Pinball FX was a decent, if unspectacular game only hugely rewarding and satisfying for pinball devotees; all seven of them that is. With a paltry three tables and 200 achievement points, Pinball FX was simply not worth the 800 Microsoft points Zen Studios were asking. Rest assured though, as this sequel of sorts is far better value for money and realises the original game’s potential. FX 2 is fun, addictive and great-looking; quite simply the best pinball experience available – not that there’s much competition.
Pinball FX2 is unique in that what you are downloading is essentially a portal to purchase pinball tables. The initial download is free, but subsequent downloads are 800 points for a pack 4 tables. The game released with four tables originally, but as of writing this review there are now seventeen tables available for purchase, including unique offerings in the shape of Marvel superheroes and Street Fighter II but to name a couple. Add some backwards compatibility, allowing owners of the original game to import tables and take advantage of particular features which are unique to the sequel, and we have a game that is brimming with content. Unfortunately the scores you attained from FX aren’t imported to FX2 which is a tad disappointing, but a ‘superscore’ leaderboard has been introduced, tallying up the points scored for each table you own. Brand new achievements for every table also provide further incentive to invest in FX2.
The four original tables each have unique themes and surprises to offer at times very different experiences. Biolab (a personal favourite) offers a setting akin to a mad scientist’s lab, with the highlight being the container at the top of the level where bizarre animals – think along the lines of Spore – are created as particular minigames are accessed. If Biolab was a tad inane then Rome is the very antithesis, conjuring up something that is a much more serious and at times overwhelming affair. Master the table however, and the initial trepidation quickly becomes utter satisfaction; what’s not to like about blasting cannonballs into a ship? Pasha is Persian/Aladdin inspired level and perhaps the most imaginative of the new levels, offering up a second mini pinball table within the table! Navigating a caravan across the desert has never been so much fun. Finally Secrets of the Deep offers up an oceanic aesthetic, with the goal being to guide a submarine whilst avoiding an ever-present squid of the colossal variety, which kind of reminds me of that goddamn awful B-movie Mega-shark vs. Giant Octopus; the quintessential ‘so bad it’s good’ motion picture.
Straight off the bat, the latest iteration is 48 steps ahead of its predecessor in terms of visuals (Okay I may have exaggerated slightly… 47 steps!). The Graphics are gorgeous, and it’s immediately apparent that every table has been crafted with much devotion and love. Even old tables that are imported look so much better than before that at times it feels like these are entirely new levels. Zoom right in and minutiae are brought to life with amazing clarity. Every nut, bolt and flipper appears so detailed that at times you’d forget that the experience is virtual.
But what’s all of the eye-candy worth if the game plays like turd? Well, rest assured that Pinball FX2 is as close to the genuine activity as possible, thanks from some remarkably realistic physics. The ball bounces across the table with a great deal of tangibility and accuracy, making for an authentic experience. Both the visuals and physics combine so effortlessly that FX2 will be as close to the real thing as you will get for a very long time without actually owning a table.
The sound effects are appropriate but not remarkable and the background music is always suitable with each specific table. It’s crazy to think this is perhaps the weakest aspect of the entire game, there’s nothing wrong with the sound design, but it is a case of fitting the bill accordingly rather than being truly exceptional.
The game is a blast, with more than enough content to explore for a seemingly long time even in single-player. Where the true magic lies however is in the multiplayer, adding a greater competitive edge to this already addictive product. Split-screen co-op – which was seemingly omitted from the first game – is excellent, providing hours upon hours of pure frivolous fun. Issues of there actually being players online have predominantly been rectified; therefore diving into an online game is much easier and thus more recommendable than upon the game’s release. Ever-updated leaderboards display who are the top-dogs, both collectively and on individual tables, providing that extra spirited motivation to be the best; you could seriously get lost in the multiplayer component.
Pinball FX2 is a fine example of a studio who has resolved numerous issues with a somewhat enjoyable but flawed first game, creating an experience that is in unparalleled in what it aspires to. Fantastic visuals, all important realism and cleverly crafted tables make for a game that is highly recommended, even to those who aren’t necessarily pinball fans, which I hold my hand up to. Whether in single or multiplayer the experience is addictive and fun, and with 39 achievements and 650 Gamerscore points to achieve, rest assured that your social life will be in peril.