For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Zen Studios. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Pinball is something that isn’t always readily available to everyone, but when it is, it can become quite costly. All of my experiences with pinball have come through the pinball games available on games consoles; for example Zen Pinball. Have Zen Studios now brought people closer to the real life thing with the adoption of virtual reality?
The first thing you will notice as soon as you get into Pinball FX2 VR, they have done a great job of making a space for the game hub. You are placed in what I would describe as a high-end flat/apartment with a view of the sea. In the middle of the room is a huge TV, which acts as the games dashboard, and will give you access to all the tables and links to buy the tables you don’t have. On your right hand side there is another big screen which is your scoreboard, meaning you can easily compare your Pinball FX2 scores with people all over the world or your friends. Then the main feature of course is three pinball tables, you can set these to any the tables you have while in the dashboard on the TV, or easily change them using L1 and R1 while looking at that table – This makes accessing the tables you have easy, but maybe with the space still around the room, it would be nice to have some more tables placed around it.
If you buy the base game you will get three tables, which are Epic Quest, Secrets of the Deep, and Mars. But, there is a Season One pack available already that will give you a further five tables, these are Wild West Rampage, BioLab, CastleStorm, Earth Defence, and Paranormal – these can purchased as a pack or as singular tables. The table based on Telltale’s Walking Dead game is also available, but this is not in the Season One pack. Meaning even at this point there is a decent amount of tables available to you. I am hoping that all the tables available across Pinball FX/Zen Pinball make their way onto the VR version, and this keeps expanding.
You will find the tables vary in style and scoring, with CastleStorm seeming very packed with clutter, and ways to score, however, some tables are very sparse in design and lack ways to build up big multipliers – the best example for this one is Mars.
Visually once you are at the table, I think it’s the closest you will ever get to experiencing pinball without being at the real thing. A nice feature they’ve added for the virtual reality version, is the tables aren’t just played with the flat/apartment static background, this space comes to life for each table – to give an example in BioLab has the little creatures, and lab objects floating around you, and one creature even interacts with the table. At first I found this can be distracting as you want to look around and see what is going on, but once you’ve had a look your attention is easily kept with the table, and you will have a little look around when you need a break. But, this little addition does give a lot more to the experience of VR.
One thing I have always liked about Zen Studios pinball games is the simplicity of the control system, making it very much a pick and play game, so I was pleased to see they’d not changed this for the VR experience. They have stuck with the Dual-Shock 4 controller, with X to launch the ball, L2 and R2 for the corresponding flippers, and the D-Pad to nudge/tilt the table. Meaning it very much what experienced players are used to, and also making it easy for new players – leaving it to the player to concentrate, and get used to the scoring on the tables.
With the aforementioned scoreboard this gives you plenty of reason to return to the game, to try to beat your friends or other players scores – or maybe you just want to better you own score. Wanting to get better scores will then go hand in hand with spending time getting to know the tables, and then if more tables are added it will give the game more and more replay value. Add this to the pick and play nature of the controls, and it’s not hard to find a reason to go back.
One issue I came across while playing the game was I found I had to recentre the table quite often. I wouldn’t say it was a massive issue or it drifts off centre massively, but it did throw me off at times. I am not sure what causes this, or if the game tries to automatically recentre the table for you if your off centre after a head movement. But, as with any other VR game it’s easy to recentre this by holding the options button – where this can be a little annoyance, it doesn’t ruin the experience.
Zen Studios have used the capabilities of virtual reality, to bring you as close to playing pinball in real life. Which is a great thing for those who do not have access to any real pinball machines, as they can get the experience from their home.