I like to think of pinball as the original button masher. When I was younger I loved playing the game, it was the highlight of any trip to the arcade. I would put in $0.50, pull the plunger, and just bang on the flipper buttons—if only to keep the steel ball from falling into the center hole. It was a blast, and as my eyes were alight by the effects and ears abuzz with the sounds, my score just kept on climbing. I never realized there were special objectives. I just enjoyed hitting the bumpers and ramps, watching the numbers tick up into the tens of millions while pixel-y animations played out on the score board. Entranced and carefree, pinball was truly zen gaming for me back in the day.
Go to an arcade now, and you’d be hard pressed to find a decent pinball table. They are truly a endangered species. Thankfully, Zen Studios is dedicated to keeping the ancient past time alive. The pinball wizards at Zen Studios have a long track record of recreating classic tables and coming up with innovative, original tables of their own. The latest, a team up with Bethesda, are the most in-depth and feature rich to date. Out today for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Steam, Mac, iOS, Google Play, and Amazon, this is an update I’d have to recommend to pinball fans and Bethesda fans alike.
The DOOM table is the most basic of the three Bethesda tables, but Zen Studios’ attention to detail is apparent. It’s hard to describe how playing a pinball game can feel like playing a “real” game, but that is what is accomplished here. DOOM pinball feels just like DOOM proper.
At the start of the game you will be asked to pick a difficulty, your choices being “Hurt me Plenty,” or “Nightmare”. This will change how difficult enemies are to kill, and how easily they’ll be able to dispatch you. While you’re bouncing your ball from ramp to bumper, you’ll collect armor, new weapons, and other power-ups. You can see next to the left flipper a health and armor gauge. These stats do matter, as do the weapons you use when enemies attack.
Missions play a big part of Bethesda’s DOOM table. Side-missions can be undertaken during main missions – as long as you can hit the ramps and targets that is. Tackling these missions will cause your score to sky-rocket, but on this table your score is only a way to the leader board. If there is one thing all three of the tables in this pack emphasize more than anything it’s completing objectives.
The DOOM table consist of various levels, and you’ll have to ride elevators, find ways to unlock doors, obliterate enemies, and travel through inter-dimensional portals in order to clear them. With music and sound effects ripped straight from the game there were times it felt like playing DOOM as opposed to a pinball table based on the game. However, the DOOM table, while fun, is the weakest of the three.
Impressive is not a strong enough word to describe Bethesda’s Fallout 4 table. Zen Studios has taken the game to the next level with this one. Like the game for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, you start this by creating a character. You pick either male or female, then you distribute points to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats. The game then randomly picks a companion for you, their image displayed below your character. The similarities to actual Fallout 4 don’t stop there however.
Throughout the game you will complete quest, investigate abandoned vaults, fight Super Mutants, and level up. As the ball ricochets off various Fallout iconography you’ll also gain precious bottle caps, the currency of the Wasteland. These caps can be spent in the shop to buy a ball saver, health replenishing Nuka-colas, and even some of the pip-boy games found in magazines in Fallout 4.
Zen Studios has gone above and beyond with this table. With tons of Easter eggs, bobble heads to collect, locations to visit and quest to complete there, you’ll be able to lose yourself in this pinball game just as easily as you can in the Wasteland.
Bethesda’s Skyrim table is even more involved than the Fallout 4 table. Featuring a persistent character that you save and level up through multiple games and main story quest that must be finished in order, this is a pinball game you could play for weeks and still not “beat.” Here is how Bethesda describes it:
- Rollover Progress: Progress will be saved between games, including your character level,weapons, apparel, magic spells and other items, completed main quests, available side quests,your gold, and even the time of day. Nearly everything works the same as in the original game.
You start out picking a race just like in the full game. I went with Argonian during my play-through. You start out in rags, with only your fist as weapons. Your first mission is to escape a dragon, just as in the game. This dragon flies around the table, breathing fire onto random ramps. In order to escape it, you’ll have to aim for the ramps that aren’t aflame.
As you progress you’ll find spells, weapons, and armor to equip. These items change your stats and the appearance of your on-screen avatar. There is a full inventory menu that you and access that will store all the items you find. There is even a crafting mechanic in the game that is far more complex than you’d expect for a pinball game. You’ll even be able to join factions such as the Dark Brotherhood or Thieves Guild, all of which have their own quest arcs and rewards.
The combat in this game requires patience and precision. Various ramps control what attacks you do or whether you’ll block. You can hold the ball on a flipper and charge up a power attack which unleashes a devastating blow to your enemies. When you fell your foes you’ll even be able to loot their bodies.
The Skyrim table is one I know I’ll be coming back to. It has that “one more quest” allure of the game proper, and it’s pushing me to be better at pinball. I’m starting to be able to judge my trajectory better, aiming for specific points is becoming simpler, but most of all it’s a blast to play.
All-in-all Zen Studios and Bethesda have created a masterful set of tables that will provide you with hours of pinball action in three of their most jam packed tables to date. If you’ve played DOOM, Skyrim, or Fallout 4, and enjoyed them, then these tables will be right up your alley. Will they convert you if you just aren’t into pinball? Maybe actually. They’re that good.
Bright colors, excruciating attention to detail, and authentic gameplay make this add-on to an already bursting at the seams game, a necessity. Zen Studios have done it again with the help of Bethesda and you’d be missing out if you were to skip this one. While $10.99 may seem like a lot for only three tables, you’re getting so much more than just another pinball game. This is a new way to experience these games, and well worth the asking price.
Zen Pinball FX2: Bethesda Pinball is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Steam, Mac, iOS, Google Play, and Amazon. I played the game on PlayStation 4.
Geeks, let us know if your pinball fans and whether or not you’ll be picking up the Bethesda tables in the comments below. If you already have the collection, how do you think it measures up?