Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 21.02.2018

Review for Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 continues to look at all that is on offer in the much beloved Pinball FX3 by Zen Studios, which came out on Nintendo Switch late last year, a bit later than on other current generation systems. This time, the turn of the Balls of Glory pack has come, the heaviest of the bunch with no less than four tables included. These tables aren't exactly new, even though they skipped the Wii U altogether. Indeed, they were already released in Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 on previous systems. The technical advancements allowed by the newer engine used in Pinball FX3 are perhaps a bit harder to spot, but nevertheless, for Nintendo players, at least, these tables will seem completely new. They will, therefore, be judged upon what they look, sound, and play like right here and right now on Nintendo Switch, so it is time to dive back in!

It's hard to not notice the immediate striking visual element that is cel-shading. Indeed, even the South Park tables, while faithful enough to their source material, were still representing fairly realistically-shaded tables, but this here is fully cel-shaded, as if the table itself was located in an animated world, and not modelled like an actual physical table that just so happened to represent animated characters. This, however, strangely leads to some weird artefacting and colour banding, at least in this Switch release. This is most prominent on the Family Guy table and is even weirder considering that these same tables released on last generation consoles in Zen Pinball 2 and did not suffer from that problem. Nevertheless, this is thankfully not too distracting and ultimately what is represented is still so faithful to the source material and easily recognisable that it's hard to complain.

Every character, from Peter Griffin to Stan Smith, is easily recognisable, not only from the voices themselves, provided by Seth Macfarlane and the rest of the official voice cast from the shows, but the animation of each is also fairly faithful to the shows. This reviewer is, however, not quite as familiar with Bob's Burgers or Archer, so it is hard to appreciate how faithful it is in those cases but side by side comparisons are very favourable indeed and, coming off of the Universal Classics pack of Pinball FX3, seeing and hearing the voice and music from the shows, just like in the Aliens vs. Pinball pack, is something that is appreciated even more, though, admittedly, the impact thereof is only maximised when actually familiar with the TV programmes these tables are based on.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball on Nintendo Switch

As for the tables themselves, naturally, the most popular show of the bunch is undoubtedly Family Guy and this table is unquestionably the most mainstream of the bunch in its approach. It is fairly easy to score on and its structure is not so complicated, although the focus is clearly on pinpoint accuracy with the flippers, due to the sheer number of lanes and ramps that it features. Peter Griffin, Stewie, and Brian are proudly featured on the edges of the play field and keep churning out lines of dialogue that may well simply be taken from the show itself and not recorded specifically for this release, but it is always used on point with the pinball theme of the game. This one and the next one, Bob's Burgers, are fairly similar in their difficulty level and ease of scoring, although the design of the latter could not be more radically different.

It is designed like these kid game constructions you see in playgrounds, inside or outside of burger joints like McDonald's, with lots of slides and the like. It is way crazier in its approach and the complex design makes it more like a game of discovery than anything else due to how the ball may well disappear inside one of the structures to reappear somewhere else, much like a parent would see his child disappear in a tube slide in one of the aforementioned games. There are not too many tables like these in Pinball FX3, so it is a nice breath of fresh air to the whole package, although just like for parents trying to find their child, making sense of the table will admittedly take some practice.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball on Nintendo Switch

American Dad, however, has fewer lanes and a bigger emphasis on smaller enclosed models with local challenges. It gives a prominent place to displays of American pop culture and lifestyle and scenes from the series are maybe a bit better represented for it as each of these smaller enclosed spaces plays like a stage for events to happen in. It is, comparatively, much harder to score on than any other table in the package, maybe, once again in Zen Studios' fashion, because the story itself of the show that the table is based on, is more adult-oriented and, therefore, the table is made to appeal slightly more to adults who may have experienced real pinball in the past, when it was more commonplace.

Nevertheless, it is not realistic in any other way than the latter, as it is not the pure score-fest that the rest of the tables can and will be in the hands of the more dedicated players. For the rest, the character models can be seen even ice skating in the middle of the play field under certain circumstances, so it does not go for a realistic representation of pinball. None of these tables do and, quite frankly, it is quite okay, more so considering that they are based on animated franchises that are, in and of themselves, not of this world.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Last, but not least, Archer is probably the most fun of the bunch with its adult-themed humour and even action taken straight from the show. Like other Zen Studios pinball tables, it has its moments where the action has little to do with pinball, such as a fist fight on the roof of a moving train that serve as mild distractions from the pinball action itself, which should make fans of the show smile. More than anything else, however, it is the humour of the situations depicted through the missions and the back and forth dialogue going on between Sterling Archer and Lana Kane, both modelled in 3D on the play field, that make this table special and give it its identity.

That is not to say that the table itself is any less good, however, as it holds up just as well as the rest of the package. A moderately short table in height, it is perhaps high on skill requirement but, nonetheless, scoring is not any more difficult than on Family Guy or Bob's Burgers after enough practice but, ultimately, because of the aforementioned qualities inherited from the show, it is arguably the best table of the bunch, although naturally such qualities tend to not be as noticeable after dozen of hours poured into each table, by which point the design of the tables themselves start taking prominence and not too much the humour poured into them.

Screenshot for Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A solid package all round, there is nothing to complain about with Pinball FX3: Balls of Glory Pinball, save for the odd colour banding present in this Switch rendition of the cel-shaded tables. This is a problem that might not be addressed in an update patch considering Zen Studios' priorities have never laid with Nintendo's systems in the past, although this may change with the Switch being a roaring success globally and if enough people complain and demand a fix. Nevertheless, this is only a minor gripe that does not get in the way of the fun to be had with this hefty dose of pinball that comes highly recommended to any virtual pinball fan and mostly those due to the unrealistic approach used here... and even more so to pinball fans of the shows these tables are based on as, being properly licensed unlike the Universal Classics pack, the voice cast and music score are present to reinforce the feeling of familiarity.

Developer

Zen Studios

Publisher

Zen Studios

Genre

Table Games

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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