Zen Studios seems to know very well how to make a good pinball. This is hardly surprising, considering that the studio has been assembling new virtual tables with the patience of a medieval monk practically continuously for the last seven years. By doing the same thing over and over again, it’s hard not to achieve perfection in your field, which is beginning to resemble art.
Of course, as we all know, not every producer can boast of saying something like that about themselves. Despite the “patting” year after year of the same, the games are still full of holes and didn’t even lie next to the word “perfection”. On the other hand, it’s hard to compare the complexity of something as simple as pinball to AAA games costing tens of millions of dollars. Regardless, I can safely say that Zen Studios with Zen Pinball 2 achieved pinball nirvana and created pinball perfection.
This is what the free Zen Pinball 2 is about. A game whose main goal is to unify all Zen Studios tables within one system. Technically, it is not that different from its predecessor, serving primarily as a table manager. This is what we pay for when we buy the ones that we are interested in. The game mechanics itself is the perfect pinball simulator. It’s not even about its functions, because the virtual pinball machines themselves have not changed since the Pro Pinball series. It’s hard to reinvent the wheel. We have our virtual table, we can change the position of the camera and in a characteristic way hit its side, for example, to influence the ball’s flight path. Nothing we didn’t know from the Pro Pinball series from the 90s of the last century.
However, this does not mean that there are no changes. Social mechanisms and a multiplayer mode have been implemented for the title. We can compare our results with players around the world, but the game also downloads our friends list with whom we can directly compete. If they do not have production, we can invite them to a joint tasting of an alcoholic drink and face the hot buttocks mode. If you can’t meet our friends, it’s no problem to play online with a stranger.
The strengths of pinball, however, are primarily the tables. We have a huge amount of these, but only the South Park package, containing two tables, was reviewed. The first is the “South Park: Super-Sweet Pinball” table, the plot of which revolves around individual episodes of the series. During Cartman’s struggle with the probe, we’ll be fighting with aliens, trying to get Stan and Wendy on a date in the meantime. Of course, everything will take place in the pinball arena. As in any pinball, the events will be performed by shooting the ball into the right place. Completion of individual threads will be rewarded with obtaining one of the letters, which consists of the word “South Park”. Obtaining all of them will unlock the final and most scored “wizard” mode, thanks to which we will be able to complete the main goal of the game, which is to get to the local counterpart of Neverland.
The table seems to simulate the atmosphere of a scandalous series very well. Throughout the game, we will be accompanied by the sounds taken from the series and dialogue lines. Characteristic humor is with us all the time. More than once we will have to throw the ball into the toilet, for example, which will unlock additional balls with a very suggestive color. Kenny will also probably not make it to the end of our game.
The “South Park: Super-Sweet Pinball” table is also characterized by a high degree of difficulty. While scoring depends primarily on our ability to keep the ball in play, executing the plot of the main table can be quite a challenge. It is a “triple flippers” table, which means that we steer up to three sets of discs at the same time. Some threads require coordinating all three at the moment and planning ahead for our movements.
The second table focuses mainly on Butters’ story. Butters’ Very Own Pinball Game is definitely a much more classic pinball game. Still fun, but its difficulty level is relatively low, and one evening should be enough to survive all the adventures of this slightly incomplete hero.
While Zen Pinball 2 as a table manager does not seem to have any flaws, or at least I haven’t found any, the same cannot be said for the South Park package. It maintains a very high level, but fans of the series will soon notice that the atmosphere of the town has been heavily censored. Anyone who has seen at least a few episodes knows that the show’s humor is iconoclastic and often disgusting. Compared to South Park: The Stick of Truth, the game is as polite as a little brother after being detained by his parents. The second drawback is the small number of tables in the package and the very extreme level difference between them. The DLC is begging for one more challenging arena that would stand between the two currently existing.
After all, we still get a very solid, but humorously censored product. The atmosphere of the town is most present on both tables, but any fan of South Park animation will feel that “it could have been done better”. The modest number of tables also hurts. Fortunately, the main one makes up for it with a whole lot of additional mechanics and complexity and will bring a smile to our face more than once. The thrill-seeking fan of virtual pinballers will get a lot of sweat while playing, and the South Park fan will feel almost at home.