We'll just come out and say it: Pinball on game consoles is almost always boring. There are so many games we could see ourselves playing on a system like Nintendo's 3DS before a ... pinball game. For the majority of the gaming world, digital pinball is a relic of video games that belongs right next to the Atari. That was what we thought before Zen Pinball 3D ($6.99 on eShop) by Budapest, Hungary-based Zen Studios.
The Zen Pinball franchise is already well known for its highly advanced ball physics that make for a terribly realistic experience. That said, we're surprised by the marketing material surrounding the game, which depicts the game as chaotic and full of edge-of-your-seat action. After spending the weekend with the game, this writer can confidently say that is certainly not the case. And that's not a knock on Zen Pinball 3D in the slightest--it's quite the compliment.
Across the game's four pinball tables--Excalibur, Shaman, El Dorado and Earth Defense--are experiences that start as confusing, almost stressful. But after mere minutes flinging that ball around, coupled with staring into the added depth, those feeling melt away leaving only calm. (Put the 3D slider all the way up on this one, folks.) It's as tough to grasp as it is to explain, so let's look at the complexity of each pinball table in Zen Pinball 3D.
Players can start hammering on those right and left flipper triggers almost immediately, never the wiser to the secrets behind each level. Pausing the game and opening up the guide for each table reveals numerous secrets and tips for how to maximize your points with advanced techniques and the order in which you employ these tricks. The pinball aficionado will eat this stuff up, but frankly (my dear?), I don't give a damn.
After reading what needed to be done in each level to maximize points, it was admittedly impossible to care. With that, this writer simply decided to go with the flow, and it's honestly the best way to enjoy this game. The sooner you forget about the points and demands flashing at you from the 3DS's bottom screen, the sooner you'll lose yourself in the game's physics and literal depth. The game is so gripping at times that, when you finally lose, it's actually a jarring yank out of the experience. And that's all the more motivation to do well in Zen Pinball 3D's four tables, and much more so than "How many points did I get?"
The game also sports local multiplayer, called Hot Seat, in which up to four players pass the game to one another when they lose a ball. Added to the single player portion of Zen Pinball 3D are several types of leaderboards, which will instantly remind you of how terrible you are at pinball. (At least that was this writer's experience.) Injecting even more replay value into the game are Awards, which are medals unlocked when extremely specific goals to each table are complete, like "Repel the attack of the robber knights against Camelot" on the Excalibur table.
All of these features will speak to the dormant-yet-avid pinball fan in some, but ultimately distract from the ultimate draw of Zen Pinball 3D, which is within the title. While perhaps it wasn't intentional--it's just clever use of the studio's name, after all--Zen Pinball 3D can provide a zen-like experience when players simply forget about all of the points and awards and rankings. So, sit back, turn the 3D effect way up, and just tap those shoulder buttons for a surprisingly chill time with your 3DS.
Click here to learn more about Zen Pinball 3D for 3DS >
Are you a fan of pinball games? Could you see yourself getting lost in the 3D tables of Zen Pinball 3D? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.