Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: February 16, 2017
Genre: Arcade, Pinball
Price: $4.99 + in-app purchases
Game Modes: Single
Control: Gampad Required
Zen Studios has a history of making great pinball games. The Pinball FX2 title has appeared previously on Xbox and Windows platforms, and most recently on VR. Whie it’s also available for the Vive, PSVR, and Rift, in this article we’re taking a look at the Gear VR version of PINBALL FX2 VR.
Pinball FX2 VR is… well… pinball. More specifically, it’s super deluxe digital pinball with all the bells and whistles. Let’s start with the tables; for the $4.99 asking price you get 3 incredibly detailed and realistic tables. Five additional tables are available for purchase at $2.99 each, with the exception of The Walking Dead table being $4.99, and even more tables should be made available in the future. The tables have different layouts of bumpers, kickers, and spinners, as well as primary and secondary flippers, so they’re not just re-skinned versions of the same layout.
What puts this title into the deluxe realm is the details. Each of the tables is full of intricate detail, both traditional and digital, almost to the point of being overstimulating. And the table themes aren’t confined the table, they’re all around you. For example, the ocean table gives the room a blue hue and has sharks and jellyfish swimming around you, with animations changing based on how you’re doing.
For the uninitiated, pinball is more than just randomly bashing a ball around hoping to score points. It takes quick reflexes and timing to hit specific targets when they’re active, or in a certain order to complete combos. Hitting certain targets or combos will sometimes trigger a mini-game, such as the ocean table’s submarine side-scroller, or The Walking Dead table’s zombie sniping game. Each table has 3 achievements that are centered on either precise ball placement or getting combos, as well as global leaderboards for high scores.
A controller is required, and that’s no surprise. Pinball doesn’t exactly use a lot of buttons in the first place, but mapping the flippers and tilting to the Gear VR touchpad would kill the sense of presence. Shoulder buttons control the right and left bumpers, a button controls the ball launcher, and the left stick let’s you shake the table. All feel responsive, natural, and intuitive, though the table shake probably didn’t need to use an analog stick.
The graphics are extremely polished and the tables and environments are highly detailed. Right from the title screen you’re dropped into a beautiful games room that acts as your main menu, scoreboards and play space. You can click on the different locations to move around and chose a table. When you do chose a table to play, the whole room changes to fit the theme: the MARS table fills the room with asteroids, space ships and robots, the medieval table has a cartoon knight battling a carnivorous plant, and The Walking Dead table puts a damn zombie beside you who tries to attack Clementine when you lose a ball. It’s ultimately a cosmetic touch, but it brings the tables to life in a way only VR can, even if that zombie beside you makes it pretty hard to concentrate sometimes.
Normal pinball sounds consist of some bells and beeps and the sound of actuating flippers. Those are all present and fantastic, but again it’s the premium treatment that takes this pinball to the next level. The tables each have their own unique soundtrack to fit the table’s theme, plus the action going on outside the table, like space ships taking off and asteroid impacts, are realized in 3D audio, making this the most immersive pinball game around. It’s all very crisp and clear, far above expectations.
Comfort & Immersion
This game should suit any VR comfort level. The camera never translates and the frame rate stays high for the most part, so there shouldn’t be any reason to get motion sick. While the VR camera in the game does use a neck model, it assumes you’re sitting or standing straight up. If you hunch over while playing, as humans are known to do over these tables, the neck model tends not to match your movements which could lead to some discomfort.
On a certain level this game somehow manages to be more immersive than actual physical pinball. No, you can’t feel the table, but it takes a game that has traditionally been confined to the table top under glass, and expands it to fill a whole room. It’s pinball in VR, and it goes beyond just putting a fantastic table in front of you. It brings the tables to life.
So in the end, it’s a really really good pinball game. Is it for you? That depends on how much you love pinball. If you’re the kind of person that has considered buying or has bought a physical table, then $5 for the game, plus $3 to $5 per additional table probably sounds fine. I paid the $5 for the Walking Dead table, so in total I spent $10 on 4 tables. They’re great, but I can think of a few other games around the same price point that I’ve enjoyed more. To unlock all the currently available tables you’d be dropping $21 in total on this game, and that’s something you won’t see me doing. Considering there are entire decent games on Gear VR that can be bought for $3 to $5, I expect these prices will turn off quite a few buyers.
It’s premium pinball in VR. Everything about it is premium and you’re paying for it. The tables are engaging, the graphics and sound are amazing, and the achievements and leaderboards give the game some longevity. For the $5 base price, I think the 3 standard tables are worth it, if a little on the pricey side. But it will take a pretty serious pinball fan to shell out the additional money for the extra tables.
- Gorgeous graphics, approaching photoreal in some spots
- Nice diversity in table layout
- Incredible detail in all aspects: graphics, sound, and gameplay
- Some will find this a little expensive
- If you hate pinball, this won't change your mind