Super League Football Pinball Review – PC/Steam & PlayStation 4

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Zen Studios continues to flesh out their pinball library with their next batch of tables and this time there are no Marvel superheroes or Star Wars characters in sight.  Taking a big chance on America’s growing love for soccer – or perhaps their pinball game is a bigger international hit than I thought – Zen tackles the sport of soccer (the other football) with their latest release of Super League Football Pinball.

The interesting thing about this release is that while there are eight new tables being released they all feature the same architectural design; their only difference being that each table is “skinned” with team specific colors, theme songs, chants, player images, and even mascots.  While the collector in me demands I must own them all, for most players you’ll probably only want to pick up one or two favorite teams, assuming you have a favorite team and that team is part of the included roster.  Arsenal, Liverpool FC, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid C.F., A.C. Milan, Juventus Football Club, and A.S. Roma are all represented in authentic fashion and if you don’t have a favorite team or they aren’t part of this line-up you can always go with the Zen Studios FC; a fictional team with pics of the various developers used in place of players.

Aside from the occasional game of FIFA I have no knowledge or love of soccer, but I do love a good pinball game and for me, Super League Football is a return to a more “realistic” pinball game; one without all the “virtual stuff” going on around the table.  Basically, this table just isn’t as “busy” as those other fantasy designs, so I can spend my time actually working the ball.  The only non-pinball distractions are the 3D mascot and kicker or serves as your ball launcher, and they stay out of the way of the main game.

Consulting the Table Guide (something I rarely do) you’ll find that the designers have actually worked some soccer rules and concepts into the game of pinball right down to having a clock.  You’ll complete passes to slowly remove defenders from the upper deck, so when you do finally get the ball into this mini-section of the table it will hopefully be easier to score.

The table feels really good with great angles on the various ramps, some fun wire chutes, and side drains that are nearly impossible to fall into, but when you do there are special flippers that give you a one-shot chance to tackle the ball back into play through the wire trap door.  Multi-ball sessions seem to occur a lot more frequently than other tables, but they can end just as quickly, and I loved the upper deck game that reminded me of a half-court foosball table.  Trying to get that ball past the defenders and into the net were some of the best and memorable moments of the game.

Perhaps my favorite feature is the actual ball design, which has traded the traditional polished steel look for a black and white checkered design that can be quite hypnotic with the proper spin.  I’m not sure if the designers actually modeled the ball to respond like leather and air, but almost everybody in the office who tried the game thought the ball action was a bit more sluggish compared to other tables using a steel ball.  You still hear a metallic click when balls strike each other during multi-ball, so I’m not sure.

For those who decide to get more than one team table there are some unique oddities.  From the main table menu you’ll pick Super League Football and from the next menu you can choose your team.  Team scores are tallied separately on club-specific leaderboards while all eight tables share a singular pinball high score table for the player.  There are also achievements and trophies to be earned and these are prominently displayed in a cool trophy case right on the table. But if you want to switch teams you have to back all the way out to the main table menu then go back into the SLF menu to pick a new team.

Since I have no team bias I approached my review for each table based purely on the color scheme and was surprised to find that some designs were easier on the eyes and thus easier to play.   For instance, the Juventus table is mostly black and white which makes it incredibly easy to lose track of the ball.  The colored flippers on Barcelona and Liverpool blended into the lane art making it harder to time my flippers while Madrid, Milan, and the Zen FC tables really popped for me.  And regardless of whatever table you play, you need to at least zoom out and play one game from the highest camera angle to appreciate all the subtle art and design elements going on around the tables.   Mascots dance around, the animated crowds cheer and chant and the 3D player model on the right who kicks the ball into play looks better than the players on FIFA 14 on Xbox One.

I’ve played all eight tables on both the PC and PS4 and there are no discernible differences in gameplay or quality.   The graphics and framerate are exceptional on both platforms as is the sound design.  The only real difference is that the DualShock 4 seems a bit more responsive for the flippers than an Xbox 360 controller on the PC, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with either platform.

Since there is no bundle for this new set of eight team-centric tables I’m guessing Zen Studios expect fans to pick their favorite team(s) and start their own soccer rivalry using the pinball leaderboards.  Considering the physical design and gameplay is identical across all eight tables the only thing you need to consider is team loyalty, and if you don’t have a favorite team then go with a color scheme that’s easy on the eyes because this is one expansion table that you’ll be spending hours with discovering all the hidden elements and boosting those high scores.

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