Zen Studios once again collaborates with Williams Pinball to bring us a three pack of tables that do an effective job of replicating an old school pinball experience. The three tables differ in nostalgic value to me, but this is a really strong package.
For me personally, this pack is all about Tales of the Arabian Nights, which released back in 1996. This was one of my favorite tables at our local arcade when I was in college, and I dropped more than a few quarters into it. Obviously it has been some time since I played it, but just the way it looks and sounds as you stroll up to the virtual machine had me grinning from ear to ear. I thought there would be some considerable rust, or maybe I just had a bout of good fortune right off of the bat, but my first game lasted about twenty minutes and it was rather like that adage about just riding a bicycle. It was all familiar and came right back to me. With a focus on hitting the genie as well as spinning a lamp around, there is a lot to see and do on this table, and the pacing is excellent without a lot of cheap ball losses.
A year later, Cirqus Voltaire came out – but it was probably a couple of years until I encountered that table in real life. As the name would imply, we have a circus themed table here, with a Ringmaster as the centerpiece. There are a few different mini-objectives to be found and unlocked on this table, and the speed and pacing is good all of the way around.
Generally with these FX packs, there are one or two really good tables that serve as the primary hooks, and one that feels like a bit of a letdown by comparison. Both Arabian Nights and Cirqus Voltaire are so good that they could have headlined a pack on their own, which leaves us with No Good Gofers, which has a rather slapstick design that is the opposite of my tall table preferences. I’ve mentioned in the past that I tend to enjoy long tables with a lot of room to operate, but the odd ramps at the top here make No Good Gofers feel too compact for my liking. Add to it that I had never played this one in an arcade previously, and I have no nostalgic connection to No Good Gophers either. It’s bright, colorful and has a sort of zany golfing / Caddyshack vibe going on that will no doubt appeal to some, just not me.
Like these other throwback table packages, one of the cooler features to be had here is the ability to view the tables as they were originally constructed or with some modernized video game embellishments courtesy of the Zen Studio developers. Of the three tables, I definitely enjoyed the throwback look of Arabian Nights the most, but in the end I almost always wind up playing these in their visually enhanced modes. It is a meshing of nostalgia and modern day visual flair that simply works really well.