Publisher: Zen Studios / Developer: Zen Studios / Platform: XBLA

Publisher: Zen Studios / Developer: Zen Studios / Platform: XBLA

Pinball FX2 developers Zen Studios have been keeping busy, as of late. Aside from the excellent pinball outing on XBLA, they’ve released other pinball games on PS3, iOS, and even Android. While many of the tables featured in FX2 are available on these other platforms, there are a few tables that are unique to their respective platforms. FX2‘s latest “Zen Classics” DLC brings four of these platform-specific tables  – Shaman, Eldorado, Tesla, and V12 – over to XBLA.

While many of the more recent FX2 tables are wild, genre-hopping experimentations in pinball video gaming, these four new tables tone things down a bit into something resembling FX2‘s earlier days. Now, this isn’t exactly a bad thing. I found these four tables to be a relaxing visit back to something that resembles what you’d find in an arcade. Each of the four tables have a unique theme, the Tesla table being the most surprising of the four.

Shaman is a sort of witch doctor theme, with lots of carved masks, bubbling pots of magic and – strangely enough – some sound effects I recognize from Turok. The table is laid out pretty well, and it seems to flow nicely. There is a sort of mini pinball table at the top that allows you to get a few neat bonuses as well.

Eldorado is a little similar to Shaman in that it shares a jungle theme, but it reminds me a bit like a cross between Uncharted and my childhood favorite platformer Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure for SNES. Eldorado has more winding, evolving pathways and the layout can be a little cluttered at times. Revealing a secret path in the back of the table is pretty fun, and the fact that some parts of the table are revealed little by little make you feel like an adventurer.

Tesla is my favorite of the new tables, a theme based off of the famous Nikola Tesla. While I do have somewhat of an obsession with the late scientist, the table does hold up quite well on its own merits. The design is heavily steampunk-inspired, with lots of electrical magnets and pathways that switch from side to side (Alternating Current, get it?). The entire table is a wood and brass enigma that slowly unfolds as you play. It is interesting to see what all of the ramps, switches and spinny things do, and the table teases at a “secret lab” that I have yet to uncover. Aside from the awful Russian/German/I don’t even know what accent the voiceover guy has, Tesla is a fantastic table.

The final table, V12, was a bit of a disappointment to me. While aesthetically pleasing – the entire table is the inside of a car engine – the layout as a pinball table just seems muddled. The ball seems to find its way into the side gutters more often than in other pinball tables, and the “ball save” window seems much shorter. While it is a fun table to look at, and watch all the moving parts, it is considerably less fun to play, in my opinion.

While Pinball FX2 has become well-known for testing the limits of the pinball genre with its DLC tables, the Zen Classics pack brings things briefly back to more classical, grounded pinball. While some players that want more experimentation may find themselves a little bored with these four new tables, I found them to be a nice addition to the huge library that Pinball FX2 has to offer.