Pinball FX2 was a superb, without a doubt one of the best games available on XBLA. Acting as a hub, Pinball FX2 offers you a network of sorts to purchase pinball tables either individually or in packs. This week Zen Studios unleashed their otherworldly Mars table. You might think to yourself ‘how much enjoyment can I get out of one table?’ Well, the answer to that my friend is a hell of a lot.
Set in 2100, humans embark on a mission to uncover the secrets of our neighbouring sphere Mars. Of course with Mars, like other tables, you are able to play through a trial run of the table to see it is to your tastes. In addition there are specific achievements to unlock and both Wizard and Super scores are fully integrated. The table is standard fare at 240 Microsoft points, yet this is, for me, the best value for money with regards to individual tables.
The table itself initially seems a little bland; there isn’t much to really shout home about. Spend moments with the table however and it comes to life, with space shuttles, orbital satellites and various holographic images littering the screen. Various tasks generally have to be completed to expose these elements, but it is exactly this decision that makes Pinball FX2 so special. You genuinely feel like this is a game rather than a simple smash-about; space-related objectives are to be cleared and tactical awareness is demanded.
The gameplay is, as expected, of the highest quality. The physics are as immaculate and realistic as ever, making for yet another fantastic pinball experience. It’s amazing to actually see just how much attention to detail Zen Studios put into their tables, in particular in the interaction with the 3D animations. On previous tables the animations on the tables were prominent and amazing, but could be admittedly distracting at times. With Mars however the animations on the table are more subdued, as is the colour palette. This works to Mars’ advantage because it allows you to fully focus on the task at hand, while still appreciating the chaos which is being carried out at the top half of the table.
Mars has slightly removed itself from the insanity of prior tables in favour of a more calculated approach to the pinball experience. This is a positive move in my opinion because this creates a gamut of gameplay styles for the player to select from when playing Pinball FX2 now. The somewhat more deliberate pacing is my preference but even for those who usually opt for the blazing fast tables, this is a welcome retreat. Choice is good after all, right?
Once again Zen Studios have crafted a beautiful looking table with staggering detail and precision. Like all the other tables, the beauty in the craftsmanship is most appreciated up close, with every nut, bolt and spring looking almost tangible. The audio is brilliant as always and every collision feels authentic, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone in the next room confused this with a real pinball table, it’s that good. That is of course until he recognises that the sound is emanating from a surround sound system!
Zen Studios have gone down a gear in intensity with the Mars table, but they themselves are travelling at light speed. Even if Mars is not for everyone, it affirms that the studio know how to accommodate for different styles of gameplay; they seemingly have no ‘comfort zone’. The Pinball FX 2 universe is always expanding and Mars is undoubtedly a welcome addition. Buy!