Nintendo have changed their online infrastructure significantly over the past year. Zen Pinball 2 is the first of example of how their eShop service is changing either further with a new model that allows games to be downloaded for free with additional paid content.
Zen Pinball is already a pretty established franchise with it's release on the 3DS eShop in late 2011 and the more recent release of Marvel Pinball in 2012. However, the series has never been tackled in this model before. Here, you can download the game for free from the Wii U eShop and pick and choose the content that you want, either in the form of single tables or table sets. In total, there's 26 tables available at the time of writing and Zen have promised to add more to the collection.
Before we take a look at the best of the tables, we'll briefly mention the interface. It's a very clean system, that we'd expect to see from an Xbox or Playstation game. Colours run nicely together and the text is both professional and easy to understand. However, at times, some users may have a little difficulty in understanding the text because of it's small size. Although, that shouldn't cause you too much trouble.
This is the first time that we've seen Nintendo use a system like this, so we would expect to see a few hiccups, but was there anything too game ruining?
The way in which users purchase tables in Zen Pinball 2 can be considered as a little stiff. Users are unable to purchase tables directly from the game and the user must visit the Wii U eShop to actually purchase a table. It feels like someone has cut a corner here, either on Zen Studios or Nintendo's part.
Another issue comes in the way that tables are packaged up, whilst a selection of the tables are available freely on their own, for a small charge. However, a large amount of the tables can only be found in table selections, these cost considerably more and say you only wish for one single table, the only way to play this single table is through a pack.
We shall talk about the game's tables themselves, because unlike us, most users don't gain pleasure from pondering at the luscious interface. As we aforementioned, there's 26 tables available in all and we won't go into all that hoo-ha again about how some are only available through packs. The fact of the matter is, here you have a beautifully polished and all together very solid selection of classic pinball tables based on some of your favourite Video Game and Movie franchises.
If you're heading for a table pack option, we'd recommend opting for something like the Zen Classic pack, for newcomers to the series at least. Although, one of the many available Marvel Pinball themed packs may be a great option for Marvel fans. The packs are great for players who intend to squeeze the most out of this game and shell out the most money.
On the other hand, if you're looking to pick and choose your own game, you'd be much better off opting for a selection of the single tables. Our favourite table being Plants vs. Zombies, purely because it takes beautiful inspiration from the classic game. However, there's some others that shine through, much like Captain America and Mars. These single tables are available very cheaply we found.
Also bear in mind, that there's a free Trial download available for each of these packs and tables, which is more than worth trying out before you commit.
Multiplayer functionality is also a nice addition, considering each table has the ability to play in Multiplayer, either with Split Screen, or more interestingly through a hot seat mode. There's also online leaderboards, adding a true incentive to come back and beat your score.
In conclusion, Zen Pinball 2 is a great representation of again how far Nintendo has come in terms of online infrastructure. There's a wealth of great tables on offer here, along with a well presented infrastructure. However, we can't help but feel that we liked Zen Pinball more, when it was one tidy package on the 3DS. + Josh Moorcroft-Jones
7/10 - Zen Pinball 2 is great fun, don't get us wrong. However, we loved Zen Pinball when it was all in.