Pinball machines were the cornerstone of all the local arcades in my area growing up. While the younger audience crowded around arcade cabinets, the older teens appreciated the nuances and subtle details, regardless if the table was based on an existing IP or a brand new concept. Zen Studios has been releasing virtual pinball tables for the better part of a decade, and it was only natural for the Pinball FX series to evolve with the release of virtual reality platforms. Arcades being just about extinct in North America, Pinball FX2 VR is the absolute best way to experience the thrill of pinball. Although all of the tables that are released are of their own creation, I adore the creative freedom that has been used in designing them.
As expected, the base game doesn’t come with a considerable number of pinball tables. Although unique and stylized, it only features three tables; Mars, Epic Quest, and Secrets of the Deep. Additional tables can be purchased on the PlayStation Store, and the Season One pack is already available, as well as a table based on Telltale’s The Walking Dead game series. If you played Pinball FX2, you might recognize all of the tables, as all of them are recycled content from the previous game.
In a very high-class apartment befitting a multi-millionaire with expansive floor to ceiling windows covering almost every inch of the walls; you'll find three pinball machines in fixed positions. While you can't move them around, you can swap the pinball machines for any of the ones you own. If your collection grows too large, you can assign tables from the main menu to easily see your entire collection.
On the wall you’ll find a trophy case, letting you browse through all the game's trophies, earned and not earned. I should also mention that Zen Studios has a built-in visual notification when a trophy is earned, as Sony has yet to implement system-wide visual notifications when playing PlayStation VR titles. The additional room in the far end of your location displays a massive screen, highlighting the leaderboards for every table available in the game, whether local or global.
Once you select a pinball machine, you’re immediately enveloped by the theme of the table, making you feel a part of the narrative. Playing the Mars table, the once endless ocean view is replaced by the heavenly depth of space with asteroids, satellites and spaceships orbit around the table. Secrets of the Deep transforms the environment to the deepest reaches of the ocean floor, complete with jellyfish and sharks swimming around, and a miniature submersible that matches the one used in the pinball machine. Epic Quest harks back to the medieval era, with whimsical theatrical performances performed by marionettes and puppets. While tying the background visuals to the theme of the table isn't new for the series, the use of the 3D environment adds much complexity and enjoyment.
Whether you play standing up or sitting down, your view sets you directly in front of the glass topped pinball cabinet. After long play sessions, I found myself having to take a short break and stretch out my neck. In Pinball FX2 VR, recentering by holding down Options or tapping Square snaps your view back in place instantly. You can manipulate how close or as far away you are from the table by leaning forward/backward from the PlayStation Camera. I like to play very close to the table so that I can appreciate all the tiny details, the vibrant colors and all the flashing lights inside each pinball machine.
The triggers on the Dualshock 4 are used to control the flippers, while the left analog stick can be used to nudge or tilt the table. For those unfamiliar, a perfectly timed tilt can alter the trajectory enough of the pinball to stop it from falling between the bottom bumpers. It works similar to real life mechanics, so if you use too much force, you’ll be penalized, losing your ball, and any bonus multiplier in the process.
Many don’t realize, but there is more to pinball machines than simply hitting the bumpers over and over, as each table has their own set of specific objectives/missions to complete. Completing these challenges will yield a significant bonus to your score. The mission types are unique for each table, and some have more than others. Mars, for example, has a handful of main missions to complete, but lacks the multiball or score multiplier options that are available in other tables.
Season One and Beyond
With only three pinball machines available in the base game, you’ll want to purchase additional tables on the PlayStation Store. The Season One expansion adds CastleStorm, Wild West Rampage, Paranormal, BioLab, and Earth Defense. Like the original three, none of these tables are new. Each of these tables provides a satisfying challenge. Wild West, for example, has a wide open middle section to the pinball cabinet, harking back to the days of open country and towns tucked away in the middle of nowhere. BioLab, on the other hand, is full of twisting tubes, and pathways for you to use to your advantage, covering most of the play area with various types of bumpers.
There is currently only a single table available outside the Season One expansion, and it is one of the most popular tables for Pinball FX2; Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The table was already a part of Pinball FX2, and it adds some of the most iconic areas of the game, including the Bell Tower and St. John’s Dairy Farm. There are some newly recorded lines from the game characters, and the missions of the table focus on surviving against the zombie hordes or internal struggle, a major plot point for the series.
Pinball FX2 VR is hands-down the best virtual pinball experience available. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen an actual pinball machine in real life, but if Zen Studios keeps releasing new packs, I may just never leave the house. All of the tables vary when it comes to small subtle details, all of which are sharp and visually impressive, but the environmental shifts really help to bring the tables to life.
Note: The review for Pinball FX2 VR is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.