Zen Pinball 3D (3DS eShop) Review

I have been playing quite a bit of Pinball FX2 on Xbox Live Arcade which has given me quite the familiarity with how Zen Studios have created by far the best pinball simulator for fans of the classic tables and newcomers to the game genre alike.  Knowing that a pinball game was coming to the 3DS from the same great developer, I was quite excited to play this one on the go, or even from the comfort of my nice warm and comfy bed.

To expect the gameplay to be as a great as the highly rated Pinball FX 2 might be placing my expectations too high, but fortunately my expectations were met with Zen Pinball 3D as Zen Studios continued their reign as the pinball masters.  The ability to tilt the table, aim accurately with the pinball flippers, and the overall themed gameplay is expertly done.  The gameplay mechanics and physics are what make Zen Studios Pinball games so amazing, challenging, and ultimately exciting to play.  The charm that one encounters while using a classic pinball machine translates well to this simulator and the love that the developers have put into their tables clearly comes out.

There are a total of four tables included in the game for the 3DS, and they include Excalibur, El Dorado, Earth Defense and Shaman.  Exaclibur and Earth Defense are all tables from previous installments in the Pinball series which does make one wonder if there is much need to get this version of the title if you are already a fan and most likely an owner of the tables already.  That being said, the one advantage that instantly crops to mind is the fact that you can take the title on the go and play it anywhere you please to pass the time, be it from the comfort of your own bed, to sitting on local transit, to sitting in a car or airplane while enduring a long trip.  On top of this, unlike any of the other versions Zen Pinball that you may have played, you get to play the game in 3D that adds a whole new dimension (editors note: pun not intended) to the overall gameplay experience.

Each table has their own unique theme to them as well as their own unique mini-games built into the table to assist you in getting that coveted high score every pinball player strives for.  Earth Defense and Excalibur (being a huge fan of Arthurian Legends) were my favorite of the four and were probably the fastest of the four tables as well.  I prefer to play a nice speedy table over ones that go a bit slower which obviously has to do with my attention span.  Overall the table selection offers great variety with what are probably is the first of many tables to come to the 3DS.

Like all of the other tables in bigger console version of Pinball FX2 there is a great multiplayer portion of the game where you can take turns with three other players in Hotseat to compete for the local highscore.  Along with competing locally for highscores you compete with those online as well for highscores, truly showing if you reign supreme in the pinball world.

Visually speaking, Zen Pinball 3D is a great looking pinball game, especially given the relatively small screen that they had to work with.  Part of me wished there was an option to turn off the 3D functionality so that both screens on the 3DS could be utilized to make an even larger viewing area.  Regardless, like all of the pinball tables available for Pinball FX 2 on the home consoles, you are left with a great impression of the work that went into Zen Pinball 3D and the tables that are included.  With all the lights, animations, realistic bumpers, ramps and the overall presence of the table, it’s hard not to be impressed.  The table designs are pretty much perfect and there is rarely any fault that can be found as each table is meticulously modeled and displayed and the level of detail that went into each and every one is amazing.  You’ll find some very simple tables to some very complex ones with lots of ramps, switches and other moving parts.

The 3D option really pulls you into the game visually making everything jump out and come to life in greater detail.  The table and the surroundings have a greater depth to them with the 3D slider on and you can almost imagine yourself at the arcade really looking down through the glass of an old school pinball table.

In regards to the sound, from the familiar dings, bings, and whistles, to the distinctive metallic travelling noise of the pinball and thump as the ball hits the various bumpers and targets, everything is accurately recreated here.  To add further gusto, there is specifically themed music for each table too.  All of the sound effects and music sound pretty good coming out of the 3DS speakers and I think most will be happy here.

With the release of Zen Pinball 3D on the 3DS Zen Studios proves once again that they are the King of Virtual Pinball as they have provided fans with a portable version that not only is great, but immerses the player even more into the tables with 3D graphics.  Here is hoping we get some new tables in the future that will continue to capture the 3D capabilities of the 3DS, because if we do it will add to an already great fully featured and exciting eShop gaming experience.

The Good


The Bad