Zen Studios has given us a steady stream of high quality, fun, and varied pinball tables over the last couple of years. Over time, the quality of design of the tables has improved greatly, which makes the recent (re)release of these classic tables a touch bittersweet.
The Zen Classics tables originally appeared as part of Zen Pinball on the PS3, making this their first appearance on the Xbox 360. Because these tables are remakes, albeit with improved graphics and physics, they don’t quite display the quality, flair, and balance that the more recently developed tables do. On the other hand, all four tables bring a retro vibe that fans of the early 90’s pinball era should be stoked for.
Whereas the more modern styled tables typically include a 3D model of a character or two, these classic tables are more “realistic” and you really get the sense that there are physical mechanisms at work here. The included tables are:
I liked this table very much. It features a large, open playfield and a mixture of close and distant targets. The distant targets require a fairly accurate shot to nail them, but I don’t find it punishingly difficult, there is some wiggle room.
I like the “Indiana Jones” thing that El Dorado has going on with the rainforest/jungle motif. It’s a great table for relaxing with, as the mood is pretty casual with an earthy color scheme to match.
Probably my least favorite table of the pack and maybe ever. The soundtrack is tribal metal. The entire time I played this table, I felt like a cannibal headhunter was chasing me. It is the opposite of relaxing, though I didn’t find it exciting. Rather, it was frustrating how fast the ball rebounded off of everything on the table. It was also frustrating how often my ball went down the out lanes. It seriously felt rigged. I know I don’t have wizard skills, but I can pull a respectable score, given enough tries. Shaman always felt rigged for me to lose and I felt tense the whole time I got spanked by out lanes. That said, those looking for a challenge will find it here.
It’s time to go back a few years to celebrate the genius of Nikola Tesla with this table. It looks and feels as if it’s something he might have actually invented. It has a vintage color scheme with an appearance of copper, wood, and polished steel throughout. There are some cool mini-games here for the more skillful players. One thing I found noteworthy, this is a low scoring table. Other tables give away million point bonuses like candy at Halloween. Tesla is very shrewd and you are going to work hard for your first million and beyond. Not a good table for raising your superscore, but great by all other criteria.
An homage to high powered sports cars, V12 is a fine addition to the group. The table layout is fantastic with car parts tastefully used as the inspiration to most of the set pieces. The table has a great sense of speed without feeling unwieldy. The animations and visual effects stand out on V12 and the fact that the music hints at “Knight Rider” doesn’t hurt. V12 has multiple playfields and mini-games that should please any gearhead with a penchant for pinball.
Being that these tables are reissues, and that they tend to lean towards more realism vs. fantasy (except for V12, which “enhances” the physics at times), they probably won’t have the mainstream appeal that the licensed tables enjoy. But for those that enjoy pinball, with or without superheroes, the Zen Classics tables provide more excitement and challenge.