It’s been years since we’ve played a decent pinball title on a console. Somehow they don’t really seem to match up to the real thing. Indeed, the last one we remember fondly was Pinball Dreams on the Amiga. Thankfully, Zen Studios has taken it upon themselves to completely reinvent what it means to play a pinball game at home.
This set of four – completely original – pinball tables is available via download, once you’ve got the base Pinball FX 2 on your Xbox. Fortunately, this is free, so all it will cost you is the amount you want to spend on tables. You also get to try the tables before you buy them, so minus a few additions, you’ll have a fair idea how good they are.
We’re happy to report that as well as the base features Pinball FX 2 supplies, which we’ll go on to later, this collection of tables is almost entirely without fault. We’re convinced that developer Zen Studios’ office must be filled with pinball tables, good bad and ugly. You get the impression right from the off that these designers and developers genuinely love their work, and have a passion for all things pinball.
The range of tables on offer, namely Biolab, Pasha, Rome and Secrets Of The Deep are without doubt the best pinball tables you can get on a console. These are not only excellent, but well varied as well. Biolab, for example, is a more minigame-style table, while Secrets Of The Deep utilises the game board a little more. In essence, Zen has seen the art of creating a pinball table as a previously unexplored playground. There are many things that happen on these tables that couldn’t easily happen on a real table, and in that respect they’re even better than the real thing. The only thing you lose in a console version of pinball is the atmosphere of an arcade.
And even some of that has been recreated in the options menu of the tables. If you’re finding a table to difficult or not fast enough, there are loads of little adjustments you can make to it. Things like setting spring strengths and table angles may be tiny changes, but they alter the nature of each table immensely. This is a real spark of genius, and well worth investigating once you learn the tables. Another fantastic addition, which to our knowledge hasn’t been done successfully before, is a split screen multiplayer mode. Now, this isn’t a genre that naturally sits well with split screen, but this addition simply allows you to get your friends involved, rather than passing the pad in the traditional style. It’s a really nice-to-have feature, and again displays Zen Studios to be genuinely thoughtful about their games.
There are only really two downsides to this collection of tables. Firstly, we’re fans of tables like The Terminator, The Addams Family and Lethal Weapon 3. These are all incredibly noisy tables, and made playing them a real joy. Although the audio can be adjusted, not quite as much effort has gone into these as other aspects of the game. Secondly, this collection of tables does require some getting used to. In true pinball style, the instructions given at any stage of the game are often too little, too late, which means that you’ll often encounter frustrations at the early stages. This evaporates entirely once you get a handle on each particular table, and given that pinball tables are all about being played over and over again, this is a minor issue.
Still, with the great visuals and truly innovative additions to the genre, Zen Studios has done a cracking job of creating a set of tables that will excite and intrigue. Regardless of the kind of tables you like, there will be something here for everyone.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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