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!
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.
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.