When I think of my fondest memories of the arcades, the machines without joysticks and monitors don’t really come to mind. My mid-90’s jaunts through the coin-ops were usually dominated by video games, I was too busy beating Time Crisis and Tekken 2 like a boss to notice that blinky, ancient artifact sitting in the corner… next to the bearded man who smelled like feet. However, since I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve learned to appreciate the humble pinball machine’s services to man over the past 500ish years. Apparently, our primitive amusement with flashing lights and funny noises never left us since childhood, as can be seen by the odd steamy chippy or abandoned bar room that still have one standing tall waiting for the tender tickle of a pound coin through its innards.
Zen Studios know this better than anyone, as their self-titled game, Zen Pinball, looks to take modern PS3 owners down to the arcade for an authentic bash of point scrambling goodness. Available for download now for £6.29, Zen Pinball offers a legitimate pinball experience on your HDTV. But please refrain from turning your display to a vertical position and expecting your Sony Bravia to switch perspective like an iPhone. I tried, it doesn’t work.
The addictive “just one more quid” spirit of pinball has been captured beautifully by Zen Studios, and with four themed tables: V12, El Dorado, Tesla and Shaman, players will find there’s more to the tried and tested game than meets the eye. Newcomers like me will begin their efforts with almost no direction whatsoever, battering L1 and R1 and thinking we’re doing great because of the sparkles! After an hour or so of aimless scoring, I slowly realised I wasn’t doing as well as I should be. So, taking it back a gear, I relaxed and examined the finer intricacies of the lushly detailed tables the developers had produced.
After getting to grips with where I needed to be shooting, I was able to enjoy the realistic physics of the ball absolutely pulverizing its targets. Soon, I was unlocking new features and little secret areas of the tables and tripling my scores. Pinball isn’t a hard game to simulate, but it’s great to see how a lot of the atmosphere and addictive qualities of the arcade have made it into this game. The ball even has a convincing weight to it, as it reacts authentically with its surroundings on the table.
The four tables take a lot of time to conquer, and the Trophies are far from easy, so they should keep you busy on your lonesome until you’re ready to challenge your friends. Hot Seat is available for four players to take turns and see who can get the highest score, but it’s the online tournaments that are the most intriguing facet of Zen Pinballs multiplayer features. Unfortunately, no tournaments were taking place during the time of my review, but the online quick matches are great for giving you an idea of how it will work; as opposed to the offline multiplayer, the online modes have you flipping off with your opponent simultaneously, with the victor being the player with the most points. At times, things can get rather… emotional, especially when you see your ball dropping at that certain angle where neither of your flippers can reach it.
If you’re a gamer that enjoys the occasional 5 minute burst on an addictive game, you should consider giving Zen Pinball a try. As for pinball enthusiasts, this is a no brainer; a genuine pinball simulator with lovely, detailed graphics and all the experiences it thankfully shares with its four-legged cousin… minus a kid that sits on your PS3 just because no one’s using it.
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