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Pinball FX2

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


Xbox One Review - 'Pinball FX2' - Portal Pinball

by Brian Dumlao on June 8, 2015 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Pinball FX2 takes the pinball genre to another level with the most advanced ball physics and social features to date, along with a new collection of beautifully designed tables.

Surprisingly, Pinball FX 2's licensed tables have rarely touched upon video games as a source. The Street Fighter II was a good example of basic table design while The Walking Dead bumped things up another level. Compared to the tables based on other properties and Zen's own creations, video game-based tables were simply a blip on the radar. The latest table, Portal Pinball, marks a return to the video game-themed space after Castlestorm, and like that title, it seems like a game that is perfect for pinball interpretation. Luckily, the end result does not disappoint.

As far as presentation goes, the table serves as a perfect homage to the source material. The table takes on the Portal 2 theme, so there's lots of grass growing on the floor and destroyed bits of the facility lying around. The back of the table features giant monitor panels, with one hanging out of place while the rest of the table elements are comprised of clean-looking tiles and energy pathways adorned with iconography from the game. GLADoS hangs from the table ceiling, and Wheatley hangs off to the side. Chell occupies the bottom half in a low-key role, only making herself known to the player when she fires off portals to reach a ledge and runs across an energy platform to hit a switch. Surrounding the table area is a network of tubes, complete with floating cubes. The table's raised bottom half features a sleeping pod along with smaller things, like a chess table and a radio.

There's a major flaw with the presentation: The lane indicators can be quite difficult to read. In keeping with the game's aesthetic, the indicators are the crosshairs of the portal gun, so you see an oval in orange and blue. It looks fine on its own, but it can be very tough to see on the table. Even with the level darkened and lighted elements brightened, the indicator just isn't prominent enough to help you determine which lanes are viable to help you complete your goals. It unintentionally makes a challenge more difficult than it should be.

Once you get over the ramp indicator issue, you're left with a table that feels rather packed in layout and space. The bottom half features three drop lanes on each side, each with lights and bumpers that cause reflection cubes to move. The middle of the table features a flipper on the left side and lots of targets on the right, including one specifically for cake. It also has a nice trio of bumpers that make the ball bounce around vigorously for more points. The upper half is split into two sections, but both feature a ton of ramps and loops that provide some good feedback for ball traveling. The bigger features of the lower half include an elevator to begin quests and a trigger that opens up an orange portal that drops the ball onto the second floor, where you can hit it with a flipper toward another ramp.

As a special bonus, there is a smaller table hidden beneath the floor that is only visible during special sequences. Compared to the main table, this one is much simpler since it only contains four ramps that loop on each other and a center target on the upper half. The lower half only features the side bumpers above the flippers. In addition to the high velocity of the shots, the size and design of the table makes the action quick because there isn't much space to work with. There isn't much to hit, but the mini-goals bonuses provide opportunities for lots of points in a short amount of time.

The goals follow the standard pinball playbook, where specific ramps need to be hit within a time limit before a scoring bonus is awarded. Most of the six major quests in the table follow this principle, and the game gives you plenty of time to complete each one, but the challenge for each is in the details. The bumpers at the bottom that rotate the reflection cubes play a part in the laser that sometimes appears on the table. Hitting the laser at different places brings up different bonuses and effects, so those bumpers have a purpose here. The multitude of ramps and their close proximity means that getting the ball to specific ones for the quest require more precision; randomly tossing it up often results in the ball going exactly where you don't want it to go. The completion of those goals and those imposed by the mini-table are important in unlocking the boss fight and determining how difficult it will be, so skipping them puts a lot of variance on that fight. The goals alone make this a table for those of intermediate skill.

Even if you don't get lucky enough to trigger one of the six main goals, the table's layout means you can still score a decent amount of points as long as you keep the ball in play. The abundance of ramps and targets means that you'll likely hit the ball and gain some points. The close proximity of those things means that the ball will have plenty of travel across a good swath of the board, and the amount of mini-quests means that you're always building toward something special. There are a number of multiball opportunities that have generous time limits if you completely panic during these times, and the amount of time spent in the small bonus table is just as lengthy. Despite the goals being made for those with more pinball experience, the numerous avenues of scoring ensure that casual players will also remain invested in the table.

Portal Pinball is another in a long line of excellent tables for Pinball FX 2. The table is rather challenging, and the multitude of ramps and pathways means you need some great mastery over the ball if you want to get some high scores going. The number of secrets and quests available gives you plenty of opportunity to score big, and the various multiball opportunities also help. Best of all, the presentation is spot-on, and the game doesn't do anything to distract much from the action on the table. Pinball aficionados will be very happy with this title.

Score: 8.5/10

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