ZEN Pinball Rollercoaster for iPhone : A modern pinball table in your pocket! [Review]

ZEN Pinball Rollercoaster iPhone

ZEN Pinball Rollercoaster Rating: ★★★★☆

I am a pinball and retro arcade game fanatic! I almost paid an ungodly sum for a real pinball table the other day at a local market in Thailand. That table had been imported about 15 years ago, and even so was being offered for sale at the price of a cheap second hand car. Then my wife caught me! So for my fix of retro and pinball gaming I still have to turn to my computer or my iPhone.

Consequently I was very excited to hear that the developers behind “ZEN Pinball Rollercoaster” had re-released their pinball title for the iOS. For some reason, perhaps to do with OS upgrades, they had pulled it from the App Store a while ago, and I had managed to miss it the first time around.

I have been putting it through its paces today.

ZEN Pinball Rollercoaster iPhoneZEN Pinball Rollercoaster has been popular on XBox Live for a while also. But frankly playing pinball on a big TV screen stuck on the wall just isn’t quite as good as looking down at a table in your hands. In a very minor way holding your iPhone is more akin to the stance you take when resting against a physical pinball table. And of course you have it with you at all times for a quick game on the bus, back of your limo!, or when waiting for a meeting.

The first thing you notice about ZEN Pinball is that its very pretty. With bright garish colours, exactly like you expect from a real pinball machine.

The second thing you notice is that the sounds of the ball rolling and flippers clacking are very well synced with the action, and emulate real world sounds of a big steel ball bearing rolling on wood, smashing into flippers and shooting through channels exceptionally well.

The third thing you notice is the funky false 3D effect that gives the table depth, and with clever, but subtle use of the iPhone’s gyroscope / accelerometer allows you to peer around the edges of bits of the table, and look underneath the sections of the table that are raised above the rest. Like, for instance the actual ‘roller-coaster’ tube that you can fire the pinball through. It’s very reminiscent of the springboard hack for iPhone’s coming to Cydia soon, where the icons appear to float over the desktop, and you can tilt your device to peer underneath them. But like that on steroids! A Neat effect. Which you can also turn off if it messes with your mind too much.

Even without this effect the table really has a depth to it, so that you really feel like the game is being played inside your iPhone on a mini pinball table.

Control is simple. You simply tap the left or right of the screen to activate the respective flippers. And you can “Tilt” the table by shaking it. If you don’t know what that is, you’ll soon find out!

You tend to learn a pinball table after a while, but you certainly can get a lot more fun out of a single table in the corner of your local pub for years, over that of a video game, if only because the laws of physics have a lot to do with your score – not learning patterns. No two games of pinball are ever alike. And whilst this is not 100% the case on digital emulations – it can get pretty close with good implementations. And ZEN Pinball is one of those. Even so it would be nice on a digital pinball game to have more than one table – even as complete and well polished as the single table in ZEN Pinball Rollercoaster is.

The table in this case has a bunch of elevated slides for the ball, bumpers, ramps, towers, kick-backs, lights, escape routes etc. etc., and some side slots, which depending on how lucky or unlucky you are, or how long you’ve had a ball out on the table will either kick your lost ball back into play, or take it from you.

In short, there are all the “bells and whistles” or rather lights and bumpers you’d expect from a modern pinball table, as well as a side flipper half way up the table.

There is also a pixel LED style score table overlaid on the top of the screen, with your typical zany pinball animations for when you unlock challenges and high scores. So it’s very feature complete. So far I have not been able to activate a true multi-ball though. Which is a shame, because that is the holy grail of all pinball table bonuses – and a feature I miss on any table that does not have it. They say they have it in the blurb, so perhaps I’ve just been unlucky. If I manage to in the next few hours – because I will be playing a lot more – I’ll post in the comments!!

Great fun, and a fair price at $4.99. But I expect some might like it a little cheaper as it has only the one table.

Pros

  • Solid Pinball simulation.
  • Realistic Sound Effects.
  • Pseudo 3D effect is cool!

Cons

  • Frame Rate can stutter.
  • Not able to activate a true multi-ball.
  • Only one table.
  • Music is best left off!

$4.99 (View in iTunes)
Category: Games
Released: Jan 25, 2011
Version: 2.1
2.1
Size: 11.0 MB
Language: English
Seller: ZEN Studios Ltd.
© 2008-2010 ZEN Studios Ltd.
Rated 4+
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.

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Stephen NorthcottZEN Pinball Rollercoaster for iPhone : A modern pinball table in your pocket! [Review]