Game Reviews

South Park: Pinball

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South Park: Pinball

With Zen Pinball's licensed fare to date being rather action-oriented - Marvel, Star Wars, Walking Dead - South Park represents a big change in subject matter.

However, this is still Zen Pinball as you know it - a fairly traditional modern table, augmented by all manner of animated characters that wouldn't be possible in the real world.

On launching the app, it immediately explodes into the South Park theme, and you choose between South Park Super Sweet Pinball or Butters' Very Own Pinball Game.

If you've played any of the aforementioned releases, you know what's in store. References aplenty welded to typical pinball mechanics like ramps, switches, spinners, bumpers, and cursing like a sailor when an unfortunate rebound costs you your last ball.

Totally sweet

Super Sweet Pinball has a really good stab at recreating the chaotic nature of the typical South Park episode. It's packed full with South Park paraphernalia, including a ton of character art, the famous rickety school bus, and a football field.

Missions are triggered in a variety of ways, like by repeatedly hitting character lanes or targets, and you can frequently have several on the go at once, simultaneously trying to stop Stan throwing up while attempting to kiss Wendy, and Cartman from being 'probed' by aliens - all via the medium of a little metal ball spanging about.

The table is approachable, if a touch prone to clutter and very claustrophobic in nature, but it's also extremely tough.

You'll need to be more of a pinball wizard than a South Park aficionado to ever see the South Park lights all active, and we really wish the ‘nudge' control was easier to trigger, rather than having to shake the device.

Do we really need another one?

The Butters table is a very different beast - more open and linear. Using a mechanic that will be familiar to fans of Zen's Empire Strikes Back table, there's a very specific two-target set-up for all missions, which are then selected using a flipper trigger.

Missions are based on episodes of the show that Butters heavily featured in, such as Ungroundable and when all the boys bought ninja weapons, and are typically accompanied by a Butters figure shuffling off-stage and then returning in an appropriate costume.

All the while you're desperately trying to keep the ball in play and hit lit ramps and switches. There's also a Professor Chaos mini-table to discover, which is a nice touch.

In fact, the entirety of the production is packed with similar details. This is a bold, bright, colourful pinball two-table set clearly created by people who love the show, and also who love pinball.

It feels more grounded and essential than many other Zen licensed tables. There's none of the drabness of Walking Dead, and less of the gimmickry that became associated with the overly animated Marvel and Star Wars themes.

It's curious to praise a South Park game for being subtler and therefore superior, but there you go.

The only drawbacks are that the soundbites, divorced from the context of a show and very regularly repeated, rapidly transform from amusing to irritating.

And fundamentally this remains a pinball game, and so the scenarios are more about triggering memories rather than being funny or edgy (bar smacking the odd poo about) in and of themselves.

South Park: Pinball

Vibrant, playable and tough pinball, which is but a combo away from us yelling “Awesome, you guys!” in Cartman's trademark sneer
Craig Grannell
Craig Grannell
Craig gets all confused with modern games systems with a million buttons, hence preferring the glass-surfaced delights of mobile devices. He spends much of his time swiping and tilting (sometimes actually with a device), and also mulling why no-one’s converted Cannon Fodder to iPad.