Review: Zen Pinball 2: South Park, Venom, and More!

Better than Chef’s Luv Shack.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 01/30/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
B+
Excellent
grade/score info
1up
1-Up Mushroom for...
Tables make great use of the licenses; Fantastic audio; Great physics; Online leaderboards
1up
Poison Mushroom for...
Core Collection pack is a little generic

Last fall, I had the pleasure of reviewing the latest table expansion for Zen Pinball 2. Since then, developer Zen Studios has released a number of additional tables for the Wii U eShop title. While most of these tables are offered as separate packages, they were sent to us together for review purposes, which is how we’ve chosen to grade them.


South Park

The South Park bundle gives fans two different tables to choose from. The first is based heavily on classic South Park, featuring just about every major character from the series, and more than a few minor ones, as well. Even Chef appears, surprisingly enough. While the character was killed off after a real-life altercation between the creators and voice actor Isaac Hayes, the character once played a pivotal role in the series, and seeing him again really pushes some nostalgia buttons. Episodes like “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” and “Manbearpig” provide the majority of the table’s references, and a plethora of sound bites help channel the heart of the series. If you’ve ever been a fan of South Park, I can’t recommend this enough. I’m a bit of a lapsed fan myself, but the game really made me want to revisit the series.

The second table is centered around Butters and, as a result, ends up referencing later episodes in the series. Most notably, “Fun With Weapons” and “Awesome-o” give the board a hefty amount of quotes, bonus rounds, and more. Butters is easily the South Park character best suited to carry his own table. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have gotten a lot of mileage out of his character, and Zen Studios does a perfect job of adapting some of his more memorable exploits. That said, his table is just a tiny bit weaker than the regular South Park board. With so many other characters on the regular board, there’s just a bit more variety. Still, with these two tables being sold together, they really compliment one another well.

Amazingly, Zen Studios delivers an authentic South Park experience while keeping the show’s more risqué references to a minimum. When Acclaim’s South Park was released on Nintendo 64, I was only 14-years-old, and the language made it hard to play in front of my parents. Each of these tables is remarkably profanity-free, but the game never feels sanitized. Familiar quotes from the series come so fast and frequently on both tables that it’s hard to notice. Whoever was in charge of audio selection should be commended. This is easily the best audio I’ve ever heard from one of the game’s tables.

Venom

The Venom table gives Spider-Man’s symbiote nemesis a spotlight, but the wall-crawler himself co-stars, despite already having a table of his own. A neat bonus round gives Carnage’s backstory, too. Those three characters are the table’s primary focus, but Anti-Venom, Agent Venom, She-Venom, and a number of other related characters also appear in some form or another. Throw in comic art from veteran creators like Mark Bagley, and there’s a lot for Spider-Man and Venom fans to enjoy from this table. Like previous Marvel tables, this one really impresses with the amount of comic book lore that’s squeezed in.

Core Collection

The tables in the Core Collection pack all offer the same high quality pinball experience as the rest of Zen Pinball 2‘s offerings, but without the licensed characters. Aficionados will appreciate the stripped down experience with traditional pinball tables like Rome and Secrets of the Deep, but the problem is that Zen Studios does such a great job with its licenses that it’s hard to not look at the tables in this pack as a little too generic. Still, the physics and controls are every bit as strong as we’ve come to expect from this title, and each table has plenty to offer. If you’re a pinball fan but Eric Cartman, zombies, and Marvel Superheroes aren’t your thing, this option might be your best bet.


Zen Pinball 2 continues to be one of my favorite titles on the Wii U eShop. The pinball physics are fantastic, it’s easy to pick up and play, and online leaderboards give a nice incentive to keep trying to beat your own high score. But for me, the appeal really is in the licenses. It makes it a little harder to appreciate Zen’s non-licensed tables because the developer puts so much such fan service into each one. I’m ecstatic with how much the company continues to excel with every franchise it get its hands on. I can’t wait to see what it has to offer next. For now, though, I’ll continue to enjoy the developer’s current output.


Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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