Zen Pinball 2: Portal (PlayStation 4) Review

By André Eriksson 21.06.2015

Review for Zen Pinball 2: Portal on PlayStation 4

The latest pinball table in the Zen Pinball 2 simulator takes inspiration from the modern classic, Portal. Big expectations are put on Zen Studios for this release of a highly anticipated release, and they are certainly met with a well and easy balanced pinball table that even newcomers to the genre can find pleasure in. Will this help Zen Pinball 2: Portal to gain the favour of Cubed3? Read on for the answer.

Back in the good old days, pinball machines used to have such simple and easy gameplay mechanics, yet they were so complex and active at the same time. Like moving around on a chessboard, shots were carefully planned ahead to not only hit their target, but also put the ball in the right location for the next aimed shot. This is one aspect sadly missing in Zen Pinball 2: Portal, but for the right reasons.

Confusing statement? How can something so essential to a genre's complexity and gameplay be removed, yet for justified reasons? That is because Zen Pinball 2: Portal is not solely designed for the pro pinball player. Oh no! It wants to capitalise on fans of the Portal series who might never have touched a pinball machine before.

It succeeds perfectly: with easy, yet flashy, mechanics this new table manages to capture the essence of the high action in modern pinball tables without being as overwhelming as several others in recent times. It is relatively easy to rack up a nice score and be able to play on for a while, even for newcomers, as the tilt function is sparsely required to survive and, therefore, that addictive nature from a newcomer's perspective is there, without there being any feeling of being "bad" at it.

Screenshot for Zen Pinball 2: Portal on PlayStation 4

What could such a table offer a pinball veteran, though? Sadly, this is where Zen Pinball 2: Portal falls down. Sure, there are shots that require great aiming, generating a lot of points to ensure skilled gamers can strive to reach the top, yet only a few of the most rewarding ones require setup to succeed, with very little risk. The most horrible balance breaker is Ratman's Den, where it is possible to constantly rack up over four million points just by doing two shots on the normal table. The problem with this bonus table is that it is so easily accessed, and is a safe table, which means that it is not possible to 'die' on it, removing most fun for high-score hunters. Sure, every board is "doomed" to have some strategies being better than others, but this feels like an overlooked exploit, especially when there are more skill demanding shots that only generate one-tenth of the value. It is a bad balance, but it will definitely not affect the opinion of rookies.

Zen Pinball 2: Portal is, while a little imbalanced, a very enjoyable and thematic table. It is one that will be a great pinball hook for a whole new audience, rather than the typical pinball players. The bonus games where extremely high numbers of points can be stacked up are very well themed in the form of "test chambers," paying great homage to the Portal gameplay.

Besides balancing issues and lack of more complex planning for veterans of the genre, this is a great pinball table. It is one of the better 'beginner tables' out there and should be tried by all Portal fans as it is not alienating. Score hunting veterans might find that the cheap and safe tactics that can be abused kill the experience in the long run, but for the low price it is definitely worth a go.

Screenshot for Zen Pinball 2: Portal on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Zen Pinball 2: Portal is a well-done beginner table, perfectly balanced to teach newcomers the nuts and bolts of the genre. Strongly rewarding safe-playing and aiming at specific targets, instead of just randomly shooting the ball, while still not punishing it as hard as other tables might do. The problem is, however, that it might reward caution too much, leaving this to be a very easy table to enter grind mode in, where it is all a test of patience to go for the high scores due to a possible exploit that might or might not be the result of an overlooked aspect of the table. Besides some balancing issues that can be justified in teaching newcomers the ropes, Zen Pinball 2: Portal is a wonderful table and should be a natural starting point for any new pinball player's career towards the more challenging tables out there.

Developer

Zen Studios

Publisher

Zen Studios

Genre

Table Games

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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