When I first booted up Sorcerer’s Lair, I had the horrible feeling that the developer, Zen, had made their first botch job with Pinball FX 2. I saw lazy design, uninspired mechanics and a flat-out boring table. Then I realised that I was approaching it from the angle of Zen’s previous efforts like Spider-Man, Blade and Biolab, which are all truly unique tables. It didn’t take me long to realise that this was not a boring table exactly, but more of a traditional one. After a few hours, I was utterly hooked, and I expect you will be too.
Sorcerer’s Lair is a very forgiving table, perfect for beginners to the Pinball FX series. However, it’s also a very stingy one. You have to work hard for every point you get, and length of service is as much a factor as natural skill with pinball. It has nice, easy ramps, for the most part, and a straightforward approach to mechanics that takes away much of the need for you to think of your next move. Unlike something like the very technical Iron Man, this is a table that just lets you play. The main reason for this is that completing the table doesn’t require you to complete a set of tasks. Rather it awards you with ‘obsidium’ every time you complete a game on the table. Collect ten of these, and you get the end game. If you so desire, you can complete the same game over and over again, offering you the freedom to deal with the table how you want to.
It’s the collection of relaxed ramps, easy saves and almost complete lack of danger shots make it the kind of table that puts the responsibility firmly on your shoulders. If you don’t have an understanding of the table and the reflexes to match, you’re not going to do well. However, if you have the patience and calm head to keep plugging away, you’ll get a genuine sense of achievement that few other tables, let alone videogames, can offer.
After a few hours of orientation, once you have internalised the games, the feeling is fantastic. The ease with which you can pick your shots makes working through the table somewhat easier than almost any other in the series. Similarly, teeing up your multiballs to arrive concurrently offers similar satisfaction. Speaking of multiballs, there are three (two three-balls and one two-ball) that are easy to activate and offer the most immediate points bonuses. Having these on hand breaks up what could otherwise be a rather pedestrian table. It’s not uncommon, in fact, to have the same multiball happen twice in the same ball. It’s this generosity in modes that really offers excitement, and while they won’t net you the kind of scores you would expect of the flashier tables, knocking 50 or 60 million really begins to feel like an achievement.
In essence, Zen has, yet again, astounded me with the excellence of their product. In constantly producing both variation and quality, it’s becoming harder and harder for me to find reasons why you shouldn’t buy the Pinball FX package. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is amongst the top three downloads on XBLA. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, even if you’re not into pinball in any significant way, you need to try this package out. It’s free to sample, so give it a bash, and get involved.
The community and leaderboard aspect add a little extra competition to the mix, and the awards, rewards and ribbons (for being the best within your friends list) give you a sense of real achievement. As a singular table, this is every bit as good as the others. Sure, it’s somewhat more simplistic than you might expect, given the previous, more complex, tables, but as an addition to the mix, it fills the gap perfectly. The only problem I can see is where Zen are going to go next.
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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