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Jurassic Park comes to Zen Pinball with three tables in February

Virtual pinball’s maestros get a shot at the dino franchise on its 25th anniversary

Zen Studios
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The world of Jurassic Park and its dinosaurs are the next three tables coming to Pinball FX3, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the summer sci-fi blockbuster series — which gets a big sequel in June — and bringing the romping, stomping terror of giant lizards to the virtual pinball suite for the first time.

Launching Feb. 20 on every current console, PC and mobile, the trilogy comprises Jurassic Park Pinball, an adaptation of the 1993 original; Jurassic World Pinball, an homage to the 2015 flick that grossed $1 billion worldwide (fourth most all time); and Jurassic Park Pinball Mayhem, a wildcard table not attached to any movie that expands on the lore of the whole franchise.

It’s the second big cooperation between Zen Studios and Universal Pictures, following last summer’s Universal Classics series that put Zen in charge of Jaws, E.T. and Back to the Future. All three of those were faithful representations of big popcorn-movie hits. With Jurassic World Pinball and Jurassic Park Pinball Mayhem, however, Zen’s designers were given the keys to the dino park and encouraged to add their own ideas.

Zen’s development team in Budapest first approached the assignment tentatively. “The Mayhem table was a bit rough at first,” said Peter Gafl, the lead pinball designer at Zen. “Universal accepted the third or fourth design we gave them.”

Likewise, table designer Tom Crofts found that Universal saw the early concepts for Jurassic World Pinball as too conservative. Zen had permission to add its own flourishes to the series, instead of simply recreating big crowd-pleasing scenes (though Zen promises more than 40 of them in the other tables).

“When we started on the Jurassic World table, it was a very careful conversation,” Crofts said. “We started with a table where the player was a visitor coming to Jurassic World after the events of the movie. But after two weeks, they actually pushed us to use the license more.”

That manifests in things like a stegosaurus, which has made only brief cameos in the film series, taking on a big role in Jurassic World Mayhem as one of the big on-table actors, swatting and deflecting the ball with its spiked tail and challenging the threat of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Zen’s tables, wholly original to video games, have taken advantage of the means to put animatronic actors, wild scenery and elaborate sub-tables and mini-games on its playing space that otherwise would be impossible on a physical surface. In Jurassic Park Pinball, velociraptors swarm the table and intercept the ball before the flippers can get to it, for example. In Jurassic Park Pinball Mayhem, players will find themselves in a separate mini-table warding off a velociraptor attack to protect a triceratops, for example.

“The big thing for us was to get the interactions with dinosaurs into the table,” Crofts said, “rather than have these massive dinosaurs only on the side of the tables, we have the T-rex, we have Indominus Rex [a fictitious species cooked up for the movies] moving on the tables.”

Crofts and Gafl are veterans of table design for other big-time licenses, including the Marvel and Star Wars lines that have come to the Zen Pinball suite over the past decade. Zen Pinball upgraded to the Pinball FX3 suite that launched in September 2017. The new wrapper brought in extra modes of play, including a practice setting and other challenge modes, and tweaked the table physics for more realism. Jurassic Park makes it 73 tables available to the suite on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox One and mobile devices.

Zen Studios is at a point now where its licensed adaptations aren’t just boutique products like Ghost Rider or Ms. Splosion Man in its early days on Xbox Live Arcade eight years ago. It’s handled Marvel licenses since before the onset of that cinematic universe, broke through in 2013 with Star Wars Pinball, showing that it can be a trustworthy caretaker of Hollywood’s most valuable properties.

“I think Zen and Universal had Jurassic World Pinball in mind from the very beginning of the relationship,” Mel Kirk, Zen’s vice president of publishing, said. “It was just a matter of timing for the release. Synching up with the 25th anniversary and new film really makes sense for us as there is a lot of excitement out there for the Jurassic franchise.”

The studio still puts out original pinball concepts not beholden to anyone else’s licensing; in December, it published two new tables — Son of Zeus and Adventure Land, both free, as a celebration of Zen Pinball/Pinball FX’s 10th anniversary.

“Our teams come up with fantastic original ideas and our players really enjoy these,” Kirk said. “It’s also helpful to have original games as it allows our release schedule to have some flexibility in case the schedule changes with a licensed game.”

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