Zen Pinball Review
Zen Pinball comes to the PSN and promises much. Can it deliver where so many have failed in the past?
Recently Zen Pinball has released a few tables and I have had the chance to get my hands on both the Ninja Gaiden and Earth Defense tables. Both of these tables continue to bring the quality I have enjoyed on El Dorado and Tesla, which is my main concern since the tables are purchased individually.
Ninja Gaiden goes all out to recreate a cool looking themed table and a slew of hidden passages and bonuses to find. Your ball takes the role of Ryu Hyabusa as he fights through ten levels of enemies and can even net you combo bonuses and boss battles. This table takes some time to get to know, especially because there is just so much to do, but once you know your overall goals getting past level 10 is an obvious challenge. This is by far the most complex and my personal favorite table on Zen Pinball so far.
Earth Defense is not based on a video game by any means and has this 1960s B-film "when martians attack" theme that was not only nostalgic but looks like a table that could exist. Your pinball is shot out of a tank instead of a traditional launch, which starts it off at a fast pace and if the ball is ever saved it is shot from a large robot that stands in the upper right hand corner of the table. From what I can tell the point is to stop the alien invasion by taking pop shots at the robot and preparing for a crazy multiball that has you racing the clock to do certain tasks. All in all the table has me hooked and for some reason each new game has netted me a higher score so far so I'm eager to keep playing and find out just how high I can go.
The Excalibur table brings a renaissance feel to Zen Pinball and reminds me of Williams Collection Medieval Madness. There are a few ramps, an interesting side mini game of joust and plenty of goals to achieve for high scores. While I must admit the aesthetic for this table sits as one of the better downloadables, the actual gameplay mechanics fall short. It seems that I can't go a single game without having my ball saved from a launch that I have no control over. There is a third flipper on the left hand side but it rarely gets used and unlike other tables doesn't prevent your ball from being lost if timed correctly. The main goal of the table and what to do is so confusing that sometimes I'm racking up a killer score and don't even know why whereas other times I'm feeling awesome and putting up very few points.
MARS seemed like just another table in a long list of updates for Zen Pinball, but the moment I began playing it I had to eat those words. MARS is a traditional table, much in the vein of El Dorado from the original release, and features what I think of as a much more "fair" style of play. Instead of secret passages you can never see or a cheap tunnel that's easy to enter and always has you losing your ball, MARS follows the criteria of actual pinball games. With exciting ramps, plenty of different p;laces to go and clear directions on every goal of the table I must say here and now that it is by far the best of the add-on tables. That doesn't mean it's easy or falls within the confines of an actual table that could exist in real life. There are moments during a multiball where the table enters zero gravity, and you wait with anticipation for where and when they may drop and begin play again on the table. If you get far enough to unlock the teleport stations, good luck keeping your ball in play long - it takes instant reflexes not unlike that of a twitch shooter. All in all, I was very impressed with the MARS table and have to recommend it as the first must buy download table.
Zen Pinball was purchased by the reviewer on PSN for $9.99. The downloadable tables were provided for review purposes and are on sale for $2.49 each on the PSN store.
Presentation is easy to use and quick to pick up but unfortunately some of the more complicated and custom options are buried or use odd controls to access.
Tables look and act real with individual lighting, various interconnected parts, and a sweet looking pinball.
Some of the audio and themes lack in comparison to their visual counterpart but all in all the sounds and music are decent. The ability to use the music on your PS3 is appreciated.
Zen Pinball creates an addicitive, but midly flawed, modern day digital pinball experience that fans are sure to enjoy.