The Pinball FX series has been quite the success since the original arrived on the Xbox 360 as the first downloadable pinball game. You may also know it as Zen Pinball which is was called on non-Microsoft platforms. No, I have no idea why the same game had two different names but that doesn’t matter since here it is, finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch.
Pinball FX3 game is more like an “app” where the initial download is free for everyone, indeed the first pinball table, Sorcerer’s Lair is free with it. The rest of the 30 pinball tables must be purchased in bundles or separately. As a heads up, the first week of sale for Pinball FX 3 will allow you to download two more tables for free so altogether, if you download within the first week, that’s three tables for absolutely nothing. No catch, just three tables there you go! Even if you’re not overly interested in pinball just go and do it, right now.
In single player there are a variety of slightly different modes available to play. First you have the normal single player which is where you’re allowed to take in upgrades with you as well as a special power in order to help you gain more points and also assist you in some way. In all honesty I was surprised that this was the default mode, the one you’re guided to, as it seemed to go against the principle of pinball. Having upgrades that increase your score in certain areas as well as using assist to either slow down time, reverse time and even increase your score multiplier, generally defies the point. It should be about everyone on an equal footing with only skill separating those from the top and the bottom. I can’t say I was impressed with idea to be honest. It felt added for the sake of adding something to the game when, actually, that’s not why people play pinball.
The second mode is the classic mode, by which they mean proper pinball. This is the no fluff mode where it’s just you and the pinball table battling it out. For me, this is the heart of the gameplay and the one that pinball purists will definitely want to go for.
Hotseat is another competitive option where up to four people compete, passing on the controller to each other when a ball is lost. This is not something I’ve played but it works fine for those who want to play competitively locally with a friend.
Now, I may be against pinball scores being affected by upgrades and stuff, but I’m all for challenges. Each table you own in Pinball FX lets you take on three different challenges. The first is a one ball challenge which is as you would expect. You have one ball to get the highest score possible. The second challenge is the five minute one. You have five minutes to wrack up the highest score possible. Finally you have survival which gives you a countdown timer to achieve a set goal of points, every time you reach that goal the timer resets and you are given a newer target to attain. You can earn 15 stars each for these and they also unlock those previously mentioned special powers which I wasn’t keen on. I found all three challenges fun to do and indeed, rather challenging at times depending on the table.
With so many tables available, I’m just going to talk about the three potentially free ones rather than them all. It’s worth noting that for pinball, you really need to spend a huge amount of time with a table to really get a handle on it, even to just decide if it’s good or bad. Pinball is the same as the shoot ‘em up genre. You need to take time to digest the levels and all of the facets before you can truly judge them. So please bare in mind that these are opinions of someone who has only spent a couple of hours with each.
Starting with the first free one, and the one you will all get no matter when downloading it, Sorcerer’s Lair. I’ve spent time with a few tables of Pinball FX and Zen Pinball in my time and it seems a little strange to have Sorcerer’s Lair as the initial download. It’s a fairly tough table for beginners due to its speed at which the ball flies back down to the flippers and how central it likes to go, an easy opportunity to lose a ball into the abyss. At first glance it’s not the fanciest of tables ever produced by Zen Studios but once you explore it a little and find the little alternative places to go you’ll realise it’s a table that’s hiding a lot of little secrets.
The two new original tables for Pinball FX3 that can be downloaded for free if you’re quick enough are Son of Zeus and Adventure Land. Starting with my favourite of the two so far, Adventure Land, you have a theme park style table that’s packed with lots of whizzes and bangs as you take rides and earn points. I think this is possibly the most casual friendly of the three tables available as I found it wasn’t a ball loss magnet like many tables can be. It’s the kind of table you’re able to spend some real time playing and discovering all of the little things. Finally comes Son of Zeus, a Greek Mythology inspired tabled where you are tasked with fighting the famous beasts of the old stories. This is a small table with not much room to breathe, I found close rebounds to be a little too frequent and I was always worried about slamming it up the right side for fear of it pinging right back down between my flippers. I’ll be honest, I really liked the style in this one and the concept, but I definitely need (and want) to spend more time with it to see what’s going on.
As stated, it’s impossible for me to truly give a definitive opinion of how good the tables are, but so far I have enjoyed them.
Of the other tables you can download about a third of them are licensed properties such as Aliens movie franchise, Walking Dead and even famous American adult cartoons. The rest are original ideas from the minds of Zen Studios themselves, there are classic tables that have been released before as well as some newer ones. There’s a lot of choice. Maybe too many at the beginning as it’s difficult to know which one to plump for. I know that when servers go live, I’ll definitely be getting my hands on a few.
It’s interesting to note that the Nintendo Switch version of Pinball FX3 has a few little tricks up its sleeve that actually may make it the best option for you if you want to start getting into it. First is the glorious vertical screen mode which instantly makes it a winner in comparison to other releases. It makes full use on the Switch’s lovely screen and it almost gives the illusion of playing a proper pinball table.
The second advantage is one that I didn’t think I would care much about, but actually I’ve come out pretty impressed. The Switch’s HD Rumble has so far failed to let me even notice it’s there thus far. Pinball FX3, though, has opened my eyes to the possibilities. I think it takes advantage of it very well as you can feel the little nuances of the ball, or balls bounce around in your hands.
Of course, the Switch’s overall advantage over everything is still present. Options. You can play on the big screen or on the go and that, for me, along with the other two advantages, send it into pole position as to which version you should go for. Easily the Nintendo Switch version.
It’s worth noting that previous customers of Zen Studios from either their Wii U, PS4 or Xbox releases cannot redeem any purchases as far as I’m aware. If you’ve plumped all of your cash into the PS4 version, that’s it, you can’t transfer them to this nice Switch version. The only thing you can do is purchase them again.
Overall, Pinball FX3 is a no-brainer. You should already be downloading the three free tables and if you’re not, why not? That’s hours of free content. Not to mention it opens the gate for so many more hundreds of hours to lose in the exhaustive amount of tables available for purchase at reasonable prices. They’re all fun, imaginative and you’re going to have a great time trying to beat you and your friends’ scores. Sure, Pinball FX3 is available on other platforms, but the Switch is where you want to be. Playable at home or portably, in vertical mode and with some fantastic HD Rumble. Get it on the Switch.
Game provided by Zen Studios.