The Latest

Zen Classics: Pinball FX2 Review

Zen Classics PInball FX 2 (1)Although actual tables are becoming increasingly rare across the recreational landscape, pinball’s zeitgeist has been sustained thanks to the efforts of Zen Studios. Since the developer’s inaugural console release- 2009’s Pinball FX, the team has spearheaded a resurgence in simulating the steel-orbed recreation. Now, a cottage industry of studios vie for verisimilitude, each striving to recreate the real-world spring of a slingshot and the kinetic energy behind a careening ball.

This push for authenticity across the last few years has left Zen’s early efforts feeling a bit dated. Revisiting either Pinball FX or Zen Pinball– the developer’s initial PlayStation 3 release, reveals how far the studio has come. While each title made a commendable attempt at realism, there was conspicuous simplification to the physics of pin- with the sphere flaunting little of the dynamism exhibited by physical machines. With the XBLA release of Zen Classics for Pinball FX 2, Zen Studios corrects two shortcomings in one swoop- applying their advanced physics modeling to their Tesla, V12, El Dorado and Shaman tables while bringing the PS3-exclusive collection to Xbox 360 screens for the first time.

Zen Classics PInball FX 2 (3)Once players have downloaded the Zen Classics pack, the four tables mesh seamlessly into Pinball FX 2’s grid of offerings. Naturally, each utilizes FX 2’s social features, so you’ll be able to see rankings of your Xbox Live friends before you launch your first ball. During play, each virtual machine goads players on, revealing how close you are to toppling the score of your acquaintances. It’s a devious tactic capable of pushing players to chase points until the late hours of the morning.

Jumping into any of the four tables immediately shows the attention Zen Studios has devoted to each machine. Some machines are more opulent- with Tesla having deeper hues which better articulate the splendor of luxuriant wood while the playfield’s sepia tone is slightly richer. Small touches, like the addition of opacity to the table’s inset feature are largely superfluous, but demonstrate the studio’s adherence to authentic. While the already radiant El Dorado and Shaman tables didn’t need a boost of color, new shading choices helps to delineate V12’s exhaust-like ramps and spinners made to resemble engine fans. Although Zen’s remastering doesn’t deliver the fidelity found in games adapted from earlier hardware generations, each of the new designs bring the five year old tables in line with more modern aesthetics. Also worth noting- using the default camera perspective, the ball and flippers are noticeably less squatty, looking more like their real-world counterparts.

Zen Classics PInball FX 2 (4)

Beyond visuals, each of the Zen Classic machines handles remarkably different with the integration of the Pinball FX 2 physics system. The sphere’s subtle floatiness is gone, with the ball’s weight and any contact with playfield elements more genuinely depicted. Since these early tables are modeled after actual coin-ops designed to gulp quarters as quickly as possible, this advancement proved helpful in keeping the orb from descending down the side drains. Relying on deep-seated pin experience, I was able to rack up slightly higher scores on Zen Classic’s redesigns, feeling more in control of the ball’s trajectory.

For Xbox 360-owning pin purists, the Zen Classic pack is a no-brainer. Considering the collection’s reasonable $10 price, players receive four retrofitted tables which evoke pinball’s reigning era.  While each virtual machine is competent, Tesla is the indisputable highlight and nearly worth a purchase by itself.

ScoreA-

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

22 comments

  1. Good review. How come there’s no sound in the old versions?

  2. I need to try Zen FX 2. I guess the only thing stopping me is that most people are so cultish about it, praising everything about it. Kool-aid drinkers turn me off.

    • There’s a reason why people like it so much. It’s a great game on pinball. I played pinball as a kid before the tables went extinct and every once in a while Zen almost fools me into thinking I’m playing the real thing.

      I used to want to own a few machine. But I had a neighbor who had one, and went something went wrong with it (because they are mechanical still) it costs an arm and legs. Seriously, you could buy a console and every DLC pinball game for what these guys charge for an hour+parts.

    • Give a try and see if you like it for yourself. Who cares if others love or hate it if you’ve having a good time?

  3. This is going to be my Christmas gift to me. 😉

  4. Did any of you play the Civil War table? How is it?

  5. Cool and all, but if I already have these tables on PS3 aren’t they the same as the remastered FX2 versions?

    With all of Zen’s Marvel tables and remakes, it’s hard to keep track.

  6. Is there ever a sale on Zen tables? Seems like they are always the same price.

    • Almost never. Pinball Arcade did have a sale on it’s base game last week for PS+ subscribes though.

      Still Zen> Pinball Arcade. PA gets props for remaking real machines, but their physics aren’t as spot-on.

  7. Are these tables on the Vita as well? I’d love to play Tesla and V12?

  8. Why does Xbox.com only have the trial? I want to buy the tables!

  9. I own every single table Zen has but out. Each is quality and worth the $2.50-$3.00 cost. Pinball Arcade is good as well, just a notch below FX 2, though.

  10. Thanks, liked the comparison video.

  11. Not too much of a physical difference. Hard to see the difference in physics without actually playing it.

  12. How awesome would a Tesla table based on the electric car be?

    • I’ve love to see more game-based ones. They did Ninja Gaiden tables (sadly, still PS3 exclusive) and SF2 ones before. How awesome would a Zen table as a preorder bonus for say, Dead Space 3 be?

      • I’d love a game where you could make your own pinball tables. I wouldn’t expect Zen quality, but a good set of tools would be worth $50 in my book.