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Zen Pinball 2: Plants vs. Zombies Review

/ Sep 17th, 2012 No Comments


Zen Studios, makers of the original Zen Pinball, are back with more balls! Zen Pinball 2 is out now and ready for your frantic flippering fury. Over twenty tables are available at launch, many using official licenses like multiple Marvel characters, the Avengers, Street Fighter, and more. I was given the Plants vs. Zombies table, but all of them can be purchased separately or in bundled packs.

Note that this game is available for PS3 and PS Vita and that the game is cross platform for the low-low extra charge of nuthin.



Zen Pinball 2: Plants Vs. Zombies

It’s pinball. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by getting into the particulars of flipper use. The real magic of the game comes in the extensive complexity of the tables that Zen Studios manages to create, and the mix of game modes and extras that elevate the game beyond flipper-bounce-flipper-tilt.

As I said earlier, I played the Plants vs. Zombies table. It’s a strange world we live in that a casual game gets its own pinball spin-off, but I have to say that Plants vs. Zombies actually works pretty well in this context. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun playing such a simple game.

[adesnse250itp]Pinball always requires twitch, but Zen Pinball 2 takes a little more strategy. On the Plants vs. Zombies table, there is a kind of ebb and flow mechanic, where you build up your defenses in relative peace. Things like the venus flytrap Chompers who nabs errant balls and spits them back onto the table. There’s also a lawnmower that you can unlock as a one-time use that saves a ball from going down the drain. You also build up sunlight from a smiley-faced Sunflower and can purchase upgrades and multipliers from Crazy Dave’s little blue car.

Once that is completed these calmer periods end and the titular shambling-zombies arrive to ruin your life. Having to nail shambling zombies while keeping control of a fast-flying pinball is a hoot, and it adds a nice tension to a game (pinball) that can get a little repetitive. Zen Pinball 2 doesn’t seem to suffer from that, and I played for a good long while during each session. And that’s only with one table!

There are multi-ball power-ups (hectic), Zombies Love Football (which forces you to shoot pinballs past a persistent zombie linebacker), and Melon-Pult mini-games galore. There’s a mode that fogs up the table, throws a horde of zombies at you, and then dishes out an endless stream of nuts (aptly titled Going Nuts) to pelt into the moaning fundead.

Zen Pinball 2 knows how to keep it just interesting enough to keep you playing, but not so hectic that you go into seizures. Plus, it has multiplayer both local and online. Compete with your friends, crush them, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.



This guy is WAY too happy.

The table I had access to was incredibly colorful and bright, almost eye-scorchingly so. Don’t take that as a knock – it looks great. Had it been muddy or depressing I probably wouldn’t have stayed with it. Everything is rendered in three dimensions, and the camera zooms around the table dynamically to follow the rampaging pinballs.

The zombies on the Plants vs. Zombies table are all three dimensional for the first time, which is pretty neat. That damn smiling Sunflower is so chipper-looking and bright that I’m pretty sure its model should be patented as an anti-depressant. Plus the constantly hovering Dr. Zomboss in the background provides a nice bit of menace to focus on.

The physics of the pinball itself are fantastic, moving and bouncing realistically enough that you’ll probably find yourself tilting the controller during play.

This game’s got visual juice, and I’d definitely like to see what some of the Marvel tables look like.


The sound might actually make the Plants V\vs. Zombies table. The cute little girl shouts compelling things like “The Zombies are Coming!”, “Check Your Mailbox!”, “Zombietastic!” and “Don’t worry, we’ll do better next time” with so much conviction. The maniacal laughter of Dr. Zomboss’ giant robot at the end of each game is sufficiently mocking. The best line, hands down, is the plaintiff, terror-drenched male “NooooooOOOoooo” scream that plays every time a ball goes down the drain for good. It so accurately captures the stink of failure that I found myself screaming it alongside the voice actor whenever I bolloxed up the flippers and lost a ball.

The music is kitschy and fun, your little girl advisor is supportive and hilarious, and the zombies moan. No complaints here.


Zen Pinball 2 is a download available free for nothing. Now, to be fair, that just gives you the platform and the engine – the actual tables themselves are going to cost you. However, the deals are pretty good – there’s a Marvel pack for ten bucks that gives you three or four tables, and a Classic pack that gives you four or five tables created by Zen Studios. There are 26 or so tables, and if all of them are as good as the Plants vs. Zombies table than you’ll be in good hands. Flippers. Pinball.


The Table

Another cool thing that Zen Studios did was make everything backwards-friendly. If you’ve already bought the Marvel tables and the like for Zen Pinball 1, you’ll automagically get the same tables on Zen Pinball 2 for free. You’ll even keep your trophies and high scores and all the other signs of your crippling pinball OCD.

And thirdly, as a cherry on top of this delicious steak (what?), if you have a Vita then you’ll be able to play all your tables on either platform (PS3 or Vita) for no extra cost.

Not bad, Zen Studios. Not bad.


If you’re a pinball fan, this is a no brainer. Go download Zen Pinball 2 right now. Odds are you already have.

If you’re on the fence about pinball (as I was), Zen Pinball 2 is probably the finest distillation of the sport so far. Complex tables with simple controls, fast and furious pinball combined with variety and light strategy, plus much-beloved franchises where you can slay zombies or fight alongisde Thor?

Done. Done on a bun.

Sidenote: My high score on the Plants vs. Zombies table was a bit over 44 Million. I don’t know if that’s good, but I’ve had a hard time beating it, that’s for sure. If you kick my ass, feel free to post it in the comments because humiliation is like love – spread it around.


Gaming Illustrated RATING



Pinball + more. Fun, safe, and addictive. Like heroin.


Shiny, colorful, and bright. Cartoonish excellence.


The music does the job, and the bits of dialogue have a lot of character and charm.


A new game that doesn't charge you for stuff you've already bought? Cross-platform for free? Cheap bundled tables?

B.C. Johnson
Part-time swashbuckler and full-time writer, B.C. Johnson lives in Southern California and yet somehow is terrible at surfing or saying "whoa." His first published novel, Deadgirl, came out this year and is available for Kindle, Nook, and even old dusty paperback. When he's not writing or playing video games, he can be found writing about playing video games and occasionally sleeping.
B.C. Johnson

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Pinball + more. Fun, safe, and addictive. Like heroin.


Shiny, colorful, and bright. Cartoonish excellence.


The music does the job, and the bits of dialogue have a lot of character and charm.


A new game that doesn't charge you for stuff you've already bought? Cross-platform for free? Cheap bundled tables?

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