I was never a pinball guy. Be it virtual or actual, it’s simply one of those things that never grabbed me. I always liked the aesthetics associated with many of the movie and video game related tables and even had a go every so often, but honestly, my interest was always fleeting at best. That all changed however when I was asked to review a few of the tables for Zen Pinball. Since then, well, while my skill level remains at a shockingly low level, my interest in this long existing pastime has increased exponentially.
From the major Marvel and Star Wars tables through to South Park, Street Fighter and The Walking Dead, Zen Pinball remains a series that manages (on almost every occasion), to perfectly capture the spirit and aesthetic of its source material. The same is once again true for their latest release, Venom. An interesting choice on paper given that it’s one of the rare tables based primarily upon a villain, but one that, once you take a moment to consider the decision, actually makes perfect sense. Not only is Venom a hugely popular villain (in the comic books anyway – the less said about his big screen incarnation the better), but it also allows for yet another excuse to get the ever popular Spider-Man back in the game.
Of course, great use of the source material is one thing (and almost a given in the case of Zen Studio’s), but as always, great visuals count for little if the gameplay isn’t up to scratch. Luckily, while the table isn’t without issues, this is nonetheless another fine example of brilliant pinball fundamentals merged with fantastic visuals to create yet another great addition to the ever growing library of Zen Pinball tables.
Things can get a little bit hectic sometimes with Spider-Man flying across the screen, Carnage making the occasional appearance and an array of lights and incidental details vying for your attention, but for the most part, this is a good looking table with plenty of reverence for the history of the Venom character.
As always, the retro style scoring and updates look great while the upgrades and bonuses are all interesting and aesthetically very cool. Some of the bonuses are very challenging however and, while it might be partly down to my own lack of skill, this board, more so than most, seems very keen on easing you towards the drains which, when combined with the slightly busy design of the table, makes this one of the more challenging ones that Zen have delivered thus far.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great table and I have no doubt that top tier players will welcome the challenge, but every so often, the loss of a ball did feel a little cheap. I accept that there is an element of luck involved and that on occasion, you’re just going to lose a ball, but in the case of Venom, those ‘unlucky’ bounces seemed to occur a little more often than they do on comparable tables.
In fairness to the Venom table, I am being a little harsh and judging it at least partly upon my own lack of skill, but regardless, players should be aware of those little issues that ensure that, while this remains a very solid table, it can’t quite match the finest that Zen Pinball has to offer.
Fans of the Venom character will obviously appreciate the fan service while those more interested in the core pinball mechanics should find a solidly challenging table with which to test their skills, but either way, Venom represents yet another fine addition to the Zen Pinball collection and a cool little cameo for a character that has rarely found success outside of its primary medium.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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