South Park Pinball is the latest in the ever-increasing number of DLC tables for Zen Studios’ long-running Pinball series. The game itself is called Zen Pinball 2 on Sony platforms and Pinball FX 2 everywhere else, though both are essentially the same, and both offer a large assortment of original table creations, many of which are based on licensed themes, such as Star Wars, Marvel super heroes, The Walking Dead, and more. Now, the developers are adding South Park to that list, with a new pack containing two different tables.
Both tables come packed with a ton of references to the show, taken from episodes old and new. Stan kissing Wendy, Cartman being visited by aliens, Randy teaching Sarcastaball, the boys building a ladder to heaven, and Kyle being visited by Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo represent just some of the events referenced by the first table alone. Older characters who no longer appear on the show also turn up, such as Chef and Ms. Crabtree the bus driver.
In a fun design choice, there’s even a picture frame at the top of the screen that changes to show you an image from reference episodes, and at times you’ll even be able to see the characters animate along with the voice samples that play throughout the game. I have to say, Cartman singing the Cheesy Poofs song is pretty sweet you guys. There’s also a target in the middle of the screen that counts how many South Park episodes you’ve “watched,” as each time you hit the target, it counts as you “watching” an episode of the show. If you watch all 247 episodes in one game, you apparently get a massive amount of points. It would have been great if the episode target was tied to the screen at the top, and you saw a picture from a random episode each time you hit the target, but that’s sadly not the case.
About the only well-known character that doesn’t appear on the main South Park table is Butters, and that’s because he’s been given his very own table in this pinball double feature. Remember the time when Butters and the guys thought the girls had access to a device that could see into the future, so Butters dressed up as a girl to infiltrate their slumber party? Or how about the time that Cartman tried to trick Butters by pretending to be a robot named Awesom-O? And do you remember when the boys all bought real ninja weapons? Those are just some of the moments you can look forward to revisiting on Butters’ table, which does a great job of capturing a moment or two from many popular episodes featuring the character. There’s even a separate mini-table devoted to Butters’ alter ego, the devious mastermind known as Professor Chaos. Butters fans should definitely be pleased with what’s here.
Less pleased will be fans who go in expecting a level of twisted humor equal to the show itself. South Park is a series that is famous for its offensive humor, which frequently pushes the boundaries of basic cable, and that sort of “Due to its content, this program shouldn’t be viewed by anyone” material is nowhere to be seen or heard. About the most offensive South Park Pinball gets is the Mr. Hankey-themed multiball, which turns your silver sphere into three round balls of poo. Oh, and there’s some flatulence from Terrance and Phillip. Sorry to dash your dreams of feeding Scott Tenorman his chilli in pinball form, but this is essentially a PG rated outing.
It’s totally understandable, too. It would be crazy to expect the developer to create M-rated DLC for an E-rated game, and both tables do a good job reminding you of some pretty outrageous episodes. The voice work is solid, and quotes from each character were nicely selected, but you can’t have too many voice samples in a game like this. I never got sick of the voice samples, but they didn’t continue to surprise me for very long either. I also didn’t notice any original voice work, which was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been nice to have heard Cartman screaming at me to “Get the extra ball,” or whatever.
Based on my past experiences with Zen Studio’s table creations, I’ve come to the conclusion that some of their tables can fall on some fairly unfortunate ends of the difficulty scale. I’ve played tables where it was way too easy to keep a ball alive, or way too hard to keep a ball from constantly flying down the outlanes. Thankfully, both tables in South Park Pinball strike a nice balance between being too easy and too hard, and keep things entertaining and mostly fair. Usually when I lost a ball, it was due to a mistake on my part, or the rare unlucky bounce after a nice run.
If you’re a South Park fan who is now intrigued, you should know there’s currently a free trial version for each table on Zen Pinball 2/Pinball FX 2 that lets you play the game until you reach a specific score. After that, you’ll either have to pay for the table itself, or start the trial over. It’s a nice way to try before you buy, and can give you a good indication of how each table plays before you spend any money. Some versions of the game – such as the PS4 version that this review covers – even include a completely free table to play as much as you want, so there’s no reason to pass on the experience altogether.
If you want some original, humorous, and appropriately offensive South Park content in video game form, you should probably take a look at The Stick of Truth. That said, if you want a couple of darn good pinball tables that do a great job reminding you of just why you love South Park in the first place, South Park Pinball is an easy add-on to recommend.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us.
South Park Pinball offers two smartly designed tables that were obviously crafted by people who care about the source material. Unless someone feels that they absolutely require the bold and often crass humor of the show itself, I can't imagine any fan of the show being disappointed with what's being offered here.