By now it is safe to say that Zen Studios knows how to deliver a fantastic pinball experience. The Pinball FX3 – Williams Pinball: Universal Monsters pack might frustrate those hoping for a third table, as is often the norm in these packs – but the two that are delivered are both incredibly well done and are among the best Zen Studios has released to date.
As seems to be the case with many of these throwback table packs, I have only played some of these tables in person in the past. I had played Creature From the Black Lagoon many moons ago, but never even heard of Monster Bash. The good news is, both of these titles are a lot of fun to play, and I can only assume that Monster Bash is a good representation of the original table, because Creature From the Black Lagoon is spot-on.
Like other Williams classics tables, there is a one-button push to flip from the classic visuals to a more modernized approach. It really jumped out at me how much more colorful Monster Bash was in the updated view, but beyond that the visual flourishes are really nice. It is fun to play a game or two in the classic view, but in the end the experience just looks better when you use the Zen Studio updated graphics. This is most evident in Creature From the Black Lagoon where the ‘creature’ visual in the table was a hologram and nothing more. A neat bit of visual flair for the time (which was 1992), but when you play the table now, the creature emerges from the water to look at you in full 3D before disappearing back into the murky watery depths. It certainly makes the entire experience a more cinematic one.
The Pinball FX3 framework is alive and well here also, providing experience earned, which can be used to unlock special multipliers, which helps to provide a bit of carrot-dangling progression to keep people interested in more than just the tables. Combine that with the leaderboards and multiplayer options, and these two tables feel right at home here.
Both of these tables provide that old school pinball challenge, which can certainly take a little getting used to if you are not familiar with classic tables like this where the ball just sometimes does some inexplicably annoying things (mostly – going right down the middle of the table and out of play). Still, once you get used to the tables, it is easy to put in a twenty or thirty minute session – especially in Monster Bash where it really rewards accuracy. My first two times playing that table were over with rather quickly, but once I got the feel of the table, I was able to string together some fairly long sessions of play.
In general, I will say that the gameplay on these two tables took me just a bit longer to get the hang of than the last handful of Williams pinball packs. I have gone back and forth from this one to some of the other tables, and I cannot quite put my finger on it. There is something about the flipper / ball interaction that is just a bit different. Timing is just a bit different, or impact is a little softer, something along those lines that I am struggling to articulate. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, just something I noticed while playing early on – but after I focused on one of these two tables for a bit, it all came easily enough and I adjusted.