Review: Portal Pinball (Sony PlayStation 3/Vita/4)

coverPortal Pinball
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Genre: Arcade Pinball
Release Date: 05/26/2015

I do love what Zen Studios has been doing with their licensed pinball tables. Some are better than others but they’ve all been fun and worth the price of picking up the table to run in Zen Pinball 2. I’ve loved the Avengers Age of Ultron tables, most of the Star Wars tables, and even downloaded one of their originals for fun. So when they go out and make a table for one of my favorite puzzle game series of all time in Portal, you can bet I’m excited. Like their other tables, Zen included things that will appeal to fans of the series, but they also took the time to make a great pinball table to play on if you’re just in it for the pinball experience. Let’s take a look.

01The table itself is designed around a lot of the themes you find in the portal game. The back wall and GLaDOS hanging back there are a definite giveaway. The did include Chell on the board as well and she moves around like the characters in the Star Wars Rebels and Walking Dead tables do and pop up to a different location depending on which events you’ve triggered. The way the table is laid out you can kind of control the speed you want depending on how you move the ball around. There are a lot of options and it looks like it should be cramped but it’s pretty wide open in how you approach it which is more to my liking. They play a bit with the opening skill shot and tie it to a roving portal moving on platforms which is both challenging to hit and a great send up to how you can use the portals in the game this is based on.

We get some great shots of this table and set-up throughout the play of the table and it looks like a great meld of the Portal universe and what you need in a pinball table. Cave Johnson would be proud. The design work is spot on and seeing GLaDOS hovering over the back part of the board and unleashing turrets and the two bots from the multiplayer, ATLAS and P-Body, from Portal 2 is a lot of fun. You won’t be disappointed if you liked the look of the Portal games as they included a lot of what made that world look and feel unique. And if you like the look, you’ll like the sound as well. Wheatley, GLaDOS and I think even Cave have lines throughout the different actions on the table and of course GLaDOS mocks you for your lack of success when you eventually lose a ball. It just works really well.

02Like all the other tables within Zen Pinball 2 you get your usual multiplayer options of going hot seat or split screen on the same console. This obviously doesn’t apply to the Vita. It’s pretty standard. Beyond multiplayer there are a variety of mini games you can trigger that are all tied to different mini cutscenes that take place on the table. I got the biggest kick out of the one where you’re bouncing the ball around while the turrets try to track it. Chell moves around the table using her gun to open portals when you trigger these which always put a smile on my face. It’s a neat addition but mainly for the visuals. Like all Zen Pinball 2 tables, your right analog stick is your launcher and the left and right trigger buttons are your respective bumpers. The mini game selection happens through your launch button and bumper triggers. Within the mini games the controls vary but are tied to the bumpers so it’s a seamless transition. Everything clicks like it should while you’re playing with one exception I talked about back in my review for Age of Ultron which was the Remote Play.

I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with this table with my first play through. There are so many fun options with this. With the different mini games and learning the board, coming back to this one is a sure bet and I do think the price is just right for something you can come back to and put down within minutes. The price fits right in line with their other single release tables as well at $2.99. Being able to access it from all your PlayStation consoles is an added bonus. Now, this is the first licensed pinball game we’ve had for Portal, so in that regard it’s fairly original, but at the same time adapting a license means that takes something away from it. Either way it looks and plays great and is well worth the price of adding it to your Zen Pinball 2 table list.

03I’ve already touched on the Remote Play issues in other reviews, so if you’re planning on playing this table on the Vita, do it on the Vita or directly on the PS4. You’ll save yourself a headache there. The remote play is far too lag ridden to provide an effective playing experience. Sure it won’t look as good on the Vita as it does on the PS4, but you’ll be happier playing it. Other than that this played perfectly fine and without issue on the big screen, my PS3 and my Vita. It looks great and is just as responsive as their other tables and who doesn’t love getting mocked by GLaDOS while you’re simply trying to move a pinball around the lab?

Short Attention Span Summary
The Portal Pinball table is a fantastic addition to Zen Pinball 2. It’s fun, captures the humor of the Portal games, and the table play is fantastic. We get another great table to play in Zen Pinball 2 and it had me from the moment the camera started gliding over the table and we get our first look at the layout. GLaDOS mocking you is completely on point, and is entirely fitting when you just completely hose out on the table. The mini games you can trigger are all a lot of fun which actually made it harder to choose them when I triggered them. A good problem to have. I really do love this table and it’s easy to recommend this table for both pinball and Portal fans. Cave Johnson approved.

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