Zen Pinball Party and Apple Arcade are a perfect pair

Zen Pinball Party impressions

From Soho down to Brighton

As is the usual for this time of year, September has been busy as hell with new game releases across all available consoles and PC. So many great games hit store shelves this month, but if your only interaction with the gaming world is through Apple Arcade, it’s been a pretty great month for you as well. The subscription service saw a few high-profile games launch over the past four weeks, including the nearly forgotten Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, a surprisingly decent MasterChef: Let’s Cook, and the recently released LEGO Star Wars Battles. Each of those titles is certainly worth a go, but if you want to know the Apple Arcade game I’ve put the most time into this month, you needn’t look further than Zen Pinball Party. Not only is it a great pinball experience, but it honestly feels like the ideal game for a subscription service.

Zen Pinball Party was released on September 3, and since then, it’s become the game I wind down each day with. Zen Studios has long been known as one of the best makers of pinball video games and its pedigree is on full display with its first title for Apple Arcade. The game currently has 12 tables available that include original concoctions, recreations of classics, and a few based on a couple of DreamWorks movies. Touch controls work exactly as you’d expect, nothing about the ball physics seem off, and even on a somewhat older iPad, there are no glitches or hiccups with the gameplay.

As for the tables themselves, I’d wager we have a pretty good bunch here. Some of my standout favorites include Attack from Mars and Getaway: High Speed II from Williams Pinball, the Zen Original Adventure Land, and, surprisingly enough, the DreamWorks Trolls table. I’ve never seen the Trolls film and have no intention to, but the layout of its pinball table here has made it one I return to with some regularity.

A few of the other tables have been a bit more difficult to figure out, particularly the other Zen Originals Wild West Rampage, Son of Zeus, and Castlestorm. These tables tend to have a lot more going for them in terms of objectives players need to complete to get those really high scores. To help you out, each table has a guide that’ll explain all of its different facets. You can also lightly customize your player experience beforehand by adjusting the lighting for each table as well as the camera view.

As for bad tables, I’d say Kung Fu Panda is the one I enjoy the least. I just don’t gel with its layout, and the sound bites from the film don’t exactly elevate the table experience. The only reason I go back to that one is Zen Pinball Party has seasonal tournaments and challenges that ask players to get as high a score as they can in a limited amount of time or with a limited number of balls. You’re actually competing against other players in these modes trying to land in the top 10% of scores or higher, which is why it’s unfortunate the leaderboards have been bugged for the past few days so I can’t see how I stack up against other players.

The 12 tables featured in Zen Pinball Party are just the beginning as Zen Studios has promised more are on their way. And unlike past Zen Pinball titles, players won’t be expected to pay any more than the $5 Apple Arcade entry fee to access them. That’s why I think this is such a good marriage. Especially when you consider Arcade1Up is charging nearly $900 for its digital recreation of the Attack from Mars table. As for what tables I hope get added next, beyond some of the excellent content Zen has created over the years like its Marvel collection or its Star Wars tables, I would sure love to see some of those white whales make it into the game somehow. I mean, if I could get The Simpsons, The Addams Family, or Terminator 2 tables on the app, I don’t think I’d ever uninstall it.

CJ Andriessen
Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games.