If you’re a regular PlayStation.Blogcast listener, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about how much we’ve been playing and enjoying The Pinball Arcade on PS3 and PS Vita. Farsight’s pinball simulator faithfully recreates the experience of playing some of pinball’s greatest tables, many of which are quite difficult to find in the real world.
Zen Studios has taken a different tack since debuting on PS3 (via PSN) in 2009 – the tables featured in Zen Pinball don’t exist in some decrepit arcade or collector’s garage. These fanciful pinball experiences don’t – and simply couldn’t – exist in real life.
Now Zen is upgrading the “platform” for these tables – meaning the physics engine, visuals, and social media experience – with Zen Pinball 2, coming to both PS3 and PS Vita for free next month. I was lucky enough to be sharing a flight out to Cologne for gamescom with someone from the Zen PR team, who handed me a PS Vita loaded with a nearly complete version of the game.
With The Pinball Arcade fresh in my mind, I slipped back into the Zen state of pinball, which has a decidedly different feel. Zen’s pinballs themselves feel a bit lighter than in The Pinball Arcade, leading to longer games. That makes sense – real world pinball tables are there to keep you pumping quarters into the machine; clearly, that’s not a concern here. Even when playing a table in Zen Pinball 2 for the first time, I felt like I was pretty good at it, though that likely means that true mastery will mean posting ridiculously high scores on the leaderboards.
The tables available on this build are all currently available for PS3 via Zen Pinball, so I’ll focus here on how Zen Pinball 2 fares on PS Vita. The visuals are clear and sharp on the OLED screen; while the tables aren’t real, some of them look like they could be. There are a multitude of playing angles available, and you can turn the PS Vita unit vertical to instantly get a more natural playing view. While The Pinball Arcade offers this feature, I found it difficult to use in practice. However, Zen’s friendlier physics make the touchscreen flipper controls a more viable playing option. As you might expect, Zen Pinball 2 offers touchscreen options for all the menus as well. There’s also a pass-and-play multiplayer mode for up to four people, which operates much like you’d expect to play in the arcade.
Two of the biggest draws for the Zen Pinball universe remain in the sequel: licensed tables and crazy stuff going down on said tables. The Marvel universe is well represented, with 13 tables currently available including several notable comic heroes. The worlds of Street Fighter and Ninja Gaiden are represented, and Zen has promised a mystery Popcap collaboration as well.
What happens on those imaginary pinball tables really sets Zen Pinball 2 apart: Aliens abduct your ball on the Paranormal table. A Blanka figurine crackles with electricity on the Super Street Fighter II table. Zemo and Red Skull battle it out with Captain America along the edge of his table. The Avengers is the most ambitious – you choose a character-specific ball (Iron Man, Black Widow, etc) and carry out missions specific to that hero. Oh, and the entire table is the SHIELD Helicarrier from the movie, slowly gliding over a city.
On PS Vita, I found Zen Pinball 2 to be the Yin to Pinball Arcade’s Yang. What it lacks in realistic feel, it more than makes up for in variety and fantastical sequences across its 26 tables. As us pinball devotees find in-person pinball experiences harder and harder to come by, Zen Pinball 2 is another great, inexpensive way to get that flipper fix. If you own any Zen Pinball or Marvel Pinball tables, getting Zen Pinball 2 is a no-brainer.
The new platform is a free download, and you’ll be able to import previously purchased tables from within the app, where you’ll find new Trophies to earn. Zen Pinball 2 and the new Popcap table will be available to download via PSN on September 4th.