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Review: Zen Pinball 2 + Plants vs. Zombies Table

Jason Clement

Developer: Zen Studios

Publisher: Zen Studios

Platform: PSN (PS3, PlayStation Vita)

Release Date: September 4, 2012

ESRB: E for Everyone



Pinball - it's something seemingly so simple, yet so complex. It's a game people have been playing for decades now, and it's no less addictive today than it was in the days of yore. And though it's becoming rarer to see newer pinball machines outside of arcades today, fortunately there is the ever-increasing number of digital pinball games available in video game form.


Zen Studios in particular have dedicated much of their past few years to creating the best pinball experience possible on consoles. Having already released two iterations of Pinball FX and one iteration of Zen Pinball on PSN, not to mention more unique tables than you can shake a flipper at, they aim to improve that experience even more with Zen Pinball 2. How does the experience stack up compared to other pinball games?


First off, it must be noted that Zen Pinball 2 itself is technically not a game, per se. It's a platform of sorts that acts as the central hub for all of the tables Zen Studios has designed thus far (with Plants vs. Zombies making it an official 26 tables at this time). Thus, I won't be giving a score to the platform itself, but I will be discussing whether it's recommended or not.




The original Zen Pinball debuted with 4 different uniquely themed tables, but any that were released afterward were available as paid DLC. Zen Pinball 2, however, is a free download for everyone that comes with a few tables included as timed demos. In fact, all of the other tables can be downloaded and tried out before buying them, and you can play them as many times as you want (though the gameplay only lasts a minute or so before the demo ends). Also, those who bought Zen Pinball and additional tables before can now import those tables into Zen Pinball 2 at no extra cost (and with upgraded visuals and physics to boot).


As for how the actual tables play, Zen Studios didn't create their pinball to be ultra realistic (like The Williams Collection), but rather they're more fantasy-like, with characters that move around the board and perform different functions and interact with each other, among other visual effects and the like. But make no mistake, the classic pinball experience is still very much intact, and despite its more surreal setting, the virtual table mimics much of real-life tables, even down to the clicks, clacks, and groans that they make when playing. And those with PS Vitas will no doubt appreciate that once you buy a Zen Pinball 2 table, you'll automatically get both the PS3 and PS Vita version; no separate purchases necessary.


Finally, Zen Pinball 2 makes huge strides in bringing the pinball community together with Facebook integration for sharing scores as well as a variety of leaderboards that track your own scores across all of the different tables, and a team score that calculates your scores along with your PSN friends in order to compete with the rest of the community. Simply put, if you like pinball, this is a great platform for it, and Zen Studios have done an amazing job integrating everything together into a nice and neat front end for all of the tables. I'll be playing a lot of the existing tables for some time to come as well as looking forward to seeing the new tables they come up with in the near future.


And speaking of the pinball tables, read on to see my review of the Plants vs. Zombies table below.


Plants vs. Zombies Table


As Zen's newest pinball table, Plants vs. Zombies has a lot to live up to when compared to the original game of its namesake. Thankfully, Zen did a fantastic job designing it in conjunction with PopCap games, as it may well be the most faithful pinball table adaptation they've done thus far.




What makes this table so impressive? For starters, they captured the very feel of the game, with the whole table designed as the yard, with bright green and brown colors prevalent and the welcome mat at the bottom near the flippers. And just about every element from the original Plants vs. Zombies game is represented in some form, including Dr. Zomboss hovering around at the top of the screen in his giant robot, the different types of plants (including the perky sunflower), different kinds of zombies (football zombies, digger zombies etc.), and even Crazy Dave.


At its core, the table works on the same premise as the game it's based on: battling against an onslaught of zombies and preventing them from reaching the welcome mat (which, again, is placed right at the bottom of the table). And of course, the pinball is realized as a seed which you'll use to knock the zombies out of commission with as well as perform other tasks. Other interesting and clever additions are the use of a slot in which you accumulate sun for the plants as well as the two bumpers above the flippers representing water.


You'll also make use of money collected from knocking out zombies with the ball/seed in order to purchase plants from Crazy Dave that will help defend the welcome mat from the zombies by either attacking them or stalling them for time, giving you a chance to aim at them without rushing. This comes as especially useful during the challenge sessions in which multiple zombies (five or six at a time) will be approaching the welcome mat, and your ball just isn't enough to take them all out at once. Speaking of challenges, there are also a series of side missions that can be triggered in which you'll choose between battling Football Zombies, Digger Zombies, and more.




Perhaps the only downside to the table is the fact that it's a bit easier than others, meaning that it's extremely easy to keep the ball in play and away from the outlanes most of the time. This is primarily due to generous ball saves and kickbacks that can be activated easily, and while it does help when you're going for that high score, it can get a little monotonous from the lack of challenge in not losing the ball much. That said, the main missions are actually quite challenging and will put even the most hardcore pinball players' skills to the test.


If you're looking for a great pinball table adaptation, look no further than this table. Fans of Plants vs. Zombies will especially eat it up, and for everyone else, it's tough not to recommend a table of this quality, especially only at $2.99. As the perky female sunflower would say in the game, it's "zombeh-tastic!"




+ Visuals and audio are spot-on in representing Plants vs. Zombies

+ Intuitive interpretation of the original Plants vs. Zombies' gameplay

+ Great table design




- A bit easy compared to other tables due to a few aspects (generous kickbacks and such)


Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)



Plants vs. Zombies is one table that you absolutely need to own if you're into pinball at all. Despite an easier difficulty setting, the gameplay will keep you addicted for some time to come.

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