Saturday 16 March 2013

Pinball FX 2: V12

And to think, we got the abysmal Speed Machine instead.

Yes our tales of classic Zen Classics pinballing wonder come to a close with V12, the engine which helped us win the war, and... isn't associated with classic American musclecars. Redraw your artwork!

V12 is what many would class as an "average" Pinball FX 2 table if such a thing existed. It's neither amazing nor terrible, just there, confusing first time players with its obtuse rules and hiding vital pieces of scenery off camera. The announcer is bizarre and you only get the one audio track (again) - there's not a huge amount to say that I haven't said already, and it's clear from the outset that Zen have produced better stuff.

But yet I found V12 to be a surprisingly decent table all the same. Again, it's not one friendly with the concept of intuitive play, but is nevertheless a pretty meaty product that's still good value for money. Most strikingly is its similarities with Speed Machine, the terrible Pinball FX 1 table thrown at us in 2007, but whereas Speed Machine likes its cramped and buggy conditions, the V12 package is a far more interesting one, where survival is based on skill, not on wonky collision detection.

V12's upgrades in this set involve lighting changes and little else, something it greatly benefits from, but not to the extent where it might address meaningful gameplay problems. Some objects are still hard to see, particularly without a respectable TV (including a flipper if you're using the wrong camera angle!), thanks to the blending of background details and questionable artistic choices. Mind you, as to how these issues could be fully addressed without replacing everything, I couldn't say - Zen Studios had yet to reach their peak in 2009 and there's no clearer evidence than with V12.

Success in V12 involves lighting kickbacks and holding the left flipper up, otherwise you will drain down the left outlane and walk away with nothing. Missions tend to be started accidentally and failed pretty quickly, with multiballs and side quests being my preferred choice for keeping things afloat. All four Zen Classics tables binge on timed modes, but the demand for quick reactions is perhaps more apparent in V12 than in any other game in this collection - if you're used to a relaxed style of play, you might not be comfortable... although seeing as two weeks after release I was 14th best in the world with a score of 27 million, it doesn't look like anyone's taking V12 in their stride.

Nevertheless V12 is perfectly solid release from Zen Studios, even if its only true claim to fame is being better than Speed Machine. In truth, both have room for improvements, and of course, almost everything released after 2009 sets the bar even higher.

So yes, Pinball FX 2's Classic Zen Collection - is it worth the money? I'd say possibly, depending on your love for the genre. All of the Marvel packs are better (and cost the same) and the standard pack of four that Pinball FX 2 brought us is a nice collection too. Zen Classics is a decent set, but not a priority purchase for newcomers unless you really hate comics. And Star Wars.

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