Monday, December 8, 2014

Zen Pinball 2 - "Venom" (PS3/PS4/PS VITA)

Zen Studios could have gone so many different routes with the design of this table, but in the end they chose the table itself to feature locales from the venom symbiote lore as it's core playing elements, and placed the main character role players in said settings. I had honestly expected something more venom-like in it's stead, perhaps with a black & white theme, but it just did not end up that way. Aside from my disappointment though I think Zen Studios did a stand up job in relaying the comic book stories associated with Venom, and all the other symbiotic spin-offs. Even Spider-man got his debut appearance on the table. For those of you who don't know of Venom's origin story it began with a man named Eddie Brock, and his chance encounter with an alien symbiote that had ultimately adhered to him in a parasitic fashion. Having had prior issues with Peter Parker (aka, Spider-man) Eddie Brock, and his now split symbiotic personality sought to destroy the web slinging superhero, and rid himself of the threat. Of course later on, and through many comic book issues, and series the alien symbiote chose to take on different hosts with different physical results, and even spawned some offspring of it's own at one point. While this latest table does touch base on a lot of the Venom tales, and tie-ins it still does not include it all. One could understand that though, because of the ridiculous amount of content that the table would have to include to be "All Inclusive".

When it comes to the table design you'll find that Spider-man himself takes front, and center as the featured art subject leaving the 3D models at the top, and bottom of the table to reflect the Venom, and Carnage inclusion. The table itself is a mixture of various city structures including a series of four side-by-side ramps (two on each side) with railroad tracks, and skateboard ramp themes. As with other Zen Pinball 2 tables this one does also features multiple playing areas. In fact the table is divided into an upper, and lower playing field. At the bottom the main focus is on Carnage, and his 3D prison enclosure as well as the "Black Suit" spelling targets (Multi-ball) that separate the top playing field from the bottom. The ramps to the right of the table, which sport the railroad track theme curves around through a wire frame pinball tunnel that loops around to the left lower side of the table, and drops off to a ball capture that acts to spell out the word "Carnage". Spelling out "Carnage" will cause the table to switch focus to an entirely different playing field in which you'll have four tries to hit letter targets that spell out the words "Prison Break". This separate playing field acts as a means to tell Carnage's origin story, and does so in a subtle way.

In the upper portion of the table you'll find even more features of interest including three flippers (one on the left & two on the right), an indented skateboarding enclosure that stems off from the left side set of skate ramps, a Statue of Liberty torch that sits amidst a towering spiral ramp, and a bell tower loop around ramp that played a role in Venom's undoing in one of his many Spider-man encounters. You'll also find a semi-hidden single bumper that acts as an event starter (She-Venom, Agent Venom, ...) when hit, and is triggered by a follow-up pass into the Carnage ball capture pit that I mentioned earlier. For those of you wondering about ball save features you'll be glad to know that Anti-Venom is here to save the day. By safely passing the pinball through the lanes that have the light up Anti-Venom marker you'll set the save for when your pinball should pass past the main flipper bumpers. Zen Studios even include a new unique pinball save feature known as a "Ball Capture" which is placed on the outer left-hand ramp. Once a pinball hits this pit it will be secured by Venom's webs via the Venom 3D model at the top of the table, and will keep the able at ready in case your pinball should go out of bounds.

Events that are included on the table tie-in with a variety of different Venom symbiote encounters, as one might imagine. By striking the partially hidden bumper at the right-hand top of the table you will play a sort of roulette pick which will decide what event you will take on should you successfully follow up with a pinball pass into the lower ball capture. The available events include that of "She-Venom", "Agent Venom", the odd encounter in which the Scorpion sported the symbiotic suit (forgot the name???), and a few others. The "She-Venom" is your basic event in which you must pass the ball into the right targets, or through the right ramps. The Scorpion symbiote event is also basically the same as well. When it comes to the "Agent Venom" encounter though you will be using the 3D gun models located at the bottom right-hand side of the table to complete the required tasks. As far as the Carnage event goes you will have to complete a playthrough of the separate "Prison Break" playing field in order to reap those reward points. The multi-ball event that I briefly mentioned before requires that you strike the highlighted "S-U-I-T" targets at the bottom half of the table, and follow up with three pinball entries into the revealed space behind the target letters. This will then activate the table's multi-ball event for some more high scoring opportunities.

When it comes to scoring big on this table your best bet comes with finishing, or partially finishing the Carnage prison break as it is the most rewarding event point-wise. If you don't fully complete it you can keep trying at it, and easily score close to ten million points each time. The other events on the table also have high point payouts, but triggering, and finishing said events can be a daunting task due to the tables oddly orchestrated layout. You might rack up some good jackpots, and multiplier points via the "Black Suit" multi-ball though if you can keep the pinballs from going out of bounds. As far as ramp access goes, and getting the pinball to the various playing areas it's not all that hard. It's just the matter of keeping the pinball from going out of bounds, and landing said pinball into the Venom ball capture as often as possible.

As far as my verdict goes I'm honestly disappointed about the table seeming to be less about Venom, and more about the events and locales surrounding the various Venom related stories/characters. I had imagined the Venom symbiote slathered all over the table with Venom's face emerging in a full teeth filled grin at one point, and his tongue protruding like a ramp of some sort. It would have been Awesome! Like I said the design could have gone in so many different directions, but it is what it is. When it comes to playability, and design though the table does get the job done. It portrays the Venom story as it should, and expands on it through Carnage, and other symbiotic events from the Venom lore. On top of that it is potentially a high scoring table once you learn the ropes of it. In that respect I do like it as I'm a high score fiend. If you are a fan of Zen Pinball 2 definitely don't miss out on this one, but at the same time be aware of what you are getting into should you commit to a purchase. Btw, The PS4 version is graphically the best while the PS Vita version is the easiest played. Just so you know though the table is a cross-buy meaning that if you own a PS3, PS4, and PS Vita you can have the table on all three consoles.

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