Pinball fans finally have a great game to play regardless of console. Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball are available on a wide array of devices, and it is clear that the folks over at Zen are fans of the game. The difference in quality between something like Pinball Heroes on the PSP and Pinball FX 2 is astounding.
Zen is also taking a page from Harmonix’s book and supporting Pinball FX 2 through DLC phenomenally well. Owners of the original Pinball FX are able to import their tables into FX 2 for free, 10 tables based on Marvel comics characters have been released, and four other tables (including one themed after the XBLA game Ms. Splosion Man) are available as downloadable content. Epic Quest is the newest addition to the Pinball FX 2 download roster, and it plays a little bit differently than its brethren.
Epic Quest, like every other table available, is about scoring more points than your friends by hitting ramps, shooting orbits, and completing mission modes. Where it differs is in presentation and persistence. As the name implies, Epic Quest is modeled after role-playing games. You take on the role of Max, a greedy adventurer, seeking riches, weapons, and armor and trying to kill every monster he comes across. The table, like all of the other tables available, is lovingly created and looks and feels genuine.
There aren’t as many “video game” elements to Epic Quest as there are with other tables, but that’s okay: it just means you won’t have to memorize the locations where the ball can be teleported to. The persistence comes in when you play your second game and realize that Max is wearing all the armor you unlocked in your first play and has retained his level. You’ll still need to shoot the sword ramp a lot to take out enemies, but it’s interesting that there are enough loot items to collect that Zen allows you to keep what you’ve found from play to play.
Where Epic Quest doesn’t quite succeed is making in its RPG elements feel substantial. While you keep any armor or weapons that you find along the way none of them really seem to make an appreciable difference in combat. It wouldn’t make sense to allow the player to go from needing four ramp shots to one to defeat basic enemies, but any noticeable difference would be welcome because if it doesn’t make combat easier then why is Max, and by extension the player, interested in collecting these things?
My only other gripe with Epic Quest is that the operator’s manual isn’t terribly useful. It’s full of RPG-inspired jokes, and while it’s a funny idea, a lot of players will never see it, and those of us who do open it are looking for things like an explanation of how the kickbacks are activated, not jokes.
Epic Quest is great if you’re looking for an accessible table that isn’t overly cluttered (Paranormal is fun but terribly claustrophobic), and the persistence is novel. I wish Zen had done more with the concept, but I trust that they’ll be releasing more tables; Pinball FX 2 works great as a hub game being supported by regular DLC.
Pros: Great ball physics, interesting persistence of items gathered, open design is friendly to new players
Cons: Gear doesn’t really seem to do much, operator’s manual is ineffective at relaying information to the player