Back in 2011, I wrote an article detailing the five Pinball FX tables I’d like to see. They were Star Wars, a Western theme, splatter horror, the Cold War, and Bioshock. Zen Studios must have been paying attention, because nearly half of those tables came out shortly thereafter! You’re welcome, world.
Really, it’s more than half, since there are about twenty Star Wars tables. The Western themed table, Wild West Rampage, is one of my favorites. Although they aren’t technically splatter horror, the Alien, Aliens vs Predator, Doom, and Walking Dead tables are horror enough for me. Which leaves the Bioshock and Cold War tables yet to be realized, so maybe they’re still working on those. Since Zen has already worked with Bethesda, I’ll accept a Prey table instead of a Bioshock table.
But a lot has happened since 2011. Pinball FX has come a long way. So it’s time for me to do my part in continuing to make it better. You’re welcome, world.
The Cold War
I’m repeating my request from 2011. C’mon, we just had that Ken Burns thing about Vietnam. We’re about to start keeping B-52s airborne again. Russia is the Big Bad all over again. Now, more than ever, the Cold War should be a hot topic again. Let’s have a pinball table with nuclear arsenal counters, proxy war mission modes for different countries, espionage sub-tables, Cuban Missile Crisis multiballs, Berlin Wall drop targets, and a mushroom cloud on the LED display when the game is over. Okay, some of those might be kind of dumb. But if a fanciful tower defense game like Toy Soldiers can have a whole Cold War standalone game, Pinball FX can at least have one Cold War table.
The setting would be Los Angeles in the 30s or 40s. A detective solves different mysteries, resolves blackmails, gets done in by the femme fatale. Fedoras, cigarettes, dames, murder. Paranormal has a detective theme, but it’s more Kojak and X-Files than noir. So how about a super stylized black-and-white movie presentation of pinball? In fact, that’s the gimmick: a table without the usual lurid colors. I dare you, Zen, to make a black-and-white table.
The Solar System
After more than a decade in space, the Cassini probe just fell into Saturn, on purpose. Curiosity has been sending us cool pictures of its new home on Mars, where we hope to send a manned mission in the not-too-distant future. A moon colony might be the first step on that voyage. And, hey, what’s going on under Venus’ dense atmosphere? We still don’t know if there are dinosaurs down there, do we? What’s hiding in the secret oceans under the surface of Europa? How do you pronounce Kuiper? So many questions and possibilities in our solar system. We have a nifty Mars table, but the exploration of space deserves a table with a grander scale!
I understand cooking shows are hot. There are entire series about dudes just making food, right? Why not a table about preparing food for a fancy restaurant. If coin-op arcades can have Burger Time, why can’t Pinball FX have Kitchen Time? Okay, this one might be a dumb idea, but an article called “9 things missing from Pinball FX3” makes no sense.
A Specific City
How about a table dedicated to exploring the landmarks in a specific city? A city with tons of personality, visual panache, and unique culture. Tokyo, New York, Paris, or London! I’d request Los Angeles, but I presume it’s going to get plenty of attention in the Noir table. So let’s go with Tokyo, which is already kind of like a pinball machine writ large.
Survival games are all the rage in videogaming. Collect wood and stone to craft an axe to chop down a tree to build a workbench to assemble a trap to ensnare a rabbit to cook on a fire to restore your health. Eventually, you’ll need to make a spear to fight the dinosaurs or zombies or whatever. One day, you’ll have a whole fort. If Zen wanted to be particularly sadistic, they could use the idea of a persistent table to really drive home the survival angle. Each time you play, you get that much closer to starving to death and having your progress reset. So make sure to collect food, find fresh water, and eventually cultivate crops. Survivalball!
Why in the name of Arkham is there not a Lovecraft table? Everybody’s doing it, Zen! Get in on the action already. A sanity meter has to be maintained, otherwise some crazy tricks kick in like the flipped gravity in the Infinity Stones table. Elder signs light up the kickback lanes. Hit the Miskatonic University hole to unlock different forbidden books to use during missions to defeat different elder gods. Tentacles grab the balls. Byakhee fly them around. Mi-go lock them in brain jars. Under the main surface of the table is a hidden R’lyeh area. This stuff writes itself. Now just put it on a table. I don’t understand how any game goes on as long as Pinball FX without embracing Lovecraft like everyone else who makes games.
So there are a couple of ways this could go. One would be managing global environmental catastrophes. Bo-ring! But what about flipping the script and playing as a vengeful Mother Nature trying to wipe human life off the earth? Sort of like Plague Inc, where you engineer a virus to wipe out humanity. Values accumulate for a depleted ozone layer, carbon emissions, global warming, fracking damage, extinct species, and so on. Eventually, unlock missions for hurricanes, volcanoes, droughts, earthquakes, and tsunamis as special modes to kill people and wipe out infrastructure. Basically, Populous, but with an environmental angle instead of a religious angle. In poor taste? Provocative? Prophetic? Fallout from my unwise decision to see Geostorm?
A Rock Band
Not the game, of course. But the idea of a rock band on tour. St. Louis, are you ready to rock? We’re here to rock your pants off, Des Moines! Grand Forks, do you want to rock and roll? That sort of thing. In the olden days, there was a Kiss table by Stern, so maybe there’s some venerable rock band willing to license its name and music to Zen Pinball. Maybe Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, or Foreigner. Is Stryper still around? Okay, on second thought, this should be a hypothetical rock band. Maybe a garage band touring in the drummer’s mom’s van. I’ll leave it to Zen to work out the particulars.
Colonizing the New World
Here’s an opportunity to capture the imaginations of strategy gamers taking a break from our turn-based grognardery. Give me a table about discovering and colonizing the New World. Like the Rome table, but 2000 years later and the other side of the ocean. A table about sending out explorers, and then founding a colony. Cultivating the land, exporting tobacco and sugar. Making nice with the natives. Eventually revolting against oppressive taxation, perhaps declaring independence as an overall goal. You know, stuff that strategy gamers, history nerds, and neocolonists would get into.
Rick and Morty
Licenses would be cool, but they’re mainly a matter of business decisions instead of creative impulses. I mean, yeah, plenty of people would like a Game of Thrones table, a Harry Potter table, a Fast and Furious table, a Warhammer table, a Starcraft table, or a Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets table. But, really, that’s up to the folks who control the IP. There’s no point making a list that will come down to your favorite licensed properties.
However, there is one IP that demands its own pinball tables, licensing complications be damned! I don’t care what it takes, but I want a Rick and Morty table. All those other goofy cartoon shows have tables. South Park, Archer, that hamburger one, and something else I’ve never even heard of so I only played the table once to register a high score real quick. Rick and Morty deserves a place at that table. A table at that table, if you will.
What’s more, let’s make sure to get series creator Justin Roiland as involved as he was with the Rick and Morty VR game, which is bog standard adventure gaming with out-of-this-world writing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Zen Studio’s Epic Quest, it’s that the loot hole will fuck you every time. Every time! But if there are two things I’ve learned from Epic Quest, it’s that the loot hole will fuck you every time and that genuinely funny writing is still funny no matter how many times you hear it. “Bat country! Let’s stop here!” is great, but I’m sure Roiland could do better. Throw money at him, Zen, until he relents and gives the world what it needs now, more than ever: a Rick and Morty Pinball FX table.