Following on from the Williams and Bally licence acquisition for Zen Studios from FarSight Studios, steadily released content packs have been arriving in Pinball FX3 based on real world tables. This latest addition – that of Williams Pinball: Volume 5 on Xbox One – features three classics: Tales of the Arabian Nights, Cirqus Voltaire and No Good Gofers.
It is easy to make a comparison, as two of these tables – Tales of the Arabian Nights and No Good Gofers – have previously appeared in the Williams Pinball Classics collection, and were faithfully recreated in that. But, with a little Pinball FX magic, these tables really do come to life in this iteration.
Tales of the Arabian Nights is a table heavily inspired by the Arabian Nights folk tales, even including some of the tales as missions to complete on the table. Players must complete these tales to collect jewels that are then used to rescue the princess from the genie. The table features a genie toy and a revolving lamp. Playing through older Pinball FX tables, it is also clear that this table was a clear inspiration for the original Pinball FX table Pasha, even down to having a bazaar that players can shoot at for a random reward.
As with all Pinball FX3 tables now, there are two different single-player versions to enjoy: Normal single-player that animates table objects and has slightly different physics, and Classic single-player, where you can play the table in its purest form. In the case of Tales of the Arabian Nights, the genie comes to life and there are better visual representations for the jewels that you collect.
No Good Gofers also featured in the Williams Pinball Classic – and The Pinball Arcade before licences changed hands – and is a more whimsical and humourous table than the other two. Players are trying to complete a round of golf using the ramps whilst two gofers known as Buzz and Bud will stop at nothing to prevent that from happening. The gofers in question will occasionally taunt the player as they pop-up from underneath the table. On the regular single player table there is also an animated golfer that will frequently bend his golf club in two when things aren’t going his way. That is, at least frequently in my case.
According to the useful and interesting hints that accompany the table flyover before you start a game, No Good Gofers has one of the most well-regarded shots in pinball history, the ‘Hole in One’. There is a floating ramp that must be lowered before you can even attempt this and even then pinpoint accuracy is required to get the ball through the hole on the upper platform; anywhere else and it doesn’t sink.
A word of warning for the final table, Cirqus Voltaire: there is a creepy green clown face that pops up from the table. On the other hand, before starting a new game you can choose the colour scheme of the neon strip that lines the right-hand side of the table!
On Cirqus Voltaire, the player must travel through various circus attractions and complete them. On the table – aside from the creepy clown – are a pop-up balloon target that ‘pops’, a captive ball that can be hit and a side-show that works similar to the Tales of the Arabian Nights bazaar. It is also slightly more forgiving than the other two tables.
For Cirqus Voltaire’s end of ball bonus screen, you are given a rating out of ten via a judge’s panel. The judges are recognisable from classic Williams tables such as Pinbot, even pulling in some of the design team.
All tables feature the classic dot matrix screen to keep track of your score and just about everything else, and seeing that helps you instantly place these tables in the local pub from the ‘90s. But as well as this, everything else is faithfully recreated, and most importantly the physics feel fair.
Of course, all these tables tie into everything else Pinball FX3 has to offer including Matchup mode and Tournaments, whilst all tables also have upgrades and challenges to unlock.
As an aside to the new tables specifically, this was my first interaction with Pinball FX3 having weened myself off Pinball FX2 when the sequel came out. But the work gone into making this feels like that of a proper sequel, rather than just a shiny new coat of paint. It is excellent and feels like a much more rounded experience.
With the greatest of respect, Zen Studios have once again proven why they are the pinball wizards in recreating real world tables; they are more than deserving of the licences over others. They frequently go above and beyond just creating a digital version, putting their own stamp on the table without removing anything that has made them so classic in the first place. And Pinball FX3 – Williams Pinball: Volume 5 on the Xbox One is no exception. The tables look better than ever and you can feel that this is almost treated like a digital preservation effort as real-world pinball continues to decline. But if things continue as they are in Pinball FX3, then digital pinball can live on.