Universal Pinball TV Classics (Pinball FX) Switch Review

Universal Pinball Classics (Screenshots: Alex Kidman)

The Universal Pinball TV Classics pack for Pinball FX mixes TV decades and styles – with some tables working markedly better than others.

Pros Cons
Battlestar Galactica plus Knight Rider plus Xena is a nice combination Switch version of Pinball FX is predictably slow to load
Authentic music and some voice samples… … but some sound-a-likes are pretty poor
Nails that “one more go” factor nicely Pity you can’t buy the tables individually

Score: 3.5/5


Do modern pinball tables rest on their mechanics or their themes? While it’s not the intent of the Universal Pinball TV Classics DLC pack for Pinball FX to specifically answer than question, playing through its selection of three tables covering the 80s, 90s and early 2000s TV landscape has made me seriously ponder that precise question.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Universal Pinball TV Classics pack comprises three tables, covering Knight Rider, Xena: Warrior Princess and Battlestar Galactica – the newer 2000s era version, not the 70s original, to be clear. It’s using the established and generally decent Pinball FX engine that I’ve discussed before when reviewing the Godzilla vs Kong pack and Star Trek: The Next Generation tables.

As such, most of the mechanical aspects – features like arcade play, or play with powerups, or play with a single ball or even a limited number of flipper hits – are all present and correct, as are online leaderboards, and I won’t comment on those here.

I’ve reviewed the Switch version in both handheld and docked modes, and all the standard observations about performance for Pinball FX apply here, but maybe not to other platforms such as the PS5 or PC versions. Switch Pinball FX is quite slow to load, and the drop in visual quality if you do go portable is noticeable, though not unbearable.

Also, and this feels obvious, but it’s pinball, and I can accept that pinball can be divisive; if you like it, you probably like it a lot, and if you don’t, you probably find it boring at best. I’m not going to change your mind on that if that’s so, but if it wasn’t obvious, I’m something of a fan.

Knight Rider Pinball

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Knight Rider

I am 100% of an age where Knight Rider was a big show in my youth – which is the polite-to-myself way of saying I’m quite old now.

Knight Rider’s big appeal back in the day was in the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) car, and to a lesser extent (if that’s your kind of thing) the appeal of a young David Hasslehoff.

The Knight Rider table is a relatively simple affair, and in some ways that’s quite appropriate for an 80s-era table, because outside of its interactive elements, where KITT jumps up to a roadway at the top of the table to battle show-appropriate foes such as KARR and Goliath, it all sounds and looks like it could have come from a table of that era.

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Knight Rider

Lots of drop targets and 80’s era sounds? Check.

Which is a bit of a problem for me, because I do find tables of that era a little harder to get enthusiastic about, with a stronger focus on gameplay mechanics like drop targets and a big empty main playfield. I know that style has its fans, but I’m not one of them, because I find it breaks up the flow of gameplay a lot.

Knight Rider features voice clips from the show – or at least if that’s a Hasslehoff impersonator, it’s a bloody good one – but also specific KITT audio via what I’m pretty sure is a soundalike.

Or perhaps it’s original KITT voice actor William Daniels sounding a little off, though he is 97 so I guess if that’s true I should cut him some slack.

My money’s on the soundalike though, and it’s easily the worst part of the game’s soundscape. Because while the board layout doesn’t thrill me as much as (spoiler) the other tables do, the sound otherwise is excellent. It turns out that the classic Knight Rider theme is excellent pinball music. Have a listen to this and you’ll see what I mean:

That’s a theme that deserves an excellent pinball table. Knight Rider is… merely OK.

Also read:
Retro Game Of The Week: Knight Rider Special

Xena Warrior Princess Pinball

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Xena Warrior Princess Pinball

Xena’s history in video games has… well, let’s face it, it’s not been particularly good, especially for such an iconic 90s series. I’ve actually got the PS1 game, and it’s OK, but nothing special. Other Xena games are often to be found on plenty of “worst games” lists, and not without reason.

Xena Warrior Princess Pinball goes a long way to rectifying that problem, delivering Lucy Lawless’ hero the game she truly deserves. It’s built around a pair of spinning ramps (stop sniggering in the back there, they’re Xena’s Chakram) that are fun to aim for and deliver a nicely emerging set of challenges to build up high scores.

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Xena Warrior Princess

Xena Warrior Princess Pinball manages to balance simple achievements with harder to get modes wonderfully.

Xena Warrior Princess pinball is also the closest of all three tables in the Universal Pinball TV Classics to being a “realistic” table that could be achieved in real life, though some of the pop-up targets would be a pain to maintain, and you’d have to replace the animated Xena in the middle of the playfield with a static toy.

Sound is spot-on with a wealth of what I’m 99.9% sure are all just show quotes; they have a slightly different audio timbre to other in-game sounds and there’s nothing that I’ve hit so far that appears to have been specifically recorded for the game.

It’s been a while since I’ve revisited Xena for watching for some time, but even within the limits of a pinball engine, it does a superb job of recreating the show’s energetic mix of action and tongue-in-cheek humour… and naturally, the emerging relationship between Xena and Gabrielle that was the lynchpin of the show’s overall charm.

Xena Warrior Princess is easily the best of the three tables in the pack, with a great (albeit fast) gameplay loop that matches wonderfully with its theme – and I really do wish it was a genuine real world table!

Battlestar Galactica Pinball

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Battlestar Galactica

OK, I’d better don my patented Internet-Flame-Proof armour now.

Bear with me a second, the shoulder straps on this thing are tricky.

Nearly done… there we go.

I know so many sci-fi fans who are utterly enamoured with Ronald D. Moore’s 2004 version of Battlestar Galactica… and I could never quite get into it.

I did try, and it never quite hooked me the way it did so many of my friends.

That makes getting excited about a pinball version just that little bit trickier, which brings me back to my opening point about the mix between themes and designs and which is better.

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Battlestar Galactica

Everything’s gone red. That’s… good… right?

I’d be happy to hear people’s thoughts on this, because the reality for Battlestar Galactica pinball is that it is pretty good; a nicely balanced and fast table with enough achievable shots mixed in with trickier challenges to keep me at least broadly interested in what’s going on, even if I’m not getting the kind of resonance that a “true fan” of the show might.

As such, I also can’t entirely tell you if it’s using show audio or sound-a-likes, though again I have suspicions it’s the latter based on the differing audio quality of the samples used in this specific game.

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Battlestar Galactica

The action stations mini-game – more or less missile command with pinball flippers – isn’t a super-strong game in its own right, but then switching up to something that used more controls would feel quite discordant, so it’s appropriate enough.

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Alex’s Verdict

Universal Pinball TV Classics: Xena Warrior Princess

Play Xena. It is your fate.

I have mixed feelings about the Universal Pinball TV Classics pack, largely because of the mixed quality of the tables and indeed the themes.

In all honesty, if I’d been able to purchase tables individually, I would probably have picked up Xena and Knight Rider, because I know and like those shows, but not Battlestar Galactica… but then I would have ended up with the weakest table (Knight Rider) of the three rather than one of the better Pinball FX tables I’ve played of late.

Any DLC for Pinball FX is obviously going to be of interest primarily to pinball fans, but that balance between themes and playfield remains. On that balance, the Universal Pinball TV Classics is decent value at its asking price; while I’m only really keen on two out of the three tables, as a mixed set they’ve definitely got enough appeal to be worthwhile.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spend some time with a certain Warrior Princess…

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This review was produced using a copy of the Universal Pinball TV Classics DLC… that I paid my own hard earned money for. I did mention being a pinball fan, right?

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