You could never accuse developer Zen Studios of being particularly selective about which platforms its pinball titles appear on. Thus, the number of people who'll be surprised to hear Pinball FX2 has arrived on PlayStation VR will probably be close to zero, especially since it provides a rare opportunity to do something a bit different in the pinball genre. Outside of slapping an unexpected licence on a table that is.
Rather than giving you the base game for free with the opportunity to trial some tables before putting any money down – as was the case with Zen Pinball 2 – with this release the VR tax is in full effect. Not only will you have to shell out £11.99 For the base game – which includes just three tables – but if you want any more the additional pack of five will set you back another £19.99. On top of this, none of the tables are actually new with each having appeared in Zen Pinball 2 previously.
Now normally a developer not offering a way to import tables you've already bought while also trying to double dip on content for the same console, would be a very good reason to dismiss a title outright. But in this case, once you've donned your PlayStation VR headset, you'll see just why this is a dream come true for any fan of virtual pinball.
Initially you find yourself stood in a spacious living room where you can teleport around to look at scoreboards, a trophy cabinet, or more importantly position yourself in front of the pinball table you wish to play. Placing yourself square on to a life-sized pinball table turns out to be much more striking than you'd expect, and being able to get up-close to tables you've only ever played on your television is a real treat.
Without a doubt, it's a game that's best played standing up, and leaning over a machine so you feel like your nose is about to press up against the glass feels great. So much so that you'll find yourself taking the time to inspect each individual part in detail, whether it's the playfield artwork, side rail, or even just the bumpers. What's even stranger is that despite knowing full well you'd be trying to lean on thin air, you'll have an urge to drop your DualShock 4 controller, rest your hands on the table, and reach for the flipper buttons.
Once you've got your baser pinball urges in check and get down to actually playing, then you'll find the tables feel pretty much as you'd expect for a Zen Studios pinball title. What elevates the experience, though, is the almost unconscious feeling you'll get when lost in the action – even if it's just for a moment – that you're stood at a real table.
What helps achieve this is just how steady the machine is in front of you. Of course, in terms of how difficult it is for the camera to track the headset this is probably one of the easier experiences out there, but being able to shift yourself around to get a better view of the action works beautifully. What's even better is that by being able to get away from the flat, fixed viewing angle from previous games, this really does make it a superior way to play pinball on a console.
Since the tables in Zen Studios' games are never based on actual real-life machines, they tend to incorporate a lot of effects that wouldn't be possible on those you might find down your local pub. At times in the past this digital gloss could be a little distracting, and while you'd get quite good at zoning it out, there were moments – usually when you were on track for a high score – that it would serve as an unnecessary annoyance.
Thankfully for this release the on-table effects seem to be pared down a fair bit. However, rather than doing away with these elements completely, the decision's been made to surround you with them instead. At first these bells and whistles seem relatively modest – with only the view out of the window shifting to reflect the theme of the table your playing – but when you start up a table and find a shark swimming around you, or a bug-eyed knight gallivanting around in your peripheral vision, you'll be exploring the options in an attempt to find some way to banish them completely. Make no mistake, in terms of presentation they really help jazz up proceedings considerably, but sometimes you just want to play pinball without a snake giving you a distinctly unsavoury leer.
While PlayStation VR owners should already be used to the premium entry fee many titles charge, your initial reaction to the cost of Pinball FX2 VR is unlikely to be positive – especially if you've already invested in the same tables for Zen Pinball 2. Despite all this, though, if you've ever found enjoyment at the apron of a virtual pinball machine this really is the definitive experience, and while the occasionally distracting presentation – a hallmark of Zen Studios – has been heightened in VR, you'll still find yourself flipping out over the just how easily you'll lose yourself chasing that elusive high score.