ZEN Pinball Review
I've always had a soft spot for pinball, and even though in recent years finding a machine has become an increasingly rarer event I still carry a torch for the silver ball. However, when it comes to videogame adaptations of pinball more often than not I've been, well, less than enamored. Thus it was with some trepidation that I sat down to give Zen Pinball a spin, but to my pleasant surprise I found myself enjoying the game. Nothing will ever replace the feel of a real table, but as far as videogame adaptations of pinball go, Zen Pinball is definitely worth taking for a spin.
Zen Pinball includes four original tables, each with its own theme and style. V12 has a muscle car theme and appropriately enough plays faster than any of the other tables. El Dorado has an Indiana Jones lost temple kind of vibe to it and plenty of elevated tracks and secret "passageways". Shaman has a deep jungle, black magic feel and features spinners that add a little unpredictability to the ball's motion. Lastly, Tesla is filled with steam and electricity and features numerous mechanical features that manipulate the ball and its path. All tables are "target rich environments" with plenty to shoot for and numerous objectives and progressions to achieve, and mini bonus tables lying hidden beneath or above the main tables. There's a lot to do on each table, but luckily the game provides notes on each table to give you an idea of what you're shooting for on each one. In some nice final touches that will be appreciated by those who enjoy the real thing, each table has an LED-style backboard graphics screen that can be sized and positioned on the screen, and all the tables come with all the of the types of sounds that are music to the ears of pinball aficionados.
The tables all look really nice, with colorful and sharp graphics. The game also gives you the option of several views of the action that can be switched on the fly, as well as a free-look mode that lets you scan the table while pausing the action. Ball physics are pretty realistic, and it's possible to work the flippers in a way that's a close approximation of the real thing. There's a bump mechanism tied to the left stick but it's not of all that much use because the tilt sensor will start to get antsy at every little bump you give the table. I also have a minor complaint with the launcher in that it's pretty much an all or nothing launcher without fine control over how far back you pull the launcher. Overall, though, Zen Pinball does a great job of simulating the real thing and you'll never feel that the ball is doing something that defies the law of physics.
The game is playable in multiplayer, either locally in the traditional everybody-takes-turns style for up to four players or online in a speed mode. The online mode are basically timed races to set the highest score with an unlimited number of balls and the game promises to also offer periodic online tournaments for this mode. The online mode can be fun, but I still prefer the traditional mano a pelota play of the single player mode. Overall online integration is extensive, with leaderboard support that includes a live scrolling ticker letting the world know when a gamer has just knocked out an epic round. There's also some interesting stat-tracking that goes beyond high scores, including your best point-per-minute output. All of this is wrapped in a colorful and stylized interface that has the look and feel of a pinball table. Anyone who enjoys pinball will probably be very happy with Zen Pinball and should definitely take the game for a spin.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 88%. This one's worth dropping some quarters into.