PS3 Zen Pinball 2 first impressions

HaloJ

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Finally, after a 4 month delay Zen Pinball 2 has been released on the PS3 and Vita! After a few brief games and bug hunts here’s my critique of the PS3 version.

Zen Studios' original Zen Pinball was an enjoyable title with occasionally flawed ball physics. Much to their credit they supported it well with a plethora of tables released and semi-regular updates/tournaments. Then came Marvel Pinball with its improved physics but still retaining the view discrepancies across a good number of the tables. Now with this 3rd iteration PlayStation 3 owners have something that can compete with the X-Box's Pinball FX.

The initial download of the title is a little clunky due to Zen Studios including backwards support for all the prior tables. If you owned a previous title I recommend you only download the Zen Pinball 2 (Trial) then use the Import Tables option. This will then download, install and unlock your previously owned tables rather than you having to manually download each table’s trial and unlock from the store. Do remember to restart the title once your tables have been installed. For those who've never owned the prior titles the initial download will only give you the Avengers series to play as demo so I'd advise you also pick up the classic pack and the Marvel pack to pad it out a little more.

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Looks wise the package is very solid displaying all available tables directly in front of you rather than flicking through them individually. I do rather miss the beautiful backgrounds that were used on each of the Marvel Pinball table's selection screens as until you select a table the graphic remains hugely obscured by the menu itself. The tables themselves have been beautifully updated with new textures although I feel they may be a bit too colour saturated. The new glass textures are superb allowing you to see the action better. El Dorado for example has a small orbit (jungle) hit from the upper left flipper. Previously the ball was completely obscured as it entered the area now it is visible throughout. A major bone of contention for me on both of the prior titles was the lack of unification within the tables views. View 4 on one table could be view 5 on another. I prefer the eye on the ball view which so far on the tables tested appears to be view 5. No longer do I feel I have to settle for the full view or lens zoom options which on occasion replaced it.

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There has been a minor control change. The X button is now auto launch the ball at full power and fine control is simulated on the right stick. After ball loss I’ve found myself hitting the X button to attempt the ball launch skill shot only to realise a moment later that I just slammed the ball into play at full power. By default the nudge system is on the left stick which I switched to the motion control. I'm a little disappointed with the motion control as it is far too sensitive. It nudges at the slightest movement and often at inconvenient times when you're sat perfectly still controlling the ball for an accurate shot, bump, arrrrr! I hope they patch in a sensitivity option as even with the controller sitting untouched on the sofa random nudges are experienced.

Physics wise I'm blown away. The transition from ZP1 to Marvel to ZP2 is very noticeable. The ball feels like it has really good weight to it. Also I'm pleased that Zen Studios finally changed the rubber on the flippers to something a bit less perished making controlled stops, holds and passes more realistic. A noted table change is the Skill Shot on El Dorado which now actually requires skill rather than a full power ball launch to under the top left flipper. This feature may be a throwback from the updated physics engine or it could be that Zen actually tweaked the table to make the shot more skilful. Another noted change was that spinners feel easier to rotate. For example the 25,000 volts required for the ball save on Tesla, something I often regularly got to 24,000 volts in ZP1 was making the ball save target with ease.


All in all Zen Studios have succeeded in making a solid, accurate and immensely fun title and one that I intend to spend a lot of time on due to the ease of transition between the old classics (Tesla) and Marvel tables (Blade). I'm also likely to invest in the remaining tables that are currently missing from my collection including the superb Plants vs Zombies table. Those who own both a PS Vita and PS3 would be foolish to pass the title by as the newly implemented Cross Buy feature ensures tables are unlocked for both versions. Well done Zen Studios! It was worth the wait.

Images and video copyright Zen Studios.
 

Plaxinator

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Nice review Halo. I’ve picked it up on the Vita and seem to have the Marvel tables which must have been imported from the Marvel pinball I have on the PS3. Being a huge Plants Vs Zombies fan I’ve bought that table. It’s brilliant, so well worth the buy. Currently debating the next one to treat myself to.
 
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