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Published on September 28th, 2012 | by Chris Ramirez, Editor

Zen Pinball 2: PlayStation 3 Review

Developer: Zen Studios
Platform: PlayStation Network
MSRP: $2.99 individual tables – $9.99 table packs
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2012

Review Notes: A code was received for review purposes.

Pinball machines are timeless. Often they are elegantly themed from our favorite games, television shows and movies. There is something about the simple mechanics, yet often frustrating difficulty, that makes us continue to feed pinball machines with precious quarters.

Many attempts have been made to successfully recreate the pinball experience onto gaming consoles. These attempts have often failed to faithfully recreate the pinball experience due to the lack of slipperiness of the tables and inaccurate characteristics of the ball and physics engine. The pinball will often show no variety in speed, automatically go into ramps and react inappropriately with a flipper hit, leading to an easy and boring experience. To enhance the experience, developers of such pinball games have added things outside the physical realm.

Many console pinball games included special power-ups and mini games that would eliminate all hopes of having an authentic experience. This all changed when Zen Studios released Zen Pinball back in 2008.

Zen Pinball introduced mechanics allowing gamers to experiences pinball as if they were playing an actual table. With each new table and update release Zen Studios strives to accurately recreate the fun and difficulty of a physical pinball machine. With the release of Zen Pinball 2, Zen Studios has created a perfect marriage of accurate pinball machine experience, with beautifully incorporating digital enhancements.

You might be asking, did Zen pull it off with its latest pinball title?

In a way, yes. Zen Studios accurately recreates the physics and weight of the ball giving players an authentic experience. The ball will change in speed based on the timing of the hit and will not go onto ramps if not hit hard or accurately enough. The tables are designed against you, as are actual pinball machines. The goal of the table is to avoid getting the ball down the drain.

Zen Studios’ authenticity even goes as far as creating allies on the table where the ball automatically zooms straight down the drain. Yes, those allies are frustrating, but it is the same type of frustration experienced from an actual pinball machine when the same thing happens. As with an actual machine, skills are needed to avoid these allies while hitting targets and ramps to rack up the points. In addition to the obstacles, each table has a small LCD screen that shows animations, top scores, and current missions in vintage black and green pixel glory.

Control the flippers with the left (LB or L1) and right (RB or R1) bumpers. Configuring the controls onto the bumpers instead of the triggers furthers its authenticity. Each press feels accurate when trying to do timed hits. A table tilt feature can be activated by hitting the left analog stick for those purest pinball players.

The full pinball experience is coupled by great online features. Local and online stats for each table are neatly presented in the main menu. Highlight the table and use the right analog stick to cycle through the different leaderboards. Mix in co-op split screen, pass-the-controller, and online multiplayer modes, and you have a complete and wonderful single player and multiplayer experience.

Zen Pinball 2 has tables available for everyone to enjoy. There are 26 tables currently available. If this is not your first Zen Pinball experience, then you will be happy to know Zen Pinball 2 is backwards compatible with the other Zen Pinball tables you have purchased.

The game automatically detected my previous Marvel Pinball purchase and asked me to download the Zen Pinball 2 upgrades of the tables. Even better, my download list also included full version ports to the PlayStation Vita. The tables available range from generic, to pop culture themes. For the sake of review, we were offered PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies table and Marvel’s Avengers Chroniclestable pack.

PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies, in this editor’s opinion, is the best table Zen Pinball 2 has to offer. Plants vs. Zombies and pinball have a natural fit. The table is full of targets, ramps and objects. The targets in this case are the plants. Hit the target to activate challenges, which involve things like plant defenses. Zombies will appear on your table and you have to make sure that you hit them with your “seed” ball.

These obstacles also appear with equipment and armor as seen in PopCap’s PvZ. The stronger the equipment, the more times you have to hit them. Bonus rounds include surviving a horde of zombies drenched in fog, being able to hit moving zombies with a watermelon shooter and multi-ball rounds to rack up the points. These are just to name in some out of the many experienced.

The detail of this table is extraordinary. Every reference is fitting and enjoyable. Include an authentic soundtrack and you’re left wondering why this is not an actual pinball machine. This is an excellent table you would expect to see in your local pizza parlor or arcade.

Marvel’s Avenger Chronicles Pack

Marvel’s Avenger Chronicles Pack includes four tables: The Avengers, World War Hulk, Fear Itself and The Infinity Gauntlet.

These tables are only available if you purchase the entire pack and rightfully so. The amount of detail, objectives, challenges, ramps, and targets seen from the individually purchasable tables are what you would expect to see in an actual pinball machine. The tables available in the pack feel simplified. They feel much smaller and not as elaborate as the individual tables. Considering individual tables are priced at $2.99, and the pack of four tables at $9.99, smaller and simpler tables are forgivable since your are basically receiving the tables at $1.99 each.

Each of the four table is themed after an important event in the Avenger’s story line. The two tables that are easily persuasive of a purchase are The Avengers and The Infinity Gauntlet.

Sadly, these two tables have the simplest design. Each offer uniquely different power ups and perks–The Avengers table allows you to pick what Avenger ball you want to play with and the different gems on The Infinity Gauntlet activate different effects on the ball–however you will find yourself shooting for the same ramps over and over again.

The other two tables, World War Hulk and Fear Itself, are smaller tables, but are filled with ramps and animations. These tables will appeal to The Hulk and Thor fans. The Avenger Chronicles Pack will leave you switching between tables to see which table you enjoy the most and often you will just stick with that one.

Final Truth:

Zen Pinball 2 is a great addition to any game library. With accurate weight and physics from an actual pinball table, there is no need to continue to waste quarters at your local arcade or pizza parlor.

The button configurations are perfectly mapped onto the controller to further give you an authentic experience. With 26 tables available, there is something for everyone. Add online leaderboards and offline and online multiplayer to further complete the package. Enjoy a table for as low as $2.99, or get four less elaborate tables for $9.99 for both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Either way, you will lose yourself playing Zen Pinball 2.

The game is truly a zen experience.

[xrr label=”Rating: 9.0/10″ rating=9.0/10]

+ Graphics and style
+ Authentic experience
+ Powerups and tweaks
+ Multiplayer
– Tables can very detailed

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About the Author

HI! I am fanatic of all things gaming from cabinet, cartridge, disc, to digital distribution. I am the Editor with an emphasis on family and indie games. I collect toys, figures, and Pops! and enjoy taking photos of my collection and more. Visit my Instagram @CheckPointChris. Subscribe on my Facebook under Chris Ramirez, follow me on Twitter and Twitch @CheckpointChris.

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