Review: South Park Pinball

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Any time Zen Studios announces a new pinball table, I find myself giddy with anticipation. Usually Zen teases a table months in advance. This time around, when the South Park tables were announced on the first of the month, there was almost no time for the typical build up of anticipation. Less than two weeks later we were blessed with two of the best tables yet.

As I’ve mentioned before, South Park is one of my quiet guilty pleasures. I don’t go out of my way to watch every episode, but I love how smart and biting the writing can be. The visual style comes from a child-like reverence of simple paper cutouts that have grown into a detailed nuance of style and substance. As the show’s art style has grown over the years, so too has the diversity of new characters. This growth has given Zen Studios a deep well to draw from. While there are only two tables in the South Park universe, there are so many references on both tables that neither suffers from neglect.

On the more traditional Super-Sweet Pinball table, there are opportunities to stick Cartman with an anal probe, collect the ever popular Cheesey Poofs, and get Stan to kiss Wendy without throwing up. A rousing mini-game of Sarcastaball can be played. Randy will dress up as Bat Dad and appear as a point-earning target. Spelling out “Manbearpig” leads to the opportunity to collect treasure. Of course, it wouldn’t be a South Park game without Mr. Hanky and a multiball sessions of mini-poos rolling all around after locking three balls in the toilet (naturally). Terrance and Phillip make an appropriate gassy appearance as dancing bumpers. Kenny also serves as a mischievous target for high scores. All these plus many more nuggets are brought to the table for scoring hijinx.

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The other table, Butters’ Very Own Pinball Game, is obviously dedicated to Butters and highlights several adventures focused on the quiet, polite, blonde dynamo. I’ll be honest, Butters is a character that was introduced after I stopped reguarly watching the show, but after playing The Stick of Truth I found him to be a sweet and charming character. Most of the modes for Butters’ table reference events which I’m not immediately familiar with. Five main modes make up the bulk of the table and once those are completed a trip to Imaginationland is unlocked. Butters takes a trip to Hawaii to complete his coming of age hapanoa ceremony. Another mode converts Butters into a vampire so he can avoid being grounded. Butters also finds himself helping Mexicans cross the Texas boarder, dressing up as a girl named Marjorine so that he can infiltrate an all girl sleepover to steal the Future Telling Device, and unleashing Professor Chaos and battling it out with Cartman’s The Coon.

While the events in the Super-Sweet table are pretty straight forward, the events in the Butters table require a more intimate knowledge of the show (or rather a more up to date knowledge at least). Not that that is a bad thing. The Butters table is a bit more fun to play because of the multiple steps required to unlock each mode, which provides a much more satisfying reward of skill to point ratio. Fortunately, Zen Studios still provides a detailed table guide explaining how each mode is triggered and what is expected from players in order to maximize scores while also completing each mode.

One issue I’ve mentioned in reviews of previous tables is how overly repetitive the voiceover loop can be. This issue has been completely avoided in both South Park tables, as there is such a wonderful wealth of variety to what each character says as well as the sheer randonmess when they sound off. One of my absolute favorites (which is odd since I’ve never seen the episode) is whenever a particular ramp is hit, Butters chimes in with a “Loo Loo Loo!” What’s not to love about the wonderful innocence of a kid singing to himself?

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The pinball mechanics, as always, feel great. Rarely does a ball feel like it is being bounced back into a dead zone, breaking momentum. Even though the scores don’t replicate from PS4 to Vita and PS3, I found that as I accrued a high score while playing during my lunch hour at work on the Vita I had incentive to come home and earn just as high (or higher) a score on my PS4. The only mildly disappointing aspect to both tables this time around is that the 3D doesn’t add much other than a proper vision depth of field effect. Previous tables have had some wonderful enhanced moments by including 3D particles flying over the table, but nothing really wowed me on these two.

Zen Studios has once again outdone itself with this twofer table set of South Park super-sweetness. Crammed full of easter egg morsely goodness from 18 seasons of animated comedy, South Park Pinball will not disappoint fans of the show one bit. Pinball wizards just looking for two great new tables to plug into their Zen Pinball 2 or Pinball FX2 libraries will also have a blast. Now come on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine!

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Plenty of ways to earn points without feeling repetitive
+ Great use of voice clips
+ Treasure trove of references from the show

Cons:
– Still no score sharing across PS4 to Vita/PS3

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3/PS4/Vita, also available for Amazon, Android, iOS, PC/Mac, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: 10/14/2014
Genre: Pinball
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-4
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.