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Licensed Williams, Bally Tables Coming To Pinball FX3

by Jeff Cork on Sep 04, 2018 at 08:14 AM

Zen Studios has carved out a lucrative niche in the video game space with its Pinball FX series. Over the course of a decade, the studio has released its own unique tables and also created new tables based on big names like Star Wars and Marvel. Today, Zen Studios announced that it has acquired the Williams and Bally licenses, giving it complete global access to their entire libraries – including well-known tables based on The Addam’s Family, The Twilight Zone, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. We have an exclusive look at the first four pack of tables, which includes Fish Tales, Junk Yard, Medieval Madness, and The Getaway: High Speed II. 

Players who are familiar with Zen’s other tables have become accustomed to the company’s fun and flashy take on pinball, with animated characters and modes that bend what would be possible with a real machine. Purists should know that the new tables aren’t going to be shoehorned into Pinball FX3’s existing format, even though they’ll be residing in a new tab within that game. Our most noticeable takeaway after spending an hour playing these new tables is that games can end in a hurry – which makes sense, considering that the whole point was to get people to keep playing (and spending quarters). That’s something that Zen wanted to respect.

“These are money-making machines, and we’ve left them alone. But we did tweak physics [from Pinball FX],” says Mel Kirk, vice president of publishing at Zen Studios. “We’ve removed some of that predictability from the physics simulation for these tables. The ball has a little different weight. If you’re a really good pinball player, you’re going to notice it. If you just play casually, you may not. I’d say the biggest thing is the randomness of the ball. There’s more randomness, you don’t know necessarily where it’s going to go. You hit something and it moves differently.”

Kirk isn’t kidding. These new tables are noticeable different from their fantastical counterparts, with balls that feel heavier and flippers that aren’t quite as snappy. Most importantly, it just feels “right” for lack of a better way to put it, even with the unrelenting frequency of drains and game overs. Players who have grown used to the forgiving nature of Zen’s other tables are going to have to adjust.

The first batch of four has a few deep cuts and some better-known tables. “These are some of our very favorites,” Kirk says. “In the office, when we announced what was going on, there was a huge debate about what should go first. Of course you had some, ‘Oh, you’ve got to do Twilight Zone and Addam’s Family’ and it’s like, OK wait a minute. These are going to take a minute to sort out on the licensing side of things, so there’s some automatic lead time built into getting things set up properly, getting our licensing done and the business side. After that, we were left with a large group of tables, and what we wanted to work on came down purely on preference.”

The first batch includes four Williams tables. Kirk says the next four will likely be from the Bally line. Because of the nature of adapting existing tables, he says the overall timetable to releasing these tables is a little faster than creating new ones from scratch. Because of that, and the fact that they want to meet player expectations as quickly as they can, Kirk says new packs will be coming at a steady pace. The first two packs should be coming before the end of the year, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, and Mac.

Fish Tales
This table is themed around fishing, with all the talk about lunkers and “the one that got away” you’d expect. It’s also fiendishly tough, thanks in part to a pair of flippers that are slightly smaller than the norm. 

Junk Yard
If you played Zen’s Secrets of the Deep table, you’ve seen a playfield gadget remarkably similar to the wrecking ball in this table. 

Medieval Madness
This table was an early highlight in Farsight Studios’ competing The Pinball Arcade – the game that previously held the Williams and Bally licenses. Think Monty Python, and you’re on the right track.

The Getaway: High Speed II
This isn’t as outwardly flashy as some of the others in this pack, but its series of loops and ramps requires a high degree of technical expertise. It also features a robust soundtrack of rockin’ licensed tunes.