Zen Studios have ventured into the world of Marvel, Star Wars and even South Park since the launch of Pinball FX2. Now they’re taking on an animation pack that’ll bring four brand new tables to the masses from some of the biggest television shows being broadcast at the moment – American Dad!, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and Archer. Considering these animated shows provide hilarity on tap, can the tables reproduce the laughs whilst also delivering solid pinball ideas?
It’s probably best to start with my favourite of the bunch, the Family Guy table. Focusing on the layout, all the ramps and lanes are near the top, which makes the table feel big, like there’s a whole lot to aim for without the ball coming back too quickly. The Griffin family’s features are rather simplistic for the most part but there’s one involving Stewie and the evil Bertram where it’ll take you off the table to a shooter game. Taking control of a jet, you’ll need to shoot down lots of Bertram’s helicopters to succeed and it’s a decent change from flipping balls.
Aside from that though, it’s worth pointing out that the Family Guy humour, known for occasionally being super offensive, has been toned down to a more family friendly style. Luckily they’ve maintained a few moments of silliness with having Joe Swanson as the plunger trying to hit the ball at Peter, Stewie asking how Brian’s book is coming along and by including the chicken fight as a feature; it only gives an extra chicken coloured ball to collide into the main ball where possible and a couple of objects to hit, but it brings back memories of the legendary bouts between Peter and the giant chicken. Needless to say I spent a lot of time on this one.
And then we come to American Dad! where I’d be relatively pleased at the features offered throughout, if it wasn’t slightly soured by the lack of classic Stan Smith ignorant comments and offensive quips or Roger’s innuendos. The whole Smith family are involved and even Agent Bullock makes an appearance. Unfortunately, due to the Balls of Glory Pinball pack being suitable for kids aged ten and upwards, I just don’t find any humour for this table and therefore renders the theme a bit pointless if I’m honest.
It’s well structured again though with a decent length of play area from top to bottom and a unique colour changing ball that represents a threat level; the higher the threat, the more points that can be accumulated, however you’ll get less time to complete objectives. Some of the features included see you collecting Roger’s many personas that pop up as cardboard looking targets and there’s a shooting mode using Stan in which you need to aim at targets in a bar.
Bob’s Burgers is a strange table, in the way that everything is very snug in order to accommodate an elevated area with an extra flipper. This can mean the ball comes back at you swiftly and I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve actually lost it due to catching the corner of a ramp entrance, then frantically flipping to stop it going through the middle and down the dreaded drain.
Some of the modes see you having to clean up mold on the ramps or knocking down drop targets of rats, these are standard concepts that you’d expect on most tables. I’ve not yet managed to activate the stand out idea of the table which centres on the youngest family member, Louise, hunting for treasure at the Taffy Factory; that’s how tricky the table is. Bob’s Burgers manages to retain much of its characters, despite it having to adhere to the age rating, so it’s just a shame they’ve made it so darn hard to play.
Last but not least is the world’s greatest secret agent… no, not James Bond, I’m talking about Archer. A crocodile serves as the plunger for a well spread out table layout that actually has ramps in short supply and the third flipper is a key component to being able to reach certain areas a bit more efficiently. This is a table that has a few nifty ideas though, befitting of a top spy, such as earning money to spend in an Armoury on things like extra balls, having a sweet car that eventually jumps a ramp over the main flippers. One of the modes even sees Sterling Archer let loose with a gun to take down the bad guys!
My love for all these TV shows may have prevented me from enjoying all four thoroughly because for all the great skin designs that fit each show perfectly, the humour is lacking compared to what you’d expect. This current form is the only way they’d be acceptable for mass market though and putting the themes to one side, as far as pinball ideas go, between them they cover everything you’d look for. Bob provides a real difficult effort whilst Family Guy is more laid back, American Dad! brings innovative features and Archer has a certain coolness.
Balls of Glory Pinball comes in at roughly £2 per table and that’s a pretty good deal – just as long as you can overlook what usually makes all these animations so popular… humour.