If you’re itching for some spooky pinball action for Halloween, ZEN has you covered with their new downloadable Paranormal table for ZEN Pinball on the PlayStation Network! The table releases tomorrow, and here’s an advance look at what you can expect.
ZEN Pinball released on the PlayStation Network back in May 2009 and has the distinction of being the first pinball game for the PlayStation 3. The original releases included four themed pinball tables: Shaman, Tesla, El Dorado, and V12. Since then, five expansion packs have released to add more tables into the mix, featuring everything from Street Fighter to King Arthur’s Excalibur.
The theme for each table is distinct and unique, coming with original sounds, voices, and features that fit perfectly with the arcade atmosphere. The V12 table revs a muscle car’s engine as your pinball ricochets around the table, while little Fountains of Youth-esque bumpers sparkle next to a skeletal conquistador on El Dorado. All the tables look gorgeous and colorful, and the atmosphere is true to all those weekends I devoted to feeding quarters into machines at the mall in my youth.
The actual gameplay is fantastic as well. ZEN has put some great physics into the ball motion and the flippers’ responsiveness so that everything feels natural and true to the game. The X button launches the ball, and the flippers are controlled by L1 and R1. You can angle shots and hammer down on the flippers to launch the ball exactly where you want, just like in real pinball (or try and fail, as my history of pinball wizardry can attest). The table designs all are creative feats of engineering, giving the balls multiple tracks, loads of bonus areas, and all sorts of hidden features. My personal favorite from the default table selection is Tesla, a semi-steampunk arrangement of electrical gags and gizmos with several wireframe tracks that careen the ball around the table.
Paranormal is the newest addition to ZEN Pinball‘s table roster, hitting the PlayStation Network just in time for Halloween. I haven’t played all the expansion tables, but Paranormal definitely bests all four of the default tables from the game’s original release. It is themed after all manner of mysterious and ghoulish stories and creatures, and it makes great use of its theming. Even the parts of the arcade room you can see near the pinball table are suitably spooky, sporting poltergeist-like opening and closing filing cabinets on one side and a ghostly moving Ouija board on the other.
The table itself is so awesome that I want a real one in my house. There’s a standard pinball table that starts the game, but through a series of carefully planned shots you can launch the ball up some stairs and into a haunted house that stands upright at the far end of the table. The house has its own sets of flippers inside, letting you play a completely separate subtable that takes your ball all through the house and even up to the attic to vanquish some lingering ghosts. Getting to the haunted house is tricky, but it’s manageable and worth the effort after you get the feel for Paranormal’s tricks and twists.
Nessie hangs out in her loch on the left side of the table, occasionally giving your ball a helpful nudge when it comes her way. A demon (possibly the Jersey Devil, based on some of the table’s voiceovers) looms over a track towards the back right, featuring some fun animation when your ball comes near. The table’s main voice is that of a 1920s era private investigator, surely hot on the trail of some paranormal haunt. His lines reference lots of spooky fandoms as he spouts out X-Files-ish things like, “The ball is out there!”
One really cool feature towards the top of the table is a ghoulish box that can be activated and rotated by skeletal fingers. Each side of the box features tracks and holes through which to guide the pinball. If you manage to get the ball up and into one of the holes on the box, you’ll activate one of four unique minigames on the table. Telling more than that would spoil some of the fun surprises Paranormal has in store for you.
In addition to adding a great table to ZEN Pinball, Paranormal also brings four new trophies into the game, providing some added incentive for the trophy hunters among us. The trophies don’t specifically reward high scores on the table. Rather, they unlock when you complete specific actions involving the denizens and doo-dads on the table itself.
If you already have ZEN Pinball, the Paranormal table is worth picking up for its price of $2.49. If you haven’t delved into the game at all yet, give it a try. I didn’t expect for a virtual pinball game to be so much fun or so addictive, but this one kept me up late and trying to best my top score on each table, almost with a Civilization “one more turn”-like frenzy.