Review: Universal Classics Pinball – Fight a Shark With Balls of Steel


Releasing alongside Pinball FX3 is the first of three new tables from the archives of Universal classic films. As I have always stated in all my previous pinball table reviews, Zen Studios really does know how to make good use of a license and transform the expericence on to a pinball table. Just like before they have come up trumps yet again with these well known films. The movies the tables are based on are Back to the Future, Jaws and E.T. Each of the tables have a uniqueness about them with three different playfields on offer. You can also check out our review of the Pinball FX3 platform here. Time to polish those balls of steel and get flipping as we take on these new tables.

The first table I played was the Back to the Future table and I can say that this is by far my favourite out of all three. This table takes you through all six time periods from across the three movies and when you start it up you can chose what period you would like to start. You will have three main modes then three hurry up modes and finally a mini-wizard mode. While the play area doesn’t change the table pop up targets do depending on the time period. You can certainly rack up some seriously high scores on this table.

Zen Studios are certainly getting much better with their table designs with this one packing in so much movie content. The table artwork is very striking with the clock tower and DeLorean taking centre stage. The items on the table include the Flux Capacitor, Marty, Doc and the actual DeLorean car sitting in one of the lanes. There is five lanes in total along with two ramps leading up to the Flux Capacitor. Sitting around the table you will see the diner, the cars electronic date display and the actual clock tower with the cables running on to the table. There is also the box of plutonium as well as the cars wheels as bumpers. Sitting at the back of the table is a screen that will display screens and locations from the franchise. The table itself is sitting in a diner along with a Hover board resting beside it. Graphical effects include flame trails as well as seeing the car travel in time.

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The Back to the Future table also plays great and a lot of the modes are fairly easy to start, which is great if you are new to the Pinball FX experience. There is still some challenging moments but with a little practice you will be fine. The game has three multi-ball modes on offer which are Flux Multi-ball, Outatime Multi-ball and Skate Multi-ball. With Skate multi-ball the ball rides on the Hoverboard and the Outatime will give the balls flame trails which just looks outstanding. This is in my view one of the best pinball tables Zen Studios has designed. There is nothing to not like about it, it is just a shame that there is no video mode. I’m not sure if it is just me but Doc didn’t sound exactly like he did in the films although Marty sounds identical.

The next table in the play list was the Jaws table and boy did I have high expectations for this table. The film has to be one of my all time favourites and I am glad that they only based the table on the first and not any of the sequels. This table focusses mainly on Quint and the shark although the table modes cover the key moments throughout the film. I didn’t know that those shiny balls of steel where are great shark repellent.

The table design and playfield is much different from the table above with a much more open table. There is only two ramps and two lanes. One lane goes underneath and around the Orca while the other runs round the top of the table. Jaws himself takes centre stage in the play area artwork, with the jaw bone that you see Quint boiling in the move sitting between the two flippers. The table itself is situated on Quints boat identifiable with the machete and oxygen tanks at each side. There are three pop up rails in where the sharks fin pops up depending on the table mode. At the top of the table you see the open see as well as Jaws just waiting to eat you up. Other items include the town hall, the beach area, the lighthouse and even the shark cage. On the table you will see Quint standing proud in the Orca as well Jaws and the red metal Boys acting as bumpers.

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This table has a much slower pace than that of the Back to the Future table and even the E.T table. With such an open play area your placement skills will be put to the test. What I like about this table is that the main modes are split between Quint and Jaws. In one game mode I was attacking Jaws who appears just right off centre. In one of the Jaws main modes I had to evade Quint who was tracking me with the yellow barrels. Then there is another mode where the table sways left to right so I hope you are not sea sick. The left kickback in this table is quite interesting as once lit you need to get the timing right or the ball will drain. Overall after a few goes I am liking this table and I have to give kudos to the sound effects on this table since I could picture where and when in the film it came from.

This then brings us to the third and final table in a trip through the Universal classics. Now I have to say that I’m not that much of a fan of E.T but that didn’t stop me having a blast on Zen Studios pinball recreation of the film. This is why I love Pinball FX so much because you don’t need to know or have seen the franchise the tables are based on to have fun. This table is situated right on the doorstep of Elliot’s house.

Once again the team have done a great job with the use of the licence and they have crammed so much on to the table. There is certainly a lot more going on with this table with five lanes, two ramps and a couple of sink holes. In the tables artwork E.T and his spaceship take centre stage, as well as a nice clear moonlit night. At the top of the table and along the sides you will see the Forrest as well as Elliot’s bike. His room is situated left and right of the flippers. On table items include Elliot, E.T and his spaceship with is a target to start the main mission modes. The ramps on the table are in the form of roads which is a nice touch.

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This table plays very smooth with everything just gelling together perfectly. There is certainly scope for getting some great high scores and plenty of combos. The table missions take key moments from the movie including the famous bike ride. One of the modes I love is the candy collecting where pieces of candy appear in the lanes. If you fail any of the main modes you can save yourself by hitting the flashing lane which is great for those just starting off in pinball. This is the only table in the pack to have a video mode although at the time of writing I was unable to activate it. Although I’m not a fan of the film I still really enjoyed playing on this table.

The Good Things

  • Tables based on three very popular Universal classic films.
  • Getting this pack is worth it for the Back to the Future table alone.
  • Great use of the licensed material.

And The Bad

  • Only the E.T table has a video mode.
  • Doc on the BTTF table doesn’t sound exactly like he did in the films, might just be me though.

My Verdict…

    The Universal Classics Pinball pack has been a great choice as the first three new tables released for Pinball FX3. The Back to the Future table is not just awesome to play, but the table design and effects is just pure visual gold. All three tables offer up something different and are easy enough for beginners as well as testing pinball veterans on their accuracy skills. The amount of detail on all three tables is spectacular and I was able to recollect the exact moments in each of the films to what was happening on the playfield. I would have loved it if the Jaws and BTTF table had a video mode.

A great choice of tables to release along side Pinball FX3 and excellent use of the source material.

About no1phil

no1phil
PR Manager & Editor for XLC Gaming Network. I have been gaming since the ZX Spectrum days growing up through many generations of consoles. A bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to gaming genres. When I'm not either being shot at, dancing, scoring for the other team or racing I am trying to become a guitar God with Rocksmith 2014.