For the uninitiated, Pinball FX3 from Zen Studios is a free to download pinball game, available across multiple platforms including PC, PS4, XBox One, iOS and most recently Nintendo Switch. The game comes with one free table – Sorcerer’s Lair – with other table packs available to purchase separately. FX3’s virtual tables have some realistic pinball physics but they’re more like video games and can do things which could never be done with a real pinball table. The game is packed full of great features such as online match-ups and tournaments, online high score tables and a variety of gameplay modes and challenges. There’s also an RPG-like progression system which unlocks special abilities and levels players up the more they play.
Pinball FX3 on the Nintendo Switch has all the features of the other platforms but at the time of writing, it’s lacking some of the older licensed tables. There are also a few performance issues – the visuals are lacking in definition and graphical detail and the game only runs at 30fps when undocked. Some tables are affected more than others by this and these new Jurassic World tables look pretty great on Switch. Zen Studios say they are working on a patch to fix these issues and they’re also working hard to bring more licensed tables over to the system. Don’t let these issues put you off downloading this game though – it is truly brilliant and the Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for this type of game as pinball is a great game to pick up and play on a portable system. The Switch’s vertical TATE mode is also fantastic for pinball games.
Zen Studios has been working with a range of film studios to create some incredible themed tables such as Star Wars, Marvel and more recently Universal Studios. Their latest offering from Universal is Jurassic World Pinball – a pack of three tables based on the Jurassic Park film franchise – one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. The original Jurassic Park turns 25 this year and the franchise is still going strong today with a fifth film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom set to release in cinemas this summer. It’s therefore likely to appeal to different generations of gamers with older players drawn in by the nostalgia of the original movie blockbuster. As someone who is old enough to have seen the original in the cinemas that was the obvious table to start with.
Jurassic Park Pinball
The Jurassic Park table takes you back to the start of the original movie. Everything is calm and peaceful and you are invited to go on a tour of discovery with those iconic park gates central to the play-field. This is a great theme for a Pinball FX3 table as they typically contain lots of things to unlock and discover as you play them. The table looks incredible and sound clips from the film add to the feeling of immersion.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: unfortunately, this table does not have the original Jurassic Park licensed music score by John Williams. This is such a shame as it’s simply majestic and would have added so much to this table in particular! Try to put this disappointment aside because the table is brilliant and fans of Jurassic Park will get a lot out of playing it. Zen Studios have clearly put a lot of effort into ensuring the experience is as close to the original film as possible. To fully appreciate this, play the game in handheld mode with a decent set of headphones. Turn the lights down, crank up the volume and just watch the table’s opening movie as the camera pans around the playfield introducing you to the key features. Soak up the atmosphere created by the rousing score, the sound of birds singing and the distant roar of dinosaurs. Welcome to Jurassic Park!
On first play this table appears one of the more basic tables – it has a classic design which is more in line with a real pinball table – this is a great move by Zen because it adds to the nostalgia of the original movie and fans of real pinball will be familiar with the 1993 Jurassic Park table by Data East.
The table is dominated by two large ramps and lanes at the top which are surprisingly difficult to hit. Hitting these a number of times will either help unlock the multi-ball or start a T-rex chase mini-game which is great fun. Other things to discover include a video-mode mini-game played via the dot-matrix score display involving a sick Triceratops. There are even Raptors which come out and pinch the ball! After a few rounds, it quickly becomes apparent that this is actually a difficult table to play – it’s not easy to rack up high scores or to unlock multi-balls and balls are easily lost down the sides. I love the way that right from the get-go you need to land the ball in a dinosaur nest for a skill shot bonus score. This skill shot sums up this table – it’s hard but tremendously satisfying and despite being a difficult table it’s never frustrating. This is a fantastic table which has everything you’d want from a movie franchise such as this: it’s definitely my favourite of the three.
Jurassic Park Pinball Mayhem
Moving on, the second-best title in the pack, Jurassic Park Pinball Mayhem has an altogether different atmosphere. As the table’s title suggests this is an altogether more manic experience – there’s much more going on in the centre of the table which has less of a traditional pinball design. This table represents the ‘disaster’ bit of the films when things all go wrong.
The starting movie sees a helicopter fly over the table which is overrun with dinosaurs – a gigantic Stegosaurus swings its studded tail whilst a raging T-rex roars menacingly at the gates of the park. The sweet sound of tropical bird song is drowned out by torrential rain and menacing thunder. The music is more dramatic with drums and trumpets – it perfectly captures the feel of a disaster movie which makes a nice contrast to the first Jurassic Park table. During play, there is a nice weather cycle which changes from sunny to rainy to night and this helps keep things dramatic.
At the start, you get to choose between east dock, north dock, Hammonds lodge and visitor centre which will give you different score objectives in-game. There’s a cool Triceratops mode which opens up in middle of the table with a mini-game requiring you to hit rolling raptors. Other mini-games require you to do things like put out fires or hit the ball with the Stegosaurus’ tail. The table is far more forgiving than the first Jurassic Park, being easier to hit big scores. There’s more going on too which makes it a better starting point for players new to Pinball FX3.
Jurassic World Pinball
The third table in the package is based on the recent Jurassic World movie and it allows you to choose ‘film order’ or select the sequence of events as you play. It features decent voice samples from the film as well as iconic dinosaurs such as the giant crocodile-like Mosasaurus in a pool and the Indominous Rex hybrid. The colour scheme is completely different to the other two tables – it has much less of a tropical theme and is darker which seems to fit well with the movie but in my opinion, means it lacks some of the magic of the first two Jurassic Park tables. This, along with the lack of nostalgia from the original movie franchise makes it the weakest table for me. It is still a fun table though and I imagine people who didn’t grow up with the originals may feel differently. The table is quite open with 4 flippers (2 bottom and 2 top) making it pretty accessible in terms of difficulty and possible to get high scores. There are some cool mini-games such as one where you have to hit the correct Raptor’s head and it’s great to see the giant Mosasaurus jump out of the pool to try and grab the ball.
The game lets you select various viewing angles with which to play each table. I tend to prefer ‘view 3’ which gives you a close-up view of the table and follows the ball so you get to see lots of detail. One of the great features of the Nintendo Switch, however, is that it supports a vertical TATE mode. Detach the Joy-Cons and rotate the screen for an overhead view of the pinball tables. This is a great way to play these pinball games as you can see the whole table and it feels more like the real thing. In TATE mode these tables look absolutely fantastic and it’s one reason why I love this game on Switch.
Rumble in the jungle
Another of the Switch’s great features is HD Rumble. This game makes great use of the HD Rumble and you can really feel every bump and bounce of the ball – this helps give the game a more immersive feel than playing on an iPhone. I have to say though that this is one of the first set of tables that I actually felt the HD Rumble was too OTT but thankfully you can turn it down in the settings menu.
Value for money
Pinball FX3 was free to download and the Jurassic World Pinball set of three tables cost £8.99 (UK price) from the Nintendo Switch eShop. This works out at around £3.00 per table which is incredible value for money when you consider how much effort has gone into them and how much replayability they have thanks to the games brilliant online features, the variety of gameplay modes and its level up system.
The Jurassic World Pinball tables are definitely one of the stronger sets of FX3 themed tables to buy right now on Nintendo Switch. If you are a fan of the movie franchise then you will love the attention to detail and atmosphere Zen Studios has managed to create. It’s a pity the voice acting is a bit dodgy in parts and the original John Williams score is missing but don’t let that put you off what is a brilliant game. Even people who aren’t gripped by the nostalgia of the original movie franchise should still get a lot out of the three varied, engaging and challenging tables. I personally love playing this pack and can’t wait to see what new tables Zen Studios has in store for us this year.