Pinball enthusiasts, if you've been looking for an accurate way to relive all those old school arcade days without throwing down tons of quarters and dealing with the sticky floors. Rejoice, for your wish has finally come true with the addition of Zen Pinball on the PSN!
Graphics/Physics: To be quite honest, the only way you'll get a more realistic pinball experience would be to go down to your local arcade (if it still exists) and throw down some quarters. Yes, this game looks that good. Each one of the four included tables are incredibly detailed and the lighting is beautifully rendered to convey that familiar arcade feel, almost to the point of being photo-realistic (actually, it pretty much is). It's also quite nice when the camera does a pan of the table in the beginning of each match, giving you a grand view of what your about to go up against along with several different camera angles during gameplay for those who may not be too fond of the default camera. It's also possible to change the size or position of the scoreboard which usually sits up in the back of the machine.
Now we move on to the physics of this game which are just brilliant. They also, are about as close to real life pinball physics as you're going to get. For those who consider pinball an art, you'll be happy to know that many of your old tricks will work here as well. The physics are so dead on accurate that a player could be doomed, with his ball heading for the bottom, but with a flick of the table and a properly raised flipper, they just might be able to save it. It's even possible to put a pin on your ball as you watch sparks fly. This is why Zen Pinball truly caters to the novice as well as the hardcore pinball players out there.
Gameplay: This is really quite simple. Zen pinball is straight up pinball, no questions asked. You have four machines to choose from ranging from the racing inspired V12 to the tribal themed Shaman. There is the ability to use certain special effects like slowdown, but this will disable the ability to earn rewards and/or trophies for that period of time.
Menus are easy to navigate and the ability to customize and tweak many aspects of your game is a plus. Scoreboards are a big part of this game as you'll not only have records for what score you received on each table, but for how many points you can accumulate in your first minute of play as well as how quickly you accumulate those points. As you jump from table to table you'll constantly be updated with the newest high scores via the ticker at the bottom of the screen.
Then comes the multiplayer aspect of Zen Pinball, and perhaps the most redeeming aspect of the game. Players can choose to either taker part in a local match where each player takes turns on one machine back and forth until all balls have been used up (just like you would in an arcade) or online multiplayer matches. In online multiplayer all players have an infinite number of balls to use, with balls going down the gutter counting as penalties which go against your overall amount of points. A goal amount of points is set by the game's creator and the first player to reach that goal wins.
Another, really awesome, aspect of Zen Pinball's online multiplayer is the ability to not only have voice chat running, but video chat as well. Yes, you read that right, in-game video chat! This is one feature that really sets this game apart from many other online-enabled games available on the PSN and we're surprised that it's not utilized more often in other games. This aspect of the game alone will have you coming back time, after time, after time.
Sound: Expect the usual, fun, arcade-style pinball sounds. Everything is spot on, just the way you'd remember it. The in-game announcer is VERY enthusiastic, sometimes to the point of being TOO enthusiastic, however with the ability to turn up or down pretty much any aspect of the game's sounds, that wasn't really a problem. Zen Pinball actually does a very good job of taking advantage of the surround sound capability with all the commotion going on, as most gamers wouldn't expect a pinball game, of all things, to do this, which was quite nice.
The game also supports in-game custom soundtracks during single player which is always a plus.
Overall: This game was definitely designed with the pinball enthusiast in mind as well as those just looking to get the feel of the old time arcade and have some fun. Bear in mind though, Zen Pinball is straight up pinball, so come to the table expecting that. There's also a demo available in the PS Store if you'd like to give it a shot before dropping $10, which is a great value, by the way. We defy you to find a more realistic, more engaging game of pinball out there in the gaming universe because Zen Pinball really does deliver.