Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 20.01.2018

Review for Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Continuing the run-down of licensed content for Pinball FX3, released late last year on Nintendo Switch, after covering Aliens vs Pinball, it is time to come to the Universal Classics Pinball, another fairly recent outing on other platforms but which, unlike the previous pack reviewed, did not originate on the older engine of Pinball FX2 or Zen Pinball 2, which means that these tables were imagined from the ground up for the newer, flashier engine used here. Therefore, the team is expected to take good advantage of it, especially since licenses held by Universal are certainly amongst the most popular in the world. As a matter of fact, the latter means that there was definitely room for choice right there as to which would be turned into pinball tables and the choice landed on three of its most financially successful: Back the Future, Jaws and E.T. A nice, well varied set of themes of atmospheres, at first glance, so it is time now to put them to the test.

Back to the Future, as perhaps the most popular series of the bunch in terms of popular culture presence, expectedly receives the easiest table to approach of the bunch. The missions themselves are not terribly hard to accomplish, for the most part, as players have to select what part of the scenario of the film trilogy they want to play through. Be it 1955 in the first or second, 1985 or 1985A, 1885 or 2015... the whole film series is represented here. A lot of key moments of the film are present, but, slightly disappointingly, most scenes involve the same kind of actions in terms of the main missions, such as hitting a guitar a certain amount of times, hitting a moving Tannen target a set amount of times, as well, and going up a specific ramp a few times for that time period to be cleared.

Nevertheless, its flashy nature and the witty lines of dialogue playing throughout, coupled to just how good the films themselves are, make this easily the most enjoyable of the three. Still, as expected, it is also the easiest to score on. The lanes are not too hard to aim at, making the missions easily achievable, and missions in general, once completed, yield millions of points at a time. Furthermore, the multipliers are not terribly hard to increase and extra balls are also easy to score. It is the "large target audience" table of this pack, then, being flashy and letting the millions of points roll for the satisfaction of each player out there.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Jaws, on the other hand, plays along with Zen Studios' rule of "the older the franchise, the more mature, old school, and challenging the table shall be." In fact, even as special effects go, there's not much to the table in terms of gameplay elements that would make you think that it couldn't be replicated on a real pinball machine without too many compromises. It is a fairly small table and, like most small tables, once the ball reaches the top of the table and comes back down via one of the lanes, it has conserved most of its momentum, making it harder to trap with the flippers to carefully aim and shoot again. The difficulty doesn't really stop there, though, since it's hard to reach really high scores as it is tricky to move around. Most of the elements on the table revolve not so much around events of the film but more around shark hunting in general or taking the role of the shark itself in certain modes, although still with nods to the film itself, of course, such as the shark having to scare people in shallow waters near a beach.

One of the more interesting elements of this table is the raging sea mode triggered by locking a ball after 15 bumper hits. In this mode, the pinball machine itself, located on a ship as can be seen on screen, will start pitching left and right, as if on a real boat, and this will be reflected in the physics within the table itself. It goes to show that even here, Zen Studios isn't short of ideas on how to mess with the player's expectations, and it comes across as a pleasant surprise on a table that otherwise may prove less popular with the vast majority of players due to its more classic approach in a game such as Pinball FX3 where this is not typically the main focus like it can be in the likes of Stern Pinball. It is a good representation of its source material at the end of the day and, as Marty would say, the shark still looks fake, but that's part of the fun, too.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Last, but not least, the E.T. table strikes a difficulty balance right in the middle, where it may be hard to score at first but lasting long enough will eventually unlock bonuses and multipliers that will help score a lot of points. It is not terribly hard in its design so as to appeal to even a slightly younger audience, just like its original material, but it won't allow scoring massive amounts of points straight away. Missions can easily be triggered by hitting the spacecraft a couple times to make it hover over the table, revealing a hole underneath where to sink the ball and then select a mission.

Each mission is not extremely hard in and of itself but some lanes can be a bit tricky to reach, making some of them harder than others, and points obtained from completing them are a bit more modestly distributed, which is where the difficulty to score comes from. The light-hearted music overall gives this table a slightly more family-friendly atmosphere in line with that of the film, which rounds up the pack of tables pretty nicely after Back to the Future's cool vibe and Jaws' foreboding music. E.T.'s voice itself can be a bit annoying after a while, but it was in the films, as well, and in retrospect maybe even a bit creepy, but it is still inscribed in the history of film as one of the most popular movies of all time, so there you go.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Speaking of which, the sore point with all three tables is the absence of certain elements dear to fans of each that could not be licensed for use here. Where the Aliens vs. Pinball tables, for instance, had the voices of the original actors from each movie represented, here they are all absent. Each voice is made by someone different and while the actors are giving their best, the difference is noticeable nonetheless, with perhaps the exception of A. J. LoCascio's performance as Marty McFly. The actor already provided the voice for that character in Telltale's Back to the Future: The Game, and his performance is still as good as ever here, as it is still so close to Michael J. Fox's... although some distinctive tones can, of course, still be spotted and attributed to the right man but still, a commendable effort right there.

Likewise, the music from the films represented here is absent. No "Johnny Be Goode" or "Power of Love" or any of the music from Back to the Future, or E.T.'s theme or Jaws' signature shark music that everyone can recognise at once. Again, such content had been licensed before for videogame use, notably once again in Telltale's aforementioned series in the case of Back to the Future, at least as far as Alan Silvestri's score was concerned. It's not that the actor's efforts or the composers' works in here are bad by any means, on the contrary, but when dealing with such well-loved content with a wide array of dedicated fans, this comes across as a disappointment. Nevertheless, all three tables are still a blast to play and reliving iconic moments of each film in videogame form, especially in the case of Jaws and E.T., which both had never had a "good" game representation before (LJN's or Atari's best efforts are notoriously bad indeed), is truly a jolly good time.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The franchises represented here are amongst the most popular ever put on film, but it is sad that their content could not be perfectly represented with the content not being fully licensed. The lack of the Back to the Future or E.T. musical themes, or even the eponymous shark music from Jaws, are terrible stabs that somewhat lessen the impact of seeing the franchises being put in such wonderful pinball form. Otherwise, all three tables in Pinball FX3: Universal Classics Pinball are perfectly good in their own right and represent their own universes pretty faithfully! If anyone out there is a fan of both pinball and the films, then they are well worth the investment.


Zen Studios


Zen Studios


Table Games



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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