Pinball FX 2: Zen Classics Review

zenclassicspinballfx2
What we liked:
+ Nice variety of tables
+ Updated graphics, physics, and social integration
What we didn't like:
- Simpler, less exciting tables
- Not every table is a winner
- Static camera makes ball hard to follow
Rating
7.0
Good
DEVELOPER: Zen Studios   |   PUBLISHER: Zen Studios   |   RELEASE: 12/12/2012

Review
Sometimes classic just means old.

Virtual pinball has seemingly been everywhere over the past few years, but maybe it hasn’t achieved the degree of pervasiveness that you might think. Zen Studios has been releasing quality pinball tables on a number of different platforms, but some of them are essentially the same game with different names based on the platform or table loadout. A bit of the platform exclusivity seems to have melted away however, and now we have the Zen Classic table pack available for Pinball FX2 on Xbox Live, with four tables that originated in Zen Pinball and more recently were found upgraded in Zen Pinball 2. This classic table pack, including the Zen Pinball 2 upgrades, finally arrives on Xbox Live for your enjoyment.

Included in the Classics Pack are the four previously released tables: Tesla, El Dorado, Shaman and V12. The quality varies, but they share a few common traits. Classic is one way to describe the included tables, but old and dated is another, perhaps more appropriate way of looking at them.

Tesla
Tesla is the best table in the bunch. Along with the beautiful, wood paneled look and unique focus on the famous turn of the century inventor, there are interesting mechanics at work through which you can power up some of the inventions. The overall feel is very much steampunk, with moving parts, pipes and gears, as well as steam and electrical bursts emanating from the various contraptions. This table looks and plays well, and I’d love one in my apartment.

El Dorado
El Dorado is the city of gold. My first thought was that it should be called the Indiana Jones or Nathan Drake table. With the included gold and Mayan tablets and statues, you might expect someone to swoop in and pilfer them. El Dorado is an easy place to rack up points due to the elevated, open-mouthed relic that practically spits points out at you. However, other than that, there’s not much to do. The layout is straightforward, with little to activate, but all of these tables are on the simplistic end of the spectrum compared to the rest of the available tables in Pinball FX2.

Shaman
Shaman is a vividly colorful table, with wooden planks as ball ramps, and tribal drums and tiki huts as table decor. It’s another simple layout, where depositing the ball under the drummer activates “storms,” which rack up points. The ball save seems to always be active, extending the games and scoring opportunities on this table. Boasting six total flippers, including a small upper set for an exciting minigame, this table offers a fair amount of activity that you can see immediately, without being too visually overwhelming.

V12
This is, hands down, my least favorite of the included tables, V12 focuses on the American muscle car. It is thematically tight but abrasive, with very little that excited me. For some reason, I was unable to achieve any solid scores, with my average coming in 1/5 to 1/10 of my usual scores. Also, it’s hard to track the ball with the amount of chrome and flashing lights, which is one thing that might be partially responsible for my low scores. The mini table underneath is interesting, but hard to activate when the ball is lost every thirty seconds. If you like muscle cars, give it a try. Maybe you can get the nitrous activated.

The four tables included in this pack offer a nice variety in terms of color schemes, layouts, tasks and overall feel, making it a good pickup if you just need something fresh on which to ball. If you have played the original versions of these tables in Zen Pinball and enjoyed them, then the upgraded graphics and ball physics, paired with the better social integration and achievements, are probably more than enough to get you to grab these tables.

If you have never played these before and are looking to get some more out of Pinball FX2, I would be more hesitant to recommend them. My gripes really aren’t major; they just seem to all add up to a conclusion that these tables are playable, but not fun. The default overlay in the upper left hand corner that displays score, bonuses and some objective information is large. I don’t know how it compares to the original release of the game, but compared to every table I have played thus far in Zen Pinball 2, it consumes too much screen real estate, and you would do well to immediately go into the options and shrink it. Couple that with the massive window that pops up (and stays) in the right hand corner to show the location of the ball, and you have sections of the screen that get in the way of the play space. Mercifully, these features can be adjusted or eliminated thanks to the ample manipulation options that are available in Pinball FX2.

There is a reason for that screen popping up in the corner to show the location of the ball, but I wouldn’t call it a good reason. In the other tables I have played, both Marvel themed and otherwise, the whole screen shifts along with the ball tracking up when the ball is at the top of the table, and settling to the bottom as the ball descends. These tables don’t have that smooth movement; they don’t have any movement. Instead, the camera rests at the bottom in a lower angle view of the table and relies on the insert window to let you know what’s happening at the top of the table.

That lack of movement made it much harder for me to track the ball or have any clear idea what was going on near the top of the table. The low angle, static camera serves as another hindrance in flattening the 3D feel of the tables. The movement brought on by the shifting camera highlights the differences in elevation between different components of each table to clearly show which parts are raised and which are in front of the others. The lack of movement on these classic tables gives them a much flatter, less dynamic feel. The top third or so of the table is bunched into an area of which I could not always clearly define or make sense. This isn’t to say that the upper ends of these releases are any less well designed than on the more recent tables, but I could not see or interact with them as well as on others.

In the end, the Zen Classic Table pack offers up a good variety of tables, but they really feel dated and less exciting when compared to the cleaner, more recent offerings. If they go on sale, I’d recommend scooping them up, but for your hard earned $2.50 each (only available as a pack), there is better virtual silverball to be played.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Matthew Quinn

Matt has been a gamer since he was young jumping from Pong to Genesis to Playstation before broadening. With a mountainous backlog, he is still waiting for new Resident Evils and Metal Gear Solids to drop. LLAP.

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