Pinball FX2 Review
Pinball FX2 is not really a game itself, but rather a pinball portal that's a free download. Once you have Pinball FX2 downloaded you can add tables to your collection, some of which are available individually and some only in multi-table packs. ZEN Studios has been making pinball games for some time now, releasing the original Pinball FX for XBLA in 2007 and ZEN Pinball for PSN in 2009, and they pretty much have pinball physics nailed. I've played all three of their pinball releases and they are probably the closest thing I've seen to playing the silver ball on a TV screen, and the pinball physics are as good as they've ever been in Pinball FX 2. The ball feels like it has real weight to it, and the degree of control that the game gives you over the ball when it's on the flippers is phenomenal.
With a strong physics engine already in place, Pinball FX 2 directs most of its new effort into transforming the solitary exercise of videogame pinball into a far more social experience. The table selection screen doubles as a game lobby, and includes a status screen that lets you know which of your friends are currently playing, which tables you have in common, and who has the best score on each. In addition to your high scores on each table, the game also tracks a "super score" and a "wizard score". The super score is an aggregate score based on the number of millions of points you've accumulated over the tables that you own. The wizard score is a factor of the number of tables that you own and the number of friends that you have who also own the game, so it's more of a way to motivate you to buy more tables and convince your friends to do so as well more than anything else. The social aspects of the game extend into the pinball action as well – pop-up messages let you know when you're closing in on a friend's high score or when you've increased your super score. And of course you can play against your friends directly when they're online as long as you both own the same table.
The tables available for the original Pinball FX are available as a four pack for Pinball FX2, or you can import the tables if you already own Pinball FX. The four tables in this collection include Speed Machine, Xtreme, Agents, and Buccaneer. These tables are more traditional in the sense that they resemble the kind of machines you'd find in the real world. Speed Machine and Xtreme are rather straight-forward tables and as such aren't all that interesting, but Agents and Buccaneer add missions that you'll have to work to initiate and complete and are more engaging than the other two. The all-new tables created for the launch of Pinball FX 2 come in a four pack as well: Biolab, Secrets of the Deep, Pasha, and Rome. The first has a mad scientist's lab theme, the second a SeaLab theme, the third is based on the Arabian Nights tales, and the last on the Roman Empire. These four tables all include elements that would probably be pretty difficult to pull off on a real machine, but the mission-based gameplay and plenty to shoot for, combined with some great artwork, make this one a strong collection of tables. The other tables available at launch are purchasable on an individual basis, and include tables previously only available for ZEN Pinball on the PS3. These tables run the gamut from more traditional tables to those that would be impossible to recreate in an actual pinball machine. You can demo any of the tables available for Pinball FX 2 before purchase, though, so you don't have to put down your Microsoft Points and simply hope that the table you get will prove to be enjoyable to you.
All tables share the same menu system which is one of the more visually interesting that you'll find in a downloadable title, resembling the surface of a pinball table. Before you jump into a game you can read up on the bonus modes and missions for the table, check out high scores, and the like. Each table includes an animated LED-style backboard in a movable, sizable window that is used for animated sequences and to convey game information as you play. There are several camera angles and zoom levels for each table that you can select from on the fly as you play, and you can also take time before playing to tour the table and familiarize yourself with the layout.
The social aspects of Pinball FX 2 are a good addition to the series, but what really make the game are the enjoyable tables and excellent ball physics. Anyone who enjoys a game of pinball now and then can't go wrong with Pinball FX 2.
Final Rating: 90%. Pinball doesn't get any better than this without an actual silver ball.