Review: Knight Rider is the standout among Pinball FX’s new Universal TV tables

pinball fx universal tv pack

If there’s one thing Zen Studios’ Pinball FX does extremely well is using nostalgia to boost their table popularity, and the newest pack based around some of Universal’s most popular TV brands is no exception. Featuring tables for Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica, and Xena: Warrior Princess, there’s something to please three generations of TV viewers in it.

The standout out of the bunch has got to be Knight Rider: it’s everything a fan of the show could hope for in pinball form. The music, sound effects, and missions are all authentic and ripped straight from the show. Its theme song, a very 1980s synch-based tune, remains extremely catchy and doesn’t get old as you bump and blip your way through the table’s missions, all based on some of the show’s most popular episodes and characters.

I was particularly happy with how close Zen got to replicating KITT’s voice as well. Unfortunately, they were not able to secure William Daniels’ performance, given that he’s close to 100 and likely long retired, but his replacement sounds pretty darn close, and is just as if not even more of a jokester. And it’s a good thing that voice is so well cared for in this table since it’s what constantly drives the game forward as you advance through its considerable list of activities.

Much like other licensed tables, famous names like Hasselhoff likely weren’t approached for likeness rights, but for what this table is aiming for, it’s not that bad of an omission, and to be fair, the guy they got to play him for the little that there is for his lines, sounds okay enough. Everything else about this table’s presentation, though, is fantastic and as someone who grew up watching it’s definitely a morphine rush getting to play something related to it that’s actually good.

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Fly, KITT!

Difficulty-wise, Knight Rider feels like more of an entry-level table than your usual run-of-the-mill Pinball FX offerings and even a scrub like myself was able to get some high scores with a few attempts in. That, however, can’t be said about the rest of the pack, as Xena’s in particular happened to put a damper on my pinball wizard career.

Based on the now ‘oldie’ show produced in New Zealand and headed by Lucy Lawless, it’s a table that follows the studios’ playbook of fantasy-themed pinball, offering a level-based table experience that not only adds up the more you play, but also multiplies your score the more you play and keep the ball alive. In terms of design, it initially feels like a more straightforward table, but it hides its depth and starts showing it the longer you keep the ball going. I liked that aspect of it and was surprised to see it considering that Pinball FX was previously going for a more by the book approach with their Star Trek tables from last time.

Xena’s table, however, is less focused on delivering on nostalgia since there’s not a whole lot of samples that sound anything like the show, and aside from the visual flair, you’re not getting the same level of rose-colored nostalgia as with Knight Rider. And frankly, I’m okay with that trade off given that the gameplay is complex and layered in this one, which is to say that it’s something I will be coming back to and trying to learn its ins and outs more later on.

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Battlestar Galactica’s table is moody, but the objectives are so so…

The last out of the three is Battlestar Galactica, and it’s a mix of the previous two in terms of balancing presentation and challenge. Representing the show’s cast is Admiral Adama, and his voice work in this is close enough to Edward James Olmos’ performance to not be noticeably different. The missions mirror some of the action that took place in the show under a more generic guise, without trying to go for any specific episodes like Knight Rider.

You’ll be having your usual space-themed quests in a similar fashion to Zen’s Star Wars tables from Pinball FX’s colorful back catalog, such as having to man turbo laser guns and shooting down bogeys to rescuing others during Psylon attacks, and that variety helps the gameplay remain fast and dirty. Still, it’s a little disappointing that some of the show’s themes weren’t explored as well as Knight Rider’s, making this, much like Xena, feel a little generic, a safe bet design-wise that doesn’t really pop from among the rest of the now 100+ table offerings for the game.

With this new pack, Zen Studios has obviously played it safer than they usually do with Pinball FX tables. Granted, as a fan of the source material, I certainly got what I wanted nostalgically, much like I did with Pinball M’s initial run and The Thing, but differently from that, I don’t think the staying power here is as strong as it was for that release given the more generic approach taken for 2/3s of Universal TV. For your buck, though, the tables here all look and play fine, fitting well within the game’s ever-growing offerings. 

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