Williams was a name synonymous with Pinball during its ball thwacking heyday. They created some of the most iconic tables of all time, including Tales of the Arabian Nights, Taxi and Funhouse. So it’s quite the coup for Zen Studios to have recently acquired the licence for these classic tables. They’ve certainly not wasted any time either, as they got the first four tables ready for launch in Williams Pinball – Volume 1.
This first pack brings with it Medieval Madness, Junk Yard, The Getaway: High Speed 2 and – as a bonus free download for all players – Fish Tales. Considering that a real life table of Medieval Madness would set you back about £8,000, the first thing that needs to be pointed out is that getting the virtual versions of these tables for a budget price is a bargain. Each of the tables is perfectly recreated here and it’s simply astonishing the level of detail that Zen Studios have achieved. Whilst I think it’s unlikely that a digital pinball table will ever visually match the real deal, these come pretty gosh darn close.
But if there is a caveat, it’s that the simulated experience that these tables offer is significantly more challenging than that offered by the tables found elsewhere in the Pinball FX 3 catalogue. I’ve forgotten just how indulgent the standard Zen Studios pinball experience is; balls ‘float’ just a little longer, flipper collision detection is a touch more generous and the ball has a tendency to go where you want it to go. On these Williams Tables, in simulation mode, these crutches are absent, so prepare to have your ego well and truly pulverised as your ball disappears down the drain again and again. Unless you have a supple wrist, can play by sense of smell and always get a replay, then the professional setting is not for you, or me for that matter.
Fortunately, Zen Studios have considered this and the physics can be reverted to the standard setting. This would make for an easier experience, were it not for the sheer length of the tables. Unlike Zen Studios’ standard tables, which tend to be squatter and wider than authentic pinball tables, these four tables go all the way. Trying to send a ball to a specific location – such as to rebound off a bumper or careen down a lane – is now much more difficult to achieve. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing per se, but it is a significantly different and more challenging experience than the standard Pinball FX 3 player might want.
How about the tables themselves? How do these classic tables of yesteryear hold up in 2018? It’s a mixed bag. Medieval Madness, itself being one of the best tables of all time, is understandably brilliant. The level of interactivity on this table, as you attempt to bring a castle crashing to the ground, is a clear demonstration of how ahead of its time the original version was. It’s also the table that benefits most from Zen Studios optional visual flourishes – the fire-breathing dragon is a clear highlight.
Unfortunately, the other tables are a little lacking in content and, for those brought up on pinball tables that regularly have AT-ATs striding across their surfaces, they feel rather empty, lacking the many mini-games that make up a modern table. As a simulation of a classic pinball table they are peerless, but as a modern pinball experience I fear that they are rather forgettable and many players will be returning to Back to the Future sooner rather than later.
If you want a nearly perfect digital recreation of classic pinball tables then Williams Pinball – Volume 1 is absolutely intended for you. If you want an authentic super-challenging pinball experience, devoid of all the support, stabilisers and assistance that Zen Studios usually throws into the mix, then this DLC pack is for also for you. If you like the modern Pinball FX 3 experience, if you enjoy the way in which most of the tables make you feel like a pinball wizard and how cram-packed they are with visual flourishes and mini-games then you’d really best look elsewhere.