Inside Pulse 12

Review: Zen Pinball – Epic Quest (Sony Playstation 3)

Zen Pinball – Epic Quest Table
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Genre: Pinball
Release Date: 02/14/2012

Although Zen Pinball came out nearly three years ago, Zen Studios is still hard at work putting out new downloadable tables for the game. The latest is Epic Quest, which is a pinball/RPG hybrid. In this new table you are not only trying for a high score, but you have to defeat monsters which in turn earns you experience points and possibly loot. The better your equipment and level, the more damage you will do and the less you will take. Of course, there are higher level monsters as well, which creates what is technically an endless RPG which requires even more hand-to-eye coordination than the old Shadow Hearts series.

Obviously, as this is a pinball table, you “battlefield” is comprised primarily of ramps and lanes to shoot the ball into. You’ll have chances to earn jackpots, multi-balls (Princess and skeleton based!) and even extra balls. For all intents and purposes, Epic Quest is a regular game of pinball, so for those of you who eschew RPGs, don’t worry – there are no drop down menus or grid based combat fields to worry about. It’s merely a thematic thing, much like the Marvel Pinball games.

Eventually you’ll trigger an encounter with one of twelve monster. There are three locations (The Haunted Mill, the Cave and the Forest), each of which has four unique monsters. Once a battle is triggered you get to pick which monster you fight. In alphabetical order, your potential opponents are a: Bandit, Evil Tree, Ghost, Goblin, Imp, Ogre, Rat, Skeleton, Spider, Troll, Vampire or Wolf. Once a battle is triggered the dot matrix screen in the upper right hand corner displays both combatants’ Hit Points and attack damage. From that point on you have a timer. Getting the ball into the critical hit or sword ramp lets you do damage, while the Shield and Dodge ramps start the timer over. If you can get into any of these spots before the timer counts down, you take damage from the monster. Then the timer resets and the battle continues until one side loses all their hit points…or the ball goes out of play. Each location has their own requirements in order to trigger a battle. The Forest will be the easiest and thus most common location. If you’re able to kill a dozen different monsters, you’ll earn a battle with a dragon. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to be able to do that.

That’s not all there is to combat though. If you hit the dungeon hole during a battle, you can drink one of your magic potions (your start the game with three) to get your health back up to maximum. There is also a special ramp in the upper right hand corner that, if you can hit onto it, will give you a chance to cast an elemental spell for a ton of damage (possibly even an instant kill). You gain spells from skillshots and the caveat is that you have to cast the spell you actually have. So if on your original skillshot, you earned a fire scroll and then during combat you get to cast a spell but end up in the ice spell hole, you get a few measly points added to your score but no damage.

At some point, you’re going to get to upgrade your gear. What you get to upgrade is always random, but the four options are Helm, Armour, Buckler and Weapon. When you get a chance to upgrade, you’ll have a choice of two items – one of which will usually have an elemental bonus. So if I get a flaming mace, I’ll do more damage to enemies that are weak against fire, but less damage to those that have fire resistance. There are four levels of gear and if you’re lucky, you’ll earn a piece of EPIC GEAR. I’ve collected a full set of Epic Gear, but I have no idea how I earned some of these. The Epic Helm I earned through making three flashing lane skillshots in a row (Hint: depress the plunger right before you can see any white of the orc’s teeth. That should net you the flashing lane skillshot every time.) . Everything else though? I honestly have no idea. The armour was during an “Instant Multiball” when I got two or three “jackpots” in a row. The other two are a blur. The best part is that your level and equipment carry over from one game to the next, so you’ll never have to start over from scratch.

I have to admit, Epic Quest is by far my favorite table for Zen Pinball so far, but it’s not without a few flaws. The first is that there are a few physics issues in which if you hit a ball going at the same speed on the same spot of your flipper ten times, it might got the same way six out of ten times. Things don’t seem to be as accurate here as they are on other tables, which can pose a bit of a problem during combat. The second is that the space between the two main flippers is wider than on most of the other Zen Pinball tables, meaning it’s easier for the ball to go straight down without a chance of hitting it. The physics problem aggravate this a bit as the ball will hit off something it’s not supposed to from the angle of your hit…and then somehow aim perfectly down the middle even if that trajectory wouldn’t be possible on a real pinball machine. You would think tilting would help alleviate this, but that’s the third and final issue with the table. Tilt doesn’t seem to work properly. Tilting uses the Sixaxxis aspect of the Dual Shock 3 controller, but it seems to reflex back with the opposite force you tilted at, nullifying the move complete. So if I tilt right, the table will do so briefly, but then instantly tilt itself left to balance things out…which of course, screws you, the player, over at pivotal moments. Now none of these things are horrible, but they can add up to a bit of frustration here and there.

Other than that, the table is fantastic. I love that you can trigger a “stage show” of sorts before certain battles. The animation of these are quite amusing. It’s just too bad it only happens for Haunted Mill monsters. The voice acting is well done (and quite funny) and the background music sounds like it belongs in a high fantasy JRPG. Visually the table looks fantastic, and it’s up there with Paranormal for the best looking Zen Pinball table. I love how your knight’s look updates based on the gear you find for him and the table is a wonderful blend of comedy and thrilling pinball action. I do wish that you actually got to see most of the monsters in the same way you get to see enemies in Marvel Pinball games. The only thing missing is a visual representation of the combat.

I have an exceptionally hard time putting Epic Quest down and I’ve taken several breaks while writing this review to play a few games of it. It’s an extremely fun table and even if you don’t already own Zen Pinball (Or FX2 for the Xbox 360), it’s worth buying that game just to add-on Epic Quest. You’ll put more time into Epic Quest than the story mode of a FPS or platformer. There’s that much to do. If you enjoy pinball in the slightest, you’re going to want, nay, NEED to get this. It’s one of the most unique virtual pinball tables I’ve ever played and it really does bring new life to Zen Pinball. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to go beat my high score.

The Scores:
Modes: ENJOYABLE
Graphics: ENJOYABLE
Sound: GOOD
Control and Gameplay: ENJOYABLE
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: ENJOYABLE
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GOOD
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Epic Quest is not only the latest table for Zen Pinball – it’s the best one yet. With a high fantasy theme and a bit of RPG flair thrown in for thematic effect, it’s hard not to play Epic Quest until your thumbs start to get a bit raw. Whether there’s a new monster to dispatch, a new piece of equipment to uncover or you just want to beat your old high score, Epic Quest will keep you coming back for more.