2old2play scored a review copy of Zen Pinball’s latest table(s): Super League Football for the PS4. Before you get your hopes up for getting to sack Peyton Manning with a silver ball, by football they mean soccer. I tried looking up what European’s call pinball, but apparently its just pinball.
The table runs $2.99 USD on consoles (you get to pick your team, but more on that later) or $1.99 USD for mobile and PC. I took it for a test drive on the Playstation 4 and tried out each team.
As with anything I get to review as an early adopter of next gen systems, I had to wait 45 minutes for system updates and downloading the game itself before I could actually play. I still don’t understand why my PC and XBox 360 are lightning fast over wireless for updates but PS4 and WiiU just can’t get it together. All of the machines are within a foot of each other on the same network. Is this some sort of net neutrality precursor in the video game industry?!
Can I actually play pinball now?!
Once installed the title screen music for Zen Pinball on the PS4 is pretty annoying.Annoying to the point where I hit mute while I was browsing menus and waiting for the rest of the tables to finish downloading. The Zen interface seems pretty much the same on the PS4 as on Android or the WiiU so nothing really new there. Just a front end to download whatever tables are available and change some settings.
Super League Football is technically only a single new table but you can buy different versions (basically skins) of it depending on your team preference. The gameplay is nearly identical no matter which club you pick. The differences are in aesthetics of the table like pictures of the current squad on the playfield , team logos on bumpers, and the mascot off to the side.
The clubs in the image below are available at launch and Zen is hoping to get more to sign on in the future.
Choosing a team sets your allegiance and gains points for you club in the online leaderboards. Sales of the specific table you chose are reported directly back to the clubs as well, for bragging rights. Or you can just play as Zen Studios if you don’t want to choose a side.
I played soccer in my youth and have even been to a World Cup game but never got into the league teams. Instead of phoning it in and talking about “ludicrous displays” IT Crowd style, I checked in with my Scottish friend that actually follows soccer (because I am a real journalist unlike most “news” channel hosts) about which tables to check out. He confirmed that the problem with Arsenal is that that they always try and walk into the net. Then said something about Liverpool being tosser chihuahuas and the Italian league being corrupt. Also that Real Madrid has Ronaldo, currently the best player (and highest paid according to wikipedia) in the league. I was sad to find he was not the same Ronaldo I knew when I actually followed soccer nor is he Coach Z in the latest Homestar Runner Dangeresque film.
Since “research” did not help me pick a favorite table, I went with who has the coolest mascot. Any team with the creepy soccer head guy is immediately off the list (I’m looking at your Liverpool and Real Madrid). I was between AC Milan’s devil or AC Roma’s wolf. Final edge wolf as I can’t resist anything with cute googly eyes. The Zen table gets a bonus shout out for a sheep mascot and replacing the players with a bunch of pasty white guys who I assume are the development team. FC Barcelona gets honorable mention for least annoying club anthem.
Even if you don’t really care about the soccer theme its still a pretty cool table with a lot of interesting things going on. Zen likened it to a “modern version” of Midway’s 1994 physical pinball table World Cup soccer:
World Cup Soccer (Midway 1994), is one of the greatest pinball tables ever created, and we have long been thinking about creating a modern day version football pinball table that would capture the essence of the game in today’s climate, include the biggest clubs and players, and create an exciting level of competition that makes club football so entertaining. Working with the biggest clubs in the world and involving players like Lionel Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, Gerard Piqué, Francesco Totti, and Andrea Pirlo, really takes this pinball experience to another level.
World Cup Soccer is a fun table and would get my ultimate vote for best mascot with Striker but these tables are a good modern virtual substitute.
Play the stupid game already!
The tables have the usual ramps, bumpers, and targets you’d expect in a pin. The ball actually looks like a soccer ball instead of the normal silver. It makes it a lot easier to see when there is spin on the ball as its speeding toward you and fits nicely in the overall theme.
The really interesting part of this game is the mini playfield. It simulates a goal complete with goalie and defenders which you can decrease the number of by hitting a series of target and ramp shots.
The ball launch animation is a virtual player kicking the ball up the ramp. Being a pinball purist I don’t really like it when virtual tables do something there’s no way you could do on a physical table so I wasn’t really a fan of that mechanic. Plus the novelty wears off after like the first two balls. #thatswhatshesaid
A somewhat unique feature I did like is the table has extra flippers in the outlanes where you can take a sort of corner kick for a last minute save. I apparently have cat like reflexes when it drains down the left side but I don’t think I ever made a recovery if it was draining right.
The audio for the table simulates the din of the crowd as if you were at a real soccer match. Sounds cool in theory but is pretty annoying in practice. Thankfully they did at least spare us anyone in the crowd having Vuvuzelas or I probably would have had to play with mute on. Each team does have its own anthem playing in the ambient noise as well. There seem to be different modes in the game and sometime it focus on the crowd noise and other times it plays the anthem. Both are equally annoying. The commentating also seems extra repetitive but maybe that’s because my greatest pinball skill is hitting precisely the same shot over and over again which is usually the exact opposite of the real shot I’m aiming for. I must have heard the multi-ball comment “Its almost like there’s two balls on the pitch” about a bazillion times after playing for a few hours.
If you get halfway decent at a table, there is also a game within the game where you are actually playing matches in a season against other clubs as you play. If you can manage not to lose all three of your balls in the allotted time of the match you win or lose your match with your opponent depending on who scored more goals. Matches are set in two halves with halftime multiball session in between the two.
At the end of regulation if you lost all your balls, you see if you won your match and you’ll move on to another week of play. There are 10 matches against 5 different teams in a season and different teams have varying degrees of difficulty as opponents.
I did find you can hack your way into getting through a game by just catching the ball on a flipper and holding it till the clock runs out. I feel like they should have added a cheat rule for that that would tilt if you tried to hold on a flipper for say longer than 30 seconds.
Final Pin Spin
The table is fun even if you could care less about soccer but overall I’d say you can wait for a discount.The gameplay is solid but ultimately the sounds drove me crazy. I do however give Zen props for mixing up their target audience with this as a departure from their recent Superhero and Sci Fi tables. It's not terrible but I’ve liked a lot of their other tables better.