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This page is about ALL releases of Zen Pinball, including the sequel and spinoffs (Marvel and iOS).
If you aren't talking about the games on a whole, be sure to specify which one you're addressing.
Also note that this page is also for the Pinball FX games as well, which are pretty much the same things.
User 1's NotesEdit
Add anything you feel like adding here.
If there's two things I love, one is a good game of pinball and the other is a good pinball game. I'm not sure where I'd rank Devil's Crush in my total list of favorite games, but it's my all time favorite pinball game (MD version). Still, it's not exactly "perfect", but still fucking great. Like many old pinball games, the physics can sometimes be a bit of a "fuck you over" (even when you can use this to your advantage). This is where Zen Pinball comes in.
While ZP doesn't exactly "break the mold", it's still pretty damn good. On top of everything are the physics. Hoyul sheeeit. Why didn't anyone tell me physics these good exists? Everything feels very realistic and "right". Gravity works how you'd expect, and the game's tables are built with a realistic slope in mind. You can definitely "feel" this given the way the ball works and acts, with different speeds and curves, along with other terms I don't know that I'm sure exist amongst pinball fanatics. While yeah, you're clearly playing a virtual game, and not at a real table, you definitely could make these tables in real life, and they'd work the same I'd bet.
In addition, there's some nice sound and music as well. Everything fits, notably so for the non tie-in tables. The music doesn't tend to get on one's nerves (sure, this is subjective, but I've never had a problem with it) and the sounds for each table are nice and fitting, for both the table's subject and for objects impacted. The spinning Round Table is a particularly nice one I recall from Excalibur. The basic sounds are solid too, such as the flippers and plunger. The voices are a bit cheesy, but amusing and effective ("SAC-RUH-LIIIGE"), and it's not like you should really take any pinball game THAT seriously anyways (though at least they aren't anywhere near as goofy as some slot machines I've played and seen).
One thing I also enjoy is the inclusion of LED displays and animations. While not in every pinball machine in real life, I'm pretty sure of the tables I've played in this (I haven't bought or played them all), there was an LED. I like things like this. Gives it more flair, and also something else for the observer and even the player to enjoy. What's particularly cool is that they have just the right frame rate and resolution to not be overly detailed and flow in a slightly "jumpy" manner, like the displays in real machines tend to. That's some nice authenticity. IIRC, some of the games actually use it effectively as well, as a part of bonuses and things like that. This brings me to my next point.
For the tables I've played, each one had some neat little in-table or sub-table "mini-games". Very cool. Even though something like this doesn't aim to pull of the things the Crush series did, the mini-games are pretty neat and some take a bit of skill to get the bonuses. One in-table instance I can think of done well was the Iron Man table where you have to hit certain targets within a handful of seconds. A sub-table one that I'm not good at, but think is nifty is the joust in the Excalibur table. Your ball is put in a sub-section where you use the plunger to launch it and "joust" an opposing knight. There aren't a ton of these in each table, but there's a fair handful, which means you're going to have a decent deal of stuff to do, even if you have a favorite table that you tend to put a majority of time in.
I'll wrap up my general analysis with the matters of pricing. I think that the way ZP does it is pretty fair. You get one set and can try the others (at the very least for Marvel Pinball and 2), and you pay for what you like. This is smart for something like this, the pricing is just right, and you go in knowing what you're paying for as well without being disappointed or ripped off. It wouldn't work for every game ever, but given the genre/subject matter, it does just peachy here.
I almost forgot. One last note before I move on: the multiple view points are hella cool. I don't use them all and I do have issues with some, but for the most part, they work well (at least the ones I like along with the default one).
As for ZP2, it's pretty sweet and impressive. I'm not entirely sure what's been touched up since Marvel and ZP1, but it does feel a little different and what I feel is a bit faster as well. It's been a while since I've played real pinball, but it is kinda justified I guess. I'm not too into social media, but I imagine the integration of it is welcome for those who are, especially pinball rivals who can show each other online (especially since both have access to these sorts of things as well, with internet access and apps). In terms of PS3 and Vita, I can't notice a difference. They both look, play, and feel the same. The bonus of cross-platform is a plus here, since you can play the same game in a portable fashion without losing anything like console-to-portable ports would in the old days. Kinda hard to believe that this advancement has come so fast honestly, especially from the GBA, DS, and (to a lesser extent) PSP just a few years back. Back on track, this is also a perk as well, since you're the playing the same game, and your scores are registered the same ways as well, meaning that even if you main one system, you can still beat your scores on the other. The best part of all this is that all of your old tables transfer, regardless of system. So your ZP and MP purchases aren't wasted, you can update your scores with them, AND you get them in updated physics as well. ON BOTH SYSTEMS no less. Very cool.
Marvel Pinball is, as far as I know, just ZP1 with new sets of tables. The ones I've played all work well and feel just as good as the non-tie in tables. No complaints here. Although I do want to bring up a point that applies to this and ZP1. Nowadays we have several tables available per entry, but both originally just had 4. I can see how it'd feel like a bit of a rip off given you just had 4 tables per game. Still, it's not inherently bad either. There's a number of pinball games and compilations with 4 tables or less and sell for a good deal more (or did when they were released). It's good to know though, that Zen stepped up and made more with DLC (a strategy I already addressed).
However, this doesn't quite apply to the 3DS releases. I dunno. As is they're pretty good, and a nice grab bag of the alternate releases, however, they do feel stripped down in spite of that. Partly because these aren't able to update with other tables and more so because the loading times are a bit on the long side, especially given the smooth loading for other releases. I'm not sure how much of this is the result of the 3DS or Zen themselves, but it is a bit of a downer. It plays smoothly once its loaded, sure, but changing tables and loading them is still a hassle. The 3D effect works pretty well though. It doesn't bulge out like Xevious, but gives a nice effect of depth and distance perception, which really helps with this sort of game. I don't know if Zen will ever update these to let them hold more tables. or release another set of tables, but I hope something changes in this matter. I mean, yeah, the 3DS isn't quite a portable home console, but the ZP series doesn't quite seem like it'd be that memory heavy either, in terms of active usage along with storage space. I could be wrong, though. It's not like I know all the specs at least. (Supposedly this lack of tables on 3DS might change soon, according to semi-recent news posts)
One thing I have an issue with though, building off of the 3DS matter, is that even though it's practically the same game across PS3 and 360, FX and Zen still have tables exclusive to each one. Hell, it's kind of a rip for PS3 to not be able to play some tables only on the 360, and the other way around applies as well. This is something else I hope gets fixed sooner than later.
When all's said and done though Zen has done a pretty sweet job with the series so far, though until it addresses the issues I mentioned, it still has some way to go to obtain the full on greatness it could pull off.
Oh, one last note, again. I haven't played the iOS or Android releases, so I can't really comment on those.