You know how it is, you wait for a Pinball game then two come along at once.
Whilst The Pinball Arcade does a fine job of recreating real world tables, the team behind Zen Pinball took a different approach. This is more of a videogame pinball experience, but by no means does it offer up any less, nor any more of said experience.
By not handcuffing themselves to already existing tables, Zen Pinball 2 can do a lot more and offer up a lot of extra variation. The tables on offer as still as varied, but they are based on various licences that aren’t immediately pinball related. Tables are influenced by licenses from Marvel, Star Wars and more.
It isn’t just licenses that matter, as there are also a few tables that are created from scratch and given their own theme. Like The Pinball Arcade, you can get the base game and can add tables at your leisure. If you have owned any of the tables on the PS3 or Vita versions of the game, then you get a free upgrade to the PS4 version, which is a stunning deal, fans will have an immediate library from the very get go.
Because this is more of a videogame experience, the tables do play and react differently to those in The Pinball Arcade, they also look a lot closer to computer generated graphics, but that is fine. There is a lot more going on with each table, using some creative licence to add some extra effects. Characters that appear initially to be part of the table can move around freely, even coming away from the table completely, moving to another section, etc.
It works though, you are drawn in and goals you need to complete are easier to spot, thanks to these added animations. Spotting that you need to do something to cause a reaction from a character on the Blade table for example will cause a visible reaction that is more than simply lights and sounds.
Zen Pinball 2 is also a much more social experience, as you get real time feedback on how your scores compare to friends, or even you own. You get visual clues as to how close you are to achieving something, such as a countdown to a certain score, whether that be a friends, you weekly best, personal best and more. It makes this a much less lonely affair and the integration is sublime.
It isn’t just while you are playing either that the game tries to reward or tease you. After you finish a session you are given a list of score updates, that include your score for that session, adding that to a bunch of additional multipliers, that can be for the amount of tables played, the amount of friends you beat, that sort of thing. It tempts you into going back again and again.
Whilst the table list is mainly filled with Marvel and Star Wars, the variety in the tables is impressive, each one has its own unique feel and does require a different approach. You never feel like you are playing the same table with simply a different skin, which again really does mean the developers need credit here.
There is also the option to play tables in 3D and whilst for the most part 3D is a needless gimmick, it does wonders for some of the tables in the release packs. The feeling of depth is amazing and really does allow you to judge the positioning and speed of a ball better than you can in 2D. It is a better experience for the 3D and it is not often that can be said.
Hopefully there will be more tables released periodically, because, as a platform Zen Pinball 2 is wonderful. It is a frankly sublime overall package and an example of how to make worthwhile DLC. It could have been so much easier to charge a base price for the game, then bring out a sequel down the line with new tables, but being able to add new tables on a semu regular basis is so much better here. You are happy to pay a much smaller price per table than having to pay out all in one go.
Zen Pinball 2 is the game for the more casual fan, but pinball enthusiasts will also have a great time, despite the physics not quite being 100% realistic. The buttery smooth 60fps in 1080p also does wonders for the experience and this is the best version of a Zen made pinball game yet.