It had to happen really – not content with wowing us with their stunning Star Wars and Marvel tables, Zen Studios stunned everyone with their announcement that they were taking a little trip to a small American town for their latest licensed tables for Zen Pinball 2… a town that many gamers were going to be familiar with that had a few rather well-known children amongst its residents… that town is South Park!
Unlike some of their more recent releases, South Park Pinball is a pack containing two tables based on the controversial animated series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The first, South Park: Super-Sweet Pinball, is based on some of the more popular episodes from the show’s earlier seasons while the second, South Park: Butters’ Very Own Pinball Game, sees the focus switch to Butters Scotch as he becomes the hero of the table as he sets out to save Imaginationland…
It’s clear from the outset that this set has been crafted with an incredible amount of care and attention to detail by a team who absolutely adore South Park. From the smallest detail in the table graphics to the wide variety of carefully chosen soundclips taken from the TV show itself, the game screams South Park from start to finish and it’s impossible to fault when it comes to being a worthy licensed title. All too often, games based on popular franchises take existing games and tag on characters and situations for the sake of making a quick buck but that’s certainly not the case here. Everything about South Park is fully integrated into every inch of the table – giving each of the game modes a genuinely progressive story, all of the sound and on-table animation, making for an experience that IS South Park.
Unlike many of their recent releases, Zen Studios opted to release both South Park tables as a single package and this certainly makes it a more attractive proposition for fans from the outset and represents far greater value for money than two individually-priced releases . Despite both using the same source material, each table takes a different approach to the use of the license with South Park: Super-Sweet Pinball looking to the earlier episodes of the show for its inspiration. The main focus of the table centres around the key characters of Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman and Chef and some of the more popular episodes centred on them from the series’ fledgling years. Launching the ball at the characters on the table several times in succession will trigger sound clips from said episodes as well as video clips on the dot-matrix display building up to the climax of each “episode”. Also scattered around the table are other well know aspects from the show including the school bus, Terrance and Phillip (using elements from the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut) and many more. The continual sound clips only serve to add to the atmosphere throughout as do the fabulous table graphics, subtle animations on the characters and billboard on the table’s back display. Frankly, it’s one of the best uses of a license I have seen and it brought more than a few memories back from the show and put plenty of smiles on my face throughout the game making it a real delight to play.
In contrast, South Park: Butters’ Very Own Pinball Game seemed to be a real let-down but in part this may be more down to my own interest in the show rather than the table itself and this is where the big problem lies for South Park Pinball… I used to be an avid viewer of South Park every week and looked forward to each new episode eagerly for the first six or seven seasons but then something changed. The show took some jokes a bit too far and some – for me at least – crossed the line in terms of what I felt was and wasn’t acceptable. As such, I stopped watching the series so anything from that point in the show is pretty much lost on me in terms of characters, plotlines or any other references beyond the basics that I was already familiar with and that made this table difficult to get my head around at times.
The format is pretty much the same as the first in the pack but this time focuses predominantly on a single character, Butters Stotch. The innocent friend of the show’s regulars, but hiding a darker alter-ego, you have to help Butters uses his dark side (Professor Chaos) to steal a Future Telling Device from a sleepover being held by some of the girls in your class at the elementary school. Through the use of various ramps you can change Butters into various costumes and characters he has used in the series which trigger on-table game modes but I’ll be honest and say that I really struggled with this one. While it was fun as a pinball table, the continual references to TV episodes that I simply didn’t “get” and repetitive one-liners made for a table that grated rather than entertained and I soon found myself returning to the first table in the pack instead.
I can’t deny that overall this is another fantastic table set from the incredibly talented crew at Zen Studios and kudos to them for resisting the opportunity to sell each table separately and milking their South Park license and instead offering gamers as much value for money as possible. While both tables are up to the usually high standards that we have come to expect with Zen Pinball 2, unfortunately I do have to say that they are perhaps too closely connected associated to the source material to appeal to everyone. South Park fans will relish the constant references and excerpts from classic episodes and gags littered throughout but it will leave others feeling somewhat bewildered and wondering just what is going on.
So here rests my real concern for the pack. Do you love South Park? If you’re a hardcore fan and have been enjoying the show since the early days right up to the present series then this is a pack that you won’t want to miss. Otherwise this is a set that is going to split gamers right down the middle – if you are a South Park afficionado then you simply must get this pack as it’s undeniably one of the best South Park games ever released but if you have no interest in the show whatsoever then it’s a pack that you really should try before you buy as the chances are that it won’t be a set you’ll enjoy. Personally, I struggled with one of the tables as a former viewer and didn’t get as much out of this as I had expected to so I honestly can’t see this appealing beyond it’s core demographic. Ultimately, this is a a great South Park pack, but a decidedly average pinball one.
At A Glance
- Title: Zen Pinball 2 – South Park Pinball
- Publisher: Zen Studios
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: Yes (PS3 / PS4)
- Cross Save: No (Shared leaderboards)
- Online Multiplayer: Yes (PS Vita only)
- Local Multiplayer: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: