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Zen Pinball brings back classic gaming

Jan 27, 2012

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Zen Pinball 3DI may be dating myself a little here but I can remember when arcades had nothing but pinball machines in them. Until Asteriods and Pong arrived to signal a gaming revolution, everyone wanted to be a pinball wizard. Just ask Roger Harry Daltrey and The Who.

Something has to be said for the simplicity of pinball itself, banking a steel ball around knocking down targets and hitting bumpers. That natural, straightforward gameplay is what has kept pinball around in digital form even though not many of those slick cabinets are manufactured anymore.

Zen Pinball 3D, developed by Zen Studios and available at the Nintendo eShop, is the first such simulator for the Nintendo 3DS. Previously, Zen has released Pinball FX and Marvel Pinball and what you see is pretty much what you get.

Zen Pinball 3D There are four tables to start you off: Excalibur, Eldorado, Shaman and Earth Defence. Excalibur is a sword and sorcery table complete with a castle, a catapult and an extra flipper at the top. It is the most uncomplicated table of the four. Eldorado comes complete with an Indiana Jones, treasure hunter theme. There are several looping ramps, lots of targets and an ancient idol that steals balls. The layout is deceptively unassuming but the table will crush you like a rolling boulder if you fail to pay attention.

Covered with Myan or Aztec imagery, Shaman is much like Eldorado except it has six flippers, a target board at the top of the table and a drummer target who lays down a solo each time you hit him. It is a very, very tricky board to work your way through. Earth Defence is an alien invasion theme with a gigantic and chatty enemy robot and huge tanks on either side of the table. You had better have fingers of lightning to deal with Earth Defence.

Zen Pinball 3D To play any of the tables, you can use either the L or R buttons to activate the flippers or you can use the B button and the directional pad. The circle pad tilts the table and you can change your view of the tables using the X button. I found it far more comfortable to use B and the directional pad to control the flippers as reaching around the 3DS for the L and R buttons gets really tiring the longer a game goes on and you certainly don’t want to abort a good run due to awkward controls or a cramp.

Zen has thrown in a Hotseat option to compliment the single player action. It is a multiplayer mode where you can share your 3DS with friends and play different tables. There is an online leaderboard and awards for completing certain challenges.

Zen Pinball completely captures the feel and mechanics of the pinball experience, although there is one drawback. Since you are playing on the smaller 3DS screen, sometimes it can be hard to keep track of the ball or of the particular happenings. Other than that, for $6.99, Zen Pinball is a bargain for those times when you just want to load up a pick and play title to pass the time.


Zen Pinball 3D Zen Pinball 3D
Format: Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo eShop)
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Site:
Rating: 7 / 10

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