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Zen Studios

Kickbeat PC photo
Kickbeat PC

PC Port Report: KickBeat


Drowning out the native soundtrack just got easier
Jan 13
// Darren Nakamura
Last year, KickBeat released on PS3 and PS Vita, and we quite liked the "music dressed up as a fighting game." The final word on it was that it featured solid rhythm gameplay, but was held back by a few questionable song choi...

Review: Zen Pinball 2 (PS4)

Jan 10 // Brett Zeidler
Zen Pinball 2 (PlayStation 3, PS Vita, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, Zen StudiosReleased: September 4 2012 (PS3/Vita) / March 21 2013 (Wii U) / December 24, 2013 (PS4)MSRP: Free (Sorcerer's Lair table included, other tables are various additional prices) As usual, Zen Pinball 2 is a free platform that offers a "try before you buy" model for each table, and an import process for players who own any tables from PlayStation 3 and/or PlayStation Vita's Zen Pinball 2. Whereas on PS3/Vita this was a simple Cross-Buy purchase, on the PlayStation 4 this has to be done through an import button on the game's main menu. Since this entry is not technically a Cross-Buy title, the import process does not work backwards from the PlayStation 4 version to any other system, so a player with multiple systems who would like the most bang from their buck would do well to remember this. It's clear the import system was not the easy solution, so the effort Zen Studios went through to make sure players would not have to re-purchase anything is definitely appreciated. PS4's Zen Pinball 2 does not currently offer the entire back catalog of tables. Instead, it has Star Wars Pinball, Star Wars: Balance of the Force, Marvel Pinball, Avengers Chronicles, Plants vs. Zombies, Epic Quest, Paranormal, Earth Defense, and Sorcerer's Lair in starting line-up. This collection includes arguably the best tables Zen has put together so far and will no doubt give players plenty of pinball action to digest while the rest of the library -- and new tables, of course -- will inevitably make their way to the platform in the coming months.  The game runs in 1080p at a blazing 60 FPS, and looks stunning in motion. There doesn't appear to be any noticeable visual edge here, but there didn't need to be. Zen Studios' tables are consistently colorful, vibrant, and have always had an unmatched visual presentation. It looked stellar before, and still does in this outing. Ball physics also appear to be untouched; which is also great as they were perfect the way they were. Zen Pinball is not a simulation of the real pinball experience, but rather what I colloquially refer to as cinematic pinball. Objects and characters will move around the table and directly influence the ball, with the camera sometimes moving to set pieces that do not exist on the table itself. These are pinball tables that can only exist in a videogame, and that's what makes them -- and this game -- so special. Controls are standard fare, with things like the DualShock 4's TouchPad not being used for any radical control option. Of course, this is just fine as it wouldn't make any sense and would more than likely end up feeling imprecise; detrimental to something like a pinball videogame. L1/R1 (or L2/R2) control the left and right bumpers respectively, and the left analog stick handles nudging (don't tilt!). The controls are simple, but there's a sense of even more control now with the fantastic DualShock 4 feeling much more tight and precise than the DualShock 3. Leaderboards, personal statistics, the in-game trophy system, multiplayer, and an operator's menu are all here, and create a wide range of incentives to continually return to the game outside of simply wanting to impulsively best personal high scores. Zen Studios were undoubtedly the digital pinball kings last-gen, and are already well on their way to claim the same title on current-gen. PS3/PS Vita players, other platform players, and complete newcomers alike all have no reason to miss Zen Pinball 2 on the PS4. There's no added benefit to this version; just the same game with the same tables we've come to adore, but that doesn't stop it from being a game absolutely everyone should play. Zen Pinball is a must-have anywhere you can grab it, and Zen Pinball 2 specifically on PlayStation 4 is equally just as desirable -- if not more-so.
Zen Pinball 2 PS4 review photo
That PS4 sure plays a mean pinball
You've no doubt run into at least one of Zen Studios' pinball platforms by now, appearing on virtually every current device out there that can play games (the only exception being Xbox One as of right now). They hit it big ov...

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Zen Pinball now out on PlayStation 4


Get a free table, and PS3 purchases carry over
Dec 25
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Zen Pinball is now available on the PlayStation 4. The platform itself is free, and will include the Sorcerer's Lair table for free. Other tables will cost you, but if you already purchased them on the PlayStation 3 then tho...
Pinball photo
Pinball

Zen Pinball 2 comes to PS4 this month with a free table


Select PS3 tables can be imported
Dec 04
// Jordan Devore
Zen Studios is bringing Zen Pinball 2 to PlayStation 4 on December 17 in North America and Dec. 18 in Europe. If you've already bought into the platform on PS3, you'll be able to import a number of tables for this new versio...
Pinball photo
Pinball

Humble Weekly has 20+ Pinball FX2 tables for six bucks


There's no such thing as too much pinball, but...
Nov 21
// Jordan Devore
This Humble Weekly Sale is all about Zen Studios. If you're like me and don't own any Pinball FX2 content on PC yet, it is a terrific way to get into the game for cheap. At $1 or more for Steam keys, the bundle includes the C...
CastleStorm photo
CastleStorm

CastleStorm launches on to PlayStation 3 and PS Vita


Ballista at the ready
Nov 05
// Conrad Zimmerman
CastleStorm, a fun blend of tower defense mechanics and projectile flinging from Zen Studios, arrives today on the PlayStation Network. Previously released on Xbox 360 and PC, the game is now available on PS3 or PS Vita ...

Review: Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force

Oct 23 // Ian Bonds
Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosRelease date: October 14, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (PSN and XBLA), $1.99 per table (App Store and Google Play) The Star Wars franchise was a perfect choice for a set of pinball tables, and is arguably one of the best sets Zen Studios released for Pinball FX2. Once again, it is offering three themed tables, each filled with unique sets of trials, challenges, and special events that just wouldn't be able to occur on a real table in the arcades of yore. Full of the iconic sights and sounds of the films, there's a lot to take in with this set, and each table is better than the last. We'll start with the Episode VI table. Set on Endor, many of the elements of the last half of the film are represented, with the Empire base (complete with AT-ST guarding the front) and biker scouts lining the sides. Bright and vibrant, this table has the most ramps, nooks, and tricks to keep you playing, attempting to best your high score with each turn. As before, there are various places to lock or lose you ball, and multiple paths that trigger specific scenes reminiscent of the film. Since this table is based on one particular film and not just elements from the series, you'll hear a lot of specific lines of dialogue recreated here. None of the original actors' performances are used, and some are just trying too hard to sound like they came from the movie. It's a bit jarring, and sadly, on this table especially, you hear a lot of repeated dialogue. Thankfully, this is my only issue with the table. As with all three of the tables, multiple routes along the lanes and ramps yield multipliers that unlock special missions; ones that often take you outside of the playing field of the pinball table. One such example on the Episode VI table has you maneuvering a speeder bike using the flippers, trying to either steer around trees by flinging the ball down the right or left lane at the front of the bike, or down the center to fire your blaster. It's a bit disorienting, but a neat little diversion -- though some folks may not like the separation from the table game itself. The next table is based on the series' iconic villain (or centerpiece, if you allow the prequels to direct that idea), Darth Vader. Offset in blacks, reds, and chrome, this table is one of the coolest looking. Alas, it is also one of the blandest, feature-wise. There's not a whole lot of ramps or instances to encounter at first glance, but with time and skill, there are still a lot of cool bits to uncover. From the outset, you can chose to begin with the assemblage of Vader on the operating table by directing the pinball into a series of robotic arms used to build the Sith lord. From there, scoring allows you the opportunity to battle through such iconic set-pieces as the lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan, or even a trench battle on the Death Star. Swerving your way around pillars using the flippers is again utilized, but somehow manages to be more frantic on this table. Finally, there's my favorite table, Starfighter Assault. Split down the center, you choose to play as an Imperial Tie-Fighter or a Rebel Alliance X-Wing pilot, which determines which side of the table your ball is launched from. Missions vary depending on which side you chose, but there's always a ton of things going on. Bumpers are connected to blaster turrets, and X-Wings and Tie-Fighters zoom over the table to be blasted down during play. This table is arguably the most interactive, as you can actually earn upgrades during play to boost your turrets, your "fleet" of ships, and even the jackpot scores. As before, there's missions that take you away from the table, but this time around, it's a mock-up of the classic Galaga, with you controlling the direction of the ship with the flippers, and firing lasers with the launch button. I actually enjoy the moments where the action left the traditional pinball game, but I know not everyone shares my affinity for these sequences. Regardless of that, the tables as a whole are fantastic to play. There's so many different paths to find, skill shots to master, and challenges to unlock that you may not even see half of what they offer even on your 50th playthrough. It's impossible not to have fun with these tables, unless you just don't like Star Wars at all, or pinball. For those who do, these tables are the cream of the crop, offering everything you want not only in a Star Wars pinball game, but in a pinball game more generally.
Star Wars Pinball photo
I sense much TILT in you...
Back in February, Zen Studios released three tables based on the Star Wars series, adding to the already vast library of tables for Pinball FX2. They were fantastic, diverse, and just as feature-rich as the other tables for the game. Many believed it would be hard for the studio to match that collection. These newest tables not only match the previous set but manage to surpass it.

CastleStorm PS3/Vita photo
CastleStorm PS3/Vita

Angry beards: CastleStorm coming to PS3, Vita


XBLA tower defense hybrid jumping ship
Oct 18
// Steven Hansen
Vikings versus knights. That's the conceit of Zen Studios' CastleStorm, which our own Ian Bonds enjoyed well enough when it original launched on XBLA. It's a much more in-depth Angry Birds of sorts, with real-time strategy a...

Review: KickBeat

Sep 02 // Chris Carter
KickBeat (PS3, Vita [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: September 3, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (Cross-Buy) Set to the backdrop of a relatively hokey (and somewhat endearing) story involving kung fu and music, KickBeat pits you against enemies in a small, circular arena, as they all fall in one by one to beat your face in. Foes come in a yellow, blue, and red variety, which signify different beats -- single, double, and simultaneous beats respectively. As enemies fall in, they'll come at you in a certain direction, which is tied to the placement of a face button -- so, up for the triangle button, left for square, and so on. The moment the enemy steps up (the "next up" is highlighted in white), you hit the appropriate button. It's that simple. At least, when the game is giving you tons of simple yellow enemies -- notes, so to speak -- it's simple. Then the game mixes things up with quicker notes, enemies with auras that require you to hold a note then release, two notes at the same time (reds), power-ups, and a star-power like mechanic. The Vita has the added mechanic of allowing touch-screen controls, but it's not really a game-changer as I ended up using the face buttons again shortly after testing it. Unlike most rhythm games, having a health meter on-hand actually makes sense, since getting hit will literally lessen your bar, leaving you one step closer to a failed song. As you're beating up people you'll earn Chi, which functions similar to Rock Band's star power. It helps to earn you more points and is best used when going for a high combo rate. [embed]260938:50270:0[/embed] Some enemies have icons above their heads, which you can grab if you hit the button a second time right after kicking them (which can get really tough when there are lots of blue and red dudes). There's an attack power-up to quickly blast on-screen baddies, a shield to block a few attacks, health, and extra points. Together, all of these mechanics combine into one incredibly satisfying game that delivers enough excitement to keep you going. If you've played rhythm games before you will want to jump straight into hard difficulty. It rids the screen of the QTE-like button cues and adds a whole new dimension to the game since you have to constantly pay attention and go with your instincts. It's kind of like the harder difficulties in Rocksteady's Arkham games that eliminate the counter prompts --  much more challenging and a whole lot of fun. The humble Lee is one of the stars of the game's story mode, and he's mostly forgettable, as the gameplay is clearly the focus of KickBeat. The story itself has its highs and lows involving a typical Saturday morning cartoon big bad, but once it was all said and done, I just wanted to play more challenging songs rather than ever go through it again. At first I had a concern over the lack of enemy variety since the first few levels just featured ninjas, but this was alleviated later on in the game as wrestlers, hi-tech soldiers, and more show up for a beat down. Of course, a rhythm game is only as good as its track list, and as soon as some of you hear what's on offer you may be running for the hills. You ready for some name drops? Marilyn Manson,  P.O.D., Papa Roach. Wait, where are you going?! While there are a few questionable rap, rock, and nu metal tracks on offer that'll make you recall your most awkward of high school moments, they're completely tolerable when combined with the strong gameplay foundation KickBeat offers. I wasn't blown away by the less popular tracks, but for the most part I did enjoy them and I didn't feel compelled to quit any of them since I was having so much fun. After you're done with story mode you can tackle Mai's quest (the second star of the campaign, who basically has the exact same progression as Lee, just with different cutscenes), free play mode, Beat Your Music mode, and Survival. Sadly, all of these aren't on offer right away, as you have to complete the story mode multiple times to unlock everything. My biggest disappointment was learning that I couldn't just play any song I wanted on any difficulty. You have to actually beat that song in the respective difficulty's story mode first. For instance, I started playing through the story twice on normal, then tackled a few hard songs before I quickly realized that I was more than ready for Master, but I couldn't play my song of choice in Master mode until I beat every level on hard, then completed every single Master stage to unlock everything. It's a really jarring and backwards way of withholding content, especially for rhythm gurus who could even start on Master without working their way through the remedial levels. On top of all this, you have to beat the game nearly four times to unlock Survival mode, which is an incredibly odd design choice. Beat Your Music is where you're going to get the most legs out of KickBeat though, and it doesn't require too much effort to unlock. If you can't stand the soundtrack, you can import songs, score the BPM, and play custom levels. The way it works is you put a song on your PS3 or Vita, tap a button to "find" the rhythm, and the game will provide an enemy set for it. It's set up very similarly to Audiosurf in that it's not perfect, but it works well enough to keep things interesting and fun. KickBeat's polarizing soundtrack is perhaps its toughest sell, but if you can overcome it with an open mind and dig into Beat Your Music, there's a really solid rhythm game underneath it that'll have you tapping your feet (and your fingers) for quite some time. I really wish the developers had more content unlocked at the start, but if you have a bit of patience you'll have a blast in no time.
KickBeat reviewed! photo
Kick, punch, it's all in the rhythm
KickBeat is an interesting prospect. Developed by a studio mostly known for pinball games, it seeks to combine the fighting and rhythm genres, offering up an experience for new and hardened gamers alike. It's a tall order, but once you really get going and it takes off its training wheels, KickBeat starts to shine -- you just might have to charge through some repetitive content to get there.

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KickBeat drops on September 3 for the PS3, PS Vita


Kick, punch, it's all in the mind!
Aug 08
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Zen Studios is finally ready to unleash KickBeat! It'll be out on September 3 for the PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 3. Oh, yeah, it's also coming to the PlayStation 3! The game will be a cross-buy title, so you just need...
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Dazzled by virtual pinball: VP Cabs' brilliant table


Uses Zen Studios' Pinball FX
Jul 20
// Dale North
Imagine a pinball machine with no moving parts other than buttons for flippers. Imagine being able to load up any of your favorite tables from memory to play instantly. VP Cabs custom pinball machine lets you do exactly that...
Pinball FX2 photo
Pinball FX2

Free Pinball FX2 table coming for Steam users


Free forever
Jun 18
// Abel Girmay
Zen Studios, the minds behind the Pinball FX series, will be bringing their Sorcerers Lair table for free to all Pinball FX2 Steam users starting June 21, 2013. Good news too, as this table isn't a timed giveaway. It will rem...

Review: CastleStorm

Jun 07 // Ian Bonds
CastleStorm (Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: May 29, 2013MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points CastleStorm, simply put, is a physics-based tower defense game. Think Angry Birds meets Plants vs. Zombies and you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in store when you boot it up. You spend the majority of the game manning a ballista that can fire different artillery at foes including a standard javelin, three spears at once, shots that explode with a button press after firing, Thor's hammer Mjolnir, and so on as the enemy sends troops and their own return fire in an attempt to bring down your walls. Targeting is fairly easy, though often touchy when battles become more heated. There's a certain level of precision needed, as the game encourages javelin headshots against enemy troops -- these reward you with additional money you can use to upgrade your stronghold, troops, and weaponry, while also being efficient. Speaking of troops, your comrades in arms help a great deal in battle. Levels often have multiple objectives, which allow for more than one way to conquer your foes, and your troops often play a role in these differing goals. If hurling giant heavy things at the front door isn't enough to bring down their stronghold, you can send troops in to capture their flag or to draw the enemies' fire or summon creatures such as hawks, dire wolves, brutish trolls, and more while you bring the house down around your enemies' ears. [embed]254343:49013:0[/embed] There are also spells that can protect troops, attack with powerful magic, and even allow you to briefly play as your team's champion, dealing out damage in a more up-close and personal manner. Your champion runs on a timer, so while getting in those close, quick kills it is important to make every attack count before they're returned to the castle. While controlling the champion, it's important to note that no one will be manning the ballista when you're out hacking and slashing your way through the ranks, nor can the champion capture a flag, so they're only there to even the score, not turn the tide. As with your troops and artillery, your spells and champion summon are mapped to a face button on the controller, and you can quickly and easily scroll through your different attack options with the bumper buttons while the battle rages on. While CastleStorm may not be your standard tower defense fare -- you don't really have to mine for materials with which to fight like in many strategy and defense titles -- there's still some management needed, and that comes in the upkeep of your...keep. Customizing your castle with the proper food stores and barracks helps keep your troops in fighting condition and helps to replenish your fallen heroes on the field. You're only allowed five troop types, so selecting which barracks will house what troops is key. Outfitting your castle is almost a game by itself, as the proper placement of the training grounds, barracks, and such is just another one of the many strategies you'll utilize in gameplay. The game itself has a playful, goofy look, and it's clear it doesn't take itself very seriously. Corny jokes pepper the storyline and visuals, from Gareth, the pompous Champion of the Kingdom, to the fat friar, to the king's right-hand toadie and all-around shady character Rufus, to sheep that chew the ballista's firing mechanism, troops that ride donkeys, and more. And while the bright, vibrant colors and lush background of the various battlefields add a nice variety to the visuals, the castle editor is another matter entirely. Rooms appear small, and often unrecognizable from each other, which makes customization take a bit longer as you click on every room that was preset to determine what's what. The sound in the game is minimal, with battle noise clanging, crashing, and crunching appropriately. There's not a lot of voice acting per se -- much of the story is driven along via scrolling text -- but the few voices present add a certain amount of character to the action and the people you interact with. Again, there's humor throughout and the minimal voice work punctuates the gags of the text and visuals. There's a few multiplayer options here too. Your standard split screen one-on-one battles offer some fun for two players, but there's also survival mode, where friends team up against other players or AI. The Last Stand Co-op is great fun too, where players control the heroes rather than man the ballista. The real meat and potatoes, however, is the campaign, which is where you'll end up getting all the good weapons and rooms for your castle to use in multiplayer anyway. If the tower defense game is your thing, CastleStorm certainly offers a serviceable option to the already busy genre. Between managing your troops, attacking with the ballista, and choosing when to cast spells or send in your champion, there's a lot of challenge present. And while there may be times when it can get repetitive -- honestly, what tower defense game doesn't? -- it's certainly worth a try, even if it won't set the world on fire. Just the enemy's castle.
CastleStorm review photo
Knights vs. Vikings, pre-ESPN
Hey kids! Do you like smashing stuff in Angry Birds, but wish it was just a bit more...medieval? How about a bit of troop management? Spells? Swords? Sheep? Less birds, more beards? All this and more await you in CastleStorm!

Star Wars photo
Star Wars

Star Wars Pinball goes standalone on PSN next week


With Cross-Buy for PlayStation 3 and Vita
May 08
// Jordan Devore
The current three tables of Zen Studios' Star Wars Pinball will be available as a standalone pack on PlayStation Network starting May 14. That's Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clon...
Star Wars photo
Star Wars

Pinball FX 2 comes to Steam on May 10


No balls of steel required
May 03
// Allistair Pinsof
Outside the dedicated and nebulously legal emulation scene, PC hasn't received much virtual pinball love lately despite being its birthplace. Zen Studios is changing this by bringing Pinball FX 2 to Steam on May 10. The titl...
Star Wars Pinball photo
Star Wars Pinball

Star Wars Pinball 50% off on all platforms


May the 4th be with you
May 02
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Star Wars Day is this week on May 4, so Zen Studios is celebrating by offering 50% off on Star Wars Pinball across all the platform it's available on. It's going for $5 on Xbox Live Arcade, $1.99 for the Kindle HD, and $0.99 ...
Zen Pinball 2 photo
Zen Pinball 2

Zen Pinball 2 will launch next week on Wii U


After a long delay, it's finally here
Mar 15
// Chris Carter
It looks like the long wait is over, as pinball fans will be able to enjoy Zen Pinball 2 on the Wii U come March 21st. Zen Studios notes that the delay was to make sure the game was fully polished, and didn't need any patchi...

Review: Star Wars Pinball

Feb 26 // Brett Zeidler
Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: February 26, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (XBLA and PSN), $2.99 per table (Mac App Store), $1.99 per table (Apple App Store and Google Play)  At first glance, The Empire Strikes Back looks empty. There's a few lanes on the sides, a couple of ramps, and a big, flat platform in the center of the table that takes up most of the real estate. The player doesn't know it yet, but that giant, empty platform is where all the action is going to happen. Once the player hits two barricades ("Star" and "Wars") in the dead center of the table, a flap opens up right above the flippers that, when the ball is locked inside of it, starts the player's choice of one of five Empire Strikes Back scenes (this table's version of missions). Depending on their choice, various 3D models will appear on the platform and finally bring some life to the table. The coolest example has an AT-AT walking across the platform where the player needs to help the snowspeeder bring it down. Each mission has two parts, and should time run out (or some other misfortune occurs), a checkpoint is created at the start of the second part of the mission. This a new and, believe me, entirely welcome addition for aspiring pinball wizards such as myself. Empire also introduces a new mini-game that actually takes you completely out of the table and into a first-person mode where you control Luke Skywalker himself. There's what I like to call a micro-loop behind those "Star Wars" barricades mentioned earlier; going through it enough times to spell "Training" and locking the ball in the center slot starts up the mini-game. Featuring the scene from A New Hope where Luke learns to use the force on the Millenium Falcon for the first time, the player uses the plunger and flipper buttons to reflect blaster fire. It's pretty cool, but it feels slightly out of place even in a fantasy pinball table. The next table is probably the one everyone is most excited for: Boba Fett. Once everyone saw him in the original films, Boba Fett stole the show and became one of the most popular Star Wars characters. I can see the same thing happening here. Fett's table is centered around the concept of playing as the bounty hunter himself, where the player must receive either Empire missions from Darth Vader or missions from Jabba the Hutt, earn respect for doing so, and defeat each of his bounty hunter rivals. It doesn't matter which missions you do, as they give the player a choice of five missions that are exactly the same and only offer more points and respect (all you have to do is hit every single lane). The higher they go, the less time the player gets to finish the mission. Experiencing the rare moment of hitting every lane in rapid succession and locking the ball/bounty onto Slave I truly makes one feel like the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy. It's moments like these that will make the Boba Fett table the obvious fan-favorite and most rewarding of the three tables. Boba Fett features set pieces from his two short appearances in the films, such as Vader on his imperial ship (representing the left half of the table), Jabba's Palace (the right half), the sarlacc pit (which the ball can actually fall into), and Han Solo in carbon freeze hovering above said pit. The ramps and lanes are inspired by pieces of Fett's suit that will make even his biggest fans truly pleased with the love and care put into the creation of his table. The Clone Wars table is the dark horse of the three. Going in, I wasn't expecting much. Upon first firing it up, Clone Wars is the only table that has the classic intro text scroll. I thought was a really cool touch, especially as it was read by an announcer who also happens to narrate the entire game. This is by far the busiest table, with lanes and ramps stacked on top of each other on just about every visible inch of real estate, invoking a cramped, claustrophobic, and hasty feeling while playing the table. It's this quality of sheer fastness that makes one initially think it would be the most challenging of the bunch, but that turns out to not be the case at all. Clone Wars practically throws points at you, letting the player easily get five to ten million points just in the first handful of minutes alone, and it's not a demanding task to get far beyond that within a short amount of time. After spending so much time on Empire Strikes Back and Boba Fett (tables that will certainly put your pinball wizardry to the test), dominating a table for a change was a nice break from the difficulty of the other two tables, and seeing a new palette of colors was a refreshing change of scenery. Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables.
Star Wars Pinball review photo
The Force is strong with this one
It's been a couple years since Zen Studios first took on the Marvel license and subsequently released expertly crafted tables centered around the biggest characters and story arcs in the comic book giant's vast library. Each ...

Pinball photo
Pinball

Check out the Boba Fett table for Star Wars Pinball


Galactic bounty hunter gets his due
Feb 22
// Conrad Zimmerman
Zen Studios released this trailer for the Boba Fett table players will be able to test their pinball skills on when Star Wars Pinball releases next week for Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, iOS, and Android. It looks as though t...
Xbox 360 photo
Xbox 360

New Xbox 360 320GB HD will include three full games


Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Pinball FX, and Ms. Splosion Man
Feb 21
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
There's going to be a new Xbox 360 320GB hard drive on sale this March for $129.99, and it's going to include three full games with it. The included titles are Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Ms. Splosion Man, and Pinball FX2 wi...
Star Wars Pinball photo
Star Wars Pinball

Release date and pricing announced for Star Wars Pinball


Tables coming next week
Feb 19
// Patrick Hancock
Combining Star Wars and pinball is a surefire way to get people interested. I haven't been too interested in Zen's pinball games until now, that's for sure. Star Wars Pinball seems to nail the feel of the source material...
Star Wars Pinball photo
Star Wars Pinball

See Star Wars Pinball in action with the Episode V table


Zen Studios' take on The Empire Strikes Back
Feb 13
// Jordan Devore
As someone who has wanted to get into Zen Studios' brand of pinball but has somehow managed to not pull the trigger yet, it was great to hear about Star Wars Pinball. This latest trailer shows of the table based on The Empir...

KickBeat is looking like music to the ears of Vita owners

Feb 05 // Abel Girmay
KickBeat (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen Studios Release: Spring 2013 If you've played any rhythm game of the past decade, you'll get KickBeat at its most basic level. Rather than hitting a string of notes or arrows though, you're hitting waves of oncoming enemies as they step on pads corresponding to the Vita's face buttons. In a traditional rhythm game, you lose after spending an ambiguous amount of time failing. KickBeat records your staying power like a fighting game instead, represented by an onscreen health bar. If you fail to hit a note, that translates into taking a hit from your attacker, which deals damage based on difficulty. Successfully hit notes, and you string together combos which, other than looking pretty cool, act as score multipliers. Enemies are quick to switch things up, though. You will start to encounter new enemy types, and while the method to beating them is ultimately the same, there is a nice risk reward system built into it. For example, yellow enemies go down the same as others, but if you hold down the face button you used to knock him out until you take out another yellow, you are rewarded with bonus points. A viable strategy on perhaps the normal setting, but leaving yourself a thumb short on harder tracks may not be the wisest of moves. Eventually enemies will also start attacking in unison, requiring you to hit two face buttons at once. The d-pad is usable as an input as well, making defending against front and back attacks at once a lot easier. Ever try hitting triangle and X on a Vita? It's not the easiest. While KickBeat offers a modest 18 tracks, the game does offer an analyzer, allowing you to import your own music. While this feature was not part of our demo, fingers crossed that it will work as promised, because the available music isn't exactly a who's who of music. While its great to see lesser known artist get a shot at promotion through music game, I can't exactly see Shen Yi setting your ears ablaze with awesome. Perhaps another gripe would be the axed multiplayer mode, but for $10, its not an easy gripe to hold onto. If we're being honest, the Vita just needs some games right now, and KickBeat isn't a bad way to go.
KickBeat  photo
Like PaRappa suddenly fell in love with neon
Remember music games? Yeah, those were fun. With the genre's better (or at least its mainstream) days behind, I'm always interested to see in what weird and unique ways it will pop back up. Enter KickBeat, from the house that...

CastleStorm crosses tower defense with Angry Birds

Feb 05 // Abel Girmay
CastleStorm (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC, Mobile)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen Studios Release: March 2013 CastleStorm is an oddity that's not the easiest to explain. Each match is a battle with the same objective: destroy the other team's castle. The main method of destroying a castle is to hurl projectiles at it until the superstructure collapses. The projectiles themselves come in a variety of forms, including a single standard, one that breaks off into smaller pieces, a few bomb variants -- stop me if this is sounding familiar. While it is certainly Angry Birds inspired, CastleStorm is hardly a retread. Depending on the map you're playing, there are a variety of secondary objectives that can really put the screws to you, testing your ability to multitask. During my playthrough, my secondary objectives were to guard a convoy of peasants running from enemy forces, and capturing a center, neutral flag. It's here that CastleStorm shows its strategic sensibilities. Operating on a traditional resource system, you can spawn troops for a cost to fight battles. Since fights are on a 2D plane, there is little in the way of micromanaging units, resource gathering, and the like. Running the fantasy gamut of mage, archers and warriors, your troops are AI controlled, though you can use your projectiles meant for the enemy castle on enemy units, if you absolutely crave direct intervention. There is also no real resource gathering, as they will simply regenerate over time. So without a direct element of control in the minute of battle, CastleStorm seems simple enough right? Wrong. While no one given objective was in itself a challenge, it's when I had three -- even on normal difficulty -- that the real juggling act starts. Hurl a couple of bombs at the enemy castle, now spawn warriors to cap the flag, set the archers to take out enemy infantry, get mages on the field to assist the peasants; oops now I'm dead because the enemy took out my castle. It really takes a minute to settle into a good rhythm for each map. There's a good amount of planning that takes place outside of battle, mostly in the form of the castle editor. From here, you can create your own fortress, complete with barracks to spawn extra troops, labs for resources, and so one. Custom castles can be used online too. While I didn't get to see it in my demo, you can expect CastleStorm to ship with co-op, survival, and adversarial modes when it's released next month. Certainly an interesting approach to tower defense, and one worth watching out for.
CastleStorm photo
Storm the castle!
CastleStorm is definitely not a game that's easy to draw a frame of reference for. One part Jenga, and one part tower defense, this mash up certainly draws from opposite genres to get its own formula going. Once it's off though, its may surprise with just how tasking, and fun, it can be.

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Zen Pinball 2 Wii U Pricing confirmed


Same as other consoles
Jan 21
// Chris Carter
Zen Pinball 2 was delayed on the Wii U, despite the fact that it was originally going to be a launch title. After some deliberation, some fans speculated on the price, saying it would be higher due to the new functionality o...
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Zen Pinball HD now on Google Play, Marvel tables on sale


Hey Zen Studios, take all my money... again
Dec 18
// Brett Zeidler
Zen Studios has announced today that Zen Pinball HD would make its way to the Google Play store today. Yes, I'm sure some of you have had it for awhile (myself included), but that's because we're running one of those sexy Teg...
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Zen Pinball 2 launches into Wii U eShop this month


Same tables, new features
Dec 05
// Conrad Zimmerman
Zen Studios has announced that their delightful pinball simulator, Zen Pinball 2, will be arriving in the Nintendo eShop for Wii U later this December. So, now there's yet another platform that I'll feel compelled to engage ...
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Civil War arrives in Marvel Pinall


Oct 14
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The infamous six-part comic event from the Marvel universe is now in playable pinball form thanks to Zen Studios. The new table will let you side with either Iron Man and his Superhuman Registration Act, or with Captain Amer...
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PAX: Zen Studios reveals Plants vs Zombies pinball


Aug 31
// Victoria Medina
Zen Pinball 2's mystery table has been unveiled as Plants v Zombies. Awesome? Yes. Just like this trailer that announces it. As a friendly reminder, the game is playable at Zen Studio's PAX Prime booth.  Those silly wizards and their silly magic.
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Zen Pinball 2 hits PS3 and Vita Sept. 4, new PopCap table


Aug 08
// Dale North
Zen Studios announced this morning that Zen Pinball 2 will launch on the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and Vita on September 4. And, if you happen to have both platforms, you can enjoy the game on both for no addi...

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