PAX East 2012: Zen Pinball 2 preview

Zen Studios certainly knows their way around a digital pinball machine, and while you’ll have to wait until later this year to see the bulk of its announcements (namely around E3 time), we do know about one major new download that will be hitting the PlayStation Network next month – Zen Pinball 2.  The company recently sat down with us at PAX East 2012 to discuss what’s going into this upcoming project.

Well, it’s not really a sequel of sorts, despite what the title says.  The game doesn’t introduce any new tables in itself.  However, it does manage to tie all existing content into a brand new interface, sort of the same way that Pinball FX 2 did when it was released for Xbox Live Arcade a while back.  You’ll be able to select from all available tables in one spot this time around, rather than navigating through a menu or needing to open up Marvel Pinball separately to play Spider-Man and Wolverine-branded tables.  In fact, the menu interface will be the same as Pinball FX 2’s, with easily selectable menu options and automatically updated leaderboards.

But by no means is Zen Pinball 2 just a hub that ties together all previously released content.  Zen Studios has made a number of refinements that make this version far more improved than the first.  Little graphical touches have been put on each table, and it also supports stereoscopic 3D, bringing you that much closer to the realism with all released and upcoming tables.  The physics have also seen some refinement, so you don’t have to worry about balls reaching abnormal speeds, nor a flipper not working the right way.

Perhaps the biggest feature that owners of PlayStation products will appreciate is Zen Pinball 2’s interaction between the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita.  The game will be available as a free download for both formats, and all its content will be automatically updated between the two versions.  These include table purchases, being able to check out any table through demo play (try before you buy sort of deal), and updating your leaderboards accordingly.  The game fully supports global leaderboards, as well as online friend challenges and tournaments.  And if you don’t necessarily feel like competing against someone with your ProScore, you can do the next best thing and play alongside them in real time, boosting your TeamScore.  Local split-screen and hotseat multiplayer will also make a return with all the existing tables, as well as upcoming ones, like the Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles batch set for release next month.

Along with demos, multiplayer and refinements, Zen Pinball 2 will also have a few others features.  You can now instantaneously link your Facebook account and post high scores and challenges to your friends; new rule sheets give you tips on how to score the best way possible on each table; and new Trophies will be available for each table, so you can add to your collection, even if you think you’ve “conquered” them all.

True, we would’ve liked to have seen more new tables with Zen Pinball 2, but, hey, as a free download that literally pushes the game to new boundaries with a number of fundamental features, we certainly can’t complain.  We’ll let you know how it fares once it releases on PlayStation Network over the next few weeks.