by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
I like all sorts of games. Sometimes I want a deep story and epic set pieces. Sometimes I want to shoot dudes in the face with a bunch of different weapons. But sometimes I just want to play some pinball. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at pinball, so playing the tables at the pub or in the arcade would be a waste of money. That’s where Pinball FX2 comes in. This is a game which has been out on XBLA for nearly three years now, but for those people who don’t own an Xbox 360, it has just been released on Steam.
What you download is more of a service for buying different pinball tables than an actual game itself. You can play each of the twenty-three tables available at launch for a short period of time. This demo is to give you an idea of how the table plays, and will hopefully allow you to determine whether you will purchase it or not. Basic tables such as Tesla and V12 will give you a more realistic pinball experience, but most of the appeal will come from the licensed tables on offer. There are currently themed packs available as downloadable content on steam, containing several tables focusing on one central idea. Licensed Marvel characters and comics make up the majority of the packs at the moment, but more tables will be added regularly. You cannot currently purchase individual tables, which is a shame.
The recognisable names will give you a more exciting vision of pinball that can only really be given to you by a video game. The Iron Man table has missions where you will be taking on enemies like Whiplash and Mandarin. Eventually you will be able to load a cannon with which you can physically aim and fire the ball at varying parts of their bodies to defeat them. The Avengers table has you selecting from one of six balls, each coloured to look like the character they are representing. Depending on which ball you select, you will get different bonuses. For example, Hulk will grant higher scores when bouncing off the bumpers, while Iron Man will use his intellect to acquire multipliers quicker. Visual effects on the balls, especially in multiball, look really cool; something that could never really be achieved on a real life table. Some tables, the Avengers one in particular, have voice actors attempting their best Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Hiddlestone impressions, but never really impress.
Beyond the three sets of Marvel tables, there is a Star Wars theme set, containing Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, The Clone Wars, and Boba Fett. You will be re-enacting scenes from the famous franchise as you play, with characters jumping around the table and laser bullets flying all over the place. There are even cutaways during play to short mini games where you will be doing things like controlling a lightsaber with the flipper buttons. It was harder to determine if the voice acting on the Star Wars tables came from the actual actors than in the Marvel sets, but it certainly sounded a lot more believable.
Visually, it is hard to say what could be improved upon in Pinball FX2. There’s only so much you can do with a pinball table, and all the flashing lights and colours look really nice on each one. Some tables seem a little cluttered, and occasionally it was tricky to see what was going on, but it was never a real hindrance. I enjoyed tables where missions were clear about what shots you had to make, combining lights on the table with audio cues. Thor and X-Men were my personal favourites, as they contained missions that were easy to initiate and complete. Everyone loves seeing their score skyrocket when playing pinball, and I easily picked a couple of dozen million points on my first try on each of those tables.
There are individual scoreboards for each table, ranking you firstly against your friends who own the game, and separately against the entire world. You also have a Superscore, which is increased by beating your high score on any table, or by beating your best score in a Tournament. Finally, you have a Wizard Score, which is increased when you and your friends set high scores or when you play with new tables. I feel having all these separate systems is a little unnecessary, but I have to admit, when you are closing in on a new high score and the game alerts you to the fact, it is quite exciting. There is local hotseat multiplayer for up to four players, where you change player each time a ball is lost. I did not manage to find an online multiplayer option however, which was strange given the existence of such a mode in the XBLA version of the game.
Pinball FX2 is just good fun if you fancy a quick game of pinball. The ball physics are great, the visuals are top notch and, barring some dodgy voice acting here and there, the audio adds to the experience too. Having friends play along with you increases the enjoyment as you work to beat each other’s scores, but solo play can be just as rewarding. You only have to pay for what you want to play as well, so if you have no interest in playing the Wolverine table, you don’t have to. Each table brings something slightly different to the mix though, so I would heartily recommend you pick this game up and give everything a try.
Good clean fun. Great visuals and rewarding gameplay.
Can't currently purchase individual tables. Voice acting is questionable in places.