Some of the very best animated sitcoms grace the latest expansion for Zen Studio’s Zen Pinball 2. In the Balls of Glory content TV hits, Archer, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and American Dad each have their own custom designed tables. The presentation of this pack is amazing. There’s original voiceover talent from each TV series as well as a dynamically integrated original score. This lends a really nice authenticity that’s faithful to what’s most appealing about each show. The objective, like with all Zen Pinball tables, is to complete all the missions at least once to enter a final mode that varies per table.
There are many options as standard in Zen Pinball 2 that can be used to customize the game to your liking. Upon selecting a table try to avoid the temptation to just dive blindly right in. Instead, whilst in-game, preferably on the starting screen panning over the table, press the ‘options’ button. Then go to ‘Table Guide’ this will explain the intricacies of the table and give you an idea of what to expect and aim for including ‘kick backs’ and ‘extra balls’. Like in previous packs the tables are various sizes, which gives a certain element of difficulty scaling. This is reflected nicely in the order they are in the main menu.
The Family Guy table looks like Peter Griffin designed it. It’s a fairly basic and small table where hitting the ball pretty much anywhere will send it up one of the many ramps directly opposite. There’s an extra flipper on the far left that is also a doorway to a mission. This was an incredibly fun and easy to pick up starter table. The Bob’s Burgers table is another with ramps directly opposite though the table is trickier overall. The missions require you to be far more accurate with the pinball. Aiming for specific routes that have a symbol flashing in front of them is an acquired skill. There are many moments you have to unblock routes by hitting rats that pop-up. In such an enclosed area the pinball will bounce back fast, learning to deal with this lends to the difficulty.
My personal favourite of all the tables is the one based on Archer. It’s an all round medium level table that requires even more accuracy, as on various missions you have to hit or avoid moving targets with your pinball while shooting at lit up lanes. You even have to skill shot a grenade that can damage your score. There’s a handy extra flipper further up the table that’s perfectly positioned to allow you to repeatedly loop around the upper ramps. The phone call mission seems can only be activated through pure luck, a bumper blocks it and I could find no way to actually aim for it, which was unfortunate.
The hardest table seemed to be American Dad even the launch skill shot requires an extra timed button press. This is the largest table of the four with an upper tier you can unlock through game progression. It has all the elements of the previous tables including a mission where you have to shoot past Stan and Francine ice-skating at varying speeds in the middle of the table. You also have to specifically pick which missions are set on the table. It’s an extremely challenging table only for the more seasoned pinball player.
As we have come to expect with Zen Pinball each table has a mini-game. These take you away from the table and you control the movement using the flipper and launch buttons. These are fairly basic games in the style of each show, they work just fine and are ultimately very rewarding. My only real grievance with all the tables is the overactive bumpers as these have lost me many a ball even directly off a freshly launched ball. I didn’t even get a chance to hit it with the flipper and I’m a life down. Other times some very strange physics made the pinball get caught in a loop bounce and it ended it up going from a safe route to the flipper to the gutter. Needless to say these can be incredibly frustrating moments and they happened more frequent than they should.
I have to admit I had many laugh out loud moments with Zen Pinball 2: Balls of Glory as I unlocked dialogue through successful and even unsuccessful play. There’s an attempt to prevent monotony of the same dialogue by occasionally changing it up. However, it only delays the inevitable as once you’ve heard all the dialogue options, especially early game, it doesn’t quite have the same punch. Zen Pinball has an amazing sense of physics for the most part, only let down by overactive bumpers. Though, this is something that can easily be rectified with updates but I have to review as is on release. The tables are very well designed to a point that they actually scale in challenge so there’s something for all skill levels. There’s almost unlimited replay value as even the easiest tables take a long time to complete. You also have online highscore tables to compete against friends and the World. There’s offline multiplayer that allows either ‘split-screen’ for simultaneous play or ‘hotseat’ where people take turns on the full screen. Overall, if you own or Zen Pinball 2 and like even a couple of the TV comedy shows, then the Balls of Glory expansion will be a welcome addition to your collection.
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