Zen Studios has been keeping rather busy as of late, and that’s just with their pinball projects. Just a few months after releasing Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles for both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, the company is revamping the structure for one of its popular games, while at the same time readying it for the portable front. Next week, you’ll be getting your high score kicks with Zen Pinball 2 on PlayStation 3, as well as PlayStation Vita for the first time.
When we say restructuring, we mean using a new menu interface, similar to the one they upgraded to with Pinball FX 2 last year. You’ll be able to keep track of every pinball table you own in one place, including the Marvel Pinball games (they were kept separate on the PlayStation Network front when they came out a while back), while also seeing how people are faring on the leaderboards, which are supported online. You can also keep track of any medals that you earn over the course of each game, as well as tournaments that are happening (Zen Studios holds quite a few) and information on new content that’s making the rounds.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the tables that Zen Pinball 2 has, you’ve got quite a number of tables to choose from. 12 main tables are available in all, with four – El Dorado, Tesla, V12 and Shaman – included in the main Zen Pinball release for $2.49 a pop, or $9.99 for all four. (The interface itself is free, with tables to demo.) The others – Earth Defense, Epic Quest, Excalibur, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Paranormal, Mars, Street Fighter II and Sorcerer’s Lair, can be purchased for $2.49 a pop. The Marvel Pinball tables go for around the same price, and feature such familiar heroes as Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, as well as more obscure characters like Moon Knight and Blade. For good measure, you can add the Avengers Chronicels tables as well.
At press time, Zen Studios also confirmed that a new table based on a popular PopCap Games franchise would be available day one for Zen Pinball 2 (as well as Pinball FX 2, so don’t worry Xbox Live subscribers), though they haven’t confirmed what yet. It’s set to be unveiled this week at PAX Prime. We’ve got a few guesses, but our gut goes with Plants vs. Zombies. We’ll see.
What’s great about Zen Pinball 2 is that, for the first time ever, it’s being supported by the PlayStation Vita. So that means every interface and leaderboard will be cross-compatible with the handheld system, as well as every table you purchase. So if you own the Avengers Chronicles pack on PSN, you can download it for no additional charge. Your progress is also kept track of on each table, so if you happen to crack a record on your Vita, you can upload it there, provided you have access to a strong online connection.
Zen Studios knows how to make a quality pinball game, as we’ve seen from previous examples of their work. But with Zen Pinball 2, they’re actually improving the physics for each table, so that they feel better to play on than ever. This means less worrying about a ball speeding past your flippers and out of play, and more about keeping it hitting the bumpers and the ramps, so you can improve your score. This takes a lot more effort than you might think, but Zen has proven up to the task, judging by what we’ve seen so far from the tables.
There’s something to be said about each table’s design. The Marvel tables, for instance, ooze with the kind of personality that jumps straight out of a comic book, whether it’s Tony Stark changing into his Iron Man armor or Blade getting the jump on a vampire, sword in hand. The characters interact with each table without interrupting play. In fact, one particular table in the Avengers Chronicles pack, The Infinity Gauntlet, goes even further, enabling certain gems to change the rules on the table, such as gravity or going in reverse with flipper control. It’s a little manic, but just seeing this level of atmosphere in the tables – even the original, unlicensed ones – is rather cool.
Along with the great table displays, Zen Pinball 2 will also support stereoscopic 3D, in case you feel like taking your tilting skills into a new dimension. While the effect isn’t as amazing as, say, a round of Uncharted 3, this adds to the already expansive 3D PlayStation 3 library. And at a fraction of the cost, too.
Look for Zen Pinball 2 when it hits the PlayStation Network next week. It’s looking very likely you’ll have plenty of reasons to flip out over it.