ONCE a fixture in the nooks and corners of arcades and choice public houses, pinball has Zen Studios to thank for its rebirth in the digital world.
Pinball FX2 - Xbox One
Score: 8.4 / 10
Other studios have had success translating the game - special mentions should go to DICE for its Amiga series and Nintendo for Kirby’s Pinball - but the undisputed leader of the field is Zen, who have spent the past seven years developing and refining a design philosophy that combines savvy table arrangements with dazzling features.
Nearly four years have passed since the release of Pinball FX2 and while that gap might suggest next gen owners are being palmed off with an old title, that time has allowed Zen to amass a considerable portfolio of tables. If you purchased them first time around on Xbox 360, the good news is you can import them for free to the upgraded version, even if you have to do it one table at a time.
It stands as a good example of the thoughtful design
Available as a free download, the game comes with one table, Sorcerer’s Lair, which serves as a good introduction to the multi zoned tables and minigames that typify Zen’s approach. There are better options available, but it stands as a good example of the thoughtful design and breadth of interactive features that make flipping the small silver ball around both fun and challenging, with a real sense of flow and momentum as you try to beat your own score and those of friends.
The exploitation of the licenced options varies in quality, but some of the flagship series of tables - Star Wars and Marvel - are a joy to behold. The four tables in the Heroes Within pack, for example, pack a welter of sound effects from the original trilogy, while the new Guardians of the Galaxy table showcases an imaginative interpretation of the film’s narrative, with a crescendo of balls bouncing around representing the prison break.
Occasionally, cracks appear in the licences
The game has not been overhauled for its arrival on Xbox One, the only changes of note being minor graphical improvements to smooth out the tables and a revamped menu system that makes it easier to group DLC together. Occasionally, cracks appear in the licences, with dubious voice acting, not least from the cast members asked to imitate Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, but for the most part, the action is so frantic, the little grating details are quickly forgotten.
In all, there is something superbly moreish about Zen’s version of pinball. Minutes become hours as you convince yourself of having just the one more game, a cycle of self-improvement that is testament to the finely balanced tables and physics on offer, coupled with a scoring system that constantly invites you to go one better.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) Every table has its own strategy, but some tips are universal - never flail and hammer both flippers at once, for example. Rather than increasing the chance of making contact, it is more likely you will lose the ball.
2) Take the time to learn the angles of every table. The ball will respond differently and having a good idea of its trajectory in advance allows you to build up multipliers more consistently.
3) Check out the guide to each table so you know what to aim for in order to complete missions. This is where you will amass major points and earn a place high up on the scoreboard.