Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Zen Pinball 2 PS4 Table Re-Releases

About a week ago the good guys, and gals over at Zen Studios let the public know that their already obtained PS3, and PS Vita versions of 'Marvel Pinball Vengeance and Virtue', 'Classic Pack', 'Fantastic Four', 'Captain America', 'Marvel Civil War', 'Super Street Fighter II Tribute', 'Mars', and 'Excalibur' tables would be re-released, and made readily available in HD format for the PS4 console. If you already owned all of these tables then there was no need for an extra purchase, but should you find yourself lacking any of the additional DLC content the individual tables will set you back the usual $2.49/$2.99, and the sets $9.99 each. For those of you who are new to 'Zen Pinball 2', and have yet to read my past reviews on the newly re-released tables I will briefly go over each to give you a hint of what they each entail. Just keep in mind that these are HD remakes fitting of the PS4 console, and are quite the steal at the asking prices they are offered up at.

Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue'

Perhaps one of my favorite all-time 'Zen Pinball 2' table sets this four pack HD re-release includes three significantly good tables in the form of "Ghost Rider", "Thor", and "Moon Knight" as well as one slightly lesser table in the form of a classic X-MEN tribute. As far as the 'Ghost Rider' tribute table goes it features art that ties in with the revisited, and re-imagined tale of Johnny Blaze, and his deal with Satan. The ramps on the table have announcer effects that tie in with Johnny's daredevil motorcycle career, and broadcasts the many feats that he supposedly performs as he passes through each ramp. The rest of the table features things like a 3D model of Satan, a 3D model of Ghost Rider on his enhanced bike, a shotgun launcher, and an angel that is out for Johnny's soul. Classic 'Ghost Rider' villains such as the Scarecrow also make their debut in various events that are each triggered through ramp passes, and target strikes. As much as I like this table, and it's features the scoring on it is not particularly the easiest thing to do. If I were to rank it on a scale of difficulty it would be in the "High" difficulty category, because of the challenge at hand. Regardless of the challenges the 'Ghost Rider' table stands out as one of the most mature pinball table experiences that Zen Studios has ever created in that it deals with a more hellish theme.

My second favorite table of the set just so happens to be the 'Thor' tribute table. While I'm not really a fan of the comic books, or the superhero himself the 'Thor' table is the easiest table to score on, and one of the best looking tables in the entire Marvel Pinball series. Key points to the table include the 3D models of Thor, Loki, a green dragon that doubles as an event ramp, and an ice giant which is a part of the Thor lore. Ramps on the 'Thor' table make for some easy access, and make triggering the table's main events an easy task. Scoring ramp combos is also any east feat once you get a proper rhythm going. As far as the events go the "Duel Against Brothers" which pits Thor against Loki will reward you handsomely with 24 million points assuming you complete it. This is one of the highest point payouts I've personally ever seen in a Zen Pinball 2 table, and the fact that it's not difficult to complete makes the opportunity to rack up a high score a very possible task. As I mentioned earlier this table is the easiest of the set, and will be the one that most Zen Pinball players return to.

Next up, in order of significance is the 'Moon Knight' table. If there was ever a hardcore difficulty in Zen Pinball 2 this table's design would reflect that sort of challenge. Not only is the table obscure in design making for difficult ramp access, but the events, and other targets are also difficult to hit on purpose. Regardless of it's challenging nature you will find that the mostly overlooked 'Moon Knight' comic book series gets a tribute table they easily outshines most of the other Marvel Pinball offerings. Like 'Moon Knight' himself the table is colored in mostly white, and mirrors the night sky with it's moonlit illuminations. The Moon Knight comic book series has a noir feel about it, and the table definitely reflects that with the police oriented activities, and crime fighting scenarios. As far as voice talent goes Moon Knight's contributing voice-actors definitely outshine a lot of the other Marvel Pinball tables voice talent. There's a wide range of voices interpretations including maniacal voice-overs for the Egyptian God who sides with 'Moon Knight' as well as voice-overs for the 3D represented villains that make their visual debut at the back rotating platform. There are multiple 3D interactive models located towards the back of the playing field, and each have their own plot-filled role to play in the background history that the 'Moon Knight' table reflects.

Lastly, the 'X-Men' tribute table makes it's presence known through it's classic X-Men oriented table art, and prominent 3D models of wheelchair bound Charles Xavier (Professor X), and the floating Magneto. The ramps which are on either side of the playing field are made for easy access despite their odd shapes. The only difficulty you'll have in scoring high lies with the speed at which the pinball approaches the bottom two flippers. More often than not the fast approaching pinball will sneak past the two flippers if you are not paying close attention to the pinball's current path. In the way of events both Professor X, and Magneto will go head to head as they each try to persuade the other to change their way of thinking. The Juggernaut, The Blob, Wolverine, Cyclops, and Iceman also lend their voices to the events as well as alter the way things react to ball passes, and pings on the playing field. In the way of skillshot opportunities you'll need to successfully apply enough pressure from the Cyclops optic blast launcher to get it past the two starting bumper targets without bumping them. It's a challenge to score a skillshot, but with practice you can nail it. Overall the X-Men table definitely looks up to par with Zen Studios latest PS4 releases, and holds it's own as one of the better designed Marvel Pinball tables. Even though I deemed it as a lesser table it's still one that X-Men faithfuls will love to play on.

Classic Pack

Anyone who has been with Zen Pinball from the start will know of this 'Classic Set' as it contains the first tables that were released on the PS3 console for the original Zen Pinball game. Among the tables included are, 'Tesla', V12', 'Shaman', and 'El Dorado'. Tesla, just as the title suggests is of the famous inventor of the same namesake, Nikola Tesla. It features some, if not all of his famous inventions in a collective design that makes the table come to life like an electrified steam punk sideshow. The table's ramps, and many interactive gadgets definitely have that steam punk appeal, and reflect the genius engineering of Nikola Tesla himself. To top things off a black & white image of the scientist is plastered on the center of the playing field near a voltage meter. As the pinball is hit across the playing field it will strike with targets, bumpers, ramps, and spinners that will light up the various inventions, and make them come to life like some sort of Dr. Frankenstein fantasy. As far as favorites go this table definitely ranks up high on my list of must play Zen Pinball 2 tables due to it's genius design.

Being a part of a family of mechanics I could easily understand the goings on of the 'V12' table. Like it's name the tables design was created after a 'V12' engine. Of course street racing parts, and imagery were also included for added effect. On the table you will find everything from the motor itself to the carburetor, and even some street racing targets of interest. The ramps which are mostly to the back, and to the extreme sides are not easy to access due to the blocking tiles, and other table features. Once you do gain access to the ramps you'll find that continually accessing them is a trying task even for the more seasoned Zen Pinball 2 players. It takes a lot of time, and dedication to master this table as the possible risk of accidentally losing the pinball greatly outweighs the chance that you'll successfully complete any of the table's triggered events. In the way of graphics you'll find that the 'V12' table's visual quality was only slightly improved. In it's humble beginnings on the PS3 the tables design was simple in appearance, and as such it may have not have been able to have been made any better due to it's initial design. In the way of HD improvements it mostly got a spit & polish shine.

For those of you looking for that oddball, or more interesting table the 'Shaman' table will definitely fill that void for you. It features a more comical side of Zen Pinball table design, and incorporates the Shaman culture in a voodoo sort of way. The 3D model of the shaman stands front, and center complete with devilishly red skin, a protruding pot belly, bone accessories, and tribal tattoos. Other tribe members also appear in the form of drummers, and other wacky caricatures that each adorn the field in a more artistic manner. The table itself is darkly lit, and features runes that light up in different colors as well as a separate back playing field that comes complete with it's own pair of flippers. Scoring on 'Shaman' is not that difficult, but you do have to mind the pinball as it will often times slip past the center of the main flippers leaving you minus one ball. In the way of graphic enhancements the 'Shaman' table definitely looks better in HD, but not greatly so.Like the 'V12' table it mainly got an HD polish.

Last, but not least is the perfect table for all you adventurers out there. The 'El Dorado' table follows a pair of explorers who are on the hunt for one of the greatest treasures that myth has ever hinted at. El Dorado, the lost Mayan city of gold is what this table is all about. As such you will find jungle art, and ancient temple oriented features as you flip the pinball all over the playing field. In the way of 3D models you'll find a giant three tier stone totem that acts as an event trigger, and a way of scoring some major points. With the ramps laid out like they are, and the obstacles in your way you will be hard pressed to score big unless you spend some quality time with the table, and learn how everything works. Like the other classic Zen Pinball tables in this set the HD upgrade is noticeable, but not to a point that it's on par with tables like 'Deadpool'.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four was one of the first Marvel Pinball tables to be sold separate from a Marvel Pinball set. It features 3D models of each of the Fantastic Four team members including 'The Thing', 'Mrs. Fantastic', 'Mr. Fantastic', and 'The Human Torch'. Also making a debut as one of the table's main antagonists is Dr. Doom, in the form of an additional 3D model. Other key features include the the 3D model of the Baxter Building (The Fantastic Four's headquarters), and table art with the entire FF team, Dr. Doom and Super Skrull. Since the Fantastic Four have an otherworldly background story Zen Studio developers have incorporated the space aspects of their expansive tale within the table's four walls, and outside the table as well.

When it comes down to scoring opportunities you'll find events revolving around superhero, and super villain conflicts as well as conflicts pertaining to the Baxter Building model. The Thing also adds a unique element to the table in that his actions often times result in thunderous rock-like rumbles that hit the PS4 dualshock controller like a ton of bricks. One 'Thing' event involves Doom Bots attacking the Thing as he tries to destroy them via the proper target entry of a pinball. With the HD upgrade the 'Fantastic Four' Marvel Pinball table definitely shines on the PS4 console. While it's not the easiest table to score on due to difficult ramp access, and the potential to lose the pinball easily it is still one of the more visually inviting tables in the Marvel Pinball series.

Captain America

Like the FF table the Captain America table was released on it's own for the lowly price of $2.99. The table which honors the patriot spirit of the original Marvel wartime superhero comes complete with a WWII battlefield design. The ramps on the table are made up like wooden trenches, and the table itself is adorned with various medals of honor as well as ammunition, and other wartime items. At the center of the playing field Captain America is painted on in current comic book fashion posing like the modern-day action hero that he is. Near the flippers Captain America stands at attention in 3D model form ready for the good fight against those that would oppose his homeland. Other 3D modeled characters come in the form of Baron Zemo, and Red Skull. Events on the table which are triggered by target strikes, and ramp entries include a Cosmic Cube capture, a Rebel seek out, and Baron Zemo's "Adhesive X" chemical destruction amongst other things. Once the Red Skull event is triggered you'll get to witness Captain America, and Red Skull duke it out as you try, and successfully hit the steel ball that lies at either end of an arched groove located around the Cosmic Cube apparatus.

Scoring on the 'Captain America' table can be trying at times, but not too difficult. Ramp entry for the most part is easy to access, and most of the events are easy to complete if you don't get hasty. When it comes to losing the ball to flipper passes you won't have too much of a problem in keeping the pinball from sneaking past the flippers. As far as the skillshot goes I've still been unable to figure it out, so your guess is as good as mine. In the way of HD upgrades the 'Captain America' table is polished up properly like a treasured WWII medal of honor. It's definitely a fine looking table in design, and is inviting enough to lure seasoned Zen Pinball players back every now, and then.

Marvel Civil War

Perhaps one of the most decisive events in Marvel Comics history, the civil war that broke out between fellow superheroes amidst the civilian fatalities that occurred in a battle in Connecticut caused the superhero community to turn on one another for the sake of anonymity. On one side Iron Man (aka, Tony Stark) led a faction of superheroes who thought that giving up their human identities was the right thing to do in light of the catastrophe, and on the other side Captain America led a group of like-minded superheroes, and heroines who wanted to keep their identities secret. By the end of it all several superheroes, and super villains from both sides of the conflict lost their lives after siding with Tony Stark. Some at the hands of superheroes, and others at the hands of long time super villain adversaries. This is of course what the 'Marvel Civil War' table is all about.

Keeping true to the comic book series of the same name Zen Studio table designers made the event a two-sided ordeal like it actually was. On one side of the playing field sits a 3D model of Iron man, and on the opposite side a 3D model of Captain America. At times during a playthrough the two heroes will clash as the playing field lights up in a blood red fashion making them black silhouettes amongst the voice ridden conflict. It's an epic battle not unlike the civil war of the real world, and it ends according to who you end up recruiting, and how many followers you get to join your cause. You'll find that the Junction style ramps that sit at the back of the 'Marvel Civil War' playing field, and make up a majority of the scoring opportunities are ultimately divided up by color. The red lanes/ramps belong to Tony Stark's side, and the Blue lanes/ramps belong to Captain America's side. By passing the pinball up the color coded ramps you will trigger voice oriented events that tie in with the illuminated board that shows superheroes either joining Captain America's faction, or Iron Man's.

By continuing to trigger events you'll also activate the television screen which acts like a news feed covering the many battles that take place, because of the actions, and reactions of Iron Man and Captain America. At the beginning of your 'Marvel Civil War' table playthrough the televised newscast that plays on the mini-television's screen will enlighten you on the tragic events that started the Marvel Civil War, and the superhuman registration act that was enforced later on. When it comes to scoring on the table you'll find it to be the most difficult task of all Zen Pinball, and Zen Pinball 2 tables. For some reason the pinball physics are not in sync with the playing field, and make the pinball act as if it's hitting something that's not there. This ultimately leads to the loss of pinballs frequently. The added difficulty of hitting the ramps just right makes scoring on this particular table the most daunting of tasks. While the table looks amazing, and sounds equally so with the HD upgrade playing professionally on it will take some seriously dedicated practice.

Super Street Fighter II Tribute

The title of this table alone should give you a hint as to what this particular tribute table entails. As a Street Fighter faithful the 'Super Street Fighter II Tribute" takes me back to the days when I first began playing, and enjoying the series. While the table is one of Zen Studios simplest designs it still keeps true to every aspect of the game that it is paying homage to. You'll find 3D models in the form of Akuma, Blanka, the bonus round car, and the jet that would take you to each match in the actual SSFII game. The ramps on the table are severely limited in structure, and don't make for the best scoring opportunities, but suffice for the tasks they were setup for. Other table features such as the table art that depicts a mural of some of the Street Fighter characters (Dhalsim, Vega, Ryu, Cammy ...) keeps true to their original strategy guide illustrations that were created by Capcom artists back in the day.

In the way of sound effects, and vocals you'll find sound bytes ripped straight from the game. Sounds of Chun-li announcing her famous "Spinning Bird Kick", and the barrels breaking in the barrel breaking bonus round are among the things you'll hear as you pass the pinball around the table. Even Blanka's annoying electricity charge gets a visual, and audio effect that ties in with the original game's offerings. As far as events go you can spar with Akuma, and even destroy the 3D model of the bonus stage car by hitting the tile targets located underneath it. Ramp access, and target strikes all play a roll in triggering each of these events. Since the ramp access is limited on the table's playing field, and the targets, holes, and interactive objects are placed few and far between you will find it hard to score big on this table. The added fact that point values are the lowest of any of the Zen Pinball tables makes high scoring a truly daunting task. Pinball loss is also a major issue in that the pinball will more often than not speed right past your flipper defenses, especially if you are not quick enough to stop the incoming projectile. The visual upgrade on this table is somewhat noticeable, but you have to keep in mind that all of the 'Super Street Fighter II Tribute' table's features are primitive in comparison to what the table designers at Zen Studios can do these days.

Mars

OMG!!! The 'Mars' table is like a science fiction lover's dream come true! When it comes to overall design the 'Mars' table outshines nearly every Zen Pinball table created to date. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites, especially since I'm a fan of science fiction. The table itself features 3D moving models of a space shuttle style spacecraft, floating satellites, and even a spider-like droid that will kick the pinball back on the table if you have the right, and left flipper access blocked. The ramps on the table, which are suspended in air are made up of neon lights, and metal structures that keep the science fiction theme in check. The artwork on the table is a collection of alien rune symbols, technological diagrams, and an image of the red planet's surface that features the face-like structure which showed up in real-life photographs of Mars.

Events on the 'Mars' table revolve around the Phoenix Space Shuttle that lands on the playing field early on in a playthrough as well as orbiting satellites, and the ramps that surround the Phoenix spacecraft. by passing the ball through the various access ramps, and hitting certain targets, and bumpers you will trigger certain task oriented objectives that range from passing the pinball through a holographic scanner to refueling the Phoenix shuttle with ramp passes. Scoring on this particular table is an easy task, and I have personally played for hours at a time on it due to the fact that it's hard to lose a pinball. In the way of visual upgrades you can definitely tell this table got an overhaul, and I'm glad to see that it did. With all the neon lights, and vibrant colors on the playing field the table looks like one of the most visually impressive design feats that Zen Studios has ever accomplished. It's a must have for any Zen Pinball 2 player!

Excalibur

Like the mythological sword of the same namesake this table, and it's many features tie in with King Arthur lore. On the table you'll find a target ramp designed after the fabled 'Excalibur' as well as the Holy Grail chalice off to the side, and other medieval contraptions that are launch oriented. The applied 3D models are plentiful, and come in the form of a standing Merlin, a joust dummy, a knight's torso, and the Holy Grail itself. The art of the table holds a Celtic appearance with a fantasy edge that doesn't really go along with the fabled tales of old, but that does good in getting the fantastical theme recognized. A good knight clad in blue armor, and an evil knight clad in red armor clash together in an artistic representation at the center of the playing field along with two other female characters of interest. I imagine Lady Guinevere is one of them.

There's lots of scoring opportunities on the playing field that tie in the the various medieval contraptions, and other knightly objects as well as as key figures such as Merlin, the Excalibur hilt, the rotating round table, and the Holy Grail Chalice. Triggering said event's requires returned ramp passes, mini-playing field entries, and even return passes through the round table. One main event is triggered by hitting the Excalibur's handle/hilt, and passing the pinball up the center lane which doubles as the sword's blade. Scoring on the table isn't the easiest task in Zen Pinball 2, bit it's not exactly the hardest either. Ramps, and entry points are usually easy to hit, but keeping the ball up when it enters the knight's duel mini-playing field can be a trying event, especially since the two flippers that go along with it are severely shortened. Other than that I'd say this is one of the moderate challenges when it comes to Zen Pinball 2 difficulty.

In the way of visual upgrades the HD enhancement on the 'Excalibur' table isn't that noticeable, but like the Street Fighter tribute you have to keep in mind that Excalibur's design isn't anywhere near as impressive as the Zen Pinball 2 tables of today. Despite it's simple yet complex design the' Excalibur' table still withstood the test of time, and is still a good table to own. At $2.49 it's a steal!

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