Zen Studios has already delivered pinball joy to the Nintendo 3DS with Zen Pinball 3D and now they grace the Nintendo Wii U with fine-tuned pinball goodness.
The first thing to mention about Zen Pinball 2 is it breaks the mould, at least for console in terms of content distribution. The game is essentially a pinball platform where after a free download you can trial various tables. If you don’t want to be restricted on your playtime you will need to purchase the individual tables, however this is an issue in itself.
Now I feel bad bringing this up as I feel the developers where working with a limited platform out of there control, but it does ultimately affect the user experience. When you select a table you don’t own, you are politely asked to visit the eShop to pay to unlock it. This would be awkward enough however the system fails to be able to provide a link to the item on the store or even a link to the storefront itself. You will have to find your own way there with the home button and start searching.
Whichever board you decided to play you are given these same generous options; you can choose to play either by yourself or with up to three friends, letting you play a more traditional pass and play mode by passing the controller to the next person when you lose a ball. There’s also a mode which lets two people play at the same time. One on the GamePad screen the other on the TV with a Pro controller, a mode that was very appreciated in this household.
The single player mode supports online leader boards and a basic achievement system, you can play on the TV or off TV play, and it’s a great game to jump between the two, which the game lets you do at any time by swiping up or down on the touch screen. Controls are simple as expected; flippers are controlled with either the triggers or shoulder buttons and the right stick to manually launch the ball, this can be achieved on both the GamePad and Pro Controller.
Zen Studios has really pushed the boat out on creating some really creative, colorful tables each with a unique feel and set of features, thankfully each has its own guide letting you know what it has to offer and its own set of systems. As well as original themed tables there’s allot of use of known IP, so if you’re a fan of Marvel or Plants VS. Zombies they may have already hooked you in, and its surprising fun even when limited to a pinball table to play through these universes.
Where Zen Pinball 2 excels is really nailing the feeling of playing on a real pinball table, the ball physics just feel right and it never felt unfair when a ball slipped through the flippers. In addition to feeling authentic the game is not afraid to push the designs of the tables themselves beyond what’s possible on a mechanical table; moving parts, hidden areas and animated enemies are all common place here.
Zen Pinball 2 is a tricky game to review too, especially as everyone’s millage will vary, just buying one table is as valid as purchasing everything on offer and the cost between these options is very significant. Ultimately what you get is a very polished game of pinball that takes advantage of some unique Wii U features and a fantastic choice of tables. If you are even half interested in playing some virtual pinball I can’t recommend the free download enough.