Pinball will always be cool, like vinyl and well manicured beards. My history with video pinball started 30 years ago, with Nintendo Game & Watch Pinball, a lovely black and silver dual screened LCD game, back when LCD was still cool (it was cool wasn't it? I could have sworn it was). There was a free thing that came with Windows or something, but I don't really count that because, like calories, if everyone has it it never happened. So there is then an enormous 29 year gap until Zen Pinball 3D on the 3DS, which, albeit being excellent, was somewhat hamstrung by its hardware in terms of being powerful enough for simple porting of new tables. So here now is the Wii U version. Insert joke about Wii U technical capabilities here.
Physics has been the hallmark of all the Wii U eshop reviews I've done so far, to mixed results. The theme continues with Zen Studios Zen Pinball 2, The Wii U edition of the PS3/vita game from late last year. It's a pinball game, if you hadn't guessed. You hit a ball with flippers and they bounce off things, go up ramps, through doors, and occasionally there are some cover shooting sections. Apart from the last bit, because that would be awful. Zen Pinball 2 knows better than to cheapen itself with that.
The Wii U version is, on the face of it, identical to the other editions. The views are the same, the controls are the same, it features off-screen gameplay, so you can just drag down the screen to carry on racking up ridiculous scores while the rest of your household watches terrible Saturday night TV. Controls feel super snappy, which is essential to the genre but nevertheless good to see. Owners of supposedly laggy HD LCD TV sets may be interested to see the difference display lag makes to gameplay as an intellectual exercise.
The difference here is that the game is free to play. You can pick any table for time limited play, and buy them individually or in groups. I chose the Avengers Chronicle pack, because I enjoyed the movie (and anyone who didn't is a chump). You probably already know whether or not you like the Wii U gamepad for comfort; I really like the shoulder buttons for pinball flippers, I didn't experience any tiredness or aching, and they have a nice amount of travel and are spot on for tactility.
The Avengers table set is excellent, and there are loads more tables to choose from, with even more in the pipeline too. At around a couple of quid or so depending on whether you buy bundled or not, they're excellent value if you take the time to master them. I couldn't find options to use the built-in accelerometer for tilting, nor was there a tate mode in evidence for gamepad play. I'm not too disappointed; accidental tilting would probably be pretty annoying, and there aren't really appropriate buttons for tate mode play, certainly compared to the comfort of normal orientation play. But the option would be nice. Initial loading of tables is a little on the slow side too, although repeat play is super quick. I wish it remembered my initials instead of default back to A__, but that's a niggle at best.
Overall then, an appropriate score would be 10,234,456,234,673 / 13,793,070,293,340. But such are the limits of the scoring system here, I'll have to opt for a fantastic four.
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