If you're the kind of person who drops metaphorical quarters into digital pinball tables, you're already very familiar with Zen Studios. The developer has been in the game for a long while, producing the long-running Pinball FX series across generations of hardware. 2022's version makes some key monetary changes that may drive fans away, but there's still a killer translation of the arcade mainstay under the hood.
Currently in Early Access, the new Pinball FX brings things into the modern era in some ways that players might not appreciate. Instead of buying bundles of DLC tables, the new model involves buying a microtransaction currency called "tickets" and then securing tables one at a time. While these new purchases will be cross-platform if everything goes to plan, those who've bought tables in the past will have to repurchase everything.
It's obviously not ideal, especially since there aren't any upgrades to returning tables that immediately stick out. It's mostly behind-the-scenes engine upgrades here, not something that players typically have to pay a premium for. Zen's reasoning for the change is sound, as it will allow for cross-platform ownership in the future. Still, that is cold comfort for current players considering the game's Epic exclusivity.
For anyone new to Pinball FX, the existing collection offers a wide range of options featuring Star Wars, classic tables from the glory days, and original creations from the developer. There aren't any Marvel-themed tables as of yet, but those are more than likely coming considering just how many heroic pins are in Zen's library.
All the monetary guff aside, if you're just looking to play some pinball and don't mind ponying up the cash, Pinball FX is a fine place to relive arcade memories. While there have been other pinball franchises with better physics or more nuanced features, Zen Studios continues to pump out the best tables on the market at the current moment. It's always fun to load up a round of Medieval Madness and try for a new high score.
The newest table in the collection (and the only one that bypasses the microtransactions in favor of a cool $15 entry fee) is Indiana Jones: The Pinball Arcade. While not quite as famous as The Twilight Zone or Terminator 2 in terms of pinball conversions, Indie's first pin is a bonafide classic that features classic dialogue and plentiful opportunities at multiball. All that translates to its digital version, and the pin plays great inside of Pinball FX.
The new Pinball FX feels like it's aiming to become a live service for pinball fans, but there's a lot of work to do to keep people engaged on a consistent basis. The UI feels sparse, featuring a menu backdrop that's customizable with items that players get from achieving great feats on their tables. There are next to no customization options unlocked initially, and it feels like even the most basic new posters and statures require hours of dedicated play.
Players aren't really going to stick with it that long in its current form, as Pinball FX lacks the vital extras that past versions of the game had. The superpowers from the more arcadey modes in Pinball FX3 are here, but seemingly pushed into the background, and the great Wizard Score feature seems completely absent. These could be adequately replaced by the Pinball Royale mode, but it's not in the initial Early Access release, so fans will have to stay tuned to see.
Pinball FX is free to play as of now, and there are rotating free tables to allow players to try the game at their leisure. For some, that might be enough, an occasional game or two in between more demanding games that might eventually lead to a purchase. This is the audience that Pinball FX serves best, and those who are dedicated to the niche may want to stick with their past pinball collections until this new iteration expands to its full potential.
TechRaptor previewed Pinball FX in Early Access on the Epic Games Store with a code provided by the publisher.