iPhone App Video Review: Zen Pinball

by Andrew Koziara

Zen Pinball is the latest release from Zen Studios. These developers are responsible for bringing digital pinball to just about every gaming platform, including the Pinball FX games on the Xbox Live Arcade and the multiplatform Marvel Pinball. They’ve pretty much perfected the video game pinball formula, and they’ve combined that with insanely lively and memorable boards based on various franchises, now made portable.

This is the same old basic pinball we all know and love, but with some bells and whistles exclusive to video games. Tap either side of the screen to activate the respective flipper and shake the phone to shake the table; simple. The tables themselves are highly interactive, and even bring you to various side and mini games outside of the main game. There really isn’t much I can tell you about the gameplay except to say that it’s very well done and superbly captures the physics and feel of actual pinball.

The real draw here is the variety of downloadable tables. The default table is called Sorcerers Lair, and features the story of two siblings trapped in a labyrinthine mansion surrounded by skeletons, ghosts, and other paranormal elements from the void. The first two downloadable tables come from one of my favorite things ever, Marvel Comics, featuring Wolverine and Captain America themed tables. These tables are really brought to life with several animated characters, impressive visual effects, great quality sound bites, and even epic music. These features are put on exhibit through the games various dynamic camera angles. I don’t know what other boards they’re planning to convert to the iOS version, but to give you an idea of things to expect, other versions of the game include Earth Defense, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and even Street Fighter 2 themed tables.

The graphics and visuals are colorful and impressive. The sound and music are also well done, but just like with real pinball tables, the various sound effects, dialogue bits, and background music can drown each other out and feel very chaotic. OpenFeint achievements and Leaderboards are supported, so you can continue those high score wars with your friends without having to hit up the bowling alley or pizza place.

You can also take turns playing multiplayer on the same device in “hot seat” mode, if you want. This iOS Universal game, with the initial Sorcerer’s Lair table, is available completely for free, and the downloadable tables clock in at two dollars apiece. The lack of variety in this game is really it's biggest weakness. It's understandable considering how much work goes into the various animated characters and whatnot, but that excuse won't keep the tables from getting stale after a while. I just wish there was another sample table or two. Either way, download the free sample and see what you think.

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