Zen Pinball 2 PS3 Review

Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/zen_pinball_2/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Developer Zen Studios -- the creators of Zen Pinball -- has a passion for arcade pinball machines, which shines through with every digital table they create. Starting out with just four tables, they quickly added a collection of unique tables to their lineup including Marvel, Ninja Gaiden, and Street Fighter themes. They recently added to the collection and even released a new version of their beloved game, titled Zen Pinball 2.

The Real Deal

Zen Pinball 2 is an entirely different concept as it isn't a new game, but rather a platform to house all of your pinball tables. This includes the original tables released in the first Zen Pinball, and any DLC you purchased as well. Unfortunately your high scores -- and trophies -- won't transfer over, but you'll get an opportunity to start fresh. There are "new" trophies to earn, though the only change I noticed were the names.

The community features have expanded a bit to include Facebook support if you care to share your high scores. Unfortunately this didn't work too well for me as it didn't include my name (only an error) or the full score (half was cut off), and only linked back to an ad for the game. The other community features made up for it though, and included high scores of your friends to beat as well as personal scores. Also new tables can be demoed prior to making a purchase, which is a pretty slick feature in itself.

The game supports transferring between the Sony Vita and the PS3. I personally do not own a Vita, so can't comment on whether it works well or not. However, it is being touted as a main feature of Zen Pinball 2 and is worth checking out for folks interested in taking their game on the go.

Gameplay

Though times have changed and the game has moved into the digital age, gameplay on Zen Pinball 2 closely follows the arcade relics. The rules are fairly simple: a ball is shot onto the playing field, and the player must use flippers to stop the ball from entering the chute at the bottom of the table. The true primary objective is to keep the ball in play for as long as possible while racking up a high score.

Each table has its own theme as well as secondary objectives to perform. This ranges from hitting specific targets, ramps, or dropping the ball into a hole. Doing these things will increase bonus multipliers, earn extra balls, and sometimes unlock new objectives. 

Even though the basic game is the same, there's quite a bit more freedom on the digital tables vs. the physical pinball machines. Here you'll find 3D action taking place, such as Silver Surfer riding his board across the table or The Hulk battling Wolverine right over the playing field. This greatly helps to keep pinball fresh and fun, though if you don't care for all the flash, the classic Zen Pinball tables offer a more authentic experience.

Plants Vs. Zombies

The newest table to enter the fray is based on the popular tower defense game Plants Vs. Zombies. A breakout game on its own, many have applauded the gameplay and unique theme which has even prompted a sequel. Zen Studios stayed true to the overall theme, bringing a colorful table with a nice clean layout.

Once again you're the homeowner and you assist the plants in fending off the home from a zombie invasion. This is all led by the evil Dr. Zomboss, who sits atop a mechanical zombie near the top of the table. Beating him is the name of the game, and is accomplished by fending off invading zombie hordes, racking up massive combos, and playing various mini-games.

One of the cooler aspects of the Plants Vs. Zombies table is the 3D effects. Zombies "rise" from the table and slowly march towards your flippers. During one particular event, fog rolls in and covers up half of the table while the zombies lurch through it. The effects are excellent and I have to admit I absolutely love this table, which is clearly evident by my 205 million point run I recently made.

Graphics and Sound

I really enjoyed the original Zen Pinball. The graphics were sharp and mimicked the feel of playing on a real table, but without the scratched and dirty glass obstructing your view. In Zen Pinball 2, the old tables were cleaned up with a nice coat of polish which helps to extend their life. The new tables also exhibit the same quality, and are very crisp.

All of the pinball sounds are captured and reproduced faithfully. From the sounds of the bumpers to the mechanical snaps of the flippers, everything is presented to look and sound like you're playing on an old table. Even the ball rolling down the playing field sounds as if it's on wood. The only thing missing is the sound of the balls smacking the glass when shot too hard.

The other sounds which accompany the tables depend heavily on the theme. For instance, playing on the Avengers table nets you cool sound bytes of Iron Man using his rocket boosters, or Captain America rallying behind his team. Likewise, on the World War Hulk table you'll hear a pissed off Hulk threaten to beat the crap out of all the super heroes who shot him into space, and zombies calling for brains on the Plants Vs. Zombies table.

What I enjoyed the most about the sounds though is the music which accompanies each table is subtle. This allows for the natural sounds of the pinball table to shine through. While it's true many tables had music playing in the arcades, they were usually hard to hear anyway if the arcade was busy enough. Therefore I always focused more on the mechanical sounds, something which Zen Pinball 2 accurately captures, transporting me back to my old arcade haunts, and giving me a great sense of nostalgia while playing.

Final Thoughts

My only real issue with Zen Pinball 2 is the lack of variety. The table themes are largely dominated by the Marvel Universe, and even though I do enjoy Marvel Characters, I quickly grew tired of having over half the tables centered on the same theme. There are still open slots for future expansion, so hopefully Zen Studios will branch out and create something fresh. The Plants Vs. Zombies table is a great start.

Regardless of the Marvel saturation, Zen Pinball as a whole is incredibly addictive. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys pinball and is anxious to unlock their inner Pinball Wizard.

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