Ever since Zen Studios picked up the rights to recreate real-life Williams and Bally pinball tables in digital form, they’ve launched a fair few table packs featuring classics that have been enhanced for Pinball FX3; whilst seldom compromising the originals. There’s no doubt that the different Williams Pinball Volumes released so far have been pretty damn decent, but can the latest monstrous pack – Williams Pinball: Universal Monsters – raise the stakes and be one to howl about from the rooftops?
Unlike the other Universal themed tables – Universal Classics (Back to the Future, E.T. and Jaws) – which are fresh designs based on the films, the Williams Pinball: Universal Monsters Pack features two digital incarnations of actual pinball tables from the ‘90s. There’s ‘Monster Bash’ from Williams and Bally’s ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’, brought together for the slightly higher cost of £8.39. Both have numerous visual improvements in places, however, these can be switched off to enable gamers to experience them in their natural state, with realistic physics an option too. So, let’s get stuck in and see what each one offers separately.
Coming from the mind of game designer George Gomez, Monster Bash first saw light of day in 1998. The greatest Universal Monster characters ever seen are actually keen musicians and it’s your job to assemble them to form a frightfully delightful, six-piece rock band – Simon Cowell would have a field day marketing this famous bunch. There’s Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster and his beloved bride; most of whom are represented well by their figurine style 3D models, with a couple of extras including a crazy scientist and what could be some kind of ogre.
The overall visual design is incredibly vibrant, with each monster featured in the artwork on the middle of the playfield and easily distinguishable. Elsewhere, a couple of neat add-ons stand out like a coffin and a sarcophagus, but even with so many characters on show as well, it doesn’t feel overcrowded at all. In fact, the length of the table ensures plenty of room to knock the ball about without fearing it’ll instantly come back. As is the case with most of the older tables, there are just the two flippers in place to use in order to shoot up towards a variety of lanes, ramps and a sink hole. Factor in the spooky, but upbeat, backing track and the spoken one-liners, and there’s a well-rounded table here.
What’s really good fun about the gameplay is that the game modes to enlist the services of the monsters can be activated in tandem with each other. Therefore, as an example, you can hit the standing targets to entice Dracula out at the same time as finishing the experiments on Frankenstein’s monster, which means you’ll have multi-ball from the latter and have more attempts at hitting old Drac. None of the objectives to complete these modes should be too difficult either, meaning more enjoyment for casual players. Granted, the creativity of the modes won’t blow you away by any means, however they’ll more than satisfy your pinball needs.
Like all successful bands though, there’s always one member who thinks they’re better off going it alone – Robbie Williams, Geri Halliwell, Gill-man… yes, that’s right Gill-man a.k.a. The Creature has taken the leap to its own table. Conjured up by John Trudeau in 1992, the theme of The Creature from the Black Lagoon is loosely based on the 1950’s film of the same name. It has to be said, first impressions of the design aren’t awfully good with a ton of bland ramp pipes covering the top half of the table and the layout looking cramped. Don’t judge a table by its appearance however, because there’s an ace up its sleeve.
Before revealing the most exciting feature though, it’s worth mentioning that the goal here is to fulfil objectives and spell out the word ‘FILM’. This is mainly due to the idea of the table being set up like you’re at a drive-in movie, which lends itself well to a mildly humorous mode involving an ignorant driver blocking the screen with their vehicle. The biggest surprise, of the best kind, is seeing the Creature swimming underneath the playfield and, eventually, emerging out of the water as a proper 3D model; a very cool sight to see.
The layout does make a lot of the shots harder as it’ll take a couple of attempts to figure out where all the lanes and such are. Once you get used to it, you’ll realise there’s plenty to aim for in terms of targets, ramps and lanes. In addition, to ensure a good time is had by all on this trickier table, the score count rises at a much faster rate and that means the final total will look mighty impressive, even if you only last a few minutes. The only real negative point is in the sound department as it’s generally quite basic – maybe a solo career isn’t on the cards for Gill-man, after all.
With the Halloween period upon us, Zen Studios have played a blinder by releasing this monster-filled pack that’ll provide hours of fun. The tables within the Pinball FX3 – Williams Pinball: Universal Monsters Pack let you jam alongside iconic characters from the classic Universal Monsters film as well as hang out in the Black Lagoon; both of which offer a mixture of great design and enjoyable gameplay. Whilst they aren’t perfect – and the price is possibly a tad high for just two tables – Monster Bash and Creature from the Black Lagoon combine to create a really force to be reckoned with in the Pinball FX3 library.
It might not bring any scares, but Williams Pinball: Universal Monsters Pack on Xbox One is sure to deliver an engaging and entertaining pinball experience.