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Zen Pinball 3D

by James Dawson - January 21, 2012, 5:56 am PST
Total comments: 7


Is Zen Pinball 3D the first must-have pinball experience that the eShop has to offer? 

Zen Pinball 3D is Zen Studios’ first release on a Nintendo console. Their popular pinball titles have seen great success on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android market places, but is the 3DS release on par with their previous games?

For the most part, the game is a port of their previous titles. However, what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in usability. The 3DS port is by far the most accessible handheld version of the series, as the 3D—a feature lacking in both the iOS and Android versions of the game—allows for a depth that largely makes up for the fact that the game is presented on such a small display. In fact, I would go so far to say that 3D is required to fully enjoy the game. Moreover, the tables include eight different camera options, allowing you to choose the one that works best for you. 

As for gameplay, Zen Pinball 3D offers a no-frills handheld pinball experience that spans four unique tables. Unlike other pinball video games that deviate from the original formula and include features that could only be done in video game form, such as Devil’s Crush or Pokémon Pinball, Zen Pinball 3D tries to replicate the gameplay and physics of a real pinball table, with which it does a remarkable job. Consequently, all four of the game’s tables could theoretically be reproduced as physical pinball tables. The only real exceptions are some of the tables with more active models, such as the large robot that fire balls in the Earth Defense table; however, with a little ingenuity these instances would not be far beyond what is possible in a real table.

As mentioned above, each of the four tables offer its own unique experience. However, Excalibur, the medieval-themed table, is by far the most feature-rich table available. Excalibur includes many different missions to complete, from a quest for the Holy Grail, to completing a jousting competition. Some of the missions are nothing more than getting the ball to certain locations on the table, but others, such as the jousting competition, function more like a mini-game. And as an added bonus, each table includes four awards that act as achievements for completing different missions. The other three tables (Eldorado, Shaman, and Earth Defense) also include missions and rewards; however, none as elaborate as the ones present in the Excalibur table.

Additionally, each table in Zen Pinball 3D has its own online leaderboard that allows players from around the world to compete for high scores, as well as a hotseat multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to compete for high scores using the same 3DS. The leaderboards rank both your individual table scores, as well as your pro score— the culmination of your high scores on all four tables. For each ranking, there are three different leaderboards: overall, friends, and my country. The different rankings allow you to easily check where you rank in the world, among friends, and in your own country. The leaderboards add quite a bit of replay value to the game, as positions change daily, giving the incentive to constantly work towards a higher score. In fact, the leaderboards are so well done in this game, I would be disappointed with any arcade-style game released in the future without one. As for the hotseat multiplayer, it offers a nice way to compete against friends who may not have the game or a 3DS.

Zen Pinball 3D is a polished experience that will please pinball and video game fans alike. Despite its conservative take on pinball, as compared to games like Devil’s Crush, it still offers an enjoyable experience that is worth any 3DS owner’s time.


  • Four unique tables
  • Great graphics
  • Great online leaderboards
  • Polished gameplay and physics
  • Other tables not as feature-rich as Excalibur


xcwarriorJanuary 21, 2012

I'm going to pick this up eventually, sounds like good fun to have on the go. But the new year's resolution was to beat games before I buy new ones, so this will have to wait.

Not like it's going on sale on the eShop anytime soon...

ejamerJanuary 21, 2012

Interested in both this game and VVVVVV, but only have enough money to get one in the near term.  Tough choice, although I think that pinball has a slightly edge at the moment. What makes it even worse is hearing that both *might* receive DLC later depending on sales. Wish I had a better idea exactly what/when/how much that might mean.

Both are really good, but if you've never played VVVVVV before I'd argue that's definitely the one to go with.

ejamerJanuary 21, 2012

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

Both are really good, but if you've never played VVVVVV before I'd argue that's definitely the one to go with.

The choice is nearly a 50/50 shot right now. I'm a huge fan of pinball, but haven't played much since the Williams collection on Wii. VVVVVV is right up my alley, but I actually own the PC version - but haven't been able to get it running on Ubuntu yet (although I haven't made any serious effort yet).
Eventually I'll probably end up with both... really seems like the best solution.

SeacorJanuary 22, 2012

It's too bad that the tables are not shared between both the top and bottom screens (Pinball Pulse) instead of crammed into the top screen only.  I think that I'll be sticking with Pinball Pulse.

BTW, Zen Pinball is free in the Apple App Store with one table.  Could we have had at least an eShop demo?

The game has 8 camera modes, so the screen coverage isn't as bad as it might seem from screenshots. Also, the lack of 3d on the bottom screen kind of forced it to be that way. This game is far superior to Pinball Pulse.

ejamerFebruary 14, 2012

Pulled the trigger on this one (and VVVVVV too) and have to say I regret it. No no no, I don't regret buying the game. I regret living so long without Zen Pinball in my pocket.

Zen Pinball is amazing.  If you are a pinball fan at all, then you should check this game out. The tables are all different, and really scale from being super-feature-rich on Excalibur to being much more old-school with Shaman. Personally I prefer the slightly less fancy tables - they feel more "real" to me when there are fewer gimmicks and toys involved but still a high challenge level. It's easy to see how everyone could have a different favorite though.

One note: although the leaderboards are awesome, they might have a few bugs to be ironed out. Reports from the Zen Studio forums suggest that not all of the high scores posted are legit. In some cases, people are saving their game after a good first ball and then making copies of the SD card image so they can keep trying until they get a "perfect run". (Options to combat this form of cheating are limited without removing a key feature of the game.) In other cases it seems like there are simply bugs affecting the Pro Scores of some players, although I don't think that's been confirmed by the developers yet.  Focus on fighting for high scores with friends and people you know, and this shouldn't be an issue.

Looking forward for DLC tables to be announced!

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Genre Action
Developer Zen Studios

Worldwide Releases

na: Zen Pinball 3D
Release Jan 12, 2012
PublisherZen Studios
eu: Zen Pinball 3D
Release Dec 01, 2011
PublisherZen Studios

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