Hands On at gamescom: Zen Pinball 2 on PS Vita

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Hands On at gamescom: Zen Pinball 2 on PS Vita

If you’re a regular PlayStation.Blogcast listener, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about how much we’ve been playing and enjoying The Pinball Arcade on PS3 and PS Vita. Farsight’s pinball simulator faithfully recreates the experience of playing some of pinball’s greatest tables, many of which are quite difficult to find in the real world.

Zen Studios has taken a different tack since debuting on PS3 (via PSN) in 2009 – the tables featured in Zen Pinball don’t exist in some decrepit arcade or collector’s garage. These fanciful pinball experiences don’t – and simply couldn’t – exist in real life.

Now Zen is upgrading the “platform” for these tables – meaning the physics engine, visuals, and social media experience – with Zen Pinball 2, coming to both PS3 and PS Vita for free next month. I was lucky enough to be sharing a flight out to Cologne for gamescom with someone from the Zen PR team, who handed me a PS Vita loaded with a nearly complete version of the game.

With The Pinball Arcade fresh in my mind, I slipped back into the Zen state of pinball, which has a decidedly different feel. Zen’s pinballs themselves feel a bit lighter than in The Pinball Arcade, leading to longer games. That makes sense – real world pinball tables are there to keep you pumping quarters into the machine; clearly, that’s not a concern here. Even when playing a table in Zen Pinball 2 for the first time, I felt like I was pretty good at it, though that likely means that true mastery will mean posting ridiculously high scores on the leaderboards.

The tables available on this build are all currently available for PS3 via Zen Pinball, so I’ll focus here on how Zen Pinball 2 fares on PS Vita. The visuals are clear and sharp on the OLED screen; while the tables aren’t real, some of them look like they could be. There are a multitude of playing angles available, and you can turn the PS Vita unit vertical to instantly get a more natural playing view. While The Pinball Arcade offers this feature, I found it difficult to use in practice. However, Zen’s friendlier physics make the touchscreen flipper controls a more viable playing option. As you might expect, Zen Pinball 2 offers touchscreen options for all the menus as well. There’s also a pass-and-play multiplayer mode for up to four people, which operates much like you’d expect to play in the arcade.

Two of the biggest draws for the Zen Pinball universe remain in the sequel: licensed tables and crazy stuff going down on said tables. The Marvel universe is well represented, with 13 tables currently available including several notable comic heroes. The worlds of Street Fighter and Ninja Gaiden are represented, and Zen has promised a mystery Popcap collaboration as well.

What happens on those imaginary pinball tables really sets Zen Pinball 2 apart: Aliens abduct your ball on the Paranormal table. A Blanka figurine crackles with electricity on the Super Street Fighter II table. Zemo and Red Skull battle it out with Captain America along the edge of his table. The Avengers is the most ambitious – you choose a character-specific ball (Iron Man, Black Widow, etc) and carry out missions specific to that hero. Oh, and the entire table is the SHIELD Helicarrier from the movie, slowly gliding over a city.

On PS Vita, I found Zen Pinball 2 to be the Yin to Pinball Arcade’s Yang. What it lacks in realistic feel, it more than makes up for in variety and fantastical sequences across its 26 tables. As us pinball devotees find in-person pinball experiences harder and harder to come by, Zen Pinball 2 is another great, inexpensive way to get that flipper fix. If you own any Zen Pinball or Marvel Pinball tables, getting Zen Pinball 2 is a no-brainer.

The new platform is a free download, and you’ll be able to import previously purchased tables from within the app, where you’ll find new Trophies to earn. Zen Pinball 2 and the new Popcap table will be available to download via PSN on September 4th.

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  • You know what we need? A pinball game with a deep and engaging story with RPG elements. Maybe even a little romance. :)

  • I am really excited for this. The Pinball Arcade is the one that got me into pinball and I can tell that 100s of hours of my life will be spent on Zen Pinball 2, but I have a quick question. If I already have Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball and I import the tables onto Zen Pinball 2, after importing, will it be okay to go ahead and delete Marvel Pinball and Zen Pinball?

  • @2 TERMINATOR543

    Zen pinball 2 will have new trophies and high scores will be reset so if there’s trophies you haven’t gotten yet you will have to keep the old games to earn those trophies.

  • @1 LikeRA1N

    Have you tried the Epic Quest table on Zen pinball it has RPG elements.

  • Thanks for the post Jeff.

    Can’t wait for this version on the Vita !

    Have the older version and love it on my PS3.

  • I like the Pinball Arcade game better since they are real tables I’ve played before in real life. The Zen Pinball series is all made up pinball tables and things I could just create in LittleBigPlanet2 or LBPVita. At least it has a collection of tables.

  • @#6 You think it’s easy for Zen to create their tables? They make them from SCRATCH, which takes about 8 months. Farsight can pump out tables in a couple months, if not less, because they have an emulator that runs all of their tables. All they have to do is recreate graphics and such.

    I love both games, but I’m tired of seeing people make posts as if what Zen does is easy or something, when in fact, it’s the opposite. Saying you can create such tables in LBP is absurd, get real.

  • I’m really looking forward to this. With the recent announcement that The Pinball Arcade Table Pack #3 and Trophy Patch are releasing on September 4th as well, followed two weeks later by Table Pack #4, pinball players on Playstation systems are going to be extremely busy next month. It’s going to be awesome!

    Can’t wait to play Zen and Marvel on my Vita!

  • only 19 days left , , scores resets ,new trophies :)

  • @#9 Scores don’t reset, they remain intact within Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball. It’s a new game so it’s a new leaderboard, that’s all.

  • hey gerat game part 2 pinball! hey iget 1 get 1 free or are they both free? just asking ok need to know please thanks!

  • @#11 If you mean do you get both versions for free on PSV and PS3, then yes, because they are both free anyways. If you have tables for the PS3 version, you get them for free on Vita as well.

  • Just to clear things up, Zen Pinball 2 is a F2P (Free to Play) game, you download the game for free and you can play all 26 tables (All Zen Pinball 1 and Marvel Pinball games) once. After that you can buy the table. If you already own the tables for Zen Pinball 1 and Marvel Pinball than you can play them on Zen Pinball 2 unlimited at no extra charge. You don’t even need ZP1 and MP after it releases.

  • @7 They actually reverse engineer the tables, which is pretty hard. ( Maybe not anymore
    for them, but it’s normally pretty damn hard =)
    Both games are great anyway.

  • Zen and Marvel pinball are fantastic. I’ve heard great things about the physics improvements in ZP2 and cannot wait to have all the tables one the go. There are some solid Vita titles, but the Vita version of ZP2 has been on my most wanted for some time. Kudos to the devs.

  • I got Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball through the Plus promotions and I was wondering if I download Zen Pinball 2, will the tables I got through Plus unlock and be playable on my Vita? I would love to be able to take these games with me on my Vita. The Marvel tables are truly exciting and I can’t wait to see what you guys have for us in the future. I am also looking forward to your music/beat game that uses martial arts instead of falling gems to tell you what button to hit. Keep up the good work.


  • @1, like- that’s a cool idea. It will obviously slow the gameplay down w/ story elements inbetween pinball portions but I can picture it clearly in my mind & the concept is interesting.

    I’m holding off to see what the Popcap table will be… come on Plants vs. Zombies!

  • @#16 As long as your PS+ subscription is active, the tables will be available to you(PS3 and Vita). If your subscription runs out, you’ll have to buy them or re-subscribe.

  • 3d love! Vita love!

  • Only problem I have with this one is, how does it look on the Vita? Those screens clearly look like they were taken from the PS3 version of the game.

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