Pinball M Review

Pinball M by developer and publisher Zen StudiosMicrosoftXbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Pinball M is an interesting new property by the masters of digital pinball, Zen Studios. At first I thought maybe this was just another reskin of their better known Pinball FX series, but there’s actually plenty of new things going on with Pinball M that warrant a look for fans of pinball games.

Now, I’ll be honest: I have no idea what the naming convention here is. Is the “M” for Mature? That seems to be the initial take given the largely horror-themed stable of tables at play here, though the Pinball FX stuff had a few more mature themed tables in the past like their Jaws one as well. Anyway, Pinball M is similar in structure to how a lot of these pinball games are set up to play. There is a free table you can gain access to with the framework, and then if you want you can purchase additional tables as well.

Wrath of the Elder Gods: Director’s Cut is a pretty lengthy name for the default table that gets packed in here, but it’s a really solid entry point to the series. It has a solid layout with some fun visuals and sound effects (even if the latter can get a bit repetitive, but I suppose that’s true to life of most pinball machines in general). I will say that there’s a brooding element to the presentation, with clever use of shadows and lighting to make the tables themselves nice and creepy. That goes for the included game and the additional tables you can pick up.

In terms of the actual gameplay, it’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect from digital pinball at this point, especially the Zen Studios product. Your trigger buttons activate flippers on either side of the table, you use a button to launch the ball at the beginning of play (including aiming for those tricky but entertaining potential skill shots that require precise timing to garner oodles of extra points) and you can ‘tilt’ the machine a bit using the thumb sticks. However, be careful not to overdo it or the game will end and you’ll get nothing to show for that round as you default. That being said, the perfect tap of tilt at the right time can be the difference between a saved ball or a big shot and a more mundane result. Additionally, you have the ball physics here, and I’d love to see a more expert player give their thoughts between the more traditional FX product and this one. To me the ball seems just a smidge faster here in Pinball M, but maybe that’s just my reflexes letting me down at times as it nears the flippers as I definitely took a bit longer to find my groove on these tables than most of the FX ones I’ve played in the past.

That’s not to say I wasn’t enjoying myself as I learned the mechanics of the various tables. I did get a chance to play them all. Beyond the Elder Gods table, you can also purchase Chucky’s Killer Pinball (yup, based on the angriest redheaded doll in horror history), Duke Nukem’s Big Shot Pinball (which was focused on fighting aliens and felt the most thematically ‘off’ of the tables), Dead by Deadlight Pinball and The Thing Pinball. That last one is probably my favorite, both in design and theme. The Thing was one of the earlier horror movies I ever watched and it’s always been a favorite of mine, but it was also probably the most open of the tables. One thing I always have to give Zen Studios credit for is how varied their table designs are, and The Thing has that open, vertical-heavy style that I really enjoy most.

Dead by Daylight has a bit going on in the middle with lanes off to the right and left for accessing the more vertical aspects of the table. The Chucky table felt a bit more squat and horizontal by nature, with a lot of precise shots needed to access its various ramps and other interactive features. The Duke Nukem table is the one that came across as the ‘busiest’ of them to me, with a lot of things you can hit in its somewhat centralized middle location, including access to a platform in the upper right corner of the table. All of these tables are a lot of fun, but everyone’s favorite theme and style of play means that your mileage my vary. I found myself going back to The Thing the most overall, but I spent hours with each table trying out a variety of game modes.

That’s another aspect to Pinball M that kept me coming back for more. There’s daily challenges where you can see how you stack up to the rest of the community, and you only get so many cracks per day at it. These challenges assign you a table with a specific type of game mode, such as acquiring all of the points you can within a certain time, or getting as many points on a single ball as you can, or seeing how many points you can rack up before the ball has travelled a specified distance. These are all engaging alternate ways to play the game, besides the more traditional play until you run out of balls in pinball mode. There is also a campaign mode for each table, which is just a more guided version of the various modes above, encouraging you to experience the tables in a variety of ways while giving you goals to achieve.

As you play the game, you unlock some digital currency you can use to help customize your experience. Each table has a sort of carved away space in your digital play room, choosing alternate table skins or changing lighting options, things of that nature. It’s a nice touch that gives you some minor tangible rewards for the time you’ve spent on the tables, each of which I had fun with.

Pinball M feels like a natural evolution or refinement of the prior Zen Studios Pinball FX games. On the one hand, it’s not a wholesale change from what’s come before, but it is the most enjoyable version of their digital pinball to date. The presentation is excellent, the tables are well-designed and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for this new collection of tables.

Score: 8 / 10



Post a Comment

Random posts

Our Streamers

Susan "Jagtress" N.

S.M. Carrière

Louis aka Esefine



JenEricDesigns – Coffee that ships to the US and Canada

JenEricDesigns – Coffee that ships to the US and Canada
Light, Medium and Dark Roast Coffee available.

Blog Archive