ZEN Pinball is the best pinball game on the PlayStation Network.
Okay, that statement requires a bit of clarification. Since ZEN Pinball is the only pinball game on the PlayStation Network, it could be an absolute disaster and still obtain the aforementioned title of "best pinball game on PSN." Luckily, that is not the case.
When ZEN Pinball boots up, it quickly becomes evident how polished the game is. The slick menu has a distinct pinball style, with lights on a pinball table representing the selectable options — and there are a myriad of options on offer. Single-player, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer all make an appearance, as do extras like slow motion gameplay, mid-game saves, and custom soundtracks. Scoreboards, meanwhile, contain the expected weekly and all-time high score rankings, but also track score speed, best one-minute streaks, and online multiplayer ranking. It’s an incredibly comprehensive experience.
The only thing lacking in ZEN Pinball is table quantity. Though more tables are en route as (presumably paid) downloadable content, we would have liked to see at least five included in the base game. Still, the four available tables — El Dorado, Tesla, Shaman, and V12 — are fantastic. Each table is rendered beautifully, sporting a unique visual theme with an accompanying theme song. They’re rich with content, with dozens of objectives and events to trigger. Plus, the six camera angles (and a free-look feature for those so inclined) allow everyone to find a view that suits their tastes. Our favorite is View 3, as it gets us close to the action without restricting the overall view of the table.
The action is non-stop once it gets going. The ball physics, without feeling unfair or fake, are incredibly fast. That does increase the challenge to some degree, but makes high scores that much more rewarding. You’ll need to take advantage of the tilt mechanism, mapped to the left stick by default, in order to prevent perpetual lost balls. When you do lose, however, it’s probably your fault; in our four days of play, we only encountered a single game-ending "stuck ball" situation. Outside of that blip, things ran incredibly smoothly.
As fun as aiming for high scores and Trophies is solo, multiplayer is where ZEN Pinball shines. Local play, though simple, is classic fun. Pass the controller around between a group of one to three other friends and aim for the highest score — again, nothing fancy, but tremendously fun nonetheless. Online play is a bit more complex. Two to four players race toward a set score simultaneously. Players have unlimited balls, but the host can set a ball loss penalty if desired. You’re able to see other players’ progress in real-time via a bar on the HUD, and communication — otherwise known as trash talk — is possible over voice chat or with the PlayStation Eye. When the match concludes, the winner receive 100 points, losers get 10 points, and quitters lose 10 points. These points then add to (or subtracts from) your cumulative online ranking score. We’ve already played online for hours, and have yet to get bored of besting others with our pinball prowess.
Now that we’ve discussed the game’s contents, let’s expand on that first statement — not only is ZEN Pinball the best pinball game on the PlayStation Network, but it’s one of the network’s best releases this year.