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  1. It's been a whopping seven years since pinball-extraordinaire Zen Studios released Pinball FX2 on Xbox 360, and about five years since its PSN and eShop equivalent, Zen Pinball 2. But now the studio is merging things back together for their next release, Pinball FX3, as it'll be known on all platforms. For those of you who've bought pinball tables in the past, the good news is that most of them will be updated, imported, and playable for free on Pinball FX3. The only tables not coming are the following: South Park Pinball 2 Table Pack Street Fighter Pinball Ninja Gaiden Pinball Plants vs. Zombies Pinball Ms. Splosion Man Pinball Apparently, this has to do with expiring licenses. But again, everything else is good to go! Also, to go along with Pinball FX3's release, Zen Studios is releasing a new set of tables called Universal Classics, which include three tables that are based on Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the Back to the Future trilogy. Check out the trailer for the Jaws table below. Pinball FX3 will be available as a free download on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on September 26 along with the release of the Universal Classics table pack (which is will be available as paid DLC). Source: Press Release Will you be checking out Pinball FX3?
  2. Marcus Estrada

    Humble Weekly Sale: Zen Studios

    Pinball lovers are in for a real treat with this week's Humble Weekly Sale. That's because developer Zen Studios is the latest to have a collection of their game content in a bundle. Pinball FX2 itself is a free game, but users pay for different tables to play on. For a buck or more you get these tables and packs: Pinball FX2 - Classic Pack Pinball FX2 - Core Pack Pinball FX2 - Earth Defense Table Pinball FX2 - Epic Quest Table Pinball FX2 - Paranormal Table $6+ unlocks the following: Pinball FX2 - Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles Pack Pinball FX2 - Marvel Pinball Original Pack Pinball FX2 - Star Wars Pack The packs and tables are available as Steam DLC codes. When ordering, you can donate some or all of the proceeds to the American Red Cross and Watsi.
  3. Marcus Estrada

    Review: KickBeat

    Developer: Zen Studios Publisher: Zen Studios Platform: PS3, Vita Release Date: September 3, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review, which is based on the PS Vita version of the game For a while, it seemed that “traditional” rhythm games were gone. Peripheral-based games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band were king for a few years before things shifted again. In the present, we see some traditional games eke out, but more often than not there are more creative uses of music in the modern rhythm game. Zen Studios have created a title that requires definite rhythm to play but have meshed it with a fighting game. The idea is certainly creative but does it succeed? First, we must discuss the basic control scheme of KickBeat. You play the game as a young martial artist. As this character, you work through nearly twenty stages which are filled with enemies. These baddies gather around and eventually circle you before going in for the kill. Your goal is to retaliate just at the moment they“re primed to attack you. As long as you can hit enough of them without getting demolished yourself then the stage will end successfully. Of course, hitting them properly depends on the music playing during the stage. Sure, it could be possible to time the hit by staring at them carefully, but it“s much easier to just go with the beats. Each enemy is color-coded as well as a hint to how they“ll approach. Some enemies only come on the main beats, while others jump in between them. It“s important to be able to read their style or else you“ll be making a lot of missteps. Enemies swarm around you but can only attack from one of four directions. These are mapped out by the four face buttons of the Vita or PS3 controller. On Vita, you can actually use the touch screen to initiate attacks but it“s not very useful. This is because having your hands on the screen is less precise, harder to reach for some, and also obscures the view of incoming enemies! In any case, hitting the buttons should be done with proper timing, but you can still get a kick in even if you“re a little off beat. There are some other aspects to fighting as well which task you with double tapping on specific enemies. Guys with items floating above their head should be hit twice in order to collect said item. Such goodies involve shields, score multipliers, and health. It“s kind of hard to get them at times, though, as enemies easily crowd up in bunches near you. At that point, it can be hard to discern which one has the bonus. Double tapping on a bonus-less enemy grants no rewards and can instead reset your multiplier. What about the music? After all, that“s kind of a big point in regards to a music/rhythm game. There are eighteen songs that include artists Marilyn Manson, Pendulum, and Rob Zombie. The song selection is definitely unique to a rhythm game of this type. Some may dislike the soundtrack, but then there will be a whole other group who enjoys it. My biggest issue with it was simply not being accustomed to the songs which made it harder to predict beats initially. In any case, it“s definitely not fair to diss the game via the soundtrack since it definitely has an audience. Things that I cannot accept are various gameplay decisions. There seems to have been a definite attempt by Zen Studios to create a more “cinematic” or active rhythm game. As such, the camera sometimes slides or shifts which slightly alters the player“s view of the screen. This is an issue because rhythm games tend to rely on having the hit zone be static. Seeing it slightly turned from what you are accustomed to makes it harder to immediately judge where to hit. The issue is compounded with later difficulty stages. On normal, the hit zone will light up with the corresponding PS face button when an enemy approaches. Other difficulties remove this notifier. If the screen were in a static position all the time then this wouldn“t be a huge deal. Since it does have some change, though, it means you have to be incredibly aware of each enemy. In most music games, there is an ability to get into a ”zen“ state with them. It doesn“t seem this will ever be the case with KickBeat. It“s not that the game is just difficult, because that is entirely admirable to pursue. The problem is that some of the difficulty is artificial, such as what was just described. It also doesn“t help that sometimes enemies fly directly at the screen, obscuring the view for a bit. The way enemies animate and wander around is also a bit confusing to deal with when innumerable ones pour in. Players have to keep track of a lot of goings on. Perhaps part of the problem was playing it on the small Vita screen instead of a TV set. Those who play the demo and enjoy the gameplay (but not necessarily the music) might still be interested thanks to a mode called "Beat Your Music." Here, players can input their own songs for playing. After inputting the BPM on your own, the track can be saved and played through. They rarely turn out as good as official songs but it“s great to see the option available. A lot was done to extend player time commitments to KickBeat. For one, there are two story modes to play through. Then there is the fact that most features are locked until beating the game once. Survival mode in particular is off limits until you completely master the game at its hardest difficulty. This is definitely easier said than done since proceeding to any new difficulty requires beating the preceding one first. If you can manage that then you“re well on your way to climbing the Leaderboard. It seems that KickBeat succeeds at being different from most other games but is perhaps too different for genre fans to accept. Then there are players who are new to rhythm games but then wouldn't they just find this game even more difficult due to having no prior experience? Although it is not impossibly hard, it is harder than it needs to be due to unfortunate design choices. What makes rhythm games fun is the mix of music with addictive gameplay that you know you can master. In the case of this title, we“ve got a game better suited toward annoying the majority of players. Pros: + Interesting take on rhythm games + A tracklist of well known artists Cons: - Design decisions that negatively impact gameplay - May be hard to find a large market with songlist - Why implement touch controls at all when they're a poor choice? Overall Score: 4.0 (out of 10) Below Average KickBeat is a game with a definite audience but manages to chip away at it via a host of gameplay grievances.
  4. Marcus Estrada

    CastleStorm Arrives on Steam

    Did you miss out on CastleStorm when it arrived on XBLA? If so, you could check out our review of the title, or possibly pick it up today now that it is available on Steam. The game comes from Zen Studios - yes, the developers of Zen Pinball. They went for something very different with their latest creation. The cartoony 2D game is all about tower defense/offense. In it, you have your castle where you can send out all sorts of troops as well as shoot at the opposing tower/enemy. Of course, they can fire back quite powerfully if you're not properly strategizing against them! With that said, it doesn't quite manage to be the next great tower defense title but may still please players. CastleStorm comes to Steam at the cost of $9.99. Because it already launched on Xbox 360 it also has PC gamepad support. Players can chip away at the fairly long campaign mode, team up with another player in co-op, or fight against local or online foes.
  5. Marcus Estrada

    Review: CastleStorm

    Developer: Zen Studios Publisher: Microsoft Studios Platform: Xbox 360 (XBLA) Release Date: May 29, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review Physics-based action games have become popular again thanks to the likes of Angry Birds and smartphone games in general. Although you may dislike Angry Birds personally, there is no doubt that physics-based gameplay can be pretty fun. Zen Studios took the idea of physics-controlled play and applied it to the tower defense/offense genre to create CastleStorm for XBLA. They are mostly known for their pinball games which indeed have a strong concept of physics, but does that skill translate over to this completely different title? It sure does. In the majority of levels, you must control a ballista to stop hordes of vikings and other enemies attempting to storm your castle. This is where the physics come in because you must aim your projectiles and hope they“ll hit an enemy square in the face or a castle right at its weak point. Although an arc is drawn for you, it isn“t always perfect as projectiles end up dropping a bit lower. At other times, there is no line available so you have to be able to calculate the arc yourself in the middle of battle. Much of the game revolves around aiming and firing but that doesn“t make it a simple game. On the 2D plane, enemies will continue to proliferate and meander toward your castle. There are many enemy types including wolves, giant stone creatures, burly vikings, and more. Later, the enemy castles also gain a ballista with which they can lob projectiles your way as well. Things quickly become hectic. Unfortunately, the guideline for your ballista often becomes hard to see between all the action, which makes it fairly useless. As the enemy has tons of troops and projectiles, so does the player. You gain everything through playing through campaign mode. While players start out with a very measly lot, they eventually work up to a whole bunch of goodies to use during battle. Troops, magic skills, and power-ups all can be leveled up via money procured during battles. This requires a bit of management because limited money means you cannot always upgrade every item you use, but instead carefully select the most important to increase. More strategy comes in when factoring in the towers. A great deal of towers are unlocked during campaign mode and with good reason. At the start, you can have only a small, very unprotected castle. After a while, though, you gain access to larger ones to house your various troops in, as well as the ability to design your own castles. This aspect is important to understand, as if an enemy breaks through and demolishes one of your troop rooms, then that troop will become unavailable to summon for the rest of the mission. Similarly, if you break their rooms then they“ll lose access. If every room is destroyed then that player loses. It may seem then that every mission could be completed quickly by simply targeting the castle. However, this trick usually doesn“t work because it leaves you wide open in the interim. You can lob projectiles away but then without placing troops to guard your castle then the enemy will have an easy path to step all over you. That“s why attention must always be paid to both the battlefield and both castles. For better or for worse, it“s also often hard to comprehend why sometimes a perfect strike will break a castle wall while other times the projectile will appear ineffective. It makes it harder to achieve an “unfair” victory, but also becomes quite the burden on rare timed missions. Missions are not all about destroying the enemy“s castle. Goals vary by mission and oftentimes there are multiple possible goals to achieve. For example, sometimes you may get extra points for succeeding without ever using the ballista. The most common missions involve destroying castles or stealing the enemy flag, but CastleStorm does change itself up every so often with Hero mode. In this mode, you run around in a 2D beat ”em up style mode to complete a goal. This mode can also be activated during standard battles, but only for a limited amount of time. Although this is an XBLA title, it also manages to extend itself for a while. The main campaign takes around 5 hours to complete. One negative of this mode is that late in the game you are given a whole new series of weapons and troops to level up from scratch. After leveling up all the stuff you were familiar with prior, it feels like it had been a big waste of time. Outside of the campaign are other modes such as skirmish, survival, and last stand to play through. Each can be experienced in local or online multiplayer if you“re interested. For co-op mode, one player controls the ballista while the other takes care of summoning troops. For all the content available, you might think CastleStorm is worth the investment. It just might be if you“re really into the idea of a physics-based tower defense game. Otherwise, it is a super dull experience. Although there is a story, it says nothing of value and isn“t even that funny. Although the gameplay is not broken it is hardly any fun either. Even casual mode becomes a bit of a challenge at certain sections. This is a game that stands strongest as nothing more than average. It can give you your money“s worth but you won“t be filled with glee while playing. Instead, you“ll be strung through some relatively boilerplate gameplay. Even with multiplayer modes it“s not likely that you“ll want to go back to play much of them. There“s nothing wrong with CastleStorm, but nothing all that compelling either. Pros: + Great deal of troops/projectiles/etc + Strategy required for both battlefield and castles + Multitude of levels with varying goals Cons: - Dull storyline and sound - Repetitive after a while - Doesn“t have the “spark” a good game should Overall Score 5 (out of 10) Average CastleStorm is a competent tower defense/offense title but offers little else to differentiate itself from existing products.
  6. Marcus Estrada

    CastleStorm Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  7. Marcus Estrada

    CastleStorm Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  8. Marcus Estrada

    CastleStorm Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  9. Pinball fans, rejoice! Zen Studio's recently announced Star Wars Pinball finally has a release date, and it's coming to a galaxy near you next week as DLC on a plethora of platforms, including- Pinball FX2â„¢ on XBLA – February 27th for 800 MSP Zen Pinball 2â„¢ on PSN for PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita with Cross Buy entitlement – February 26th in North America for $9.99, February 27th in Europe for €9.99 Zen Pinball 2 on the Mac App Store – February 27th for $2.99/table Zen Pinball on the Apple App Store – February 27th for $1.99/table Zen Pinball HD Google Playâ„¢ – February 27th for $1.99/table It will also release as a standalone application for the following platforms Star Wars Pinball for the Apple App Store Star Wars Pinball for Google Play Zen Studios also says that additional platforms will be announced at a later date. Perhaps we'll be getting a Wii U version of the game as well? Also, we finally know that there will be 10 tables in the collection altogether; stay tuned for more information on what the next seven tables will be. In the meantime, be sure to check out the preview of Star Wars Pinball's The Empire Strikes Back table to whet your appetite for next week's release.
  10. If you haven't heard yet, Zen Studio's latest set of Pinball tables will be based on the Star Wars series. Star Wars Pinball's first pack of tables will consist of a set of three different tables; one based on the bounty hunter, Boba Fett; one based on The Empire Strikes Back; and one based on the Clone Wars series. Today, Zen Studios has highlighted some details behind the Empire Strikes Back table. The table will be set on the bridge of the Empire's flagship Star Destroyer, The Executor, with events from the movie being recreated in the dot matrix display when different missions are activated during gameplay. As for different 3D objects that appear around the table, you'll see the likes of an AT-AT walker (with a circling snow speeder), a Tie Fighter, an ion cannon, and the dueling lightsabers of Luke and Darth Vader. Similar to some of Zen's previous tables, you'll activate missions by hitting the center bank to spell out a word (this time it's "Star Wars"), and after you'll select one of 5 missions to complete. Upon completion of all 5 missions, you'll finally activate Wizard mode and experience the epic lightsaber battle between Luke and Darth Vader. Interestingly enough, this will be the first of Zen's pinball tables to include mission checkpoints, which should make it easier to finish missions instead of having to restart them every time you lose a ball. Star Wars Pinball is expected to release later this month on PSN (as cross-buy content on PS3 and Vita), XBLA, Windows 8, iOS, and Google Play.
  11. It's been just a little over a month since the Plants vs. Zombies table was released for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2, and now Zen Studios has announced the next table to be coming soon as based on Marvel's Civil War. Originally premiering in 2006, Civil War was a Marvel Comics event that saw the superhuman registration act split the heroes into two factions, with Iron Man being pro-registration and believing that all super-powered heroes should register with the government, and Captain America on the anti-registration side believing that they should remain autonomous. The Civil War table has players choose between the two sides, and based on their choice, different scenarios play out with each side attempting to amass more followers (by hitting different targets and ramps). Release platforms have been announced as follows- Pinball FX2 on Xbox Live® Arcade and Windows 8 Zen Pinball 2 as Cross Buy entitled content for PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®Vita Marvel Pinball for PlayStation®3 Zen Pinball 2 on the Mac®App Store Zen Pinball on the iTunes App®Store Zen Pinball THD on Google®Play No release date has been given just yet, but look for Civil War to release sometime in the near future.
  12. 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!" Pros + Visuals and audio are spot-on in representing Plants vs. Zombies + Intuitive interpretation of the original Plants vs. Zombies' gameplay + Great table design Cons - A bit easy compared to other tables due to a few aspects (generous kickbacks and such) Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great 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.
  13. Remember when we said earlier in the month that Zen Studios had a mystery PopCap-based pinball table that they were going to announce at PAX? Well it's official - the new table will be based on Plants vs. Zombies! Dubbed Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, it'll cost $2.99 and be arriving next week just in time for Zen Pinball 2's release on PS3 and Vita as well as Pinball FX 2 on the 360, where it'll cost 240 MSP. And just as a reminder, anyone who purchases Zen Pinball 2 for PS3 will be able to play it on Vita at no additional charge! How about that cross-buy functionality (thanks Zen Studios)! Check out the trailer for Plants vs. Zombies Pinball below:
  14. Earlier this year, pinball developer extraordinaire Zen Studios announced it would be bringing Zen Pinball 2 to the PS3 and Vita at some point, and now that timetable is finally being revealed! A release date has been set for September 4, 2012. In addition, a brand new table that will be based on one of Popcap Game's hit games will arrive with Zen Pinball 2 as DLC. The new table will be revealed at PAX Prime later this month and will be playable at Popcap's booth. Zen Studios is also bringing the Popcap-based table to Pinball FX2 on XBLA on September 5. And before anyone forgets, Zen Pinball 2 is a free update for those who already own Zen Pinball or Marvel Pinball, but it is also available for purchase as a stand-alone game as well for everyone else. New users can also try every pinball table (26 tables available at release) for free before deciding to purchase! Last but not least, the purchase of Zen Pinball 2 will entitle every owner to cross-platform functionality, meaning you'll be able to play it on the PS3 and Vita at no additional charge. You can look forward to playing Zen Pinball 2 in just under a month's time on the PS3 and Vita. Which game do you think the Popcap table is based on?
  15. Christopher Haygood

    Review: Zen Pinball 3D

    Developer: Zen Studios Publisher: Zen Studios Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: Out Now ESRB: E 10+ Zen Pinball 3D is a title for the 3DS“s eShop, and a re-release of a game that has been out for PS3 since 2009. Now that it's been miniaturized and 3D'd, is it still worth checking out? You may be surprised by what this itty iteration has to offer. The game includes four boards: Excalibur, a medieval-themed stage; El Dorado, a booby-trapped ancient ruin; Shaman, a jungle full of dark magic and insinuated cannibalism; and Earth Defense, a last stand against an army of alien invaders and their giant robot pal. If these boards sound familiar, it's because you've played them all on the original Zen Pinball. If you haven't, you're in for a treat: every board is richly detailed and stuffed to the breaking point with little “adventures” to play out. The Excalibur board, for instance, features a duel with a knight, a jousting tournament, a battle featuring a gang of robbers attacking the castle, the crafting of a magic potion, a siege against a tyrant”s fortress, the chasing of a wild beast, and a number of separate tales involving the Knights of the Round Table. Each board also contains four achievement-style trophies that are unlocked as certain prerequisites are met. As one might expect, the boards' multiple layers look especially magnificent in 3D. It's disappointing then, that there are so few stages to choose from, but this feeling is alleviated by the stages' relentless tendency to be amazing, not to mention some DLC on the way that makes this minor letdown destined to be short-lived. Zen Studios has done a marvelous job making the whole game as realistic – albeit ostentatious – as a typical pinball machine, fully equipped with light flashes, pinball noises, tilting, etc. The ball physics are about as realistic as you“ll get without shelling out a couple thousand dollars on a machine. The diminutive size of the 3DS“s screen may pose problems for some when it comes to making out smaller details of the board, but I personally never had any issues with it. An especially nice touch is a dot-matrix board on the bottom screen that constantly displays retro-style animations of the events happening on the boards, as well as the current score. The only problem is that the score board will also give you directions on what to do next, and it can be difficult to read them while simultaneously keeping an eye on the ball. There is a “table guide” option in the menu containing information on how to trigger the various events, but if you“re not into memorizing pages of information, there will be a lot of trial and error before you start making the real high scores. Speaking of which, the online and local scoring systems in this game made me realize how much I miss high scores in general. The highest worldwide scores are soul-crushingly high, yet some impetus drives me to try and try and try (always in vain) to topple them all. It's a very addicting experience. The bottom screen tells you when you climb past one of the top ten "local" high scores, and this can lead to a feeling of power so great that you're likely to have an intervention held for you if you spend too much time playing, especially if you share a 3DS with someone particularly competitive. For such people, there is a multiplayer mode, but unfortunately it's of the "You lost, hand it over" variety. For a system like the 3DS, there really should be no reason not to include simultaneous play between more than one person, in which every player could see every other player's high current score. Maybe I'm spoiled by online multiplayer, but "pass and play" just doesn't cut it these days. Thankfully, the lackluster multiplayer and deficient number of boards do nothing to diminish the fact that this is still a very charming title. Are there even any really significant drawbacks to it? Well … maybe, depending on your point of view. This is, after all, pinball. There“s a reason you don“t see these colossal, flamboyant machines in every arcade around the country: it“s just not everybody“s bag. Perhaps it“s because there“s so little in the way of gameplay – just two buttons and Earth“s gravity to work with – or perhaps it“s so easy to feel cheated when you“re racking up jackpot after jackpot and then, with no real way to deter it, the ball falls right between the middle of the flippers, putting a heartbreaking end to your streak, or worse, the game. The outlanes, too, have enough power to render even the most enthusiastic gamer into a shriveled wad of despondency, and although the boards often have ways of temporarily cancelling out this menace, the worst experiences of the game easily come from those losses that are just out of your control. However, this is not a review of pinball, it“s a review of Zen Pinball 3D, and if you“re looking for a faithful rendition of classic pinball gameplay with enough virtual embellishment to appease even fans of not standing up and banging on a box of machinery, you won“t do better than this. The Zen Pinball series is probably the best set of pinball games out there at the moment, and at $6.99, the price for this incarnation is definitely worth the countless hours you“ll put in trying to beat the frightening worldwide top scores. Pros: + Four rich, detailed boards with tons of little “adventures” to accomplish + Highly addictive online and local ranking system + Looks fantastic in 3D Cons: - Only four initial boards - Disappointing multiplayer mode - Sometimes losses are JUST NOT FAIR Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great This will delight any 3DS-equipped pinball wizard or casual gamer looking for something to play in short bursts.