Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Zen Pinball 2 - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PS4)

Before I get into the thick of this review I thought I'd be courteous, and let you know that I don't intend on leaking any movie spoilers. From time to time I may reference characters, but at this point we pretty much know of all the main role-players. For those of you who are unaware, and who have not yet bought this latest Zen Pinball 2 DLC pack I think you'll be pleased to learn that there are two tables instead of the one previewed table that was shown in the teaser trailer. It is the usual packaged deal in that you'll be forking over $4.99 in PSN credit for the DLC instead of the cheaper price for the individual tables. Single tables usually cost $2.99 each. In comparison of the two DLC types I think there is a bit of a discount with this set's pricing. The question that remains though is if it's worth having at all?

 The Force Awakens

As one might guess the new Star Wars tables come in a sort of good versus evil presentation. A kind of divided yin and yang set. By that I mean you'll get to play as the resistance fighters Finn and Rey on the table titled "The Force Awakens", and rally with Kylo Ren and his army of bad guys on the table titled, "The First Order". Each table's theme follows closely the film's lore, and the Star Wars universe it was adapted from. In the case of the table titled, "The Force Awakens" you'll be engaging the empire as you play out scenes from the movie in a scenario style fashion. Rey will act as the scavenger she is, and Finn will support her quest in fighting the Empire alongside the Resistance. The table's surface features mirror that of the dunes shown in the movie's trailer. There is desert terrain fitted with the usual junkyard style mechanisms, and structures. For ramps there's a mixture of wired metal half-pipes connected at a sort of midway intersection which is tied to a freighter of some sort (forgive my lack of Star Wars ship knowledge). On the left side of this midway junction sits a grounded ramp which leads upwards into the intersecting, and looping half-pipe system. On the opposite right side is another ramp, and adjacent alley which also lead up into the conjoined half-pipe system.

At the upper left corner of the table's playing field you'll find backside lamp targets with the letters spelling out "F-I-N-N". These letters which activate an event tied to the character of the same name are hit using the bumpers positioned just below them. In the opposite upper right hand corner there sits a sort of wheel type mechanism with two extra flippers that are utilized by pressing the (R2) should button. This area is accessed by a porthole, or pit, and leads back out towards the middle right flipper, and main right flipper areas. Speaking of flippers there are an impressive six flippers on this table. There are the usual two main flippers, the previous two I just mentioned, and a couple more on either side of the middle structure. The middle structure which connects to the branching half-pipes is an industrial type of structure likely ripped from the movie. The facing part of it appears to depict a space freighter sectioned off as three target panels. Hitting these targets will cause a random magnetic jarring which will send the ball to either side of the lower playing field. Once the targets are gone during Rey's scavenging event the warehouse like structure surrounding the freighter panels will become an entry point for some high scoring opportunities.

At the lower part of the table where the main flippers are located you'll find the usual three lanes with letters above them. The three lanes on the left spell out "R-E-Y" while the three on the right spell out "B-B-8". Once a pinball is passed through the lanes spelling out either name an event will be triggered. As far as the table art goes the middle ground area is filled with cameos of the three main characters within the new Star Wars film. This includes Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. The art style is reminiscent of old Star Wars movie posters, and holds true to the series as well as the movie of the same name. The table itself will transform, or transition according to the event that is playing out enabling the player to fully experience a scene's event as a separate experience. Among the events you'll find an aerial dogfight between the pilot of the Millennium Falcon and two tie-fighters in the form of a multi-ball event. It is very cinematic in delivery, and keeps the feeling of the movie intact. In the way of 3D character models Rey, and Kylo Ren definitely make a debut appearance among their own specific events. Outside of that I'm not quite sure as progressing on the table has been an issue for me.

When it comes to scoring on "The Force Awakens" things aren't all that easy. With features in place like the magnetic center panels, and the alien tentacles that sprout out between the floor ramps/alleys it makes for a rather trying time. The way the centerpiece is positioned, and the fact that it has a loop around alley cupping the backside of it makes keeping the pinball/s in the upper playing area a difficult job as the ball will often times return front and center only to pass out of bounds between the two main flippers. If I were to rate this table on a scale of difficulty I'd say it was geared towards the more pro level Zen Pinball players. The flipper timing has to be pretty darn accurate to keep the ball going, and even more so to direct it to specific targets.

Something else I should mention is that Zen Studios implemented a few user-friendly additions to gameplay. They actually made it so that progress in events won't be lost, or at least will take you back to the point where you earned your last skillshot. They also made it so that the events require less ball entries, or hits the longer it takes you to complete them. While this will allow players to finish an event, and move on it does have a downside in that the scoring you get from said event won't be as great if you finish it slowly. While I'm on the topic I should also mention that this table has a couple of standard skillshot opportunities tied to the middle left hand lane/alley, and the midway right hand alley/ramp. Once you launch the pinball via the vehicle based launcher you'll have to immediately knock the pinball to either target after it makes it's way to the main two flippers. There's also a skillshot, or super skillshot directly beside the center structure in the form of a pit hole. Entering it using the same method will score you a few million points.

The First Order

The pinball table known as "The First Order" lives up to it's name by featuring the adverse campaign of those aligned with the dark side of the force. It features serpentine half-pipe loops, lanes, and ramps on either side of the playing field as well as some floating platforms which hold up both Cpt. Phasma, and a Stormtrooper wielding a flamethrower. In the middle of the playing field, just above the two main flippers you'll find an embedded secondary playing field that has hyper-realistic art depicting Kylo Ren and an army of Stormtroopers. The secondary playing field comes complete with it's own set of right and left flippers, and also houses several ball capture slots with which to move a captured pinball along to the far right side with strikes from a second pinball. The secondary playing field, like other table structures has multiple interactive functions that work in conjunction with different table features. It serves as it's own three level scoring event as well as a multi-ball event that has a jackpot upgrade made possible by pinball passes through a spinner lane in the upper middle portion of the playing field. 

Further up on the table you'll find a Tie-Fighter ball capture mechanism which fills up with three black tie-fighters as you enter balls into it's bucket. There's also a set of saucer-like bumpers behind it as well as a floating holographic Star Destroyer. The Star Destroyer which will pick up pinballs, and place them on the upper right and left side half-pipes acts as it's own event trigger as well. By passing the pinball into the tractor beam sinkhole beneath the floating behemoth the ship will pick it up, and move it while upgrading it's Star Destroyer, and laser blaster levels. Once it reaches a certain level an event that requires you to position the Star Destroyer in a direction where it can shoot the Resistance's X-Wings will commence. To position it you will have to use the "L1", and "R1" shoulder buttons to rotate it where it will shoot the X-Wing that briefly made an entrance beforehand. 

Another event on the table ties in with the Empire's search for Resistance fighters. In it you will be re-entering the "Mystery Award" box that you first entered to trigger the "Capture Poe" event. The Mystery Award capture pit acts a lot like the Lucifer one on the "Ghost Rider" table. It will give you a random award ranging from an extra ball, to extra points, and even the "Capture Poe" event among other things. Other table events include a "White Ball" event which boosts the score output of your target strikes. There's also a lesser event in which the flamethrower wielding Stormtrooper will set the pinball on fire, and send it back on the playing field for you to bounce around at specific targets of interest. I should also mention that the access point for the secondary playing field is located just underneath the left side platform which the flamethrower wielding Stormtrooper is standing upon. By flipping the pinball into the square capture hole you'll immediately enter the secondary playing field.

The skill shot, and super skill shot are achieved by either launching the pinball past the upper curve of the playing field into a hole on the back side of the tie-fighter ball capture device, or directly into the Star Destroyer's tractor beam. The tie-fighter device skill shot will earn you 500,000 points while the Star Destroyer tractor beam super skill shot will earn you a hefty 3 million points. Scoring these skill shots aren't that hard, so taking advantage of them when you can is a good idea. Lastly I should mention that in the center spinner lane, which doubles as a jackpot multiplier there is a sinkhole which will reset an event timer. Some of the events on this table do end rather quickly so hitting that reset sinkhole is a good idea if you aim to complete an event, or get the most score possible out of said event.

The table as a whole is the most user friendly of the set once you understand it's setup. In my latest playthrough I managed to break the 40 million point mark, and can see myself scoring even higher in future playthroughs now that I understand it. I'd definitely say this is my favorite table of the set, because of it's ease of access.

The Verdict ...

Before I get down to the brass tacks of this latest Zen Pinball 2 DLC offering let me remind you that if you own multiple Playstation consoles this is a cross-buy deal. For $4.99, and supposing you have all Playstation consoles you can download the set to your PS3, PS4, and PS Vita. That my friends is a heck of a deal, and a fair one at that. Do understand that this set is also available on mobile gaming devices as well as the Xbox One under the Pinball FX2 base game. As for me, everything that I've said pertains solely to the Playstation version of the DLC. 

When it comes down to it I think Zen Studios did alright with this set. The first table, "The Force Awakens" is definitely a table geared towards more skilled Zen Pinball players though. While this was a slight turn off for me the table still looked amazing, and held true to the movie theme it was molded after. The table transitioning, and scene by scene scoring opportunities definitely piqued my interest. The table about "The First Order" on the other hand was my favorite in that it was the more user friendly of the two. Scoring wasn't all that difficult once I learned how to rack up the most points. I will say that it does require some getting used to though. It has a slight learning curve, if you will. Overall the set is not a bad deal considering the effort Zen Studios put into the crafting of the project. It gives the player a table to test their mettle with as pro pinball players as well as an easy high scoring table that simply requires an understanding to make the most of. For those of you wondering about the soundtrack the voice-overs included were from the original movie actors/actresses, and the music seemed to be recycled tracks from some of the previous Star Wars films. The theme playing out on "The First Order", however does seem to be new.  As far as my verdict goes definitely do not miss out on getting this set! It's one of the rare DLC offerings that I will stand behind and recommend.

12 comments:

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