Review: Pinball FX2 VR (PSVR)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Pinball FX2 VR
Format: PSN (835.8 MB)
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €14.99 (EU), £11.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

DLC Review(s) For This Game:

I have always liked pinball games though it wasn’t often that I got the chance to play on an actual pinball machine. There were the odd one or two in places I visited during the summer holidays with the family. I would often be pulled away from them, my parents telling me they were a waste of money.

It was almost inevitable that I would be drawn to the digital tables on the PC and consoles as I grew up, eventually being addicted to Zen Pinball 2 for the PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita. With over sixty tables available, I have been in my element, not to mention that they are all Cross-Buy titles so I buy them on one system and can play them on all the others.

Now the developers behind these excellent pinball experiences, Zen Studios, have made a game for the PlayStation VR, and before you ask, it is not part of the Cross-Buy incentive for Zen Pinball 2. There is an excellent reason for this, which I will explain as I go.

Gameplay:
Pinball FX2 VR begins with you stood in front of a gigantic curved television, the game’s logo appears on the large display and you cannot but help look around, admiring the room and the sunken TV area you are stood in. You can then proceed to pick a pinball table. You automatically move from the TV area, which becomes the dashboard where you can view and change options or see a classic game menu, similar to what you may be used to on the old Zen Pinball 2 game.

You can see three fixed pinball table locations and by moving your head to focus on one of them, you can either switch it to another machine or play the currently selected unit. This seemed odd at first; I want to have all the tables in the room, but then I remembered the amount I now have in the older game and quickly dismissed that silly desire. I see it as a quick menu for your three favourite tables.

Another glance around the large expensive room that seems to be part of a huge beachfront property and you will notice an alcove with three huge leaderboard lists and a quaint little Trophy cabinet that holds any you acquire while playing on the tables.

… a little lean of the head and you can line up shots …
Controls remain the same and feel very responsive regardless of which one you are playing. Any awkward camera angles now appear in a pop-up window instead which makes for a more comfortable playing experience as there are no chances of disorientation.

Some tables use the backbox to display more than just the score and table name. With action sometimes going on in that area it is now extremely easy to glance upwards without missing a thing.

I cannot stress enough how different each and every game is when playing in a virtual reality environment, not only is it easy to see the entire table but a little lean of the head and you can line up shots and see parts of the table the old camera angles never allowed.

Now to the three pinball machines you get with the base game: Epic Quest, Mars, and Secrets of the Deep. I was only a fan of Epic Quest in the old regular game and found the other two slightly bland and tricky, respectively.

It might have been a problem in lining up some shots and not having an ideal view of the table. This is partly due to wanting to see all the action but needing to focus on the flippers at the bottom of the table. Because of this, a few tables became uncomfortable and trickier than they should have been.

… it’s now much easier to pull off those tricky shots …
Now in the wonderful virtual world, Secrets of the Deep has become one of my favourites. I used to think the upper play area was cluttered and difficult to see where the ball disappeared to. Now I can see it rolling around the back and the sense of scale the headset allows makes it so easy to time each press of a flipper.

In the standard version the Mars table was okay, nothing special, until I saw it in this game. Just like the other tables, it’s now much easier to pull off those tricky shots and keep track of the ball.

This table annoyed me in the past, mainly due to the large open area and my continually missing the correct lanes, so I would just try to keep the ball in play and hope for a good shot every so often.

Epic Quest has always entertained me, with an RPG progression element and witty one-liners from the fearless hero Max as he fights his way to save the Princess from the clutches of the vile creatures. It will take some doing to level Max all the way up, and as you progress you attain better loot and weapons but also face harder enemies.

… I would suggest taking a break between tables …
Zen Pinball FX2 VR sold the technology to my wife. She had begrudgingly played a few VR games before this. One left her feeling quite nauseous and the others were summed up with, “I can see why you like it, but it isn’t my thing.” Then I talked her into playing Secrets of the Deep and could not get her to stop. It’s the only VR game my wife wants to play.

My only word of warning and problem with the game has nothing to do with a bug or glitch but my own concentration. When my eyes are enveloped in the headset and my focus is trained on the action in the pinball table, I have occasionally noticed that I forget to blink. Well, to be precise, my blink rate drops very low. Therefore, I would suggest taking a break between tables and the attempts at beating my amazing scores. *WINK*

Visuals:
You stand in front of a pinball table, doesn’t matter which, and there are things floating or flying all around it. Creatures and machines scale the side of the cabinet and react to your actions in the game. Score a jackpot or get a skillshot and they react accordingly. The same goes for when you lose a ball but with a worse outcome.

Some feature the hero of the table stood next to it. Sometimes leaning on the side or darting behind it out of sight. Part of the fun is what goes on all around you.

The Mars table makes it feel like you are in space with asteroids tumbling by. Alternatively, Secrets of the Deep makes it appear as if you are in the ocean with bubbles rising up and schools of fish darting about, not forgetting old Bruce the talkative shark, lazily swimming by in the hope of eating a pinball.

… it makes for a brilliant experience …
I especially like the Mars table as the use of the new lighting works wonders here. Seeing the spacecraft rocket by your head and then gently land on the pinball table while you are playing is something special to behold.

Max is always prancing about and being silly when you are trying to concentrate on the Epic Quest table and don’t get me started on the little puppet theatre introduction to fights.

Not only does it feel like you are stood, or sat, in front of wonderfully brilliant pinball machines but there are things going on all around you now and it makes for a brilliant experience.

Audio:
All of the great sound effects and music have been ported across and when they’re combined with the 3D audio, it works very well. The characters or objects outside of the table sound as they should, with only the lack of lip-syncing hurting the illusion.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only but features an extensive leaderboard system that tracks you and your friend’s scores. My only gripe is that I don’t get the pop-up showing how close I am to beating the next friend on the scoreboard while playing. In actual fact, the friends short list is not displayed at the end when your score is tallied up either.

Conclusion:
At first, I moaned that there’s no Cross-Buy, and at the expense of it all. Then I played the game and felt quite foolish. This is not a simple port. This is an entirely new game, a new way of playing. No, scratch that, a more natural way of playing. It’s so good that I struggle to go back to the old version to play the other tables that are yet to make an appearance.

Pinball FX2 VR is so close to perfection and a must buy if you are fortunate enough to own a PlayStation VR headset. Zen has created a stunning virtual reality game that’s so good I sometimes forget to blink.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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