Zen Pinball 2 is an outstanding virtual pinball platform
Zen Pinball 2 (ZP2) is a slightly different release then what we usually see on PSN. Instead of a new group of tables to play, ZP2 combines past tables from the original Zen Pinball, Marvel Pinball, and all of the DLC and makes them available in one game. While having all your tables in one spot isn’t something that will get a lot of people excited, the fact that the game is available for free and imports all your old Zen Studios pinball purchases should.
While you may have played almost all the tables offered in ZP2 before, this is the first time they are playable on the Vita. Besides just bringing the tables over the already great physics engine has been updated. The ball behaves as real as ever acting how you expect them to when hitting off of bumpers and going up orbits but still allows for the physics defying craziness that Zen Pinball is known for. The graphics have also been given a once over and the bright colors really look great on the Vita’s screen. For the trophy lovers out there the game also brings new trophies, offering two for each table to collect. While I love having new trophies to strive for I was disappointed when I looked a little closer and found that they were just renamed trophies from the original games.
ZP2 once again offers a good selection of eight different views to choose from, so you can usually always find one that works best for you. But even with the best view there are still times that I found it hard to pick out the layout on some of the tables, especially when it came to objects on different height levels overlapping each other. Though having the game on the Vita gives you one more choice that helps solve that problem: the ability to play in portrait mode. By turning the Vita on its side at any time the game automatically switches to portrait mode giving you a fuller view of the table that makes it quite easier to pick out the table features and wording. The only problem I found with this is that unless you want to hold the system awkwardly to use the buttons to control the flippers you need to use either the front touch screen or back touch pad to use them. While both of these touch methods work, I personally don’t find them as responsive as physical buttons and it can lead to situations of accidentally flicking the flippers when you don’t mean to.
Zen Studios does a great job of making it all about getting high scores and besting your friends on the leaderboards. While playing you will get notifications on how close you are to beating a friend’s table score or setting a new personal best. You are rewarded a #1 medal when you get the top score out of your friends on a table so you can quickly see which tables you are reigning over your friends on. Besides your table scores there is also Pro Score which takes in account all of the scores you have set on the tables you own, which is a great way to check out who out of your friends is the pinball champion. There is also a Team Score which adds the Pro Scores of everyone on your friends list which is a nice incentive to have more ZP2 players on your friends list to boast your Pro Score and also new opponents to compete with. Since social media is all the rage these days Facebook support has also been added for posting scores which is a nice way to announce to the world your accomplishments. For those which only have Wi-Fi Vita’s you also don’t have to worry about having a great run and then it just sitting in your local scores because you happened to be out of Wi-Fi range. Your highest obtained local score is uploaded to the leaderboards automatically the next time you are playing ZP2 logged in, though it would have been nice if it kept local copies of your friend’s high scores so you have a score to gun for when playing offline.
Besides score chasing on the leaderboards the game also supports local and online multiplayer. Local hot-seat mode allows you to play with up to 4 players passing the Vita back and forth after every ball with the person having the highest score after all balls are drained wins. Online multiplayer is also up to four players but you have unlimited balls with a score percentage penalty subtracted for each ball lost with either a race to a certain score or a time limit. While these modes can be fun and are a nice addition to have I don’t really find them that compelling since no scores are saved, and by the looks of games being hosted I am not the only one. The game also contains support for Tournaments but none are available at launch.
The base game of ZP2 is free and like I mentioned above all of the tables you have already purchased for Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball can be imported and played for no additional cost. For fans of Zen Pinball since the beginning this is a great value to have tables that have been purchased in the past updated and playable in one location. For those who are just jumping on the bandwagon now the game offers demos for the 26 tables that allows you to play each for a couple of minutes. There are 27 tables all together, but the ZP2 version of the Fantastic Four Table will be released at a later time. Though no scores will be saved during these demos and it’s unlikely you will actually make it to your second ball, they give you a good overview of the table and its great having hands-on experience when deciding whether or not to purchase. While all the tables do carry over from past purchases your scores however do not. While I personally didn’t have any extremely high scores, this could be disappointing for someone who spent a lot of time with these tables in the past.
One of my complaints with Marvel Pinball was with the table guides. While each guide did a good job of describing the main features of the table, they were just blocks of text. Because of this it could at times be difficult to understand exactly what part of the table they were talking about. In ZP2 this issue is no more with each section of the table guide showing an animated view of the table section and using red arrows to point out what the text is pertaining to. While you will still pick up most of your knowledge by playing it’s nice to be able to quickly check how to get an extra ball or start a table mission.
Zen Pinball 2 is a unique entry on PSN. Offering the download for free and giving players the ability to import tables from purchased games/DLC is a great value for long time players. The game is also a great “purchase” for new players presenting all of Zen Studios tables in one location with the ability to pick and choose what you want to buy. While some tables, like those contained in the original Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball, are only available in packs you can easily download and start playing with only purchasing a table or two and get plenty of enjoyment out of the game for less than $10. The Zen Pinball gameplay has also transitioned to the Vita wonderfully to the point where I prefer to play on the Vita then the PS3.With updated graphics, physics, and more tables coming in the future Zen Pinball 2 is an outstanding virtual pinball platform.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
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What I Dislike:
Release Date:September 2012
Price:Free download (tables cost $2.49-$9.99)
Players:1-4 (Local OR Online)
Demo:Yes (for each table)