Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewer: Nick Stewart
Overall: 9 = Must Buy
For fans of digital pinball, there have been fewer events more momentous than the transformation of Zen Studios. Starting out with Pinball FX on the Xbox 360 and progressing into Zen Pinball on the PS3 before culminating in the all-out excellent Pinball FX2 on the former system, this studio has honed its efforts with every successive release. With Pinball FX2, 360 owners may now reap the benefits of some of the greatest Zen Pinball-only tables, including the recently released Mars table. This item is just one of many great additions to the Xbox roster and a very welcome import from the classic Zen Pinball tables.
If you’ve played the Mars table on the PS3 you know exactly what to expect here: an excellent table themed solely around the concept of a manned mission to Mars, and many related challenges and obstacles. With visuals mirroring that of the Red Planet, the table finds you guiding your silver ball through various goals, including scanning of the surface, refuelling and guiding your space shuttle, and not to mention the appearance of a mysterious pyramid. Instead of the incredibly complex systems of ramps and triggers as espoused in its recent Marvel series of tables (which worked extremely well), the action here is more about precision and making much more straightforward use of the board. This is no criticism: this is a clean, easy-to-play experience, and one that is a definite change of pace from some of the more recent Zen releases. As a palate cleanser between other tables, it works great, and offers a feel that is much more than just a graphical switch.
Speaking of which, the graphics on this table are as excellent as anything you’d expect from a Zen Studios release. Despite the relatively simple approach to this specific table, the effects are no less impressive, between the thundering approach of your space shuttle, the hopping about of your robotic scanning spider, as well as many other special-event-related effects. Audio effects are equally solid, with an easily identifiable and appropriate spaced-out soundtrack, and related vocal accompaniment.
With the release of the Mars table on Pinball FX2, Xbox 360 owners now have access to one of Zen Studios’ most entertaining PS3 tables, which turns out to be a rather perfect fit. With its moderately simple gameplay acting as a somewhat refreshing contrast to the complexity of its more recent efforts, the Mars table offers dedicated players a breath of fresh air, not to mention the full range of Superscore and leaderboard tweaks that are built into the FX2 infrastructure. Whether you already own the Mars table on the PS3 and are wondering if it’s worth plunking down a few bucks for this version, or if you’ve yet to experience it, this is quite simply a must-have addition.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)