South Park Pinball Review: Zen Studios Flipping Nails It

When it comes to pinball, Zen Studios has been everywhere, man. Their original tables have explored everything from a sorcerer’s lair to a Martian landscape. Building off of licensed properties, they’ve made tables out of a battle between plants and zombies, a ridiculous number of Marvel heroes, Star Wars showdowns and more. Now they’re ready to visit a small, snowy town in the mountains of Colorado, which just so happens to be the home of a handful of foul-mouthed fourth graders. But can a duo of pinball tables based on South Park provide the same caliber of entertainment present in the long-running show?

The simple answer is: Absolutely. This should come as no surprise to longtime fans of Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2, Zen Studios’ (same) games for various platforms including Xbox and PlayStation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, Android and more. They’ve been making virtual pinball tables for quite a few years now and, for the most part, they don’t really know how to miss the mark.

Most recently, Zen Studios’ licensed tables have included a Guardians of the Galaxy table crammed full of movie-quality action and a table based on the Telltale Game’s version of The Walking Dead, which is just as somber and provides just as many nail-biting decisions as the source material.

With the South Park pinball collection, Zen is offering up two more dynomo tables that are well worth the asking price ($2.99 for both), giving fans of the show and pin tables alike a one-two punch of silver ball goodness. Both tables are overflowing with references, dialogue and musical numbers taken directly from the show, recalling nearly 20 years’ worth of jokes, characters and events.

First up is the South Park: Super-Sweet Pinball table, which serves as an homage to the entire run of the show that began back in 1997. As I said above, the table is absolutely packed with references, including glimpses at Chef’s Love Shack, Mr. Garrison’s classroom and Randy Marsh’s ill-fated attempts to be a football coach, which happens to be placed on its own raised secondary play field.

Your skill shot will see you trying to pay Mr. Hanky a visit in the toilet, while the field itself is stuffed with toys aplenty. Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny are all present and accounted for, alongside their floppy-headed heroes, Terence and Phlip. This table features four ramps, leading into multi-colored rails that recall physical tables based on other hit cartoon shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Similarly, this is one of the more realistic Zen tables, as their collection often features toys, mechanics and physics that could only be recreated in a virtual setting. Most of the activity on-board would be right at home on a physical table, while animated characters constantly pop onto the field to carry out scenes from your current mission. A video screen at the back of the table also helps flesh out he tales, including a hunt for the notorious ManBearPig, run-ins with a psychotic bus driver and Cartman’s infamous anal probe.

South Park: Butters’ Very Own Pinball Game. Going into my review time with the tables, I only knew that the package would include two tables themed off of the show. My mind reeled with the possibilities, as a great table could probably be constructed focusing on any given episode.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) when Butters showed his grinning mug, inviting me to play his “Very own pinball game.” Butters’ table is a slower burn, which serves as a nice counter to the frantic action and insane aural assault that is the Super-Sweet Pinball table.

There are multiple wide-open lanes, aluminum foil covered bumpers and a spinner nestled into the back of the table, as well as snatches of familiar Butterisms triggered by various targets. This is all complemented by a smooth and peppy soundtrack that basically screams “Butters.”

While the Super-Sweet table is a scattershot of all things South Park, Butters’ table focuses on the titular character and his antics with the goths, the girls’ slumber party, Awesom-O and more. A secondary mini-table is triggered when Professor Chaos is summoned, allowing you to wage war against The Coon and his do-good minions.

Even after sinking several hours into these tables, you’ll continue to catch a bit of dialogue, a visual or a branch of a mission that makes you go, “Oh, hey, I remember that episode!” It’s clear that the Zen team understand what makes South Park so memorable, and they did their dambdest to insert as much of that as humanly possible into this pair of tables. Once again, they absolutely nailed it. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a few more creative ideas with the table mechanics and mission types, but that’s a relatively small complaint to level against two otherwise stellar pinball experiences.

This review based on a PlayStation 4 download copy of the content for Zen Pinball 2

Players: 1

Platforms: PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PC, Mac

Developer: Zen Studios

Publisher: Zen Studios

ESRB: Everyone


Ryan Winslett

Staff Writer for CinemaBlend.