Zen Pinball Classics Review

I’m always a little dubious of the word ‘classics’ before any game title. For some publishers it’s the perfect excuse to bring out those retro titles, slap a little extra on the package and flog it off for a bit of a knockdown price. It’s akin to knock-off “ARAMANI” jeans from the market in that you might think you’re getting a bargain, but the crotch will go sooner or later.

Thankfully, Zen Pinball Classics isn’t at all like this. These four original tables from Pinball FX have all been updated with care, offering good value, despite feeling a little retro and lacking the branding of Zen’s other titles. While they are reasonably advanced, in that they have a number of the more exciting features you’ve come to know and love from Zen, they’re not the kind of complexity of, say, the Marvel branded tables.

Indeed, they’re not quite as slick either, with some rather basic artwork and a very cartoony style that might turn some people off. There are four tables in the DLC pack and because price is rarely an issue with Zen games, it’s safe to say that if you like Pinball FX 2, you’ll be happy to have these in your collection.

The first table, Shaman, offers that ‘classic’ attitude in a nutshell. The modes are super simple and really just involve a multi-ball, a couple of drop down holes, a mini-table and some ramp bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, this is still every bit as enjoyable as more complex tables, but my issue is that it’s a little cruel. About 80% of the table is a wonderful difficulty for those looking for a relaxed game of pinball. The other 20% is so dastardly as to make the whole table a little bit of a disappointment.

Tesla is a table all about Nikola Tesla, the eccentric Serbian-American inventor. Now, in contrast to Shaman’s cartoony looks, this table has a lovely steam-punk vibe and while it may not be the most satisfying table in the world, with rather muted colours and sounds, it’s still very exciting to play. This, to me at least, is the real pick of the litter, offering both satisfaction and a nice difficulty curve, along with a couple of interesting extras.

I do very much like these tables, but for someone that has played so much of Pinball FX 2, they do leave you wanting a little. El Dorado, the fourth in the set, is the perfect example of that. The story, if there is such a thing, is about a treasure hunter looking for gold. One of Zen’s previous tables, Sorcerer’s Lair, shows exactly what you can do with a table like this, offering some really involved mechanics that require you to build up a collection before going for the main goal. El Dorado doesn’t really do this, and takes a much more standard approach. Still, it’s a solid table and the mode-heavy gameplay sets it apart from the rest.

V12 is probably the table that will be least enjoyed. It’s incredibly close and fast, making it a serious ramp up in difficulty. Once you get to grips with it though, it is less of a monster than Wolverine, which is a similar style of table. By the same token, it offers much more interest than the classic Speed Machine table. The combination of these two factors means that it’s actually one of the better small tables in the collection. However, generally small tables don’t offer the complexity of larger ones and are a little too tense for front-room gaming.

Overall, this collection is set apart from the others by its wonderful variation. Regardless of which type of table you like, you’ll find something here to whet your appetite for the more involved tables in the collection. At 800 points you might want to have a look at some of the other collections if you don’t have them, but this is a solid purchase either way.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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