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Zen Pinball 2 review

Someone behind this certainly hasn't reached enlightenment

It was startling to see a seemingly full game appear on the Wii U eShop with the word "Free" blazing delightfully next to its listing. So startling, in fact, that we couldn't help hitting Download immediately. Finally, Nintendo owners are enjoying the true boons of the digital age. Time for some pinball!

No, it wasn't. As we soon realised, while the base game is free, to play any of the 24 currently available tables for more than a minute requires a one-off payment and download to unlock it. Ah well, £2.39 for one table or £7.99 for the several packs available isn't too extortionate (although it would add up to around £55 for the full set and, unlike other console versions, there are no freebies for buyers of the previous versions). Time for some pinball!

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No, it wasn't. Because pressing "Buy Table" simply brought up a message telling us to head to the eShop. So we opened up the Home Menu eShop option and downloaded our chosen table. Time for some pinball! No, it wasn't. We then realised that the unlock option in the eShop was a tiny file, literally a key for a bigger download - the trial version. So we downloaded the trial file, too. Time for some pinball! No, it wasn't. Because we needed to exit the game and restart to make it recognise that we'd downloaded the files. Time for some pinball!

No, it - oh wait, actually it was now. And then it was all fine. Good, in fact. You see, Zen Pinball 2 does an excellent job of following its predecessors in almost every other facet than distribution. Its approach to ultra-realistic pinball play coupled with fantastic table design has always been successful on 3DS, and this HD upgrade is suitably impressive.


The numerous Marvel-endorsed tables rely as much on their spectacle and heritage as on their design - targeted play causes fights and over-the-top action sequences across the flashing, miniaturised battlefields - but it's the original tables that truly shine. With less to work with, Zen has put huge effort into making these tables as engaging as possible.

Towering, interactive robots, spectating demons, anti-gravity wells and, er, Serbian electricity pioneer, Nikola Tesla, all make appearances as both decoration and mechanical details. It looks and plays just as well on the GamePad (accessed with a swipe down the touchscreen).

It's a game built to appease true fans of the game, too, with online leaderboards, scheduled tournament play and hotseat and split-screen (across GamePad and TV) multiplayer included, not to mention the nerdy depths of the imposingly-named operator menus, where you can tweak any number of table features to your inscrutable liking.

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It's a truly fully fledged package that comes close to justifying its ever-rising costs. It's just a shame that it forces you to live through what amounts to a painfully mundane version of Terry Gilliam's Brazil to get to, you know, the game.

It might seem a petty gripe, but the sheer rigmarole of the setup colours everything else afterwards; fuming about the speed of the Wii U's operating system rather takes away from trying to defeat Angrir, Breaker of Souls with a marble. Time for some pinball? Well, only if you've got the time to waste, too.


4 comments so far...
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  1. GiftedGimp Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 14:15

    To be fair the way you have to go to eShop to buy tables is down to Nintendos infrastructure, Look at Barbies posts in Miiverse and she explains.
    If you download the trail tables first then you can give each table a try and if you decide you want buy its only takes a few seconds to dl the unlock.

    As for free table for those who brought the tables on 3DS, again it was some sort of Estore Restriction... but again Barbie in Miiverse stated its something they wanted to do but couldn't due to eStore restrictions.

    A very harsh review imo, but its good ppl can at least try the table and make up thier own mind.

  2. smikey666 Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 15:55

    I own all the tables love most of them I play the game quite a lot very addictive. They shouldn't advertise the game as free i'll admit.

    & those with the premium console will get Ł5 back from nintendo with the network premium if they get all or most of the tables.

    I don't really get why the review is so late though the game has been out months.

  3. jemm33 Monday 25th Mar 2013 at 10:31

    Well done on a good review,the score should be higher for the actual game but can't help agree with you due to the terrible way you have to download.
    When you get to play it, it is very satisfying and addictive especially off tv play when the wife is watching Great british menu.
    Hope the Star Wars tables are released soon,tried a trial version on my other console (am i allowed to mention 360),and all 3 Star Wars tables are awesome but didn't buy them as i want them on my Wii U. Which goes a long way in showing how i prefer it on the game pad instead of upstairs in my bedroom on a bigger tv.......on the 'other' console.
    Viva la Wii U.

  4. Monday 25th Mar 2013 at 20:46

    No, no, no! Anyone that thought the game is free deserve to be disappointed, those that went onto Miiverse to complain about how the game isn't free needed to be dropped into acid for their sheer stupidity. It's obvious that the setup allows you to build your own unique set of game boards without having to buy a generic base. I like his approach as it also allowed me to trial the game before playing.

    Past that, yes... The needing to leave the game to download and purchase is annoying, but isn't this the same for all DLC items for games? Rather than the current menus and messages for Zen 2, a quick tweak could sort out the confusions and relieve the frustrations.

    Seeing as the eShop is accessible without having to shut down a game Ninty needs to sort out not needing to restart a game to access DLC that's been freshly purchased.

    Is the above score entirely dictated by the poor way in which the DLC is handled? Or is it a bad pinball game?

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