Virtually Amazing

HIGH Forgetting they were only virtual tables.

LOW Tracking issues coming out of nowhere.

WTF Literally ducking to avoid zombie reach.


 

I’m a pinball junkie, having played literally every video equivalent since the Atari 2600. Most are more miss than hit, sadly, as it’s no small feat to capture the pinball experience via a controller and a two-dimensional screen. However, I can say with conviction that Pinball FX2 VR is perhaps the greatest electronic pinball representation to date.

To explain, playing Pinball FX2 in virtual reality is akin to looking directly down and over a real-life pinball machine. The perspective is picture-perfect down to the angles, and includes an ability to peek underneath every table item. The ball tracking is also seamless as the silver orbs streak across from one side of a table to the other. Even pinball snobs will be hard-pressed to call out discrepancies in the experience here.

I can’t begin to express what a game changer virtual reality is for this genre. The increased depth and immersion adds so much — it’s a huge leap ahead of past iterations.

Enhancing the experience is the fact that there’s always something that would be impossible on a real table happening during play — sharks zipping around, airplanes cutting across the field, or The Walking Dead’s Clementine kicking soccer balls around. A personal favorite is the over-anxious zombie at table’s edge, quick to express frustration (or satisfaction) by reaching across the table. Moreover, peer into the background to discover even more zombies banging across windows, a circle of active train tracks on the Wild West table, or floating cookies intended to encourage little monsters on another. I’d sometimes just hold a ball in place without shooting to admire these nuances!

Similarly, Zen Studios presents this version of Pinball FX2 VR in a slick shell — a beach house of the future stores tables and leaderboards in a clever and interactive world. Thankfully, table selection is quick, as it is to start (a pet peeve of mine from earlier Pinball FX offerings).

While this is a generally wonderful experience, there are some technical quibbles that detract from it. To keep things running smoothly, the graphics take a sizable hit. It appears Zen Studios simply lowered resolution to enable the PSVR hardware to do its thing, and what results is a never-fully-in-focus image that gave me slight headaches over time.

Also, the tracking goes wonky at random. One second I’d be visually following a ball around the field perfectly, and in the next, the table would be slightly titled to the left at an awkward new angle. Thankfully this is easily fixed by pressing the square or option buttons on the Dualshock controller, but it still happens often enough to become an irritant.

Looking at the table designs, I found them lacking in difficulty and storytelling. They’re arguably too easy, lack sufficient variations in score options, and provide little mission-based incentive to continue playing. What results is enjoyable, but becomes a bit monotonous with endless shots up ramps. Pinball FX2 VR tries to keep things interesting by having external components interact with the table through minigames, but this mechanic often fails as it requires concentration outside of keeping the ball in play — it’s sensory overload with too many things happening at once beyond the normal line of sight.

From a more practical angle, it’s worth noting that the Pinball FX2 VR experience is not cheap. At the time of release, the core offering comes with three tables for $15. I was able to review it alongside DLC from Season 1, which equates to another $25 for five more tables. Finally, The Walking Dead table is yet another $7, as a separate purchase. While I’d gladly pay the combined price, note this anything but a budget title. Disappointingly, previous owners of Pinball FX2 are out luck because licenses previously owned via PSN do not transfer to PSVR.

Despite these foibles, Pinball FX2 VR is one the PSVR’s best titles to date. It’s a wonderful lesson in how virtual reality can positively enhance a gameplay experience, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of any pinball fan. Despite the current problems, I’m waiting with bated breath for the next tables to appear. Rating: 8.5 out of 10


 

Disclosures: This title was developed and is distributed by Zen Studios. It is currently available via download on PSN. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PSVR. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to this title.

Parents: Pinball FX2 is rated E for by the ESRB. This is safe for the kiddies…unless they’re afraid of zombies and sharks.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: No issues here. Audio provides ambiance, but is not required for play.

Remappable Controls: Controls are remappable. Flippers can be assigned to any of the shoulder buttons, ball launch to three different options.

Colorblind modes: Virtual Reality hardware and software may present challenges to colorblind users based on presentation method. This game does not offer options to address this issue.

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