(PS4 / PlayStation 4)

Zen Pinball 2 (PS4 / PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Zen Pinball 2 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Alex Stinton

Zen out of ten?

One of two pinball titles flipping onto the PlayStation 4 prior to Christmas is Zen Pinball 2, a game that previously graced both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. This next-gen version provides gamers with a chance to battle friends and strangers for the highest score on a range of tailor made tables, a number of which bear licenses from some of your favourite properties such as Marvel, Star Wars, and, er, Plants vs. Zombies.

The title’s core client is available for free and comes with a sample table (Sorcerer’s Lair) which can be played until your heart’s content. You’re also able to experience any of the other tables by taking them for a short spin courtesy of a trial mode. These tasters offer the briefest glimpse of the arenas available, meaning that you’ll find it difficult to get a real feel for them. As a result, you’re probably going to have to take a leap of faith and invest your hard-earned money into any of the tables that take your fancy.

Fortunately, most of the options are reasonably priced. While most of the licensed Marvel and Star Wars tables can only be purchased in packs of four, a few of the arenas can be snapped up individually for pocket change. It’s disappointing that you can’t just buy all of the tables a-la-carte, as the way that things are structured now means that you’ll end up with a few duds in your collection. That said, even if there’s only one table within a pack that clicks with you, you’ll be losing a lot of time in pursuit of pinball wizard status. Even better, if you happen to have purchased any of these packs on the previous platforms, you’ll be able to transfer your purchases to Sony’s new machine.

There are twenty tables currently on offer in Zen Pinball 2, with the promise of more down the line. All of these run in 1080p at 60 frames-per-second and look stunning, with vibrant colours and presentational touches that push the arenas beyond what would be possible on a real-world pinball machine. Characters such as Wolverine and Darth Vader stand atop their respective tables, as X-Wings and TIE Fighters fly overhead and zombies shuffle towards your flippers just asking to get hit with a steel ball. There are even moments that remove you from the tables entirely to play simple minigames which provide a respite from the relentless action.

All of this is quite impressive to begin with, but the excessive presentation starts to get in the way of the actual game after a while. The over-the-top colours and animated elements prove so distracting at times that you’ll lose track of the ball completely, resulting in some frustrating mistakes. You can alleviate this issue somewhat by employing the available 3D mode which increases the depth of field and makes the ball pop a little more. However, you’ll obviously need an expensive television to enable this option, and playing for longer than an hour can result in some serious eye-strain.

When you do have track of the ball, you’ll note that it moves at a swifter pace than its real-life counterparts, making it a fast and furious battle to keep the steel sphere in play. The layout of each arena offers a banquet of ramps, bumpers, and targets to hit, and working out just what you need to do can be a touch intimidating at first. Fortunately, every table has a quick guide that takes you through its features and details how to score really big points. That said, knowing how to attain a huge score is easier than actually pulling it off, as a lot of the levels will require you to hit some pretty precise ramps and markers in a specific order to really rack up the multiplier. You do get a lot of feedback from the game while you’re doing this, with points markers appearing on the screen – and a little box that informs you when you’re close to attaining a top score.

On top of the usual array of leaderboards, the game also gives you a Pro Score that’s calculated based on your global position. As your ranking changes over time, so too does your tally, and this forces you to keep playing the game in order to improve your personal bests. Furthermore, a Team Score encourages you to befriend active players, thus resulting in more competition on your personal scoreboard.

And if that wasn’t enough rivalry for you, there are a couple of local multiplayer modes for you to enjoy should you require a break from battling faceless lists. These include a four-player hotseat mode, which has players taking turns to see who can get the highest score, and a split-screen mode, whereby two players race to achieve a target score with each ball lost draining a percentage of points.


After its enjoyable outings on previous platforms, Zen Pinball 2 has arrived on the PS4 in good form. Assuming that you can get past the inflexible purchasing options and cut through the sometimes overwhelming digital gloss, you’ll find a flipping fun game with an addictive core at its steel-coated centre.

Game Trailer

User Comments (16)



get2sammyb said:

@sajoey Sounds like it!

Great review, Alex. I'm enjoying this version, though I do prefer the Pinball Arcade's tables to be honest. Having said that, I feel like Zen Studios provides a much better wrapper with all of the Pro Score stuff. The Pinball Arcade is very, very basic.



way2easy said:

Well written but it kinda feels like the score doesn't match the review. After reading through the many positives and few minor negatives I was expecting to see an 8 at the bottom. Oh well, I may be a little bias as I've always loved these games.



Tasuki said:

Great review. I might pick this one up if Santa brings me a PSN card.



AlexStinton said:

@way2easy It was a tough one to score, The biggest problem for me was that Zen Studios tend to overdo the presentation on the tables. I get the impression they come up with loads of great ideas and implement them all when they should be more selective as it overshadows the actual pinball part of the game.

They also really need to get someone better to do the voice for Han Solo on the Star Wars tables as the guy they've got is really.... really.... bad.

That said it's a good pinball game and with Arcade Pinball also coming to PS4 there's a bit of a pinball renaissance going on. All we need to do now is put Zen Pinball and Arcade Pinball in a room together and make them have some sort of pinball love child.



belmont said:

If I buy the Vita version of some tables (the marvel ones for example) do I get them on PS4 for free? Or it is down 50%?



AlexStinton said:

@belmont If you already own these tables on PS3 or PS Vita (even if you got them from PS+) you can import them to PlayStation 4 at no charge by pressing square on the main menu. It is important to understand that the import process works ONLY from Zen Pinball 2 to Zen Pinball 2 (i.e. NOT Marvel Pinball PS3 to Zen Pinball 2 PS4)



DeHorror1975 said:

Great to hear this is coming to PS4, I have it on my vita and its the best pinball game I've ever seen hands down.




@AlexStinton "I get the impression they come up with loads of great ideas and implement them all when they should be more selective as it overshadows the actual pinball part of the game."

I couldn't disagree more. Having so much to do and so many methods of activating various table features really makes you target your gameplay that much more. They've come a long way since the first batch of tables, the Empire Strikes Back table is one of the best games I own on it's own, let alone the rest of the available tables.



Ginkgo said:

Still trying to work out which one I like better between this and Arcade. I much prefer the realistic physics and more natural looking tables on Arcade, but Zen is simply lots of fun!. And cross play. hmm.



Kohaku said:

I like the Pinballgames on the PS4 because it looks fantastic but I still prefer to play the pinballgames on the Vita. For some reasons I like the reactions of the flippers on the Vita more than on the console. Looks like there is a little lag in it on the console.



Azuri said:

@Kohaku be sure to set your TV to "game" mode. I had the same flipper lag issues on this and Pinball Arcade. Game mode will make all your games responsive.



JohnHendry said:

Zen Pinball in 3D is what gaming looks like at its best right now. But the statement one hour watching it will give you eyestrain is a placebo IF you think that will happen. Relax and your eyes don't know the difference. I've gone 4 hours with no eye strain.... but I don't advice it as its not your eyes that will get fat and lazy;-) 3D rocks but you need 60in or bigger to get the full effect of 3D. On small computer screens and TV's the effect is something you "look at" rather than be part of. Marry Xmas everyone but try to act human on PSN live and learn there is more to life than immature views of sex and vulgar comments.....



Jaz007 said:

I tried out the free table given, I didn't like it that much. Pinball Arcade did however. I don't think I'll be buying any more tables since I didn't like the free one that much.



jgrangervikings1 said:

My biggest problem with the PS4 version is that the flippers lag just ever so slightly when I press them. As a result, I find myself overthinking the timing of my shots, and I end up making a bad shot. The PS3 and PSVita versions have a faster flipper response. I have the settings on my tv configured appopriately, so it's not that--it's the game, as far as I can tell. It's great that the PS4 tables are free since I already own them on PS3, but it's unfotunate that my favorite table (Excalibur) and my wife's two favorite tables (El Dorado and Shaman) aren't available.

Between this and the Pinball Arcade, I gravitate toward Zen more often because I prefer the viewing angles when playing. I do prefer Pinball Arcade's instructions, though.

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