Zen Pinball 2

Totally Worth The Price Of Admission

Zen Pinball 2 flips us out!
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: September 5, 2012
You know what grinds my gears? The fact that XBOX owners spend all their time chortling behind my back, mocking me because Marvel Pinball was fully integrated into Zen's Pinball FX2 on that platform. They'd all gather around, comparing Wizard scores that encompassed over 20 tables, while I was left with a paltry 14 from which to forge my less excitingly named Team Score. My god, the agony!


I got the last laugh today though, as Zen Studios has brought the PS3 up to speed with the release of Zen Pinball 2, conjoining Marvel Pinball and Zen Pinball for the rest of time.

The first thing you need to know is that Zen Pinball 2 is free for everyone. The second thing you need to know is that Zen Pinball 2 doesn't come with any tables at all. There is a new table available as DLC (Plants vs. Zombies, which I'll cover in a bit), but otherwise you'll need some old tables to import into the new game if you want to do anything more than play demos (they do generously let you demo all 26 existing tables). The import system is pretty nice, since it scans your account for any tables you already own, then prompts you to download both updated versions for the PS3, and brand new Vita versions, free to anyone who already owned them on PS3. That means if you already had a nice collection on the PS3, you've already got Zen 2 and a nice collection on the Vita! All future purchases of content, either old or new, will all be cross-buy as well.

So if Zen Pinball 2 isn't really adding anything new (for now), what exactly IS it doing? Essentially, it's providing a shell to bring together all existing tables and add them into the social and multiplayer system Zen built with their last few releases. They've tweaked things a bit with that system, and they've also bulked up the online play options so you can have some good simultaneous action with your pals. Sadly, all your high scores and trophies don't import, so you'll be starting from scratch moving up the leaderboards again.

Zen Studios also says all the tables have been given some sort of "upgrade" for this release (hence them needing to be
downloaded again), and while I absolutely believe them, I couldn't really point you to any particular thing they changed. Maaaaaybe they looked a little bolder and brighter, but then again maybe I changed my TV settings. Whatever they did, they didn't take any of the fun out of the game!

So yeah, you might be pretty familiar with this stuff if you are a veteran of the series, but don't fret, there is still something new here for you in the form of Plants Vs. Zombies, the pinball table! As you might guess, the marriage of Popcap's brightly colored and whimsical mega-hit and Zen's bightly colored and whimsical design mantra work pretty damn well together.

The legions of PvZ fans will delight in seeing old friends like Crazy Eddie, Threepeater, and of course Traffic Cone Zombie making an appearance, and plenty of pinball table goals that are clever takes on the original gameplay. The feel of the table is squarely in the "traditional" motif, and except for a couple of the more complex events, you could see yourself playing this in a dusty corner of your local bowling alley or laundromat. Somehow I feel like we might see an Angry Birds table in our future...

Should you pick up Zen Pinball 2? Well, yeah, of course you should, it's free! If you already own tables, there is no reason not to upgrade them to this package (except that you will need new high scores) and if you haven't dipped your toe in, well, you can check out 26 different tables for free right now, and if you like them, $2.50 a table isn't that bad! Just know going in, this is more like a new skin for the franchise, and not any sort of great leap forward. But then, there isn't a whole lot of new areas to explore.

Don't forget, getting (or already owning) tables for either the PS3 or Vita version (which supports you rotating the Vita and playing with a vertical screen!) entitles you to the other, so if you own both platforms it really pays off!
The Verdict
7.5

It's tough to grade Zen Pinball 2. It's nice that they've brought all the tables under one roof, and the price can't be beat. Yet they've offered nothing new and it would have been nice to see a more robust tournament system in there.

8.0Graphics:

It seems like they cleaned up some of the older tables to match up with the newer stuff. The colors seem a bit brighter, and maybe even a bit too bright.

7.5Sound:

Most of licensed tables have voices that could pass for the original actors and memorable lines that seem to fit the characters. The music is pretty good too.

8.5Control:

I still maintain it feels just a slight bit laggy when you hit the flipper button. Otherwise, yeah, it controls great for pinball...

7.5Gameplay:

On the plus side, there are a LOT of tables to choose from at this point. Unfortunately, you've probably played them all a lot if you had any interest in them. Resetting the leaderboards gives you reasons to go after your friends again.