After switching platforms to produce the rather fine Zen Pinball for the PlayStation 3, Zen Studios return to the Xbox 360 with a full-blown sequel to Pinball FX, their 2007 game that brought them to most people’s attention.
For Pinball FX 2, the developers have adopted a similar approach to the one taken by Microsoft with Game Room, structuring the “game” to be a content delivery platform that leaves the user free to pick and choose which tables they want. Like Game Room, the core hub of Pinball FX 2 is free to download by anyone with an Xbox Live account, and each of the available tables can also be viewed and demoed free of charge.
A grand total of thirteen pinball tables are available for purchase and, of these, four are completely brand-new and unique to this game; “Secrets of the Deep”, which features an aquatic theme; the Persian-esque “Pasha”; “Biolab” is a sci-fi effort home to mad scientists with monster creation mini-games, and finally, there’s “Rome”, which is inspired by the Roman Empire, Gladiators etc. These four tables are bundled together as the “Core Pack”, which costs 800 Microsoft Points.
The fact that any of these new tables cannot be bought individually is almost a moot point, such is their quality. All of them are feature-rich and extremely well-designed with literally dozens of different ways to score points. In fact, they’re almost a bit too good as they highlight just how superior they are to the quartet of tables from the first game. These too, are bundled together for 800 Points (as the “Classic Pack”). However, in a rather generous move, owners of the original Pinball FX game can import any of them into FX2 free of charge. Not only that, but the classic tables have also been given a graphical makeover to bring them up to scratch.
Each of the DLC tables that were released for the original game can also be imported into FX2, or if you didn’t buy them first time around, bought individually for 200 Points each. Along with looking better, the ball physics model in FX2 is noticeably improved. In Zen’s previous efforts, the physics were very good, but not quite 100% convincing. In Pinball FX 2 however, the weight of the ball and how it reacts, feels absolutely spot-on.
The realistic ball movement alone makes Pinball FX 2 a real joy to play and extremely-addictive, but the icing on the cake comes courtesy of some excellent Xbox LIVE integration which tracks your friend’s high-scores and monitors your progress in comparison to theirs. This might only seem like a small thing, but it adds a real competitive dynamic to the gameplay and enables friends to challenge each other (and tell them all about it) once their highscores have been smashed.
Something else that, in effect, forces you to play better, is the “Superscore” system in Pinball FX 2. This complex multiplier weighs up your highest scores from each table, and also those of your friends. That number is then multiplied by the number of tables played to give you your “Wizard” score. An Avatar award is available if this can be built up to 100,000, but the fact that your friends’ performance is a factor is a neat twist and should encourage more competitive leaderboard action.
Traditional online Versus play is present of course, and it makes use of the Xbox LIVE Vision Camera just like the original. New for FX2 though, is local splitscreen where the screen is divided vertically with very little loss in graphical detail. Alas, this feature is only available on the new tables that are exclusive to Pinball FX 2, but hey, they’re the best ones anyway.
To sum up, this is hands-down, Zen’s best game to date and a serious contender for being the finest videogame pinball title ever made. It looks and sounds great, plays beautifully, and for owners of the original game, downloading it is a real no-brainer and something of an early Christmas present.
Not only do they get to play better-looking versions of their tables, with groovy LIVE features and improved ball physics free of charge, but there’s also a stack of new Achievements to unlock; a whopping 39 in total with 650 Gamerscore up for grabs when all tables are playable.
Furthermore, with at least two blank spaces being present on the slickly-presented main menu and Zen’s fine history of DLC support, it’s clear they have plans for more tables to support the title after launch.
Ms Splosion Man DLC Review – 30th June 2011 by Jamie Davies
What’s pink, hard and goes off at the slightest touch? Oh please, get your mind out of the gutter we’re clearly talking about Ms. ‘Splosion Man here!
In something of a break from the regular updates to their Marvel Pinball based releases, Zen Studio’s latest table for Pinball FX2 is based on the zany chatterbox character and star of Twisted Pixel’s own XBLA title.
The format here obviously doesn’t stray from any of the other tables released so far, and this reskin features everything fans of Twisted Pixel’s release could hope for, including cameos from the original Mr ‘Splosion Man himself and the hulking (and badly damaged) robot Mighty Eternal. There’s even a fetching girly pink colour scheme to the proceedings, although this was honestly more of a negative than a plus point to start with, as it made tracking the ball a bit more confusing. Thankfully this garish colour scheme is something that ceases to be a problem once you quickly adjust to it.
Pinball FX players will know what they’re getting by now and this is an interesting release because it leaves the lingering question of whether any more collaborations are planned? The prospect of a Super Meat Boy or Plants Vs Zombies table is surely enough to get anyone excited.