Zen Pinball 2 Review
Zen Pinball 2 Box Art
System: PS3
Dev: Zen Studios
Pub: Sony
Release: September 4, 2012
Players: 1 (2+ Online)
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Mild Language, Fantasy Violence
Crazy Flipper Fingers
by Becky Cunningham

Perhaps the greatest loss from the death of the video game arcade is that it's now very difficult to find a fully operational pinball table. Nothing can entirely replicate the experience of playing actual pinball, but video pinball games do the best they can. While other video pinball companies tend to recreate classic physical pinball tables, Zen Studios creates its own, which, while rooted in actual pinball, often do things that are difficult or impossible on actual pinball tables. The company is arguably the biggest player in today's video pinball world, and PlayStation 3 owners have had a long wait for Zen Pinball 2, the PlayStation equivalent of Pinball FX 2 on the Xbox 360. Now that it's finally out, how does Zen Pinball 2 hold up against other video pinball games?

Zen Studios has a unique back-end that frames all of its pinball tables and focuses on a social pinball experience. That system is alive and well in Zen Pinball 2, which has adopted a streamlined user interface that keeps the busyness to a minimum. The game launches directly into the table selection screen, from which players can demo and purchase tables (the back-end is free, but all tables must be purchased). Other options from the main screen include browsing each table's challenging Trophies, comparing high scores with friends, and entering any available tournaments.

Zen Pinball 2 Screenshot

Zen Studios has a unique back-end that frames all of its pinball tables and focuses on a social pinball experience. That system is alive and well in Zen Pinball 2, which has adopted a streamlined user interface that keeps the busyness to a minimum. The game launches directly into the table selection screen, from which players can demo and purchase tables (the back-end is free, but all tables must be purchased). Other options from the main screen include browsing each table's challenging Trophies, comparing high scores with friends, and entering any available tournaments.

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Once a table is loaded (with reasonably short load times compared to Pinball FX 2), the actual gameplay in Zen Pinball 2 has changed little from Zen's other offerings. Plunger and flipper controls are simple and intuitive, and each table comes with detailed instructions and various customization options for those who want to delve deeply into the feeling of being a pinball machine owner.

Zen Pinball 2 Screenshot

The greatest gameplay improvement here is the ball physics. The balls in Zen Pinball 2 feel more real and weighty than those in previous Zen games, which adds greatly to the feeling of control over what's happening on the table.

Zen Pinball 2 Screenshot

Pinball fans will particularly appreciate the attention that Zen lavishes on the graphics and sound of each table. Pinball has been a splashy, gaudy affair for much of its history, and Zen's designers gleefully indulge in the flashing lights, bright colors, ringy-dingy sounds, cheesy voices, and all around crazy designs that define the genre. Everything is fabulously high-definition and looks fantastic, plus the game offers a variety of view modes for the tables. The only issue here that Zen has been unable to solve is that it's difficult to read the table's dot matrix display and keep track of the action at the same time, which can cause lost balls while a player is learning a table.


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