"Earth Defense", one of the original Zen Pinball tables.Zen Pinball
and Pinball FX
are a series of games for playing Digital Pinball Tables
by Zen Studios
. Most of the gamesnote
are frameworks where players can purchase and download new pinball tables over time. The games support features such as local and online multiplayer play, slow motion, mid-game saves, and online leaderboards and tournament competitions.
Despite the name differences, the games are fundamentally the same; "Pinball FX" is used for games on Microsoft systems, while "Zen Pinball" is for versions on other platforms. Most of the tables are available for both series.
The first title in the series was Pinball FX
. It was published by Microsoft Game Studios on Xbox LIVE Arcade
in 2007, and initially came with three tables ("Speed Machine", "Agents", and "Extreme"). Six other tables were released later as downloadable content.
In 2008, Zen released the first Zen Pinball
games, Zen Pinball: Rollercoaster
and Zen Pinball: Inferno
. They were games for Apple's iOS devices
, and unlike the other titles in the series, these were standalone apps with no facility for downloading additional tables.
In 2009, Zen released Zen Pinball
on the Play Station Network
, making it the first pinball game on the PlayStation 3
. It came with four tables ("Earth Defense", "El Dorado", "Epic Quest", and "Excalibur"), with others released later. The game was subsequently released on Android devices
as Zen Pinball THD
and the Nintendo 3DS
as Zen Pinball 3D
in 2011. A version of Zen Pinball
was also released for iOS devices
, with proper support for downloadable tables.Pinball FX 2
was released in 2010 for the Xbox 360
, then later Windows 8 in 2012, Steam in 2013, and Windows Phone will have it sometime in 2014, while Zen Pinball 2
was released in 2012 for the PlayStation 3
and PlayStation Vita
, then later Wii U
and PlayStation 4
in 2013. These are upgrades to the original titles, with an improved game engine and support for more features. The games are backwards compatible with the originals, allowing owners to import their tables.
Zen's pinballs tend to be Licensed Pinball Tables
, with properties from popular Comic Book
and Science Fiction
assets. Although the playfield physics are realistic, the games also feature liberal use of Video Game
-only effects, such as wandering enemies to be destroyed with balls or attention-grabbing animations over the playfield.Note
: As new Works pages are created for the various Zen Pinball tables, be sure to add them here and on the Digital Pinball Tables
The following pinball tables are available for the various Pinball FX and Zen Pinball games:
- Earth Defense
- Epic Quest
- The Marvel Pinball series:
- Marvel Pinball, a bundle of four tables:
- Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles, a bundle of four tables:
- The Avengers
- Fear Itself
- The Infinity Gauntlet
- World War Hulk
- Marvel Pinball: Captain America
- Marvel Pinball: Civil War
- Marvel Pinball: Doctor Strange
- Marvel Pinball: ME!!!
- Marvel Pinball: Fantastic Four
- Marvel Pinball: Guardians of the Galaxy
- Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue, a bundle of four tables:
- Ghost Rider
- Moon Knight
- Ms. Splosion Man
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Tribute
- Nightmare Mansion
- Pinball FX Classic, a bundle of four tables:
- Speed Machine
- Pinball FX 2 Core, a bundle of four tables:
- Secrets of the Deep
- Plants vs. Zombies Pinball
- Rocky and Bullwinkle
- Sorcerer's Lair
- The Star Wars Pinball series:
- The Star Wars three table bundle:
- Boba Fett
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- The Balance of the Force three table bundle:
- Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars: Starfighter Assault
- Star Wars: Darth Vader
- The Heroes Within four table bundle:
- Han Solo
- Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
- Star Wars Pinball: Droids
- Star Wars Pinball: Masters of the Force
- Street Fighter II Tribute
- Super League Football (with the following designs)
- Zen Studios F.C.note
- Liverpool F.C.
- Arsenal F.C.
- Real Madrid C.F.
- FC Barcelona
- A.S. Roma
- A.C. Milan
- The Walking Dead
- Zen Classics, a bundle of four tables:
- El Dorado
Zen Pinball and Pinball FX contain examples of:
- Catchphrase: Most of the tables have a voice clip of someone saying, "Fantastic!"
- Digital Pinball Tables
- Evil Is Hammy: The villains on Zen's tables are prone to Evil Laughs and yelling Flowery Insults at the protagonists.
- Obviously Evil: With a few exceptions, such as The Walking Dead, the antagonists never hide how evil they are.
- Pinball Scoring: Averted in most of the newer tables (and some of the older ones). Even reaching 1 million points will take a good deal of effort. Played straight with Sorcerer's Lair and Rocky & Bullwinkle, where it's relatively easy to get scores in the hundreds of millions.
- Player Character: The Zen Pinball line has a relatively high number of pinball tables compared to other companies' libraries, real or virtual, where the player fills an individual, specific, named role. The most obvious are the Marvel-themed tables where you play as the titular hero, though even its non-licensed tables will usually have a protagonist the player stands in for, such as Jake in Sorcerer's Lair or Nikola Tesla in Tesla. Even Super League Football puts the player in the role of the team's manager. Compare this to, for instance, Jersey Jack Pinball's The Wizard of Oz, where the player, though usually Dorothy, frequently shifts to other characters, or Stern's AC/DC, which has no player character at all.
- Non-Player Character: Many of Zen's tables also have entire casts of characters for each table the player character will meet, more pronounced in later tables when Zen's budget increased. Of note are Captain America, which has all of Cap's Howlers and a military support squad; and The Walking Dead, of which most of the characters met in the Telltale game's first season will show up in this one in some form.
- Serial Escalation: Each table from Zen has more complex rules than the last, to where Super League Football has a campaign spanning multiple tries at the table. The budget for audio has also increased, going from in-house acting to stock voice actors to bringing actors and announcers straight from the source material.
- Shout-Out: Zen Studios loves pinball, and it shows in their borrowing of physical objects present in notable pinball machines. Some are so similar in structure that they might as well be Spiritual Successors.
- The plunger lane in Tesla is identical in structure to that of Tales of the Arabian Nights. It also has a mini-playfield with magnetic flippers much like the Powerfield in The Twilight Zone.
- The rotating block in Paranormal is based on The Bride in The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot and is put in the same location. The mini-playfield where the backglass would normally be comes from Banzai Run. The Chupacabra captive ball functions very similarly to the Map Room in Indiana Jones (Stern).
- It is admitted on the blog that Super League Football is a Whole Plot Reference of World Cup Soccer.
- The outlane gates in Sorcerer's Lair functions just like the right outlane gate in Space Shuttle.
- The levitating ball in Paranormal and Infinity Gauntlet is likely based off the levitating ball in Pinball Magic.
- Chomper in Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, when not used as a kickback, acts similarly to the cannon in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and AC/DC. Hannibal's Payback Time bazooka in Blade has the same purpose.
- The semicircular captive ball lane in Captain America may have been based on the identical one in Baby Pac-Man, as it's also in the same location on the playfield. The Howlers' sinkhole, with its accompanying standup target, shares its structure and location with a scoop on The Lord of the Rings (which is in turn based on the Catapult up-kicker in Medieval Madness).
- The split-level design with a series of parallel rollovers just above the path sending the ball down in Extreme is a shared design element with Black Knight and Black Knight 2000.
- The sign on the upper-left of Fantastic Four is built similarly and in a similar location to the rotating jungle in Gilligan's Island.
- Deadpool uses the criss-crossing ramp design that's a signature of Mark Ritchie, particularly the kind used in Fish Tales, though it functions differently. Blind Al Mode turns off the lights and provides you with a glowing ball much like how Viper Night Drivin' works. Ball locks are placed to the middle-left and middle-right out in the open, like with Star Wars Episode I.
- The ball lock on the lower-right in Guardians of the Galaxy is based on the TARDIS in Doctor Who. The Skill Shot involves pressing the launch button when a moving target passes by a stationary reticule, which was previously used in Data East's Star Trek.
- The Everett mini-playfield in The Walking Dead has a layout very similar to the attic in Haunted House, including a pair of flippers that point away from each other. "A New Day" is a mode centered around the bumpers that asks you to earn a certain score within a time limit with scoring greatly increased, traits it shares in common with Monster Bash's "Mummy Mayhem."
- Signature Style: Most tables have the following in common:
- Three or more flippers.
- Narrow shots or wide but steep ramps.
- Side ramps that loop back to the same upper flipper.
- Multi-level playfields.
- Modes that do not stack (once an objective is asked, all other things are disabled and worth minimal points).
- Nearly all required modes are either multiballs or Timed Missions.
- A lot of Spelling Bonuses.
- Very strong emphasis on ramps (always at least 3, with as many as 5).
- A playfield longer and wider than a normal machine.
- At least one multiball mode required to reach a Wizard Mode.
- Multi-stage wizard modes that are very hard to reach.
- Generous and easy-to-obtain ball savers.
- A kickback on both outlanes, activated by lighting an insert on the outlanes and inlanes.
- A manual plunger. Guardians of the Galaxy is the only table to date to use a button-style ball launch.
- A cap of 10x end-of-ball bonus multiplier, with an extra ball given after that. On many tables, this is the only way of obtaining an extra ball.
- Flippers at a high angle when held, leading to easy ball catches.
- Use of slingshots to start certain modes (most physical pinball machines use slingshots only to send the ball out of control). In addition, slingshot hits tend to be worth more on Zen's tables than those of other designers.
- Downplayed use of bumpers, which are placed close together leading to lots and lots of bumper hits when the ball does reach them.
- As of late, characters standing on the apron watching the game. Justified, though, as that's the least intrusive place for them to be.