Zen Pinball 3D, released earlier today on the Nintendo eShop in the U.S., is the first downloadable 3D pinball game on offering for the 3DS since the system first launched. Having had ample time to play through each of the 4 available pinball tables contained in the official release, I’m here now to give a rundown of my impressions with the game thus far…
What I like…
One of the first things I noticed was the nice depth of 3D. It’s deep and flawless. It also helps your eyes to distinguish various objects from one another within the hectic array of artwork, chutes and lights that govern each table.
Any video pinball game worth the time and effort to play must produce a good sense of physicality. Thankfully, the physics in Zen Pinball feel spot on. If you’ve played Metroid Prime Pinball for instance, you’ll feel right at home with the physics and controls here.
Online leaderboards keep track of everyone’s high scores, allowing you to instantly compare your own scores with friends and strangers alike. There’s separate leaderboards for “All Time,” “Weekly,” “Pro Score,” “Team Score,” and “My Country.”
The price seems fair enough. At $6.99 (+ tax), you’re getting a fairly goof deal: four quality video pinball tables. There’s also the possibility of purchasing more tables in the future as downloadable content.
Pressing and holding ‘X’ while a table is loaded allows you to zoom in on the table and look around with the circle pad to see what everything looks like close up.
Achievement whores unite! Each table comes with a set of 4 “Awards” each, gained by achieving various objectives.
Each table comes with a guide that walks you through the table and shows you what the various paths, chutes and objects within actually do while playing and interacting with them. Very handy.
What I don’t like…
There’s a bit of load time anytime you go to load up a table. It’s not horrifically bad by any means (about 20 seconds per table), but it is noticeable.
The presentation is slightly lackluster and straight to the point. You tap on one of the tables, it loads and you go straight to playing. That’s about it.
All tables are confined to the top screen while playing, as opposed to being split between the top and bottom screen. It’s understandable, given the 3D effect, but as a result, you’re playing on a really tiny table. That means you may find yourself squinting quite a bit to make out what’s going on in the back of the table, since your view remains as it would be if you were playing an actual table. So, in effect, the back of the table appears further away and often, the ball gets lost back there as a result. EDIT: It seems that you can change different camera views while playing by tapping ‘X’ until you get to a camera you like. One of the cameras follows the ball to the back of the table, which is nice! However, the drawback (albeit minor) is that if the ball shoots downward you only have a split second to see where the ball is headed (since you can only see half of the table with this camera view) before deciding which flippers to use. Still, I like it a little bit more than the default camera (which keeps the camera at the front of the table at all times).
Overall, Zen Pinball 3D is a worthwhile experience, especially if you’re a straight up arcade pinball loving video game fanatic. These tables and the physics behind them feel like the real experience. While the tables being pushed to the top screen in their entirety put a bit of strain on the eyes, the feeling of racking up a new high score is just as satisfying as the real thing and keeps you coming back for more.
That does it for my impressions at the moment, but if I come up with anything else worth mentioning, I’ll update this post.