thing worth noting is the funky crash test dummy that frantically dances like nobody’s watching. For all the positives in design, and the audio setting the tone for what’s needed, this table does however lack in the modes department.
And then there’s the Black Rose table, released way back in 1992 with Brian Eddy having a hand in design. Visually, there are all the usual tropes present like ships, the glorious blue sea, a few pirates and even a 3D variant of one. The idea is straightforward enough as the objective as a pirate is to sink other ships by firing at specific lanes when required to do so, using a cannon that’s sunken beneath the playfield. True to the theme, the dot-matrix modes include walking the plank and swinging across to another ship, which are rather enjoyable. In fact, given how old the table is, it’s the most you could expect in that sense.
You can’t knock hardly any of the layout either, with a decent selection of targets in both the hard to reach and easy to access areas, whilst numerous ramps and lanes feature. There’s also a third flipper, but this is by far the biggest nightmare to use without the ball ending up travelling down the outlane and into the drain. It’s tough enough to stop the ball from draining at the best of time, so this is a real nuisance. To offer insight, my first three balls launched on the table actually ended up down the drain in mere seconds without getting a chance to flip it with the main flippers.
Last, but not least, is another with the mind of Brian Eddy behind it and that’s the 1995 release of Attack from Mars. The Martians are invading our wonderful Earth and we are tasked with destroying their kind and eventually Mars too, in order to save the day. The artwork isn’t too attractive sadly, with a bland top-down view of a building on the canvas, alien models that look like mutant variations of those budget green army men toys and some very generic flying saucers to top it off. Attack from Mars isn’t appealing in the visual or the audio department, but it’s still the one I keep going back to from this trio.
Why? Mainly because it’s an immensely rewarding table for those who aren’t the best at pinball, with massive points given for simply hitting a bumper and upwards of 10 million points for rolling up a lane or ramp. There’s a nice spread to the layout, ensuring every possible target is visible, whilst the main mode of destroying flying saucers is easy to grasp and even the less gifted will save a few countries from annihilation. Factoring in the dot-matrix shooting mini-game, which sees you blasting away more saucers before they land, and it’s clear that many players will find joy in Attack from Mars.
By their very nature, the Williams Bally tables are from eras that had innovations which have been far surpassed since. As a result, they do lack in comparison to the enjoyable, exciting and novel ideas that Zen Studios have conjured up for the majority of their own creations. If you can put that aside, Attack from Mars’ inclusion ensures there’s at least one table that’s ready for anyone to have some flipping fun with. The Black Rose one is incredibly difficult to embrace though, despite the awesome cannon and bigger selection of modes, due to how tricky it is to keep the ball in play. Whereas The Party Zone delivers in every area except action-packed modes and does suffer with a bit of audio distortion, which hampers its major selling point.
Williams Pinball: Volume 2 for Pinball FX3 is more suited to the better players and a fair few aspects of the tables haven’t managed to stand the test of time. But you’ll certainly be able to appreciate the ability to get your hands on some absolute classics and in all, it provides a good addition to your table library.